Park Bench Cafe
17732 Goldenwest Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
My year-long nightmare with a boss that was the worst I have had in my 31-year career was finally over a month ago. I don't think this guy could manage to find his way out of a paper bag even if it was kept open for him. He was so awful that the best vacation we got was when he left to go on vacation. This guy was so unpopular that even his shadow refused to follow him. Have I gotten across how I felt about this guy yet? Anyways, he's gone and I could not be happier.
I bring this up because it means a change in my schedule most weeks. I have been getting a steady amount of Sundays off, which means both Katie and I have time to go on walks and of course, find some breakfast spots to try. I've had this one, Park Bench Cafe on my list ever since I read a cover story about old school breakfast joints in Orange County in the OC Weekly early last year. I made note of the ones I have not dined at and made a vow to visit all that I could in a timely fashion. Thanks to my ex-boss, I guess a year and a half is now a timely fashion. Thanks, guy.
Park Beach Cafe just barely qualifies as an old school place, since it was opened in 1988 by husband and wife team, Mike and Christie Bartusick. They were two young kids in their early twenties that had the vision to turn a shuttered bait and tackle shop in Huntington Beach Central Park into an outdoor cafe. Then in 1993 lightning struck twice when they had the idea to make their cafe dog-friendly and create a menu for dogs. This caused quite a stir in the media, and if it happened now, instead of in 1993, they would have said this went viral. Park Bench Cafe and the city of Huntington Beach gained a lot of attention for this action, being called one of the most dog-friendly cities and restaurants in the US by lots of media outlets.
The couple has done what many considered a one in a million shot and are still operating the Park Bench Cafe, along with another breakfast and lunch spot right at the beach, their sister restaurant to this one, Kokomos Surfside Grill, which is just south of the Huntington Beach Pier. I have never been there, but checking out their website it doesn't look like that restaurant has the dog menu, which includes the Bow Wow Wow, (cut up chicken filet), the Hound Dog Heaven, (simply ground beef), or the Rover Easy, (two fried eggs).
Katie and I do not have a dog, but we like walks in the park and the walk from the Huntington Beach Library to Park Bench Cafe was pretty flat, woodsy in parts, and shaded by plenty of trees. When we arrived at the restaurant on this particular Sunday at 10am we were quoted a wait time of 45 minutes to an hour, so we strolled around the remaining part of the park, and within 35 minutes they called Katie's cell and told us our table was ready.
We were sat at a long picnic table with an umbrella for shade, with another couple who had just been seated. Even though we were seated at the same table, there was enough distance between us that it did not feel too awkward eating with strangers. The human menu at Park Bench reads like pretty much every breakfast menu in OC. There's plenty of egg combinations, benedicts, items from the griddle, and scrambles. The lunch side of the menu, which is also served all-day has plenty of sandwiches, burgers, and salads to choose from. We were definitely feeling breakfast on this late morning, so here's how everything shook out for us.at Park Bench Cafe.
Cinnamon Rolls have always been one of my favorite things to have for breakfast, ever since I was a little kid, so when I see one on a breakfast menu, I am immediately drawn to it. This Cinnamon Roll ($5.75) came out warm, with plenty of icing, and easily fed both Katie and me. I liked this cinnamon roll, but it could have been better. It was a little on the doughy side and maybe needed to be baked a bit more. The icing also could have been a touch sweeter for my taste. Still, this was a nice start to our meal while we waited for our entrees to come out.
Both Katie and I got scrambles on this morning. She had the Park Scramble ($12.25) which included scrambled eggs, sliced mushrooms, onions, and bacon. She ate a good deal of this rather big sized plate. It was good, but she had wished for more flavor to come with each bite. She called this kind of flat. She did enjoy the home fries that she got as a side item. They were nice and crisp around the edges and softer in the middle, just you want your potatoes to turn out. The wheat toast she got was fine too.
As is my custom when eating at a breakfast spot for the first time, I generally just order the item with the most ingredients in it, and at Park Bench Cafe that would be the Farm Breakfast ($13.99). This plate of food starts with a base of crispy home fries, scrambled eggs, bacon, grilled onions, mushrooms, melted jack, and cheddar cheeses, and avocado placed on top of it. Basically, this was Katie's meal, but without the avocado and with the home fries situated on the side instead of underneath the eggs and everything else. This was fine, but it lacked that big pop I thought it would have had. It also would have helped if this had been served hot instead of closer to lukewarm. I did like that this was very filling, and the home fries were cooked very crispy, which added a nice crunch to this. I did end up taking half of it home for breakfast the next day. This came with my choice of toast, which I got sourdough, and it was okay.
Park Bench Cafe was a solid breakfast spot, but food-wise nothing about it really made it stand out for us. It was a cool spot if you are in the area, want to eat outdoors, or if you want your dog to eat with you. Again, the food was fine, but not anything we couldn't get closer to home. Service was pretty solid, as they had plenty of servers for their 150 or so guests. So glad my old boss has moved on, and hopefully, Katie and I will get some weekend days off so we can discover more breakfast spots around OC. Oh yeah, don't worry about my old boss reading this and getting all angry. I'm pretty sure the guy doesn't even know how to read, I mean judging from the work I observed from him. Yep, I'm still a little bitter.
Out of five Frisbees (because Huntington Beach Central Park, where this restaurant is situated, is home to the only disc golf course in OC), five being best to zero being worst, Park Bench Cafe gets 2.5 Frisbees.
For more information about Park Bench Cafe, head to their website here: https://www.parkbenchcafe.com/