Jan. 14 2013 03:53 PM

La Jolla institution serves diner fare that'll touch your heart

A spinach, bacon and cheddar omelet and chicken fried steak ’n’ eggs
Photo by Amy T. Granite

A visit to Harry's Coffee Shop reminded me of many of the reasons why I love the blue-col-lar food beat. The family-owned, classic diner has been around since 1960, with Harry's sons continuing to operate it much the same way, I'd imagine, that their father did during his lifetime. Several of the servers have been around for roughly 20 years, and Nacho, the cook, has been around since 1976.

The tasty American food here is all you'd ever want it to be: fast, consistent and honest. Throw in that it really is a place where everybody knows your name, or will after a few visits, and it becomes obvious why Harry's (7545 Girard Ave.) is a La Jolla icon that doesn't have to trumpet the words "first" or "best" across the front window or along the top of the menu. Legit restaurants don't have to spell it out; they prove it just by doing what they do. I'm wary of places whose owners talk a lot. Save your sermon for a staff meeting and just feed me, dammit.

With touches like soft, classical music playing overhead, carafes of coffee, a long hallway (also the back entrance/exit) lined with photo memorabilia dating way back and free parking—in La Jolla!— Harry's is of another era. I think fondly of my grandparents when I'm there, in part because of the blue-haired clientele but mostly for the non-fussy, just plain goodness of everything, particularly breakfast.

I'm hardly one of those people who order the same thing every time. But somehow, I almost always end up with an omelet, and at one point, when I worked around the corner, that meant up to three times a week. Oink!

On the menu, under "ummlettes cause a stir," there are all kinds of options. I'm partial to the sausage link and cheese—oh, yes, chopped-up breakfast sausage folded right in—or building my own with spinach, mushrooms, cheese and sometimes bacon in there, too. Servers recite the side and toast options, with hash browns and sourdough toast doing it for me, cottage cheese for nana.

Open from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, Harry's serves breakfast till closing, and the lunch fare includes all the greasy-spoon standards from B.L.T. and tuna melt to burgers and milkshakes.

I don't think I've ever waited more than 10 minutes for my always-solid brekkie. The hash browns are the best: crisp, golden and salty on the outside with a moist interior. And you won't want to miss the salsa, red-hot and potent, blended smooth, best enjoyed drizzled on eggy dishes every few bites.

No single thing on Harry's menu is over-the-top great; it's the sum of all parts and the authenticity that makes eating there a value. Little things like the counter seating, old-school service and the cast of characters flowing in and out make it a joint that's easy to get sucked into. I can see myself sitting at the counter 20 years from now, still ordering my bacon omelets and probably not chuckling at the cute old timers quite as much. 

Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.


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