Raising the bar for breakfast and lunchRestaurant Review Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Breakfast and lunch usually signal the beginning of a lazy weekend with a growling stomach and far too many choices on where to eat. Sometimes it’s just too early to think about who’s got your morning fancy.
The pancakes maybe great at one place but their omelets can be under par; finding clever morning fare is simply hard. If you plan to meet friends for that oh-so-American adventure of identifying the best place to eat pancakes, you may find yourself discussing lunch before you all agree.
Sitting on the patio in the recently remodeled Fig Tree Café in Hillcrest I studied the new décor. It is very unique. With stone walls, glass lanterns, modern bench seating with rope and bare light blubs hanging from the ceiling, it sounds a bit like Ringling Brothers. Sadly, the sound is more cacophony than symphony.
On a recent morning, as the summer sun raised its sleepy head I was treated to my favorite breakfast delights. With me was Johan Engman, creator of the Fig Tree Café Pacific Beach and co-owner of the new Fig Tree Café Hillcrest between Fifth and Fourth on University Avenue.
That sunny Sunday morning found yours truly sitting outside with Engman, as he shared some of his life story and why he created the Fig Tree Café. Engman is one of the more interesting 30-year-olds I have met in the restaurant business. Not only do people swoon when he walks into the room on sheer looks, but he is notably eloquent and brims with the kinds of stories only a world traveler can tell.
When Engman asked what I would like to try, I took the plunge headlong: “Surprise me.” Famous last words as plate after plate arrived of French toast, pancakes, coffee cake, omelets and scrambles. I began to feel like Violet from the 1971 movie Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory as she turned into a giant blueberry.
The first dish that arrived was the marinated brioche French toast. It was perfect. Not too wet or dry and with an orange zest syrup that burst in your mouth with flavor. I must say this dish was very, very good and a bargain at $7.95. If you are big eater you may wish to consider ordering a side of bacon or eggs to round out the lone French toast.
The Monterey Scramble was also an unexpected treat. It was served with three eggs, Ortega chilies, Monterey cheese, black beans, Mexican rice, corn tortillas and salsa. It may sound spicy but it was very mild. For those of you who usually like things on the spicy side you may be confused by the menu description and you may wish to pass on this dish or ask your server if they can spice it up to your taste. Great value at $9.75 and very filling.
The caffeine sampler is one of the more clever things on the menu as you are served three 4 ounce lattes, mochas or Mexican mochas for $6.25. I was surprised that no other cafes in the city had come up with same idea.
The House Made Buttermilk Pecan Coffee Cake is delicious served steaming hot with fresh berries for only $3.95. Add the Fig Tree Café’s own certified organic coffee or tea and your damage is just $7.
The lunch menu offers something for everyone. I enjoyed the Roasted Chicken Club with bacon, avocado, tomatoes, mixed greens and mayo. The sandwich is large enough to split or will satisfy the big eater. It has a wholesome California look and taste if you minus the bacon. No matter what you decide it’s a great deal for $9.25.
Overall for breakfast and lunch the Fig Tree Café is great, although I would encourage them to add some spice and fire to their breakfast menu.
I also wish to mention the staff who are very friendly and quick on their feet. I have no complaints with any of my three visits. Make sure to look at the very large daily special blackboard on the west wall and if you enjoy your experience at the Fig Tree Café, you may wish to sign up for their newsletter which can include special-offer coupons.
Fig Tree Café
416 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
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