There is something odd going on in restaurant and fast food business. Lots of places opening well-funded, with fancy decor and not very much skill in the kitchen. As though there is a lot of money looking for a place to invest, and not enough skilled help to make the investment work.

This morning I was looking for a good place to eat breakfast. We don’t really have any good weekend breakfast places around here. The good places I know of are not at all close, and usually very busy on the weekends. For the record, the places I do know that are at least somewhat local:

  • Omelette Parlor - very nice breakfast (mostly omelettes) at very reasonable prices with efficient service. More of a drive than I like, and much worse during the summer beach-season months. Obscure location yet usually a substantial wait on weekends. Never been disappointed in twenty-odd years, and very much wish there was a place like this closer.
  • Original Pancake House - most excellent breakfast (mostly pancakes) with an impossibly long wait on weekends. Have not been there in years (I do not like long waits). Have driven past, saw long lines, and kept driving.
  • Bagels and Brew - decent bagels and coffee. A short drive, but long lines on the weekend, and often no good place to sit and eat. If you are not so much interested in a high-carb breakfast, this is not so interesting.
  • Citrus Cafe … depends on the owner. This place used to be called “Cookie’s” and was very decent. Then the place got a new owner, and went downhill. The prior owners (Steve Tsirtsis and Steve Xenos) bought the place back (at a bargain price, apparently), changed the name to “Citrus Cafe”, and once again the service and food was excellent. The same owners were also was associated with the “Lakeview Cafe” and the Citrus City Grill - and both were very good. I visited Lakeview Cafe a couple months back, and could tell from the food (not in a good way) that it had changed owners.
  • Ruby’s Diner … this is a definite maybe. Some Ruby’s locations were consistently good, and others not. The nearest Ruby’s (in Rancho Santa Margarita) was always a disappointment. I have not been to any lately to offer a recommendation. For all I know the entire chain has gone downhill. Worth a try, maybe.
  • Coco’s Bakery … another definite maybe. Sometimes the local Coco’s is very decent, and other times … not so much. Used to live near an Irvine location that was very good then went downhill. Lived near the Mission Viejo location, which was then … passable. The closest location now is in Laguna Hills, that was not more than mediocre a decade ago, but seems to have improved. Perhaps I should go there more often…

Definite pattern here, as the good places all have more business than they can handle, while dozens on nearby eating places are near empty. At the same time, the good places are remarkably few. My guess is that the difference in the end probably comes down to one or a couple guys … owner or operator … that makes all the difference.

Looking for a new place to try, not too much of a drive from here. Went on the Internet, and hit this site.

Pacific Whey Cafe We use only the highest quality and freshest ingredients to prepare our made-to-order dishes. From our Organic Buckwheat Hotcakes to our Pacific Cobb Sandwich on Fresh Artisan Bread to Filet Mignon over Biscuits, we invite you to explore our savory offerings listed below.

Sounded good so rounded up the kids and got into the car. On arrival was not immediately impressed. The place was obviously very new, not too heavily used (though there was a line at the time), and a bit baroque. Ordered an omelet and a cafe mocha. The coffee drink was far too sweet, and I drank only half before switching to water. The omelet came with avocado, whole wheat bread, and fried potatoes. The omelet was unimpressive - passable but my routine efforts are better. The avocado was obviously the bland and watery Fuerte, or a picked-too-young Hass (my favorite - when properly ripe). Both the bread and potatoes might have been good when fresh, but were instead bland and stale.

Since my teenage son started working food-service jobs, he can often identify ingredients as sourced from Sysco, and even guess their place in the Sysco price list. Sysco is the largest foodservice distributor in North America, and supply most of the local eating places. By itself there is nothing wrong with this. Some of the items offered by Sysco are of good quality. But Sysco also offers for almost(?) every item a range of similar choices of lesser cost and quality. For the owner of a food-serving business, the temptation to shift down the Sysco price-list to items of lesser cost (and quality) must be almost irresistible.

There is a rather odd pattern to all this.