Living in Long Beach at the ass end of the ‘90s seems almost an illusion now. My beautiful old one-room apartment—in a building the landlord claimed John Kennedy rendezvoused with hookers at—had a sliver of an ocean view, was just a block from the beach, and, in 1997, was a now-paltry $475 a month, utilities paid. Driving past a few weeks ago on a sentimental bender, the ol’ crib now has a FOR RENT sign out front, and a $1200 tag. Sigh.
That’s not the only thing that’s been obscenely modified. There are still a healthy number of small independent businesses, mostly run by Cambodian immigrants, but the major corps are making inroads quickly, and at least one of my fave family-owned coffeehouses has undergone Starbucks reassignment surgery. Happily, though, there are still a bunch of great indie breakfast spots, terrific mom-and-pop-type joints that open at the crack of sunlight and close up by mid-afternoon, with a steady clientele mix that would make the average Nebraskan’s eyes bug out—spiky-headed punk rockers, faux-hawked emo geeks, drunk drag queens, quirky retirees, leather daddy bears, Latino gangstas, grad students, hip young families, all flocking to places like the Potholder, Egg Heaven, Park Pantry, the Shore House, Eggs Etc. and at least 10 others for their daily intake of high-test caffeine and physician-enraging griddle grease.
You’d think that Redlands would have a similar early-morning culinary environment, what with its myriad similarities to Long Beach—architecture that’s older than 1950 (so that’s what a brick building looks like!), respectable music histories (Camper Van Beethoven’s ancestral home, in our book, just slightly defeats the LBC of Snoop and Sublime) and a cool college town with an all-around funky vibe.
But there’s really only one such eatery in our favorite strolling spot—the city’s quaint downtown village. And it’s the Eating Room, which literally is a mom-and-pop operation. Walk in just about any day, and you’ll see Martha Green right there behind the dessert case, rolling or cutting up some sort of sugary confection. Her hubby Wes’ job is shuttling people to their tables in the back room of the restaurant, in an old, refurbished building that was a JC Penny’s in a previous life. We also dug the décor—gorgeous cocks everywhere! Well, roosters, anyway, on the walls, holding together sugar packets and in the planters outside. There’s also a plethora of oranges and a big citrus tree growing right there in the middle of the room—fake, we’re sure, but it’s still a nice visual idea.
Kitschy, perhaps—but that’s not why you’re here. The breakfast food is amazingly delish, and some familiar dishes are served with a creative goosing. Take the Sinful French Toast, which resembles nothing like the French toast you recognize. It’s a mixture of croissants, cream, eggs, maple syrup, cheese and vanilla, and baked into a bowl. Alluding to the end result’s dark-brown color, my smarmy dining partner exclaimed “It looks like something you’d step in while walking through a cow field,” but after a few nibbles, he was hooked, and not a few moments later, his bowl was emptied. (The Greens are obviously a rock & roll clan, too, seeing that they also serve a bananas-and-peanut-butter Elvis Special French toast.)
While my friend was wolfing down his bowl of French sin, I was busy with one of the Eating Room’s perfect breakfast skillets, the Veggie, with potatoes, eggs, ‘shrooms, onions, tomatoes, and garnished with stalks of asparagus. No meat, so there was far less grease than what would have come with the kielbasa, chorizo or “meat lover” variations—but my doctor would approve (as long as I never mentioned Martha’s Homemade Biscuits and Gravy to him, which may be the tastiest, most decadent item on the entire Eating Room menu—we devoured the whole plate in just under two minutes).
We returned on another day for lunch, but left somewhat disappointed—it seemed like they drowned everything in a goopy mayonnaise, so we learned to leave it off in future visits. But we consoled ourselves with a bagful of Martha’s homemade cookies, and everything was alright again. Though those Long Beach eateries will never leave our memories, we like it that we’ve got a place to make some more.
THE EATING ROOM, 107 E. CITRUS, REDLANDS, (909) 792-5400. BREAKFAST FOR TWO, ABOUT $15-$20. OPEN 7 DAYS. BREAKFAST AND LUNCH SERVED TILL 3 P.M.