By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Close your eyes, spin around three times, and throw an egg into the air. Chances are that it will land on one of the many Uptown kitchens serving breakfast, if not smack on the doorstep of San Diego’s newest hotspot, Breakfast Republic.
As owner Johan Engman proves with his whimsically appointed restaurant, supply still doesn’t meet the demand for scoring a jumbo omelet on weekend mornings. Just like his competitors within a five-mile radius — The Mission, Lil B’s Urban Eatery, Parkhouse Eatery, Snooze, Great Maple, Hash House a Go Go, The Big Kitchen and others — the Republic starts attracting lines as early as 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
The personable Swedish transplant also owns Fig Tree Café in Hillcrest, Liberty Station and Pacific Beach. His latest venture, however, focuses on jazzed-up morning fare that embraces internationally inspired dishes such as Vietnamese chicken wing bowls, Portuguese sausage omelets and Croque Monsieur eggs Benedict.
Or for those who come knocking with a taste for the South, the menu obliges with egg-topped jambalaya and shrimp and grits.
There’s also a “breakfast hot dog” served with mashed potatoes, eggs and bacon, should the house-made granola with berry yogurt and peanut butter seem like too tame a choice.
Yet for such heavier meals, you can wash them down with a stomach-settling, locally brewed kombucha, or a “boochy” as it’s referred to within today’s growing fermentation movement. The effervescent tea is dispensed from a tap and loaded with probiotics. We tried the organic ginger kombucha, which seemingly took the edge out of a hangover from a previous night of imbibing.
The Republic’s engaging bill of fare fits the zany design Engman created after taking over the cottage-like structure from Western Steakburger. A series of paintings on an exterior wall show roosters escaping from a henhouse. Oversized whisks are cleverly incorporated into the lighting fixtures. And the restrooms feature piped music with surprise interruptions, as well as mirrors shaped like sunglasses that allow you to decipher a feel-good phrase painted backwards on their opposite walls.
There are three patios — front, side and rear — along with a lush, living wall with the words, “Run Cock Run” embedded into it. Right down to the egg-shaped salt and pepper shakers, the breakfast concept becomes humorously unmistakable.
Omelets are made with four cage-free eggs sourced from a Ramona farm. We chose the one filled with Asiago-fennel sausage, green bell peppers, jalapenos and jack cheese. Everything jibed. The eggs were cooked to a fluffy, tender finish and the ingredients inside offered bursts of zesty heat.
From the “benedicts” category, the Croque Monsieur called. Playing off the famous French sandwich, it’s actually Madame-style since eggs are involved. A couple of English muffins formed the foundation for a rich layering of ham, Gruyere cheese and poached eggs, all crowned judiciously with béchamel sauce. Pure decadence.
Off to the side, we nibbled from an order of “Jurassic pork,” which yielded a few slices of thick-cut bacon baked with paprika and brown sugar. Compared to similar preparations I’ve had elsewhere, these flat and orderly strips maintained their savory flavor because they weren’t nearly as cloying.
A flight of three airy pancakes became our dessert. The “apple 2 ways” with apples inside the hotcake and on top, was satisfying, but not as ravishing as the other two.
My companion’s favorite was the mint-chocolate chip pancake served with mint butter. We discovered that the teasing essence of the scented herb actually plays well with butter and syrup.
I pretty much overtook the pineapple upside down pancake topped with pineapple butter. Despite its absence of the prized, caramelized sheath that forms on the namesake dessert, it tasted like the next best thing.
Other pancake flavors include cinnamon roll, Oreo cookie, churro and bacon. French toast options are no less tantalizing: banana split, s’mores, lemon-coconut and an ultimate version stuffed with peanut butter, bananas and bacon.
Given Engman’s instant success with Breakfast Republic, he has already signed a “letter of intent” on a property that he hopes will spawn a second location in the next six months.
“I’m all in with this concept,” he says, revealing only that if the deal goes through, it will appear “somewhere coastal.”
Breakfast Republic is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.