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On the Menu: Rise and shine with OB’s Breakfast Republic

Breakfast Republic decor
Breakfast Republic features dangling whisk-shaped light fixtures, an Airstream trailer emblazoned with images of roosters, and quotes and puns engraved in the wood farmer tables.
(Breakfast Republic)

“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.” — Steven Wright

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” — John Gunther

“It is more important to eat some carbohydrates at breakfast because the brain needs fuel right away, and carbohydrate is the best source.” — Dr. Andrew Weil

Over the ages, the morning meal was considered a frivolity reserved for laborers and travelers who needed fortification to start their grinding day, typically with a chunk of jaw-breaking bread, a morsel of cheese and a sip of ale.

Alas, the medieval church viewed the early meal of the day as sheer gluttony. Three centuries later, the concept of the “continental breakfast” trickled throughout Europe, offering a meager portion of fruit, a slice of bread or pastry and a cup of tea.

The times they are a-changin’, with breakfast blossoming into an extravagant bounty of hot and cold dishes of all manner, accompanied by celebratory sips and assorted brews to warm the cockles of your heart.

Johan Engman, a Sweden native, culinary visionary and globe-trotting founder and chief executive of Rise & Shine Hospitality, embraced the love affair with breakfast through his cheery collection of restaurants that focus on the morning meal. He launched the Fig Tree Cafe in Pacific Beach in 2008 and has since branched out with his Breakfast Republic brand starting in 2015. The whimsical diners dot San Diego County and beyond.

As you stroll through the agrarian entrance of the Breakfast Republic location at 4839 Newport Ave. in the heart of Ocean Beach, the nostalgic morning aromas of fresh-brewed Joe, smoky grilled bacon and sweet, buttery pancakes perfume the air and pull you in. Then the “Alice in Wonderland” setting mesmerizes you with quirky and playful decor, especially the chairs resembling cracked-open hard-boiled eggs, dangling whisk-shaped light fixtures, a slick, vintage Airstream trailer emblazoned with cartoonish images of roosters, and inspiring and amusing quotes and puns plastered on the walls and engraved in the repurposed wood farmer tables — like this definition of brunch: “The socially acceptable excuse for day drinking.”

Breakfast Republic's Ocean Beach spot is at 4839 Newport Ave.
(Breakfast Republic)

The creativity continues in the diverse menu, offering a bounty of healthy breakfast and lunch items. They include gluten-free and vegan options, along with dishes for meat-eating and piscivore palates. Seasonal items rotate throughout the year, chosen by followers who vote for their favorite menu items on various social media platforms.

So let’s get cracking with some hearty autumn specials, starting with a plate of Duck Hash, layering roasted duck confit and a sunny-side-up duck egg atop of a mound of pistachio crumble with silky butternut squash puree. Then there’s the Cluckin’ Good Toast, slathering house-made almond frangipane blended with a honey ricotta on chunky brioche slices.

Popular items run the gamut from classic to coastal, including Southern shrimp and grits with a balance of sweet, sassy, creamy and rich flavors and textures; the California breakfast burrito, combining skirt steak, bacon, pico de gallo, guacamole and homestyle potatoes; the Jurassic Pork Benedict, featuring sweet spiced candied bacon; and vegan faves such as the Veggie and Pesto Frittata, the Harvest Omelet with plant-based eggs, vegan sausage and a bounty of greens; and the avocado toast, tricked out with smashed avocado, pomegranate seeds, balsamic hemp seeds and micro basil on a slice of levain bread.

This all goes down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, lavender peach kombucha, specialty Bloody Marys and lattes, or a cup of organic, fair-trade coffee. Or have a bubbly sip of Breakfast Republic’s Prosecco sourced from Veneto, Italy, with delicate notes of ripe apples, pear, honeydew melon and honeysuckle.

Engman also uses mostly organic and GMO-free ingredients, and whenever possible, he sources from local vendors for the nearly two dozen restaurants in the group, including free-range eggs from Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch, a family–owned egg ranch in Ramona, and “super-tasty, gluten-free baked goods like multigrain and cinnamon raisin breads that don’t taste like cardboard” from GNi, or Gluten Not Included, a family-owned bakery in Escondido.

Quirky decor like these egg chairs fills Breakfast Republic's Ocean Beach location.
(Breakfast Republic)

Tourists, Ocean Beach denizens, families, students and friends of all ages can break toast at Breakfast Republic inside or outside on the pet-friendly patio.

“We love to provide a branded experience to our guests,” Engman says. “We have continued adding ideas ... and creating a menu that is unique, yet still offers the classics.”

The Breakfast Republic brand is percolating faster than a carafe of instant coffee, with 11 locations in San Diego County, from Liberty Station to Encinitas, a trio in Orange County and West Hollywood, and more brewing.

Breakfast Republic

Where: 4839 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach

Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily

Information: (619) 255-7255, breakfastrepublic.com

Recipe: Pineapple upside-down pancakes

Breakfast Republic's pineapple upside-down pancakes
(Breakfast Republic)

Ingredients

Batter:

• 2/3 cup pancake flour

• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

• 1 egg

• 1/3 cup milk

• 1 tablespoon butter

Pineapple filling:

• 1 cup diced pineapple

• 3 tablespoons butter

• 3 tablespoons brown sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla

Pineapple butter:

• 1/4 cup butter (room temperature)

• 2 tablespoons pineapple syrup (from the pineapple filling)

Instructions

• Batter: In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder. Whisk in egg, milk and melted butter to make a smooth batter. Refrigerate until use.

• Filling: In a small pan, melt the butter. Add sugar and cook until it dissolves. Add the diced pineapple and mix. Continue to cook until the pineapple is soft and caramelized. Mix in the vanilla at the end. Reserve two tablespoons of the syrup to use for the pineapple butter.

• Butter: Whip syrup into the butter until incorporated and smooth.

• On a hot griddle or pan (lightly greased) drop 1/4 cup of the pancake batter. Using a spoon, drop about 1 or 2 tablespoons of pineapple filling into the cooking batter. Once the batter is bubbling, flip and cook until the pancake is golden and done.

• Repeat with the rest of the batter and filling.

• Plate the pancakes pineapple side up. Top with more of the pineapple filling and serve with 1 tablespoon of pineapple butter for each pancake.

• For extra flavor: If you have extra pineapple syrup from the filling, brush some on each pancake before putting the butter on top.

— Courtesy of chef Gil Jimenez


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