10 Best Breakfast Spots in Los Angeles

Breakfast at Square One Dining

T. NguyenBreakfast at Square One Dining

See also: 10 Best Restaurants for Brunch in Los Angeles

Most days, it's just a cup of coffee. Other days, cereal and milk. And at Pee-wee Herman's playhouse, it's pancakes, eggs, bacon, and Mr. T's cereal via a nifty Rube Goldberg breakfast machine that involves no less than a few whirling fans, a life-sized model of Abraham Lincoln doubling as flapjack flipper, and a toy skeleton pterodactyl swooping down to drop bread off into the toaster. That Pee-wee just takes a few bites of this enormously overproduced breakfast before getting on with his big adventure is a testament to how much we love the pomp and circumstance of the most important meal of the day, even if we don't have the time to eat it all.

Which brings us to our list of the 10 best breakfast spots in the city. These are our favorite places to spend our mornings when we do have the time to eat it all, when we can linger and contemplate. We absolutely probably left off your favorite neighborhood spot; if it gives you any comfort though, we had to leave off a few of our favorites, too, including the Village Bakery and Cafe, the Griddle Cafe, 3 Square, and BLD. Alas. These are the ones we think are worth your time, your money, and your mileage. Rube Goldberg machine optional.

Banh mi op la

T. NguyenBanh mi op la

10. Bánh Mì My Tho

If you are a happily transplanted New Yorker whose one gripe about this city is that you cannot roll out of the bed, stumble into a corner deli, and grab a simple breakfast sandwich, you either need to accept that the breakfast burrito is the breakfast sandwich of L.A., or just move to the SGV already. There, you can roll out of bed, stumble into any corner bánh mì shop, and grab a bánh mì op la. This is your traditional Vietnamese sandwich, but stuffed with an egg omelette instead of the BBQ pork you might have at lunch. The best version might be the one at Bánh Mì My Tho; add in a few slices of cha lua (Vietnamese ham), and your breakfast is complete. Like its New York counterpart, this sandwich also costs just the few paltry, crumpled dollars you happen to find in your pocket. 304 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 289-4160.

Nick's Cafe

T. NguyenNick's Cafe

9. Nick's Cafe

Nick's Cafe is located on the dusty edge of Chinatown, across the street from where the Southern Pacific Railroad built a passenger depot in 1875. The L.A. State Historical Park now stands where the depot stood, and the only trains in the area are the ones running on the Gold Line tracks, but that doesn't mean the history is gone. To the contrary, Nick's is a diner that doesn't need to manufacture a mid-20th century feel because it actually is from the mid-20th century. Nineteen-forty-eight, in fact, with enough photos of trains and railroads to provide the requisite diner nostalgia. Nick's is a great diner to visit if you want a step up from your neighborhood greasy spoon, particularly if you're in the mood for ham and eggs. LAPD officers often take up counter space the way the squad did when it was protecting and serving selected populations under the command of William H. Parker. Some things don't change. 1300 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, (323) 222-1450.

Square One Dining

T. NguyenSquare One Dining

8. Square One Dining

When it first opened, Square One's major contribution to breakfast was its "bacon-enriched caramel sauce" drizzled on top of its fluffy pancakes. Now that everything is saturated with bacon, you thankfully are free to order something else without the annoyance of being told you're missing out on a once-in-an-L.A.-lifetime moment. That's not to say the pancakes aren't good, because they really are, but so are the baked eggs served in individually-sized cast-iron skillets. The most unexpected find: the fruit bowl, which lives up to Square One's seasonal and organic ethos with plump fruits actually in season and not, say, oversized chunks of of pale melons and mealy strawberries. The view of the Scientology building across the street, so cartoonishly blue and unconvincingly imposing that it looks like it should have co-starred in Starship Troopers, is a bonus. 4854 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 661-1109.

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The mural at El Huarachito

T. NguyenThe mural at El Huarachito

7. El Huarachito

This small, homey restaurant in Lincoln Heights serves breakfast all day, which means you can have an excellent plate of huevos rancheros whenever it is that you happen to wake up. But that's just the beginning: you also have your choice of huevos con machaca or huevos con chorizo or almost any other type of egg dish on the restaurant's enormous list, all served with fresh homemade tortillas. If you're not too keen on eggs this morning though, the chilaquiles verdes also are fantastic, as are any one of the huaraches. If you're lucky, someone will have picked up a box of sweet bread from the panaderia a few doors down and will have a few slices to share. Add a café de olla, and this might become your Sunday morning ritual. 3010 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, (323) 223-0476.

Pastries at Farmshop

A. ScattergoodPastries at Farmshop

6. Farmshop

If you're not in the top 25 percent, much less the top 1 percent, but it's your birthday and you have a dear monied friend who has no qualms buying breakfast at dinner prices, head directly to the Brentwood Country Mart. There, Farmshop's fantastically luxurious breakfast offers superb versions of the classics; the French toast, for example, is one of the best French toasts we've ever had, and comes with whipped crème fraiche, pistachios, and bacon. Coddled eggs are specifically on the menu, but really, all the eggs at Farmshop are coddled with the utmost care. Scrambled, they're as light and fluffy as they look when Jacques Pepin does it on public television; shirred, they're perfectly baked so the whites firmly set but the yolks slowly ooze. The high prices comes from the high quality, high brow ingredients. And, well, you're in Brentwood. Happy birthday. 225 26th St., Santa Monica, (310) 566-2400.

Phở for breakfast at Viet Huong

T. NguyenPhở for breakfast at Viet Huong

5. Viet Huong

If you hit up most phở spots at 8 or 9 in the morning, chances are, you'll find the fish swimming in the tanks, keeping an older generation of Vietnamese men and women company while they read the paper and clank their chopsticks and slurp their bowls. This just shows what the young'uns are missing. Few things comfort your soul better than a hot bowl of soup in the morning, and while you really have your pick of any phở restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley, Viet Huong's bowl is particularly flavorful. The menu is aimed for universal appeal - literally, as it's written in four languages, and there bowls to satisfy both carnivores and vegetarians. 10727 Garvey Ave., South El Monte, (626) 454-2590.

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Green eggs and ham at Huckleberry

T. NguyenGreen eggs and ham at Huckleberry

4. Huckleberry

For the best ham and eggs in L.A., go to Nick's; for the best green eggs and ham, go to Huckleberry, Rustic Canyon's sunny, almost disarmingly friendly kid sister. Be forewarned that it is perpetually crowded, especially on the weekends when you might be better off picking up something like the rest of the Santa Monicans and eating it curbside like the rest of the Angelenos. Whatever you pick up, it's bound to be good. The pastry case is filled with delicious treats like croissants and doughnuts and scones, and you can't really go wrong with anything on the chalkboard menu. Try the brisket hash, or the aforementioned green eggs and ham (pesto supplies the green, La Quercia prosciutto, the ham). We would eat those green eggs and ham in a boat, with a goat, in the rain, in the dark, on a train...1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-2311.

Green onion pancake at Huge Tree Pastry

Anne FishbeinGreen onion pancake at Huge Tree Pastry

3. Huge Tree Pastry

Most people have their go-to for dim sum (for those who don't: Elite in Monterey Park or 888 in Rosemead), but if you want a variation on the theme, try Huge Tree Pastry's Taiwanese breakfast. Start with a bowl of sweet or savory soy milk, then dive right into new breakfast classics like sweet buns filled with red bean, sesame cakes, and green onion pancakes. The Chinese donut is a sweet fried dough sprinkled with sesame seeds, and is a nice treat to round out your meal. 423 N. Atlantic Blvd. #105, Monterey Park, (626) 458-8689.

Oatmeal pancakes at Salt's Cure

Anne FishbeinOatmeal pancakes at Salt's Cure

2. Salt's Cure

This is the ultimate local's restaurant: all the ingredients, from animal to vegetable, are sourced from somewhere within California, then butchered or sliced, or both, as necessary. The brunch menu changes every weekend, but for those Type A types who do not like surprises, however pleasant, someone usually is diligent about Facebooking a photograph of the following day's menu. You can count on a few dishes to show up in most of these photos, including the 2x2x2 (two eggs, two bacon slices, and two sausage patties) and the hearty and thoroughly delicious oatmeal griddle cakes. 7494 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 850-7258.

Turn the page for our pick for #1...


T. NguyenCanele

1. Canele

Canele's rustic, seasonal brunch menu certainly seems innocuous enough. "Thick French toast," for example, or a "side" of "baked pancake with meyer lemon custard." As it turns out, this "thick French toast" is a trio of inches-high slabs of French toast, ridiculously crispy on the outside, wonderfully custardy on the inside. The "baked pancake" is what happens when a pancake meets a tart, a fluffy concoction served in a ramekin and topped with a custard just lemony enough to offset the sweetness of the dough. The savories, like the fried faro with eggs and sriracha, are just as good, and that house-cured bacon! Is everything you want in bacon, and then some. That the dishes are nothing you expect - only infinitely better - is endearing, in a way, as if the restaurant is much too shy to ever tell you that the best brunch in Los Angeles is served up between its lil' ol' brick walls. We'll be a pal and toot its horn on its behalf: this is indeed the best in the city. 3219 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 666-7133.

See also: 10 Best Restaurants for Brunch in Los Angeles

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3219 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039