Rise and shine
Good days begin with breakfast at Fox’s
By Dan O'Heron 06/14/2012
When Altadena’s Fox’s Restaurant opened way back in 1955 — a simpler time, when people were just finding out about newfangled frozen foods — breakfast was considered the most important meal of the day.
It’s an unpleasant contrast to think that nowadays, children and their parents seem to take more pride in “finishing their veggies” than eating their breakfast. I should remind them that the biggest breast-beating vegetarians in the world are apes. And those of us not bugged by cholesterol or sodium deserve better.
Better is what we’ll always get at Fox’s, where the Americana tradition of a solid breakfast is still respected, where the rite is never wrong. Laid out on picturesque platters, Fox’s servings of eggs, meats and potatoes are much more of a morning glory than the stuff we have been getting lately, rolled up and grabbed from a window.
Ironically, I was influenced to visit Fox’s by customer Bob Harrison, a former Pasadena Board of Education member and partner at Pasadena’s Green Street Restaurant, famous for salads. He once told me, “There is nothing quite as good as the deep-fried gristly pork chops that I get with my eggs at Fox’s.”
I was about to order eggs/porky for $10.50 with all the trimmings but was thrown off the scent by an old wooden sign that read: “The Flavor of Onions is Enhanced by Steak.” In sharp contrast to Harrison’s favorite dish, Fox’s owner, Ken Bertonneau, confided that he cuts his own beef “to get the gristle out.”
I could taste the tender treatment in the $12.95 top sirloin. It comes with two fluffy scrambled eggs (water instead of milk is used in the mix), two slices of toast (or a muffin if you like) and super tasting cottage fries. These bronzed beauties, mince-cut, not shredded or chopped, are blanched before grilling to heighten and set color. The color — and flavor — is enhanced with chopped bell peppers and onions. In the morning with these fries, you won’t need to slap the side of a ketchup bottle to stay awake.
Next time, I’ll add hot cakes (short stack $2.95). These buttermilk-fed babies, I’m told, are the perfect size, between thick and thin, to absorb “just so” gobs of butter and syrup. Not rubbery, the secret is that Fox’s uses refrigerated water in the batter. It’s a cake with a second-side not as brown as the top, as it is cooked less for a finer texture. They’re cooked over medium heat until bubbles appear and pop.
With red gingham curtains covering windows in the dining room, it was easy for me to imagine the other sounds of my grandma’s kitchen: the “thutter” of an old toaster; the scuffing on an omelet pan; and the guillotine-like “chonk” of a cleaver splitting a fresh melon.
As you would expect at a restaurant that lives with traditions that grandma set, Fox’s hams up egg dishes and is friendly to Polish sausage and sizzling bacon combinations. Most of these, with all the etceteras, range from $5.95 to $6.95. And they are very popular with a motley mix of customers: people like me who dine alone and read the paper; neighbors; veteran mountain climbers; marathoners-in-training; movie-set groups; office busybodies who need energy; plus revelers who have just emerged into daylight and the cops who’ve been chasing them. (Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, but regulars in the know are served from 6:30 a.m.)
While there are few buzzwords spoken here, like “nondairy,” the restaurant doesn’t continually grow only with grandma’s venerability. Fox’s adjoining “Backside Café” provides customers with fancy coffees and desserts, and, for meat and egg dishes, you can ask for substitutes like tomatoes, cottage cheese and fresh fruit.
Besides oatmeal, they even serve popular cold cereals. I’m not too keen on that. I believe that Sugar Pops and Froot Loops are cereal killers, worse than ergot. But this place is so accommodating that next time I’m going to ask for a Nabisco Shredded Wheat Biscuit and expect to get it.
For some people, the biscuit tastes like straw. But for me, when it is served with warm milk, butter and sugar, the “straw” is a food staple minted in my memory like the grain on the back of an old copper penny. So there!
2352 N. Lake Ave., Altadena