1421 North El Camino Real
San Clemente, CA 92672
I feel bad to say it, but if it wasn't for social media, I probably would have never made it to Cafe Rae in San Clemente. They are a family run business that doesn't have a fancy PR company behind them to help get their name out there. A quick Yelp search for restaurants in this beachside paradise lists Cafe Rae way down at the bottom of the San Clemente restaurant list, even though they have a four-star rating with close to 300 reviews. Damn Yelp algorithm.
Cafe Rae finally came across my radar a year or so ago when they happened to follow me on Instagram. I quickly followed them back and checked out their feed. There were some good pictures of their food, but what really stuck out to me was their blackboard of specials that they pictured to help promote their off menu items. With Cafe Rae only being open until 3 in the afternoon and being closed on Tuesdays, both Katie and my schedules would have to line up perfectly for us to give Cafe Rae a try. That happened the Saturday after Christmas when both Katie and I had the day off and made plans to walk our beloved San Clemente Beach Trail. We walked the picturesque trail and then hightailed it to Cafe Rae for a late breakfast.
Cafe Rae is situated off by itself, between a bike shop and a surfboard store, just up the hill from Rider's Club Cafe, and a few blocks away in the other direction from the busy downtown area of San Clemente. Opened since 2007, Cafe Rae is run by Jenny and Terry Shapiro, a couple of East coasters who came west and made a home in this beautiful seaside community. From what I can ascertain, Jenny is in charge of the front of the house, including the colorful design and the clothing that she has designed, and is for sale. Back of the house duties goes to Terry, a self-trained chef with years of experience in the restaurant business and he's been the chef for a bunch of musicians including Neil Diamond, the Rolling Stones, and 311.
We arrived at Cafe Rae just after noon and got a seat right away. The restaurant's ten or so tables were sporadically occupied during our visit. The menu at Cafe Rae is, of course, breakfast heavy with plenty of egg, pancakes, and french toast selections to choose from. For late risers, there are also sandwiches, salads, and burritos to pick from. Cafe Rae also features a vegan/vegetarian section of their menu. You know I shied away from there, as I love meat, so let's see how our food experience at Cafe Rae went.
Katie wanted to keep the healthy vibes going after our walk and ordered this light breakfast of Avocado Toast with Eggs ($7.95). A lot of people have an aversion towards avocado toast because it's too hipster. Nobody is going to confuse Katie and me as hipsters, but she did find this simple breakfast delicious. The avocado was spiced up a bit with some red pepper flakes and came on some solid sourdough bread. The scrambled eggs were done simply and not bathed in butter. A nice light meal to start her day.
Whenever I eat breakfast out, I like to mix sweet with savory. These Blueberry Coconut Pancakes ($8.25) off of their specials blackboard satisfied the sweet portion of my first meal of the day. Katie ended up liking these large pancakes more than I did. The coconut was not as pronounced as I would have liked, and these really soaked up the syrup. The pancakes were light and airy though, but I expected a tad more sweetness from the blueberries. I'd opt for chocolate chip pancakes next time.
Fulfilling my savory breakfast requirement was another special, this Brisket Hash ($12.95). This hearty hash was made up of some sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and of course brisket. A few of the bites of brisket were tough, but most were very tender. I liked the inclusion of the sweet potato, as it gave this hash a twist that you don't get at many other places. The two eggs were perfectly done sunny side up, and the sourdough toast came with plenty of butter. Just the way I like it.
Cafe Rae is a great local spot for breakfast if you are in the area. The menu is diverse enough that you'll definitely find something that will intrigue you. Prices all hover around the ten dollar range, and the serving sizes are generous. Service on this morning was fair, as our server was not overly friendly, but got our food to us in a timely manner and made sure we had refills. Cafe Rae will probably make our breakfast restaurant rotation when we are down this way walking the beach trail. Glad they ended up following our Instagram account so we could find out about them and try them out.
Out of five roller skates, (because when I hear the name Rae, it reminds me of Charlotte Rae from the Facts of Life, and on that show, Tootie would always be on her skates), five being best to zero being worst, Cafe Rae gets 3 roller skates.
For more information about Cafe Rae, head to their website here: https://www.caferae.com/