Monday, December 06, 2010

Rick's Atomic Cafe - Costa Mesa

I've not been to Rick's Atomic Cafe enough to ask owner Rick LeBlanc what the story behind the "Atomic" name is. And I'm sure there is a story.

But since I don't know it yet, I'm going to use "atomic" to describe the smallness of his eatery. It is, in fact, atomic--the tiniest eating space known to man. His office-park lunch stop is akin to Harry's Deli. Both exist as an anomaly in unadorned, spartan kitchens buzzed by passing John Wayne-bound planes. Both are in rented office spaces in anonymous office parks, hidden unless you know it's there. The only difference is that Harry's is easily three times the size of Rick's.

More than half of Rick's Atomic Cafe is his kitchen, which if you've read Gustavo's review a few month's ago, he commands himself, whipping up things from scratch, salting things with care, being exactly what a short order cook isn't: a bonafide gourmet.

I ordered what I thought would be a normal $5 egg breakfast, but what I got was much more. The toast is from artisan bread, buttered by Rick, ready to be spread by a thimble of preserves he selected out of a bigger jar. And oh, the potatoes! It's from a batch freshly made. Onions are wilted and just barely singed by the heat of the griddle. The cubed spuds burst with flavor, steam, and toe-curling homeyness. The eggs? Cooked just as I requested: over-medium and seasoned ever so slightly with pepper and salt--whites ready to be forked up and yolks dipped into by the crispy points of that buttered toast.

I need a new paragraph for the bacon. Look at the bacon. It's as straight as rulers. You can spank naughty children with this bacon. No bacon I've ever had, and perhaps no bacon I ever will have can be as perfectly rendered as Rick's. It's crispy from end-to-end. The uniform consistency is almost unnatural, as if Rick somehow managed to arrange the bacon molecules to conform, yes, subatomically.

In between bites, I washed my breakfast down with orange juice, squeezed by Rick's own hand and a juicer by the sink. The sink, by the way, is stocked tall of whole oranges standing by for this very purpose. For my order, Rick filled up the glass to the brim with the pulpy nectar and juice of many, many citrus. $2.50 seemed a really low toll for all the labor he had to go through, and how many fruit he had to dispatch.

It goes without saying that I left with quite a bit more than a good impression of Rick's Atomic Cafe. It's small, but it is, by no means, insignificant, as other things dubbed atomic have shown.

Rick's Atomic Cafe
3100 Airway Avenue,
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 825-0570

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16 Comments:

At 8:13 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

I have always LOVED getting up & going out to have brekkies somewhere. Unfortunately, by the time I can get my lovely wife up & at 'em, it's lunchtime already. I've got a week off of work during the holidays, I just may have to treat myself to it here.

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

With all the press it got from OCW recently, I knew the name, but with your review, I have officially bookmarked it. This is no question the type of place where I truly want to make the effort to become a customer. Thanks for the tip and the delicious photos.

P.S. I craved pizza (WTF?) when I was sick last week and ordered from Shack on Red Hill based on the memory of your blog post about it long ago. And it was just dandy. And I am PICK. EE. about my pizza. So, thanks for that.

 
At 11:07 PM, Blogger brekkie_fan said...

I think I'll be getting brekkie next time I go and discuss Boston recs with Rick.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

chris,

Same goes with me. And truth be told I arrived pretty late (like 11:00 am). I asked Rick if he was still doing breakfast, and I think I just got in under the wire! Or perhaps I didn't and he made me breakfast anyway!

Melissa,

AH Pizza Shack! I need to go back there for the Monday special. Haven't been in a while since Monday is usually fridge clearing, leftover night. I think I'll make sure I finish everything I eat next weekend so we can have The Shack's Monday special!

And I think you'll like Rick's as much as you like Harry's! I've not tried any of the sandwiches though.

brekkie_fan,

He'll give you great tips I'm sure! He seems enthused about sharing everything's he's got!

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Not bad I would take this over Denny's anytime.

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger wonginator71 said...

I've been twice since reading the OC Weekly review that Gustavo did a few months ago. Both times, got the daily special (1st visit was an excellent chicken stuffed panini sandwich, 2nd visit was fabulous penne pasta with Italian sausages). The owner has a twitter account where he posts the daily specials.

Haven't yet tried any breakfast stuff, but will likely soon.

 
At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Claudia Koerner said...

Ooh, good to hear about another place that can cook eggs right! I like mine poached medium, but I don't even try to order that at most places -- I know I'll just be disappointed.

 
At 9:12 AM, Anonymous retro sweets said...

I love how you describe this little place of breakfast heaven. The chef obviously makes each order with tender loving care. If I encounter a chef cooking my breakfast like that, I'd gladly pay $10. You never encounter such wholehearted rendering anymore. Good for you you found this place.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Bill,

I would take this over most short-order eateries!

wonginator,

Rick prides himself on the vegetarian sandwich/burger. I think I'm going to try that next. Or perhaps, I'll just have whatever he's cookin'!

Claudia,

Over-medium is the hardest target of all. And here I was quite happy. Next, perhaps I'll try scrambled or omelet!

retro,

Well thanks!

 
At 6:15 PM, Blogger edjusted said...

Just the name alone makes me wanna go, but your description of the bacon and potatoes...sounds like a great find. Can't wait to try it!

 
At 2:15 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Ed,

The name drew me in too, but the food will make me come back!

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Derrick said...

Elmo,

I was surprised to see your review of this little cafe as it's near my work. I've tried his breakfasts and indeed it's pretty good stuff. Just the right portions and his 3 egg omelette doesn't weigh you down like most breakfast places. I assume you either live or work in the area as you've been hitting up a lot of places near my work or pass by frequently...would sure love to explore some places nearby with you someday.

 
At 3:01 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Derrick,

Sorry for the late reply! Thanks for the comment! And yes, I work and live practically within blocks of Rick's and Harry's. What's funny is you and I have probably run into each other as I'm eating around these parts 90% of the time. Let's do try to sync up one of these days!

 
At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The name "Atomic" came about because Rick likes to collect items from the 50s. He also uses Asian spices to cook lunch for his Asian customers. It will take 4-5 oranges to squeezed out a 12oz cup.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Derrick said...

Elmo,

How do I contact you privately if you want to hook up for lunch one of these days?

 
At 8:35 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Derrick,

Sorry for the late reply.

I can be reached by e-mailing elmomonster75 at yahoo dot com!

 

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