After “3 months and 15 long days,” reads the top of Break of Dawn's menu, the restaurant has opened its doors anew. And Orange County's breakfast-and-brunch crowd, foodies and commoners alike are now breathing deep once more and finding their fat pants so they can gorge again at one of the county's most-beloved eateries.
In February, owner Dee Nguyen had to temporarily close his Laguna Hills spot because the landlord was going to demolish the building that housed Break of Dawn to make room for a new development. The landlord assured Nguyen he'd only have to be closed for two weeks, that the location for the new Break of Dawn across the parking lot would be ready by then. It wasn't. The delay was so upsetting to county eaters it made the pages of The Orange County Register and this infernal rag, with eaters openly stewing about the issue.
In the meantime, Nguyen shopped and built: for antique Singer sewing machines he turned into bases for tables made from old pallets, for pews bought from abandoned churches that he uses as waiting benches outside, for discarded beams and aluminum scraps he transformed into siding and pillars for inside and outside. The result is a stunner: an urban-rustic restaurant design scheme with all the care that Nguyen displays in his fusion-inspired dishes yet not looking forced at all. Not only is there more space than at the previous location, but there's also a shaded patio—and with Nguyen planning to grow wisteria, it just might become the prettiest place in OC overlooking a parking lot.
Nguyen didn't change the menu at all, so you can still enjoy your favorites: tempura eggs with a concurrent crunch and fluff; linguiça over a scallion purée and spicy slaw; earthy bison sausage served on top of white rice; créme brûlée French toast that's like eating a jar of melted toffee. There's no liquor license yet, so you'll have to wait for Nguyen's spectacular passion-fruit mimosas and spicy Bloody Marys. Yes, sometimes the waiting is the hardest part—Nguyen plans to offer monthly dinner nights again—but it all paid off beautifully, and Break of Dawn is sure to improve on its previous perfection. Those of us who loved the place are already showing up—and if you've never been? Discover the best piece of South County that ain't beach.