Sunday, June 30, 2019

Andrei's Tenth Anniversary Celebration

Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails
2607 Main Street 
Irvine, CA 92614

Ten years is a pretty long time when you stop to think about it. The current life expectancy in the US currently stands at 78 years, so ten years is pretty close to thirteen percent of the average American's life. Ten years in the restaurant business is even rarer. While it's true that fifty percent of restaurants close within the first three years of being open for business, once a restaurant passes its fifth year of operation, they have a 90 percent chance of making it well past their tenth anniversary and beyond. One such restaurant that is celebrating their tenth year in business in the next month is Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails and they have quite a lot celebrate.

Opened in 2009, Andrei's was started by the Olenicoff family and named after their beloved son, husband, and brother, whose life was tragically cut short in an accident. Before his death, he was diagnosed with retinal eye disease, which led to the creation of the Andrei Foundation in 2005. This foundation honors Andrei's legacy by supporting blindness and vision impaired charities, along with animal and environmental causes. 

Andrei's operates as a not for profit restaurant. One hundred percent of all of their net profits go to the Andrei Foundation. So, since they are celebrating their tenth anniversary in the month of July, they wanted to do something even more special by highlighting one of their favorite charities, Miracles For Kids, which helps the families of critically ill children with counseling, housing, paying their bills, and anything else which helps families stabilize during this trying time. Andrei's will be donating 20 percent of their monthly sales to Miracle For Kids for the month of July.

Not only will Andrei's be generous with their donation, but they have also created a special menu of ten signature items, all priced at $10. This special menu is available from July 1st to July 13th and includes many of their customer's favorites from their menu. We had the privilege of attending a preview party on their second-floor patio a few days ago and we were quite impressed with everything. Here's a quick look at some of the highlights.

I was very partial to the Fish Tacos, which used a daily fish which came dressed with pickled cabbage, guacamole, and a very well made chipotle sauce all on a handmade corn tortilla. I could have eaten another ten of these if I was not on my best behavior. The Calamari was another bright spot, with its white wine lemon reduction and very well done tartar sauce. Due to Katie having a real aversion to calamari, I have to relish it when I get any chance to partake in it. The Black Angus Spring Rolls were unique with their Morrocan seasoning on the ground beef and a dollop of tzatziki sauce topping each one. Anytime these made an appearance near me I could not resist getting two or three at a time. Here's a full list of what is available on the special anniversary $10 menu.

Double Dip Duo – Cilantro-Green Pea Hummus, Avocado Bacon Dip, Warm Pita, Seasonal Vegetables
Calamari - Flash Fried Calamari, Garlic, Shallots, White Wine-Lemon ReductionPortobello Steak Fries – Panko-Crusted Portobello Mushroom Fries, Tartar Dip VG
Black Angus Spring Rolls – Feuille De Brick, Moroccan–Spiced Ground Beef, Fresh Herbs, Sauerkraut, Tzatziki
Andrei’s Chop Salad – Organic Field Greens, Roasted Chicken, Cucumbers, Avocado, Tomatoes, Corn, Candied Walnuts, Goat Cheese, Dates, Corn Bread Croutons, Sherry Vinaigrette
Market Fish Tacos – Daily Fish, Pickled Cabbage, Guacamole, Black Beans, Spanish Rice, Handmade Corn Tortillas
Lamb Burger – Superior Farms Seasoned Ground Lamb, Heirloom Tomato, Arugula, Shaved Cucumber, Onion, Feta, Fennel-Lemon Aioli, Brioche Bun, Pommes Frites 

Vegetable Caponata – Organic Carrots, Indian Eggplant, Sweet Peppers, Kohlrabi, Caulilini, Zucchini Noodles, Fresh Pesto
Andrei’s Dessert Tasting – PiƱa Colada Carrot Cake, Bourbon Peach Cheesecake, Andrei’s Beignets
Bastille Day – X-Rated Liqueur, Fresh Berries, Brut Champagne

Andrei's also has event space available on the ground floor of their restaurant which can host up to 300 guests. They've hosted birthday parties, corporate events, weddings, and more at their restaurant in the ten years they have been operating. The Hor D'Oeurves Platters that they had set up for our media event were beautifully put together and delicious to eat. If you have an event coming up soon, Andrei's is definitely worth a visit to see if this could end up being the perfect spot to host your upcoming occasion.

This fantastic media event has really piqued my interest in Andrei's and I look forward to returning very soon to do a proper restaurant review.  In the meantime, make sure to take advantage of their $10 specials at the start of July, and also help out a worthy charitable cause by eating here during the entire month of July. You can feel good not only for doing some good in the world but also feeling good by eating some great food as well.

Katie and I would like to thank everyone we encountered at Andrei's, starting off with Natalia Ostensen, who, along with her family opened Andrei's, and could not have been nicer. Her passion for Andrei's and their philanthropy was very evident. It's also apparent that the team at Andrei's is a big part of their success and longevity here. General Manager Shannon Jones and Event and Marketing Director Jennifer Simmons have been at Andrei's almost from the start and were very gracious hosts on this evening, and their passion for this restaurant is obvious when they were chatting with us. It was a great pleasure getting to meet both of them. We'd also like to thank the servers, bartenders, and others at Andrei's, who made our visit smooth and seamless. Lastly, we'd like to thank Mona Shah of Moxxe PR, one of the best in the business, for inviting us to this wonderful event and getting the chance to catch up with her after such a long time. Great seeing you again Mona.

For more information about not only their tenth-anniversary events but everything Andrei's Conscious Cuisine and Cocktails, head to their website here:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Coming Full Circle at ARC

ARC Buther and Baker
417 30th Street 
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Memorial Day weekend was strange this year in OC. It started off nice, with temps in the mid 70's, and then on Sunday, it dropped to the low 60's with a good amount of precipitation. Monday was nice and sunny, but windy and not really conducive to sitting on the beach all day. I can't remember a Memorial weekend when it had rained, and it kind of threw everything off.

On that Memorial Day Monday, Katie and I both had a rare day off together. We decided instead of being lazy, we were going to head down to Newport and get some steps in. Our walk did not last too long, as we got sidetracked when we ran into one of our favorite bartenders at Blackie's and of course, had a few cocktails. Predictably, I had a place picked out to try for lunch so after we finished our drinks we headed to ARC Butcher and Baker.

If ARC sounds familiar, it's because this is the little sister restaurant to the much heralded ARC Food and Libations at SOCO in Costa Mesa. That restaurant has won numerous awards since they opened their doors in 2013 and made culinary stars out of the husband and wife team, Noah and Marin Von Blom. Not only do they have supermodel looks, but their food is also sexy as hell, excuse my language.

ARC Butcher and Baker is a smaller version of the original ARC, but they are like five businesses in one. They offer grab and go dinner options, they will deliver boat baskets and catering straight to your boat at the nearby Newport Harbor, they are part butcher shop where you can take the meat to grill at home or they will grill it for you in their wood fuelled kitchen, they are part bakery, with a pretty wide selection of baked goods available every day, and last but not least, they have a small dining room with maybe a dozen seats available for people that want to eat here like us.

In a space as small as this, I expected the menu to be rather small, but I was pretty impressed with the wide array of items available. The menu lists starters, salads, sandwiches, plates, breakfast items which are available all day long, sides, soups, and baked goods. All menu items, except entrees, will set you back less than twenty dollars. The entrees are a little pricier, with a range of $22 to $32. Let's take a look at what Katie and I had to eat on this weird Memorial Day.

Baked goods offered? Of course, we needed to start off with something sweet here at ARC Butcher and Baker. This Cinnamon Roll ($4) caught my eye as soon as I walked in. This reminded me of a better-made version of the cinnamon rolls at the OC Fair, which I love. It was a little more structured and less sweet than the ones at the fair, but still delicious. The outside layers had a nice crunch to them, while the insides were softer and more pliable. A little more cinnamon would have made this one of the best cinnamon rolls that I have had, but it's definitely worth trying when visiting here.

As soon as we walked in, Katie knew she would be having this Turkey and Avocado Sandwich ($14). She has stated that this was the best turkey sandwich she has ever eaten. High praise for sure. This sandwich came piled high with some of the freshest and most flavorful turkey we have had in sandwich form, bacon, arugula, avocado, and dijon on a well crafted French-style roll. This sandwich made Katie gush with a fondness for it. She loved the hard work that went into this turkey, the thick cut bacon, the contrasts of the avocado with the aioli, and the solid bread used here. A turkey sandwich that she claims has ruined her for all others that she will have in the future. 

When these Fries ($7) were sat in front of us, I was not sure what to make of them. I kind of thought they looked like they were burnt, but that was not the case. They were some of the best fries I've had recently. Not crunchy, but the insides were incredibly soft and pillowy, while the outside was seasoned very simply but effectively. I'm also not usually a big fan of housemade ketchup, but this one was more than adequate and went well with these fries. A must get. 

Another appetizer before we get to the main portion of my meal. We gave these Meatballs ($13) a try. Just like the fries, I thought these looked like they were burnt, but they were not. These come ten meatballs to an order, were ping pong ball sized, and came with some burrata and parmesan on the plate. Not sure what these were made of, but they could have been a tad more tender and flavorful. Not bad, but I think we'd skip these next time in favor of maybe trying their mac cheese or another side.

The to-go boxes at ARC Butcher and Bakery proudly state, "Dirty Sexy Happiness", and I think that summed up my feelings when this ARC Burger ($14) was placed in front of me on this afternoon. It was very sexy and made me very happy. This was a very tall burger, with a thick beef patty, cheddar cheese, tomato, bacon, and a spring mix on a sesame-studded bun. Tackling this burger did require me removing the tomato and some of the lettuce to allow myself to get my mouth around this. It was a little on the salty side with the bacon, seasoned patty, and the white cheddar cheese. The beef patty also had a few burnt pieces around the outside of it, which I tried to eat around as much as I could. Not my favorite burger, but I'm still glad I got to try it. It also looked really good in pictures.

We also got two things to take home with us. This Cornbread ($6) was a total miss for the both of us. This is made fresh when you order it, so expect about a fifteen minute bake time. This stayed over the fire a bit too long, as the outer ring got burnt and the inside portion of this was not much better as it was a very dry version of cornbread. There was no sweetness to this, which is something I look forward to when having cornbread. The salt topping this also threw me off. Not good at all.

As much as we were disappointed by the cornbread, this Carrot Cake ($10) more than made up for it. Seven layers, yes I counted them, made up this delicious mile high cake. The cake portion was moist and flavorful, while the cream cheese frosting was not overly sweet and was a great compliment to the cake portion of this. I'm a carrot cake snob, and this is one that I can definitely get behind. Perfect for people who find traditional carrot cake to be way too sweet. This one would totally be your jam.

Even though I had some issues with the food we had at ARC Butcher and Baker, I left here pretty impressed with what they are doing in such a small space. I'm also really jazzed to come back and try more of their menu in the very near future. The breakfast items, Steak Sandwich, and Pork and Beans have definitely piqued my interest, and I'll for sure save room for a slice of German Chocolate Cake next time. It was a real pleasure getting a chance to meet both Chef Noah and Marin while we were here. They are not only great ambassadors for the food scene in OC, but they are also some awesome people as well. I love that they are innovators and love trying out new things. I look forward to seeing what they come up with next. No pressure guys. I'm glad Katie and I could get outside on this Memorial Day, even if we did not get our full workout in before stopping to have cocktails and getting lunch.

Out of five geometry textbooks, (because an arc is a segment of a circle, which is pretty much the extent of what I learned about Geometry in high school), five being best to zero being worst, ARC Butcher and Baker gets 3.5 geometry textbooks.

For more information about ARC Butcher and Baker, head to their website here:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Hoping to Bear Mother's Day Breakfast

Black Bear Diner
1011 North Harbor Blvd. 
Fullerton, CA 92832

It's almost become a tradition that when it's a holiday my family always heads to Marie Callender's for their brunch buffet. My dad always makes the first reservation available, we get there early and wait for the doors to open, then we go through the brunch line maybe two to three times each, and then we are out of there by half-past 10 at the latest.

I like Marie Callender's sometimes; their Frisco Burger, Potato Cheese Soup, and their German Chocolate Pie are some highlights, but their brunch is not very good. Sorry Mom and Dad, but it's always too crowded, their food kind of tastes like it was made well in advance, and they changed their recipe for their once glorious Chocolate Chip Cookies. I just couldn't do it one more time, so I suggested that we meet at a place that my sister raved about a while back, Black Bear Diner in Fullerton.

I did not know it at the time we were here, but Black Bear is a rather big chain of restaurants. They have 133 locations, most of which are situated in the western US, but they also have some spots as far east as Missouri. They were founded in Mount Shasta in 1995 by good friends Bruce Dean and Bob Manley. Bruce is the business guy, who has plenty of experience in the restaurant business. Bob is the man who is credited with creating the environment and atmosphere of Black Bear Diner. That environment includes carved bear statues in the front of each restaurant, bear paraphilia all over the place, and a menu that doubles as a faux newspaper and is laden with plenty of bear puns for your perusal before your food comes out.

The menu includes lunch and dinner options, but of course, since we were here for Mother's Day brunch, breakfast is what we focused on. There's plenty in the way of egg combos, omelets, scrambles, benedicts, pancakes, waffles, and Mexican breakfast favorites. Prices range from $8 for small breakfasts to $16.99 for the most expensive thing on their breakfast portion of the menu, the Steak and Eggs.

This Fullerton location in unmistakeable as a former Bob's Big Boy. Entering one of these, whether it be a Carrow's, Coco's, or repurposed as another restaurant, always brings back a flood of childhood memories. We arrived at Black Bear just before 8:30 on Mother's Day and were met with about a twenty-minute wait, mostly due to the fact that we were a party of nine. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which was actually nice because it was removed a bit from the hustle and bustle of the main dining room. We quickly made our selections, and here's how it all came out for us.

When a place is called Black Bear Diner and they have a Homemade Bear Claw ($5.99)  on their menu, you have to give it a try. This came out warmed, which helped spread out the icing a bit. They offer a fruit-filled version, but we got the classic, which has a good amount of almond filling inside of it. Not that I've had a lot of bear claws, but this was the best I have had. The heated pastry was soft and buttery, the almond filling was predictably nutty, and the icing added just the right amount of sweetness. A good little appetizer while we waited for our food to arrive.

Both my sister and I got the same thing, the ScramBowl ($10.99). As is my usual when eating out for the first meal of the day, I look for the item with the most ingredients in it. This definitely had that for sure. Ham, bacon, sausage, potatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos, onions, are all topped with scrambled eggs, cheese, and gravy. Yeah, that's quite the laundry list of breakfast items. This was fine, but not too many of those items shined. The breakfasts meats kind of got lost here, the gravy was very average, and this had some temperature issues. It was a little on the cool side, but not cold enough to send back. Good sized portion though, and I ended taking it home for breakfast the next day. This came with a biscuit, but I gave it to my niece Kaylie after she asked me for it. I'm sure she thinks I'm a great uncle. 

Katie zeroed in on the Vegetarian Omelet ($11.49) at Black Bear. This omelet was made up of three eggs, with mushrooms, onion, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, and jack cheese thrown into the mix. Katie thought this was fine, but it needed more of a pop of flavor to make it more memorable. The hash browns came out nice and crisp, just like she likes them. The biscuit was definitely on the dry side, as she ate only half of it.

The Southern Scramble ($10.99) would be my dad's first meal on this day. I'd classify this more like a breakfast sandwich than a scramble. A split biscuit was topped with a sausage patty, scrambled egg, and then sausage gravy was ladled over it. Maybe because you don't eat this with your hands is why they don't call it a sandwich. Anyways, my dad was not too enthused with this. He thought it was pretty bland. The biscuit was a little on the tough side, the gravy was not very flavorful, and the sausage failed to shine through. The best part of this plate was the fresh fruit that my dad got instead of potatoes.

The Mini Volcano ($9.49) is advertised on the Black Bear menu as one of their smaller items, which tells you a little something about this place. This was the perfect size plate for my niece Kaylie. One egg, one strip of bacon, and two pancakes with chocolate chips topping them. Kaylie had no problem polishing this off. I found it a little odd that the chocolate chips were not incorporated in the batter, instead, of being placed just on top of the pancake. A good breakfast for our cheerleading niece.

I'm not sure when my mom became a millennial, but her love of Avocado Toast ($3.49) has appeared over the last few months. This is one of the newest menu items at Black Bear Diner. Avocado is spread across a roll that reminded me more of an English muffin. It doesn't get much simpler than that. My mom thought this was okay, nothing special. I'd tend to agree. Not sure why she got two sides of fruit with this, but she did end up taking one to go.

Last but not least was my niece Lillie's breakfast, the Bear's Choice ($10.49), which included two strips of bacon, two eggs, and a sweet cream waffle. Lillie claimed that the bacon was good, and the waffle almost made her jump out of her booster seat with joy.

Black Bear Diner was fine for what we wanted on this Mother's Day. A breakfast spot where we could get in and out pretty quick, and not have to wait too long. The food really did not impress too much, except my nieces seemed to like what they had. I'd describe the food here as an elevated Denny's. Nothing wrong with that, but don't come here expecting to be blown away by what you order. Service was fantastic when you consider how busy they were. Our server took great care of us and the food came out pretty fast. My mom will probably want to head to Marie Callender's again for Mother's Day brunch next year, and me being a good son will just grin and bear it. Get it, because of the name of this restaurant.

Out of five picnic baskets, (because of Yogi Bear of course), five being best to zero being worst, Black Bear Diner gets 2.5 picnic baskets.

For more information about Black Bear Diner, head to their website here:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Hoping El Matador Will Hit the Bulls Eye

El Matador
1768 Newport Blvd. 
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

It's hard to believe that I had never reviewed El Matador in Costa Mesa. When I used to live up this way, my roommates and I would eat here at least monthly. So, when my brother in law, Jim had asked us to meet him and his wonderful girlfriend Rachel for dinner at El Matador, I  had to look at the list of restaurant that runs along the right-hand side of this blog to double check if I had ever been here to write a review. Surprisingly, I had not, so we headed out for a long overdue meal with one of our favorite couples. 

El Matador has been operating from this exact spot for 53 years now. That's pretty impressive in the restaurant business. It was operated by a Marcial Gallardo in 1966, and he ran things until his death in 2003. A year-long family battle led to the restaurant being put up for auction in 2004, and that's when current owners, Greg and Jana McConaughy took over the reins. They have done some upgrades to the place but left the menu pretty much intact.

What they are doing must be working, since we arrived at a packed restaurant at 6pm on a recent Friday. The servers and the kitchen worked in great tandem to get people in and out rather quickly, as I watched numerous tables turn over during our visit. The inside of the restaurant is pretty dark, with only decorative hanging baskets providing just enough light above the well-worn booths to showcase the over 200 bottles of tequila that they proudly offer.

The menu at El Matador is pretty much what you'd expect from a Mexican restaurant that's been around for 50 years. Lots of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, combo plates, appetizers, and other Mexican specialties. Prices are pretty reasonable, especially considering the area of town where they are situated. None of their entrees are going to set you back more than $20, with most hovering right around the $13 mark. A very good value, which probably explains why there were so many families dining here, many of which appeared to be regulars based on the interactions I observed. Let's take a look at the food that has kept a lot of their guest's regulars for many years.

Since we got here a little ahead of Jim and Rachel, I decided to partake in a House Margarita ($7), along with the provided Chips and Salsa that came to the table as we sat down. The margarita was fine, but a little on the sour side for my taste. I'd probably try another one of their margaritas next time, perhaps a mango or the pomegranate version on future trips to El Matador. The chips and salsa were pretty stellar. The chips were fried nicely, while the salsa had a good chunk to it, with a little bit of spice near the end of each bite. I tried to abstain from eating too much before our food arrived, which is always a struggle for me when eating in a Mexican restaurant.

From reading the online reviews, I knew I had to give their Guacamole and Cheese Nachos ($9.95) a try. These were as good as advertised. A layer of chips spread across the plate, with a thick cheese blanket covering them, a large dollop of guacamole, and a hidden layer of refried beans beneath it all. The chips and cheese got a little crisp due to being placed under the broiler for a bit. A little messy to eat with the four of us angling to get everything in one bite. The beans got a little lost here due to being buried underneath everything, but I'd definitely recommend getting this as a starter or maybe I will add a protein to it next time and make it my meal.

Moving on to the entree portion of the evening, let's start with what Katie went with, the Mexican Pizza ($11.50). This was a big mound of food. It starts with flour tortillas and is then layered with plenty of shredded beef, tomatoes, refried beans, peppers, onions, and a lot of cheese to tie it all together. Less like a pizza because the tortillas got lost in this mass of humanity, and more like a Mexcian hash. However you want to classify it, it was pretty delicious. Katie ate more than half of it, and I had the rest for lunch the next day, and it was still very tasty.

Jim and Rachel live nearby, so they come to El Matador pretty frequently. I'm not sure if Jim always gets the same thing here, but on this visit, he opted for the Deluxe Bean and Beef Burrito ($11.25 plus $4.40 for rice and beans). This was a pretty good sized burrito filled with shredded beef and refried beans and then topped with cheese and enchilada sauce. No complaints from Jim with this, as he ate all but a quarter of it.

Light eating Rachel just got the Chicken Tortilla Soup ($6.75). From what I can gather, she gets this soup quite often, as she thought this batch was not as good as others she has had here. It did look a little on the bland side from across the table, but compared to what I had come out for me, most things would pale in comparison.

It's always a good sign that I'm going to take some food home with me when my combo plate has to come on two plates. That's the way it was with this #1 Combo ($16.50) on this evening. With this combo, you get a cheese enchilada, tamale, shredded beef taco, a bean tostada, and of course beans and rice to round everything out. The shredded beef taco was probably my favorite of the four things here. A very sturdy crunchy shell with plenty of beef and cheese. The cheese enchilada had a good amount of cheese inside to go along with the delicious enchilada sauce. The tamale was okay, as it was a little on the dry side. The tostada was the weak link here, as it came out with way too much lettuce, and I did not want to take it off because they put the cheese on top of it. It should have been listed as a salad instead of a tostada. The beans and rice were fine, just kind of average.

It's easy to see why El Matador has been around for over a half-century and counting, and why they might be here for another 50 years. They serve pretty good sized portions at a very respectable price for a full-service restaurant. Is this the best Mexican food I've ever had? No, but it's comforting Mexcian cuisine and just as good, if not better than the other Mexican restaurants in the area, Mi Casa, La Playa, and El Ranchito to name a few. Their menu is also pretty large, so it warrants repeat trips to explore other items you might have missed. Service on this Friday evening was pretty solid, for as busy as it was in the restaurant. Glad Jim helped me cross this classic restaurant off of my list, and more importantly, we had a great evening out with family.

Out of five red capes, (because that's one of the tools of the trade that matadors use in the bullring), five being best to zero being worst, El Matador gets 3 red capes.

For more information about El Matador, head to their website by clicking here:

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Raising the Bar for the First Meal of the Day

The Breakfast Bar
70 Atlantic Ave. 
Long Beach, CA 90802

My spring vacation was quickly coming to an end when Katie suggested that I join her and her friends for brunch in Long Beach the day before Mother's Day. Long Beach always seems so far away from South OC, but I figured on a Saturday morning at 10am it wouldn't take too long to get there. Plus, they let me put together a list of brunch spots that I'd like to try out. Number one on that list was where we ended up, a place where Katie's friends, Herb and Diana eat at pretty frequently, The Breakfast Bar.

The Breakfast Bar comes to us from a husband and wife team, Josh and Pamela Beadel. They are Long Beach locals who have worked in the restaurant business in many different capacities. Josh has experience in the bar and beverage side of restaurants, while Pamela works the front of the house and food side of things. It seems like the perfect combination for a brunch spot that is not only known for their food but their signature cocktails as well. Throw in their grandmother's and other family members recipes, and you have what appears to be a hit restaurant.

Opened since late 2013, Breakfast Bar has a very loyal following, with wait times of over at least an hour on weekends. Parking can be a little tricky in this part of town, with much of it being street parking, but you could get lucky and find a spot like Kate and I did in the Travelodge lot, which is right next door to the Breakfast Bar. Even though most people were probably going out with their mom the next day, we still had a twenty-minute wait for a table. Not too bad. We were seated on their front patio, which provided a good view for people watching.

There's a full page of the menu devoted to cocktails and beverages, including a wide variety of Bloody Mary's, vodka-based lemonades, specialty cocktails, and of course beer and wine. The rest of the menu is dedicated to food, with breakfast entrees and appetizers taking up a whole page. Not in the mood for breakfast? There's also plenty in the way of soups, salads, and lunch options for you weirdos that don't like breakfast. Let's take a look at what we came up with on this rare visit to Long Beach.

Since Katie drove up here, I decided I'd partake in a cocktail, but what to pick? I've always had pretty good luck with Mai Tai's ($12), so that's the route I went with. I'd describe this one at Breakfast Bar as a grown-up version of a cocktail that is almost always made too sweet. This one wasn't, probably due to the fact that they use three kinds of rum in this, along with an orange curacao, Orgeat syrup, and some fresh lime juice. A very well crafted beverage that brought to mind a very good one that I had in Hawaii many years ago. 

I had never met Katie's friend Herb before, but judging from his breakfast order, I can assume he's the type of no-nonsense type of guy that faces the day by saying pitter-patter, let's get at 'er. He had the 2 Eggs N-E Way ($11). This basic breakfast plate included two eggs with cheese on top, two strips of bacon, and some grilled sourdough. The menu said this also came with a potato pancake, but Herb opted for fries instead. Herb seemed pretty pleased with this, and he even let me have a slice of his toast and some of his fries. Thanks, big shooter. 

I snapped this picture of Diana's breakfast choice, the Beadel Burger ($19.75 with a fried egg added) before she had them pump the brakes and take it back because they forgot that she had requested a gluten-free bun. This burger is a half pound of beef and came with a house herb aioli, cheddar cheese, tomato, arugula, and red onion. When this came back Diana thought this burger lights the lamp with its deliciousness, even though she could not finish it all. The fries here are a classic fast food version, thin, fried nicely, and plentiful. This got a big Texas-sized 10-4 from Diana, aka the Puck Bunny.

Katie went a little more adventurous at the Breakfast Bar when she got this Breakie Sammie ($14.75 with avocado added). This very good looking sandwich came on grilled sourdough bread, with roasted garlic and herb aioli, jack cheese, arugula, tomato, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Katie loved this sandwich. The crunch of the bread went well with the savory items between the slices. This sandwich had a lot of contrasts going on with it, so it kept you interested. The smokiness of the bacon, the creamy avocado, the lighter than expected eggs, and the flavor punch from the garlic aioli made this sandwich a winner and helped Katie leave here a very happy girl.

The first thing listed on the brunch menu here is the Uncle Marcee's Omelet Casserole ($16.50 with add-ons) and it was what I chose to have here at the Breakfast Bar. It was an excellent choice. This is a recipe that has been passed down for three generations in Pamela's family. It takes 24 hours to make and is baked individually. It kind of tastes like an egg casserole that my mom makes at holiday time. It's made with bread, jack cheese, eggs, and milk. You then add any additional items that you'd like to it. I added cheddar cheese, bacon, and avocado. This was a delicious combination. One of the better egg dishes I have had. Very homey and I really liked the crisped edges running along the sides of the casserole dish. This came with a potato pancake, which was grilled on the outside and soft and pillowy inside. Wish it had been a bit bigger, but I'll probably order an extra one next time.

I always like to mix sweet and savory at brunch, so an order of Pam's Chocolate Banana Loaf ($8) was an obvious selection for me to try. I'd describe this as very subdued. It had a very understated banana flavor running through it, as the chocolate was a bit more prominent. Not the moistest banana loaf I've had, but it was definitely not dry either. A very good choice for people who want a slightly sweet option to go along with their brunch entrees.

I left The Breakfast Bar wishing that we lived a bit closer to Long Beach, as I'd totally make this brunch spot a habit. Everything that we had on this visit was a great way to start the day. The food was bright and fresh, which is also the way I'd describe the service on this late morning hour. Even though they were pretty busy, every employee we encountered on this visit really seemed like they wanted to be there and they were extremely excited to show off their food and make each of their guests very comfortable. I'm glad we finally made a visit to a Long Beach restaurant after nearly eight years. I know it won't be that long until we make it up this way again.

Out of five skinny houses, (because a dwelling in the city of Long Beach holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the skinniest house in the world, located at 708 Gladys Avenue if you want to look it up), five being best to zero being worst, The Breakfast Bar gets 3.5 skinny houses.

For more information about The Breakfast Bar, head to their website here: