Rick's Atomic Cafe
3100 Airway Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
This is another long overdue visit to a restaurant that has been on our list of places to go forever. One of our readers, John gave me the heads up on this place close to three years ago. If you are still out there John, we finally made it to Rick's Atomic Cafe. We actually had shown up here one time, I think it was on Labor Day, and they were closed. So at least we did try to make it once in those three years. It is just so rare that Katie and I have the same day off during the week, when it is not a holiday. Rick's is not open on holidays, weekends, or after 3pm. The stars had aligned just right the day of Katie's birthday though. I was off on a Thursday, she had asked for the day off, and we were up this way staying in a hotel for a romantic getaway. Probably more info than you need to know, but I feel the need to explain myself a little bit.
Rick's Atomic Cafe is a pretty hard spot to find. Located on the backside of John Wayne Airport, and not on a major street, Ricks is hidden in an office park. Luckily, it is in the front of the business center, or we may have given up our search for it. If you are coming here, and make it into the right office park, look for the neon open sign hanging in the window, or the little Italian chef guy holding up the special of the day curbside.
Once inside, you will notice how small this place really is. The kitchen area takes up at least three quarters of the place, which leaves just enough room for four small tables. This is probably the type of lunch spot that the people in the surrounding offices call in their orders, and take them to go. I can imagine that it gets really packed at Rick's Atomic Cafe during the lunch rush. We made it a point of showing up here at 10am, smack dab in between breakfast and lunch time. During our stay here, there was no one else that walked through the door. Rick's is truly a one man operation. While we were here he was updating his Twitter feed, waited on our table, and did all of the cooking. The menu is not going to knock your socks off with lots of variety, but there are enough choices to keep most everyone happy, plus there are the daily specials that are said not to be missed. Our order was taken then we waited while Rick did his magic in the kitchen. This is what came out for us.
Katie felt like having breakfast, so she went with her go to item at breakfast time, a Breakfast Egg Sandwich ($4.50). This sandwich used two eggs, American cheese, and ham, all piled on a slightly toasted bagel. This simple sandwich was made even better by using fresh items to create it. The eggs were done perfectly, the thick cut ham had a nice smokiness to it, and the bagel, even though it was toasted, still had a softness to it. Katie was pretty happy with this egg sandwich.
On our trip to Rick's, I did a little brunch thing with my ordering. I started with this French Toast ($5.75). This may look like your usual French toast, but it was really heightened by a wonderful orange zest that really packed the citrus punch to this breakfast staple. The bread was not too eggy, while the batter was not heavy at all. A very nice balance that is very hard for other breakfast restaurants to get right. I was a little worried that the two slices were not going to be enough for me, but of course I had another plate headed out of the kitchen for me.
When I saw the special of the day, I could not resist it. The Angus Tri-Tip Sandwich ($8.50) kind of had an Argentinian thing going on, that I found hard to resist. This sandwich started with a very soft ciabatta roll, that I had my reservations about being able to hold up to the contents of the sandwich, but it did an admirable job. The insides of the sandwich included tri-tip, Swiss cheese, tomato, and a very well made chimichurri sauce. The steak was very tender on this sandwich, and could have stood on its own. The Swiss went well with the steak, the veggies were fresh, and the chimichurri brought everything together wonderfully. One of the best sandwiches I have had in some time. This special was also served with a salad. The salad was dressed just enough in a vinaigrette. Not too oily, but still with lots of flavor, this salad was better than I thought it would be by looking at it.
When we were just about to leave, another lady came in to help Rick with the impending lunch rush. It turned out she was the baker of the Chocolate Chip Cookies ($1.75) that were stationed on the counter. I could not resist trying one on the way home. I really liked the texture of these cookies, they had a nice crunch to them. You could definitely tell that they were from scratch. I thought the flavor was just a tad off for me. I missed the butteriness that you get with a Tollhouse cookie. Not a bad cookie though.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much we liked Rick's Atomic Cafe. I thought that the breakfasts were better than average, but what really put this place over the top for me was the sandwich that I had. It has been almost a month since we visited, and I still crave that sandwich. We of course were taken great care of by Rick. He really made us feel welcome, and answered all of our annoying questions. Thanks for a great experience Rick. I really thought the prices here were a steal. Nothing on the menu was over double digits, and most items can be had for just a five dollar bill. Not a bad place to have a great lunch, and still have money left in your pocket. I look forward to coming back to Rick's again soon, and it will not take us three years to make a return trip.
Out of five gamma rays, five being best to zero being worst, Rick's Atomic Cafe gets 3.5 gamma rays.
For more information on Rick's Atomic Cafe, click here to go to their website: http://ricksatomiccafe.com/