This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

My restaurant-reviewing modus operandi seeks the newest, tastiest or most bizarre eats in Orange County, which means I usually neglect the standbys: the Arches, Ritzes and White Houses (both the Dana Point and Anaheim locales) of the land. Time to remove one eatery from that list: Mother's Market.

The organic mini-chain is an Orange County institution: a place that, along with the Gypsy Den, hipped up vegetarian eating in Orange County years ago. I've snacked on various goodies from there—chips, cookies and veggies—but never bothered to eat at their in-store restaurant until a couple of weeks ago. That's when the latest lady friend suggested we grab breakfast at Mother's Irvine location to top off our night. We've grubbed there almost every morning since.

Our Mother's experience is already down to a routine: we sit at the corner booth, the one near the organic cookies, and read the Los Angeles Times (I start with the California section, she fishes out Calendar and reads aloud the horoscope) while cooks prepare our orders. She sips on a sweet soy latte; I ask for a massive glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed with a delightfully pulpy froth on top.

It's food time. I start with the breakfast combo: two scrambled eggs any style, along with brown, fluffy pancakes redolent of wheat and potatoes dusted with what tastes like oregano. I then pour light syrup over the mess, sprinkle Tabasco and scarf down the sweet-spicy concoction in minutes. The Lady, meanwhile, likes her huevos rancheros poached, and glops the eggs, pink rice and pinto beans I swear Mother's stole from my mami's refrigerator, onto two hefty slices of wheat toast.

Yes: huevos rancheros and breakfast combos can be had most everywhere, but then comes Mother's soyrizo. I used to shy away from the stuff after an unfortunate incident involving oil and flowers, but the Lady insisted I try it again, and damn it if Mother's chorizo doesn't taste like the real porky thing. It's a bit different than how I enjoy it—chopped up with onions, tomatoes and a bit of salsa instead of prepared in greasy, crispy cylinders hours after being removed from a pig—but this soyrizo is lean, hearty and even a bit spicy.

Mother's also has extensive lunch and dinner menus, but the breakfast is ever-evolving. There are daily, off-menu specials—I've enjoyed the buckwheat crepes but was able to sneak in just half a bite of an amazing cactus taco before the Lady glared at me. With Mother's reviewed, I'm off to write up Sam's Seafood . . . but now I hear it's closing? Note to todos: don't take the standards for granted. And get the soyrizo pronto.

MOTHER'S MARKET, 2963 MICHELSON DR., IRVINE, (949) 752-6667; ALSO AT 225 E. 17TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 631-4741; 19770 BEACH BLVD., HUNTINGTON BEACH, (714) 963-6667; 24165 PASEO DE VALENCIA, LAGUNA WOODS, (949) 768-6667.

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