If you’d have asked me about brunch a few years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Brunch is just breakfast with booze (hardly a novel concept). Brunch is where saps take new girlfriends to pretend they’re also crazy about $12 micro-servings of French toast. Brunch is where people without the foresight to rock a secret vodka and Minute Maid bottle at the neighborhood burrito shop go to spend half their paycheck on undercooked potatoes — potatoes, of all things! — and a couple of poached eggs. Brunch is bourgeois. Brunch is a bellyache. Brunch is a lie.
And then, Tobey’s.
After a long night of porch drinking with some friends in Golden Hill, when the beer ran dry and the sun reared its ugly bulb to the east, a few of us made the bleary trek to Tobey’s for 6 a.m. first call. We made our way through the clubhouse and out to the patio. Opening to the west, the view overlooks Balboa Golf Course’s first tee, oak trees along the green, Pershing, downtown, and out to Point Loma protruding between skyscrapers on the harbor.
The quintessential diner waitress, whose name is probably Dottie or Junebug, cracked easy jokes that made our impending hangovers disappear like wisps of coffee cup vapor. We ordered a round of Bloody Marys ($5) and scanned the menu. It became immediately obvious that this wasn’t one of the posturing snoot hives that I’d come to associate with brunch. No, this place was Basic. Zero-frills burgers ($5.50). Straight-ahead biscuits & gravy ($5). Heaping three-egg omelets ($6). The place feels like it hasn’t changed a bit since opening in 1934, and it’s redeeming.
You see, Tobey’s taught me what brunch is really all about: pre-noon drinking under the auspices of an appetite. A liter of mimosa or bottle of champs go for $15. They’ve got three basic beers on tap and another ten in the bottle, plus Red Hook and Stone IPAs for good measure. Bloodys, margs, and screwdrivers are all $5 a pop, and, you guessed it, as basic as pumpkin spice UGG lattes. Which is great. Breakfast boozing isn’t supposed to be glamorous.
Toss back too many ’mosas, take a glazed stroll through time in the Champions’ Hall, and be sure to check out the upstairs bathroom, which boasts the least basic pisser view in town.
2600 Golf Course Drive, Balboa Park
Capacity: About 60
Prices: Beer, $4.50 pints, $13 pitchers; Cocktails, $5; Mimosas, $15 liter
Hours: Monday–Sunday 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M.
Parking: Ample spaces out front
Food: Basic brunch
The Deal: $15 mimosa carafes