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 ten 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.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) 289-4160.9. 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) 222-1450.8. 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.
Turn the page for #7, etc....