There are at least four types of breakfast places: there’s the absolute dive, with cheap eggs, taters, and coffee that we mask with hot sauce and ketchup; the chain IHOP-type where you know what you’re getting and it ain’t good; the local joint with grub food at reasonable prices; and the frou-frou place with tasty food and overly-thin women who eat breakfast with small dogs on their lap. The breakfast scene at Simple Simon’s is a hybrid of the latter two and thus one of the places in the IE to eat breakfast on a Saturday morning.
It all starts with the breakfast itself. The coffee is strong, the pastries are homemade and delicious, and there are great lighter choices like granola and bagels with cream cheese. Their French toast is from scratch with their homemade sourdough walnut bread, and it’s hard to imagine French toast any better—it’s the Remy Martin of breakfast choices. It (as well as egg options) comes with your choice of their amazing bacon, ham, and chicken apple sausage, all of which beat the hell out of ninety-nine percent of what you’ll encounter at Denny’s or Carrow’s.
But these aren’t the essence of Simple Simon’s—it’s the omelets that make the place. The Mediterranean is a Greek salad put to eggs, with some roasted eggplant, sweet and grilled red peppers, goat cheese and kalamata olives, all which intermingle well with the fresh and buttery eggs. Another favorite is the winter omelet, with Gorgonzola cheese, onions, roasted pecans and sautéed apples. These omelets border on art. And why not? All of Simon’s concoctions (lunch menu not withstanding) are testament to the owner’s—Susie Thiel and Mark Rubin’s—commitment to serve up quality food at a reasonable price.
Of course, we realize that it takes more (though not much more) than outstanding omelets to make a great breakfast spot. Typically, with a greasy spoon you’re looking for a bit of irony, some strong coffee, and a smidge of darkness to hide your hangover from the night before. Yet with a more chic place like Simon’s you’re looking for atmosphere, a place to look around, to be seen, maybe even bring the dog along as a furry affectation. It doesn’t hurt that Simple Simon’s is across from the side entrance to the Mission Inn. This is as close as it gets to a real downtown vibe. And because Simple Simon’s rests at the nexus of all that downtown Riverside was, is, and ever hopes to be, it tends to draw an interestingly diverse crowd. It’s not uncommon to see families, conventioneers from the Inn, women in $100 track outfits, marginally homeless people, old folk, young folk, preppy folk, depressed suburbanites, et al. And hipsters. Come to thing of it, with the people-watching, and a great outdoor patio to eat your eggs, this might be the best breakfast experience in the IE, period.
Simple Simon’s, 3639 Main Street Riverside, (951) 369-6030. Open Mon.–Fri., 7AM–5PM (lunch stops at 4PM); Sat. 7:30AM–5PM. CASH only.