SAN DIEGO -- There is a new seat at the breakfast table in Hillcrest, starting today.
After a soft-opening week filled with fundraisers to assist local charities, Snooze Eatery at 3940 Fifth Ave. opened its doors to the public this morning, Friday, Nov. 18.
I slid into a circular booth on Wednesday, along with Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors, the ladies who bring us HillQuest.com, and it was a treat.
Located where part of the old Corvette Diner parking lot used to be, Snooze is described on its website as "part Jetsons, Happy Days and Flintstones," and this breakfast and brunch-only restaurant definitely gives you the feel of a old-school coffee shop, but with more of a "retro-future" feel.
However the space appeals to your senses, you will feel instantly at home and ready to eat.
And eating is definitely on the agenda for this handcrafted menu, full of local farm-raised and free range food sources.
The first ultimate taste test is always the coffee, and the fresh cup of roasted goodness (derived from beans received every week from a family farm in Guatemala) delivered to your table will not disappoint.
Hospitality entrepreneur Jon Schlegel banks on three major themes that make his Colorado based business thrive: Community, Sustainability, and Ambiance.
This is a home-grown and family-run business. Schlegel's brother Adam and sister Rebecca were also busy as bees this week, assisting with customers, waiting on tables, serving coffee and making sure all the last screws were turned.
Rebecca is just moonlighting and loving every minute of it. The Colorado native is a full-time nurse who just happens to be on a temporary contract at Rady Children's Hospital, giving her ample time and access to help her brother launch his first restaurant of the chain outside of Colorado.
Rebecca's best friend since high school Becky is also on site, helping to oversee things. She will be heading back to keep the Denver locations in line after this grand-opening weekend, but has high hopes of returning to our beautiful city.
Several of the staff here in San Diego were drawn from various Snooze locations in Colorado, and everyone seems to fit right in. One such member, named Justin, could be found buzzing around welcoming guests and sitting down for a quick chat at each table. His quirky, affable nature matched his attire, as he was adorned in short shorts, hanging suspenders, cowboy boots, a sharply razor-stylized haircut and a winning smile.
This über-friendly and welcoming environment apparently is not just "painted face" for this grand-opening weekend, it is part of the Snooze family charm and tradition.
General Manager and self-proclaimed "Big Kahuna" (it's even on his business card) Robert Butterfield is a longtime San Diego resident who has known Schlegel for years, having crossed paths through the hospitality business.
When Schlegel invited him to take part, he was a little skeptical.
"They kept telling me to come to Denver, see their restaurants for myself," Butterfield said. "Well, I've been in this business a long time, I've seen it all. Or so I thought. I finally went and I couldn't believe it. I have never seen a staff that was so happy. Seriously. The cooks were dancing!"
The day of our visit, it was Butterfield's eyes that were dancing and it is clear he made the right decision.
These forward-thinking folk don't make any bones about wanting to be part of the immediate community where they are running their eateries, either. That was already made loud and clear during this soft-opening period, where they raised a ton of money for three important local youth-based charities: The Monarch School, The Center's Hillcrest Youth Center, and ART - A Reason to Survive.
A quick look at their menu also confirms they quickly forged a partnership with one of their new neighbors, Bread and Cie. They are full of action and not just words, which is very refreshing.
Schlegel makes a conscious effort and is committed to sustainable food options, working with like-minded partners, and making everything Snooze does as "green" as possible.
Here are some of the commitments listed on their website: Energy and water efficiency and conservation (they buy carbon offsets and purchase alternative energy for consumption); recycle everything possible; compost everything possible; use sustainable local food -- ideally organic; use recycled, organic and/or chlorine-free paper products (includes sugarcane by-product take-away containers and corn based straws).
They also use non-toxic cleaning and chemical products; provide employee education and incentive to act accordingly; and they're beginning to explore sustainable development and construction.
This is a charter that will not only fit in well in San Diego, but encourage others to follow suit.
When greeted at the door, diners will immediately see how different the look and feel of Snooze is, compared to both traditional and non-traditional breakfast nooks.
The mastermind of Melissa at Xan Creative in Denver, Snooze's whimsical foray into that "retro-futuristic" style is quite unique and has become a large part of their brand, conveying a comfortable but upbeat vibe.
"I keep looking up," Butterfield said of the San Diego space he now runs, with its open steel, wood and brick architecture. Ironically, this industrial style matches their other Snooze spaces in Colorado, and it was pretty much by accident.
The heavy roll-up steel doors which have become chic throughout the restaurant landscape in San Diego because they match our perfect climate so well, open the restaurant up to the hustle and bustle of 5th Avenue.
All of the glassware (plates, coffee cups, glasses) are handmade on a wheel, at a local place in Del Mar aptly called "The Wheel," which also creates the dishes for Japengo in La Jolla. The ridges and imperfections in each piece are the proof in the pudding.
Food, Food, Food
Despite all the friendly people and the fun and catchy furniture and style of this A.M. eatery, Snooze really is first and foremost, all about the dining experience.
One look at the menu and it is clear that when the name Snooze was chosen, they certainly weren't referring to the food. This menu is chock-full of excitement and mouth-watering appeal. While perusing the offerings, our table was full of "wow" and "ooooh" and "oh my gosh!"
Snooze's culinary choices allow local chef Adam Gilly to take ordinary menu items and kick them up … five notches.
Unimaginable-before-now concepts perk your tastebuds right up and it will be hard to make a selection. Menu items like: Breakfast Pot Pie, Chilaquiles Benedict, Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes, Vanilla Almond Oatmeal Brulee, Apple Strudel French Toast, or even basics like three egg omelets or scrambles just don't seem ordinary, and believe me, they aren't.
With ingredients such as smoked cheddar hollandaise, rosemary sausage gravy, shaved hickory smoked ham, bacon-jalapeno spoon bread, kale, caramelized poblanos, espresso infused maple syup and agave nectar drizzle, the flavor options just pop off the menu and right into your imagination.
After being told Wednesday's "Pancake of the Day" (which was The Elvis, and yes, it is exactly what you would expect) I asked how often the pancake of the day changes.
"You might start to see repeats after 30 days." Thirty days!? I expected repeats after a week at the most, but they are not kidding.
Rebecca also told us there are even a couple "secret" pancakes that were created on a whim and are now staples, although not listed. One was called the Cinnamon Roll and the other Sin. Let your mind wander on those a bit.
We tried the Pineapple Upside Down Pancake, and frankly, I wasn't expecting to like it; but it was simply amazing. The flavors mixed together were divine.
Even the pancake options considered as standards sounded out of this world (Blueberry, Chocolate Chip and Chocolate/Peanut Butter). You can even order a pancake "flight" and get several tastes together.
Although it is clear that "Bennys" and Pancakes are their specialty, I got the feeling that every item on this menu truly is out of this world, and they even have a disclaimer asking for patience and reminding you that each recipe is from scratch and crafted with care. So although you may wait, expect it to be well worth it.
A friend in Colorado told me that on weekends, the wait -- just to get inside -- is 90 minutes, with a mere 45 minutes on weekdays. This new San Diego location will no doubt will fall right in line (no pun intended) pretty quickly, I'm sure.
They have a full espresso bar to keep you from snoozing and even a full liquor bar, with all the breakfast and brunch standards like mimosas and 'mary's but also offering something as taste-tempting and different as the "Buggs Bloody" which uses carrot-infused vodka. That should reset your eyesight!
Not to be outdone by their own breakfast, Snooze puts on a fabulous "served all the time" brunch, too.
With a heavy push on the -unch, their brunch menu is equally mouth-watering and could easily have you swinging right back by after that artful breakfast a few hours earlier. Cheese Steak and Eggs, Shrimp 'n Grits, a Ballpark Burger with or without egg, Tomato Soup with grilled 3-cheese sandwich, and Hi Seas Fish Tacos (using a catch of the day!), plus much, much more.
Another refreshing idea is that they actually allow you to "change it up" -- yep -- no extra charges for additions, half or split orders, ingredient swaps, etc. They want you to reinvent their menu items and encourage diners to do so.
They also offer a long list of veggies, cheeses and meats that you can choose from to consider as additions to any menu item and have lots of ala carte items, as well.
Without a doubt, Snooze should be keeping Hillcrest awake for years to come.
You can follow Snooze on their Facebook page HERE.
Snooze: an A.M. Eatery is open daily, 6:30 am to 2:30 pm Monday through Friday, 7 am to 2:30 on weekends.
All photos courtesy of HillQuest.com.