Paul Mantee

All my doctors practice out of the West Hills Medical Center in The Valley. Convenient, you say? I don’t think so. One trip from Paradise into Hell’s Waiting Room-over the canyon, onto the freeway, off at Fallbrook and way the heck north to Sherman Way; thence to the internist, cardiologist, pulmonologist, neurologist, urologist, ophthalmologist, dermatologist or pain manager-deserves an instant reward.

What Suzy the Significant and I have concocted to cut the ugliness of the journey is to make 10 a.m. appointments whenever possible so that we may treat ourselves to a late breakfast on the way home at one of three worthwhile coffee shops: I-HOP on Vanowen off Fallbrook, Bobby’s on Ventura Boulevard just west of Fallbrook or Malibu’s own Coogies.

Here, I offer, with as little judgment as possible, a comparison study of a breakfast plate, depending on your preference for a particular item.

If we’re in the mood for hash-browned potatoes, which we frequently are, we’re relegated either to I-HOP or Bobby’s. Coogies serves “house potatoes,” and they’re not bad at all-they’re just not hash browns. If you like them dark brown on top and extra crispy, tell them so at Bobby’s where they’re included in a ranch breakfast: two eggs any style, three strips of bacon or sausage patty, toast and all the coffee you can drink, served anytime. The atmosphere is 1950’s blue-collar and so are the prices: $6.95 for the above. No kidding. If you’re in the mood for lunch try the turkey soup, fresh every Tuesday; we often get several orders to go.

If you’re as fussy about your pork sausage as I am and prefer four links to the patty variety, I-HOP serves the best I’ve ever tasted. And for Eggs Benedict or a diversity of pancakes, fuggetaboutit.

Coogies’ breakfast menu opens with what amounts to a nouvelle canto: “Organic Brazilian acai bowl with house-made granola, mixed berries, guarana, banana and shredded cocoanut.” I have no idea what a Brazilian acai bowl is, much less a guarana. Yet their “apple wood” bacon-pass on the turkey variety-edges the others for flavor and their rye toast is the best of the lot. Beware, however, the lunch menu that advertises a “club sandwich,” in recent experience a woefully flat event encased in two pieces of bread. I recall the club as being a double-decker toasted affair held together with toothpicks. The erstwhile Colony Coffee Shop offered three lip-smacking mouth-bending versions. Old time beach residents will remember and lament.

The eggs are delicious at all three locations. And the servers-who at I-HOP tend to look like your mother, at Bobby’s like classic truck-stop babes, and at Coogies often resemble the girl you wish you’d taken to the prom-are savvy and cheerful.

I feel a strong judgment coming on.

This morning we thought it only fair to try out the new Malibu Inn Restaurant, which has endured many disastrous incarnations and recently reopened for breakfast and lunch. We thought it might be nice to add to our repertoire. Here’s what we found.

Scramble Egg Breakfast (“Scramble egg” in my view is a command, not an entity): three eggs, bacon or sausage, with hash browns-an inclusion that momentarily delighted us-and toast for $9.95.

We were tempted to ask why the loud piped-in Mexican music, but too much else went inappropriate all at once. The coffee was tepid. And the busboy who brought it to our table had grabbed the cups by their lips using four fingers and a thumb, claw-like. Sipping from the busboy’s fingers, once removed, is not a good beginning. Our server was a chatty Cathy and allowed as how she enjoys sitting with the bikers when they come in. And she began every sentence with “Me and my boyfriend”-yet another youngster who escaped fourth grade English. The sausage portion consisted of only two links, not four, and they were wrapped in some kind of artificial skin. The hash browns were cold and floppy; the bottle of Cholula hot sauce she placed on our table was empty. She forgot our toast. And when we mentioned the fact, she finally brought it-cold and presumably for dessert. And there was only one piece per person. We asked her how come and she stated she didn’t write the menu. Jam was not offered as an option with the toast and when we pointed it out as an anomaly she told us jam was an item available only on request. Say what? Suzy asked for a decaf refill and we were informed the decaf machine broke down shortly after our first cup.

Thankfully, the new Malibu Inn serves its version of breakfast only till 11:30. After we grudgingly paid the check, our server handed us a plateful of change including nineteen pennies. I conclude she should go live with bikers, and that what the new Malibu Inn sorely needs is a strong and experienced restaurant presence lashed to the helm. Or better yet, what a great location for a hardware store.