Little Sparrow: An Auspicious Egg

Some food critics are of the opinion that you can't judge a restaurant in its opening weeks, that you need to give them time to work out any kinks. Some food critics are idiots. I'm of the opinion you can tell a restaurant's ultimate worth from the moment they set napkins in front of a customer. I knew Old Vine Cafe was a winner when I dropped by for its inaugural dinner and had the first of many magnificent meals there. I've been to much-hyped restaurants that tanked in their debut and either went under soon or became popular in spite of their food. My average in predicting success based on this method? I'd make Ted Williams seem as bad a hitter as Josh Hamilton.

So believe me when I say that Little Sparrow, downtown SanTana's latest eatery, is destined for greatness. Open just two weeks, I was only able to visit for breakfast and lunch (dinner and cocktail service just opened on May 21), and I've already enjoyed one of the better breakfasts of my year, as well as one hell of a lunch. The open-faced breakfast sandwich of silky eggs and thick bacon bits was akin to a lumberjack special on toast; an order of poached eggs brought out three orbs, each white outside as delicately beautiful as lace. A lunch salad of farro and mushrooms mixed with a runny egg (those eggs again! They're the Monets of huevos) would do well in Abruzzo. And the setting—a relaxed, picturesque corner building with high, exposed ceilings; Art Deco-style tile floor; and a secret lounge in the back—is The Great Gatsby meets Nighthawks. Add a peppy workforce, a soundtrack that veers from big band to “Águas de Março,” and a sparrow motif that's clevery used, and you have OC's newest It restaurant.

Not everything is perfect yet, of course. On opening day, the owners forget to stock up on hot sauce. (I gave them a bottle of Gringo Bandito the following day as a welcoming gift.) The channa masala sandwich, while spicy and complemented by fabulously pickled shallots, eventually buckled under its own weight, making its supporting sourdough soggier than wet newspapers. There's no unifying theme to the meals right now, and the cinnamon rolls that are brought in from elsewhere are forgettable. Still, the future looks great for Little Sparrow—if they're not around in five years, I'll buy a free meal for anyone who shows me the dead-tree version of this review then. In the meanwhile, the hash browns? Like crunchy cotton candy.


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