Elevated eggs, perfect pancakes and delectable drinks are served up with style and humor at Little Italy’s latest hotspot
It’s not your imagination: every 20 seconds, a new brunch place opens in San Diego.
That’s only sort of an exaggeration. Brunch spots have taken over the county’s dining scene faster than you can say endless mimosas. But only from the imagination of the team at CH Projects could there emerge a breakfast and lunch restaurant like Morning Glory.
Little Italy’s latest stunner is a $4 million pink palace of elevated eggs, perfect pancakes and global breakfast goodness that’s served with the style and hipster wit that’s become the trademark of CH founder Arsalun Tafazoli, partner Jason McLeod and designer Paul Basile. From the expertly-executed dishes, to the skilled service and obsessive attention to details and décor, San Diego has never seen such a sophisticated egg joint.
Late last year, Tafazoli said the concept behind Morning Glory was hatched out of frustration over the typical boring, bloated brunch outing. “The wait itself is part of the experience, and then what? … I always felt I was kind of robbed,” he said. “Most of the time it’s a social dynamic, you get dragged out (by friends), but it’s never worth it. Half your day is gone and it’s like, ‘Ugh, why did I do that?’ ... You wait in line, you take your picture, you eat four bites and then you’re over it,” he said.
Since its April 24 soft opening, I’ve eaten at Morning Glory three times, devouring 13 dishes and quaffing six drinks — and I am so not over it. Like its steakhouse sister restaurant Born & Raised, Morning Glory is a place you never want to leave and can’t wait to return to.
The sprawling, hilariously-written menu — festooned with acid trip-like illustrations — features glammed up classic breakfast plates, from flapjacks to fried chicken and waffles, a ham and cheese omelet to biscuits and gravy, and bacon, eggs, hashbrowns and toast. Then there are the dishes representing breakfast around the world: Middle Eastern shakshuka French omelet, Mexican chilaquiles, khachapuri, from country of Georgia, Italian frittata, English “brekkie” and Japanese tamago sandwich. There are lunchy options (burger, chopped salad, goat birria) and twists on fast food eats from McDonald’s and Japanese 7-11s.
The selection is dizzying but the portions aren’t brunch-sized obscene, so you can order a couple of dishes and not be stuffed. And at prices that range from $4 to $18, with most about $11, you can make your way through one inspired creation after another. Like the khachapuri (here spelled kahachapuri): a gorgeous open-faced calzone, with mozzarella, feta, garlic, olive oil and butter and a fried egg in the middle. The dough is so tender and flavorful, it makes you wish CH Project’s next project is a gourmet pizza place. Each of the pancake options — classic flapjacks, Japanese soufflé and German pancakes — are among the best dishes at Morning Glory. Fluffy, delicate and made from magical batters, these pancakes are actually tastier without the premium syrup and butter.
Egg dishes are too numerous to name but the standouts are the perfectly rolled French omelet with goat cheese and chives, the snack-tastic Omelet Sando with katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes) on Wonder Bread (!) and the Egg McFunnin, with Canadian bacon, and cheese on an English muffin, a treat for those of us who have, sadly, outgrown breakfast at McDonald’s. Only the excellent shakshuka, baked eggs with creamy, thick labneh and a cumin-laced tomato sauce, needs a tweak; ours was served with white toast, but it needs a heartier bread to scoop all of that heavenly mixture out of its mini Le Creuset cast-iron pan. It’s a minor fail amid a sea of successes.
For the love of living in a border city, do not miss Jocelyn’s Chilaquiles, with chef de cuisine’s Jocelyn Cano’s irresistible, earthy two-year-old mole negro. CH could build a Mexican restaurant franchise just around that.
Morning Glory features 38 unique cocktails but, not being 26 and having to go back to work after eating, I could only try two: the swanky Morning Wood Old Fashioned, (rye, blueberry-infused brandy, house barrel-aged maple and rosemary bitters) and the refreshing Cucumber Cup (London dry gin, lime cucumber, horseradish brine, cracked salt and pepper). Luckily, there are multiple hot chocolate drinks (the classic, 70 percent Valrhona guanaja is Euro-fabulous) and more coffee creations than a Starbucks, thanks to the custom-made, zillion-dollar espresso machine that’s, naturally, pink.
Overlooking India Street from the second floor of a new apartment tower in the Piazza della Famiglia, Morning Glory’s always-bustling indoor-outdoor space closes at 3 p.m., but Tafazoli said staying open later is under consideration. He’s torn, he said, about straying from the restaurant’s original daytime mission. I’m sorry, but CH’s sensibility and Basile’s handiwork here — a giant, pink starburst in the front room, 24 articulated windows, custom black and pink terrazzo tile floors, plush pink banquettes, pink-handled flatware, an etched mirror ceiling in the back room, custom tables and plates, even a pink bar cart — are too smashing to not share with a dinner crowd. And who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?
Tafazoli and McLeod didn’t even love breakfast at brunch. It’s been a fascinating evolution to watch them go from sharing in the chef world’s general derision of brunch to attacking this project with energy and resources on par to how they approached elevating the San Diego steakhouse scene with Born & Raised. Months of travel to New York, Tokyo, Las Vegas and beyond for research and development, millions of dollars in investment and a “let’s show them how it’s really done” attitude.
Morning Glory’s motto is “What a time to be alive.” My new motto is “what a time to be alive with these guys firing on all cylinders.”
Where: 550 W Date St., Little Italy
Phone: (619) 629-0302
Reading Morning Glory’s menu is almost as much fun as eating there. Here’s a taste:
Egg McFunnin: “We continue to work through the kinks of our inferiority complex by upending and improving one corporate classic at a time.”
Millennial Tears (essentially avocado toast and eggs): “Not what you’re thinking, though proudly brought to you by the current cultural moment and served with no hint of irony.”
Chicken-fried dry-aged steak and eggs: “Couldn’t be more down-home if it showed up at your table clutching a CMA award and wearing rhinestones.”
Soufflé pancakes: “Japan’s answer to the age-old question, ‘How do I get more food-shaped air in my diet?’”
Italian Soda #1: “As sweet and takes-no-(bleep) as your Nonna.”
Italian Soda #2: “Nonna on a bad day. Darker, moodier, a little bitter.”
Bonus quip, from a CH postcard touting the Morning Glory coffee flask that comes with unlimited refills of drip coffee for one year: “For the high price of $200 ... We still haven’t figured out how we’re going to monitor this thing, so take advantage. Our incompetency is your gain.” And yes, they’ve sold some already.