My Shallow Heart

Hmm. Ho hum. Drrrt. Drrrt. Fingers drumming on the countertop. Been waiting five minutes. Only one other customer sitting at the counter. Was it something I said? No, 'cause I ain't said hardly nuttin' yet. Just want to get my day going with cawfee and some breakfast. Actually, I have the coffee, but now I want to eat.

"Can you see any milk?" says this older lady, Mila. She's come up to the counter from her booth. "I asked for milk and they never came back."

We agree the service ain't exactly hopping here, but I decide to hang on in, mainly because Sam, back at the pawnshop where I, uh, was transacting some business, said he'd had a couple of "darned good" breakfasts here. 'Course I shouldn't be doing this. It was hard enough to scrape together the $25 to keep the Fender Stratocaster stored with Sam and Ron for another four months.

But Sam hit my weak spot when he mentioned skillets. Love those sizzling fajita-ish things with eggs and melted cheese and peppers and mushrooms and home fries. And when I got up to F and Broadway, I saw the sign saying "Big Skillet Breakfasts, $5.99," and that was it. This is right across the road from Manna, the Korean place where I had a pretty good breakfast last year. And Manna's still advertising $2.99 breakfasts. But then I saw these guys are, too, except it's available strictly 7:00--9:00 a.m., Monday--Friday.

I give Mila some of my little plastic milk tubs and go back to drumming my fingers. I check the place out, and it's quite nice and new looking, with blue-and-maroon booths, bright green tiles lining the kitchen walls, and blue-and-white Padres--Miller Lite flags fluttering over our heads. Four silent flat-screen TVs hang on the wall above the counter -- you can see and read closed captions across the top of the screen. The ponytailed guy next to me has just asked for CNN. So Iraq explodes silently above us while KSON wails out cowboy ditties around us.

One of the waitresses stands filling sweetener packs into bowls. "Uh, any chance of ordering a skillet breakfast before global warming puts Chula Vista underwater?" Okay, I don't say the "global warming" part.

"This is the other waitress's area," she says.


So, not the most promising start. And I wanna like this restaurant, bad, because they do what's on top of my wish list: all-day breakfasts. At least half the menu's devoted to the sacred ritual: breaking the overnight fast. And, no question, they have some gutsy-sounding fast-breakers here. Like "Big Daddy's," three eggs with bacon or sausage, plus hash browns, and toast or pancakes for $6.49. Or chicken-fried steak with two eggs, potatoes, and choice of toast or pancakes. That goes for $8.79. And they do a bunch of omelets, such as the hot link ($6.99), the machaca ($7.89), and the build-your-own that starts with cheese at $6.69. Each item you add costs 79 cents.

But I came for skillet. And we're looking at nine or ten of them. The window-advertised $5.99 special has egg, potatoes, and jalapeño cheese. But an extra inserted page in the menu has the really interesting ones. The "Chula Vista" skillet breakfast has three chicken taquitos on scrambled eggs, with bell peppers, avocado, diced tomatoes, onions, melted Monterey Jack and cheddar over country potatoes. That's $7.99. There's a "Nashville" that's diced country sausage, eggs, "country brown" potatoes, and gravy ($7.89). The "New Orleans" ($7.89) features Creole-grilled chicken and Cajun chipotle, the "El Paso" ($8.99) comes stacked with spicy shredded beef and crispy tortilla strips, and the "Louisiana" is built around spicy hotlinks sausage ($7.99).

"Decided?" It's Heather, the other waitress. After all this twitching, I'd better have my act together.

"Louisiana," I say.

Only because I'm looking at it right then, but boy, so glad I ordered it.

It comes with buttered toast around a skillet bulging with home fries, eggs, red and green bell peppers, all breaking through the ooze of hot cheese. Then, on top, like scattered meteorites, these angry red chunks of spicy sausage. The taste's all tang, cheese, egg, herby spices. I think of asking for Cholula sauce to heat it up but don't. Why mess with the zings of the bell peppers and the spicy sausage's subtleties?

And now I decide, deep in my shallow heart, to forgive them. Besides, I want to know if Marcos is "Big Daddy." Marcos is a pretty hefty guy who seems to be orchestrating things behind the counter now. "Oh no," he says. "Big Daddy is the owner. He's a businessman, and he's bi-ig."

Huh. I'm wondering: big-powerful, big-hefty, both?

They have lunches too, and I see they're running a couple of $3.99 lunch specials (Monday--Friday, midday--4:00 p.m.): BLT and fries, or a BBQ chicken. Dinners range from $7--$14 bucks. Fish and chips is $6.99, T-bone steak is $13.99.

But hey, right at this moment all that's academic. I'm waddling out of here. Now the open question is, next time I'm back, which is it gonna be? Mighty Manna or Big Daddy? Big Daddy, probably -- long as I have the time.

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