My husband, in-laws and I were in California last month for the wedding of a family friend. While most of our trip was spent celebrating the happy couple, we had one day to visit the San Diego Zoo (panda-monium!) and enjoy the most amazing brunch on the trip to the zoo. Our meal at The Ramos House Cafe is one that I’ll always remember.
After getting in the car starving, hoping to get a bite to eat on the way, I started feverishly Yelp-ing on the drive from Mission Viejo to San Diego. About 1/4 mile outside San Juan Capistrano, I yelled at my father-in-law: “Bob, take this exit! NOW!” The rental car screeched across lanes, and I then directed him to The Ramos House Cafe, which had outstanding reviews. We were about to discover why.
Upon arrival, we realized the place was a bit pricey: $35/person. But, it included a drink (mimosa, coffee champagne, etc.) and two courses: a small plate and a large plate (or, if you’re not that hungry, you can trade your small plate for another mimosa!). We settled into a table on the cozy covered patio and learned a bit of the history of the place from the menu. It’s been open since 1881, and throughout the years, the owner has always lived and worked at the house. The wines are kept in the cellar, the herbs are grown in the garden, and the ice cream is made in the back. The menu changes daily and everything is made from scratch.
After a round of mimosas and coffees, we each selected our small plates. We had: Local Strawberries & Cream, Apple Cinnamon Beignets, Fresh Baked Huckleberry Coffee Cake and Caramelized Onion Soup. Everything was super fresh, flavorful, exactly the right portion size and absolutely amazing.
The highlight of the small plates was definitely the soup – the onions were caramelized until they were dark brown and sweet. But the best part? It was topped with two gougères filled with cheese. It was such a unique twist on traditional French onion soup, with the usual crouton and melted cheese. I may try to re-create this dish at home.
After our small plates, we knew we had made the right choice by staying, and looked forward to our large plates. We ordered: Flannel Hash with an Organic Fried Poached Egg, Smoked Bacon Scramble with Wilted Rocket & Apple Fried Potatoes (two of us got this), and Huevos Rancheros with Sausage and Chilis.
Again, everything was just outstanding. My Huevos Rancheros was super spicy in a way that my Midwestern palate wasn’t used to. I should have known – being so close to Mexico – that this would be authentic and hot. The “Organic Fried Poached Egg” was basically a Scotch Egg made with a poached egg. My in-laws, who both ordered the Smoked Bacon Scramble absolutely raved about it. Seriously, none of us could stop saying how great everything was.
If you’re ever hungry and looking for a brunch experience, navigate to The Ramos House Cafe. Tell the restaurant cat that wanders through around the patio looking for scraps that I say hello.