Tucking In at Snug Harbor
Ben Calderwood Fortifying with biscuits and white gravy
You may encounter the occasional Hollywood A-lister at Snug Harbor, a disoriented screenwriter or producer wandering out of the jeweled avenues north of Wilshire for a mug of joe and a scramble, but the über-cozy Snug is a diner for the people, effortlessly rendering archetypal American breakfasts (also lunch, with a daily 3 p.m. close) to the bleary-eyed rabble eager to procrastinate their 9 a.m. starts.
Speaking of scrambles, there are eggs every which way at this beloved greasy spoon, seemingly airlifted from a suburban Long Island street corner and tucked away on Santa Monica's outer fringe where it clashes good-naturedly with morning spots serving frisée salads and micro-roasted espresso. Try the lox or Italian scramble, both larded with fish or meat and cheese and served with mountains of browned, peppery home fries and buttered toast. The menu is hardly light, but dishes are whisked on and off the grill with delicacy and speed that cleanses them of excess oil. There are provocatively named three-egg omelets (The Rage; The Garage Seal) and Eggs Benedict, perhaps the best way to test your short order cook, coddled, molten orbs perched atop English muffin and ham and swooning in tangy Hollandaise. The kitchen passes.
There is an encyclopedia of pancakes entitled Stack Factory--lofty disks of flour, butter and air that will make it impossible to finish your meal should you eat them first--and evergreen favorites like Huevos Rancheros and biscuits with gravy, the latter dense, mellow with dairy and saturated with sausage-flecked roux. There is rejuvenating fresh-squeezed OJ, endless cups of thin, tannic coffee and a roster of daily specials. Watch the blackboard for pork-cinnamon apple hot links or a fresh blackberry short stack.
Orders are slung out of the galley-style kitchen and dropped tableside by career waitresses who glide about in jeans and Ts and are not afraid to call you honey. The tiny canteen warms you up like a vintage coat and you'll reminisce about the place as if you've been eating there for years, even after your first meal. Snug Harbor routinely overflows on weekday mornings and weekend brunch. Solo diners and pairs can sneak in at the counter; larger parties will endure a brief wait on the benches outside. Flooded with sunlight and within yawning distance of the morning papers, the oversize corner booth just past the door is Snug's most coveted seat, typically reserved for groups of four or more. The wraparound bench conceals a forest of ruptured springs. It feels like riding a camel, but freelancers who can stroll in after the rush and idle over coffee with four jiggers of cream and a Deuces Wild (two eggs, two pancakes, two shingles of chewy bacon) won't mind a bit.
Snug Harbor: 2323 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica; (310) 828-2991.