No fewer than six restaurants in the Big Sur Valley boast fun, hearty, sweet and innovative inspiration to set the alarm a bit earlier on the weekend, or find an excuse to call in sick during the week. Maybe you got that same “bug” that’s been going around, or something wicked from last night’s seafood buffet did you in. The closest stop is only about 20 miles from Rio Road in Carmel. North to south, here are Big Sur’s breakfast stops and must-haves from their menus:
Big Sur River Inn
Sitting down for breakfast at the bar makes it impossible to ignore the jug of chili pepper infused vodka, the foundation for the spiciest Bloody Mary you might ever try. The standout on this menu is the Pheneger Creek breakfast ($15.50), a river adventure on a plate: a piece of pan-fried trout with eggs, home fries, and toast. It isn’t overly fishy and puts a flaky twist on the traditional breakfast. The three-egg Captain Cooper omelet ($11.25), filled with fresh seasonal veggies and either Swiss, cheddar or bleu cheese, is another strong option.
Highway 1 at Pheneger Creek, Big Sur; 8-11am breakfast; 667-2700.
About a mile down the road, the café at Ripplewood is an under-the-radar locals’ favorite for its relaxed feel, pleasant patio, smaller crowds and fresh fare. Batter for their impressive buttermilk pancakes ($7.25/full stack; $6.25/half) is made daily from scratch, and the option to add fresh berries is almost always available. Another winner, the cinnamon French toast ($7.65), is served with homemade applesauce. The finest from the savory side of the menu: The chorizo and eggs breakfast special ($9.95), with sour cream, green onions, avocado, as well as black beans and corn tortillas.
47047 Highway 1, Big Sur; 8-11:30am breakfast; 667-2242.
Big Sur Lodge
A bit of a Big Sur afterthought, the Lodge has one of the more affordable breakfast menus in the valley. Located just inside the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, in the off-season breakfast is served in the room between the hotel’s front desk and the regular dining room, where a fireplace gives the temporary breakfast area a warm and homey feeling. The fresh huevos ahogados (Spanish for “drowned eggs,” $9) is a testament to Chef Alfred Mueller’s skills: a bed of corn tortillas is topped with two eggs (any style), choice of meat (ham, sausage, or bacon) or vegetables, and finished off with sour cream and a homemade salsa with finely chopped tomatoes, onions, and herbs. From the décor to the food to the service, breakfast at the Lodge is agreeable and unpretentious.
47225 Highway 1 at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park; 8-11:30am for breakfast; 667-3100.
Big Sur Bakery
It’s hard to know what the BSB is better known for: their breads, their dinner or their breakfast pizza. The pizza ($17.50), served only for brunch on weekends (and not for carry-out), is a wood-fired delight of three eggs, cheese, scallions and tender bacon on crispy house made pizza dough tasty enough to inspire the New York Times to call it “life-changing.” It certainly vies for the single best breakfast item this side of the Mississippi. It’s also perfect to split with a friend, but not without adding an almond croissant ($3.75) to the order for a breakfast dessert.
1 mile north of the Big Sur Station, Highway 1; 8am bakery counter opens; 10:30am-2:30pm weekend brunch; 667-0520.
Deetjens at the Big Sur Inn
Deetjens at the Big Sur Inn might be the top choice for lovers of belly-filling breakfasts. The eggs Benedict ($11.75-$13.75/full; $8.50-$10.50/half) is the most popular item on the menu, and deservedly so. My favorite way to have the Deetjens “benny” – which can pile on things like chicken-apple sausage, spinach and mushrooms, among other choices – is with superb veggie sausage and avocado. It arrives with home fries, but I like to ask for fresh fruit instead to offset the rich Hollandaise sauce guilt. More guilt management advice: Ask for Laura to be your server. If you do have a sense of guilt for calling in sick, her tableside manner will melt it all away.
48865 Highway 1; 8am-noon breakfast; 667-2378.
Café Kevah at Nepenthe
Café Kevah, above the Phoenix Shop and below the iconic restaurant, has only outdoor seating and is open on a weather-permitting basis. The view will make you forget that the menu is one of the priciest on one in this list. Kevah can credibly claim Big Sur’s best breakfast burrito ($10.75), a heavyweight taste loaded with scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, potatoes, and served with sides of sour cream, salsa, and fresh fruit. Kevah’s pastry tower is also a Big Sur rite of passage, offering four varying sweet choices ($1.75-$4) made fresh daily. If your luck’s right they’ll include the “incredible sticky bun,” a buttery cinnamon treat so popular Nepenthe had to post the recipe on their website.
48510 Highway 1, Big Sur; 9am-3pm weather permitting; 667-2345.