Breakfast Paradise
1070 E. Front St.
$2.50 – $9.99

What you see is not what you get at Breakfast Paradise. What you see is the name Breakfast Paradise; but what you get is a restaurant that serves breakfast all day, plus lunch and a variety of Mexican dishes to boot. What you see is a restaurant with a simple tan stucco exterior. What you get on the inside is a newly renovated space: shiny white tile floor, dark wooden furniture, a long dramatic bar, and framed art adorning the walls.

And when you go to Breakfast Paradise you might see a restaurant with a very American name; but what you get is a restaurant run by a family with Argentinean roots. This restaurant is the culmination of that family’s dream of owning their own restaurant. Owner and chef Jose Antico is usually busy working in the kitchen, while his son, daughter and wife work in the restaurant as well. Open just shy of a year now, this family-owned restaurant is definitely more than meets the eye.

We stopped in for a late breakfast on a recent Friday morning. The restaurant was quiet and the service prompt. The breakfast offerings run the gamut of all the goodies you look for on a breakfast menu: French toast, pancakes, omelets and eggs any way you like them. They also offer breakfast sandwiches, huevos rancheros, chorizo and eggs, and breakfast burritos. We chose the Paradise breakfast burrito and the chicken-fried steak, plus a cup of tea (and a tall glass of orange juice. Then we settled into our comfy black leather chairs, taking in the view from our sunny table in the front window, and browsed the newspaper while we waited.

The breakfast burrito was wrapped in foil and served with sour cream, salsa fresca, and rice and beans. The burrito was full of scrambled eggs, chunks of breakfast sausage and jalapeno-jack cheese. The soft, mild eggs contrasted nicely with the firm flavorful sausage. The tortilla was lightly oiled and grilled — either before or after the burrito had been wrapped — adding a nice crispness. I found myself topping each bite with a dab of sour cream and a spoonful of salsa, full of fresh tomatoes, cilantro and chunks of jalapeño. The rice was fluffy, well-seasoned and topped with a sprinkling of salsa. The beans — large and of the pinto variety — were tender and covered with melted cheddar.

Normally, rice and beans don’t get much attention, but these were worthy of sharing center stage with the burrito.

The chicken-fried steak was covered in a thick gravy — full of sausage and flecked with pepper and seasonings.

Chicken-fried steak usually consists of a piece of tenderized top round steak, breaded Southern-style like fried chicken, and then, of course, fried. Though a generous portion, the breaded steak appeared to have been frozen. The meat seemed processed and the breading wasn’t glistening as food does when fresh from the fryer. Yet the steak tasted good, and we enjoyed the creamy gravy with the crunch of the breading. It was served with crispy hash browns, two eggs and toast.

Another day, we picked up some takeout for lunch. The lunch menu is full of burgers, sandwiches and salads. Having gathered that one of Breakfast Paradise’s strong suits is Mexican food, we ordered the chicken tacos. They come three to an order: small, tender pieces of chicken, sprinkled generously with chopped onions and cilantro, resting on a double layer of small corn tortillas. The bite of the cilantro and onion added the perfect kick to the mellow chicken and mild tortillas.

The cheeseburger is also a generous meal: a half-pound burger layered with cheese on a sesame bun. Though not super juicy, it was tangy with its lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. We also tasted the tri-tip barbecue sandwich, made with thin-cut tri-tip layered with grilled onions and a dark, sweet barbecue sauce on French bread. The meat was tender, yet crispy at the edges; and it went well with the sweetness of the onions and sauce. Both sandwiches were served with thick-cut french fries. They were brown and crispy on the outside, but could have benefited from a sprinkling of salt.

Now, if you’re wondering if you’ll ever get to sample any Argentinean delicacies, it’s all a matter of chance. If you’re lucky, you’ll stop in on a day when they are serving their empanadas or their choripán — a sausage sandwich, served with a sauce like chimichurri. Some weekends they even offer homemade menudo, a spicy Mexican soup made with chilies and beef tripe (the lining of a cow’s stomach).  Be sure to call ahead if you’re hoping for one of these more unique offerings.

Overall, Ventura’s Breakfast Paradise is a nice stop off the beaten path that offers solid food, big portions and an interesting story. And remember, looks can be deceiving.