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
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