Quick, name a place in downtown Fullerton to get breakfast. Full English at the Olde Ship? The gut-busting buffet at Chomp? Granola and yogurt at Rutabegorz? Eggpatty McSysco at the Yellow M on Chapman?
No, the best-kept breakfast secret in Fullerton is the Monkey Business Café, a workforce-development (read: training for real life) project run by Hart Community Homes, a local 501(c)3 charity that takes at-risk foster care teenagers (you know, the ones who aren't cute, cuddly babies any more), gives them a place to live, and teaches them life skills.
Until recently, Monkey Business didn't open until quite late on Sunday morning (the only time I'm ever in downtown Fullerton). That's changed, though: the official signage now says 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends, and the staff inside this morning said they'd opened at 7 a.m., which meant it was a nice easy walk after Mass.
The café itself is very comfortable, with a bunch of soft, squashy couches, picnic tables and wooden chairs, a piano off to one side, and a bookshelf that's more than merely decorative. The kind of place, in fact, where you could be very happy kicking back, grabbing a book (or *cough* a copy of OC Weekly), getting a cup of coffee and a snack, and hanging out.
Those snacks, incidentally, are really very good. Breakfasts include various portable items (hot sandwiches, burritos, rolls with eggs baked in, etc.), smoothies and heartier fare such as banana-stuffed French toast, along with egg platters and the usual rundown of Italian caffeine-delivery drinks. Lunches are an array of soups, salads and sandwiches, including more than your average listings for vegetarians.
The café uses as many organic and local ingredients as it can (for example, the eggs are vegetarian-fed, organic, free-range eggs from a farm in Temecula), and signage hints at a more seasonal menu, which couldn't be a bad thing. Locally-grown fruit is available for a reasonable price, too, if you just want a quick snack.
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Despite the expensive-sounding ingredients, the prices are actually in line with similar places (i.e., more expensive than the ghetto short-order grills, less expensive than the kitschy sit-down places). $5.99, for example, gets you two of the aforementioned eggs cooked any way you like it, breakfast meat, potatoes and the secondary starch of your choice (whole-wheat toast for me), plus a 16-ounce cup of coffee, the first refill of which is free.
Whoever is doing the training in the kitchen knows how to cook eggs; many much fancier places can't successfully make eggs over easy. The potatoes with three peppers are quite good (another minute on the grill to get some crust on them would have been perfect), too, and the coffee is very good: not bitterly strong, but not water-weak either.
It's rare enough to have a place that has genuinely friendly service, good food and decent prices. Add in a trip to the karmic deposit box and there's no reason not to go. Drop in after worshipping in one of the many churches in downtown Fullerton, or call in an order for pickup before your train to Los Angeles, and be a part of something better.
Monkey Business Café is located at 301 E. Amerige, Fullerton; (714) 526-2729.