March 15 2013 04:15 PM

Pacific Beach hangout does magical things with rosemary

Isabel’s avocado scramble
Photo by Mina Riazi

My love affair with eggs began during my senior year in college. I ate eggs fried, baked, scrambled, basted, poached and boiled. I ate eggs in soups, over salads and on toast. I slid wobbly eggs on spaghetti and let the oozy yolk dress the noodles. Once, I smeared half an avocado on bread and topped it with a soft, squishy egg. A dribble of olive oil later and the result was so luscious that I vowed never to eat eggs any other way. 

Although that didn't end up happening, I couldn't help but revisit my heartfelt pledge while scanning the menu at Isabel's Cantina (966 Felspar St. in Pacific Beach). Lodged between the artichoke scramble and the croissant breakfast was the avocado scramble. Not only did the dish feature my favorite duo, but ordering it would mean breakfast at 2 p.m., and everyone knows that breakfast is more delicious around lunchtime.

Isabel's Cantina sits on a wide residential street in P.B. The squat building would be easy to miss if it weren't for the scaly, decorative dragon frozen mid-dive above the doorway. Inside, skylights create a buoyant, relaxed atmosphere. With its wooden bar, chairs, tables and ceiling panels, the well-lit restaurant reminds me of a breezy tree house.

The warm weather called for an icy drink, so my grub buddy and I each ordered the grasshopper—a tangy blend of green tea and lemonade. The drink menu shimmered with several other enticing options, including the Mexican mocha and the Brazilian mimosa. A side of rosemary bread—sliced diagonally and toasted—came next, joined by a knob of butter. Crisp, chewy and faintly sweet, the bread was addictive, and I must have buttered up and gobbled down more than half the portion by the time my main dish arrived. 

My cheesy scramble was soft, fluffy and studded with hunks of avocado. Black beans, rosemary potatoes and a flour tortilla completed the sturdy meal. The warm tortilla had a pleasant pull, and I packed it with creamy bits of egg and beans before adding bright drops of salsa cruda for pizazz. Although I was initially rooting for my avocado and eggs—and they didn't disappoint—the potatoes were the real cause for applause. Crackly-skinned but soft and crumbly on the inside, the spuds were flecked with crunchy specks of rosemary. I inhaled them almost as quickly as I did the bread—there's something about rosemary, I guess. 

Thanks to its lemongrass-and-coconut-milk broth, my friend's steam-breathing Buddha bowl was fragrant and flavorful. Meaty chunks of tofu, celery, carrot and shiitake mushroom gave the otherwise-watery noodle dish some oomph. As I haven't yet mastered the skill of slurping without splashing, I was all too happy to focus on my tortilla and eggs. 

Although Isabel's Cantina serves dinner, I think I'll be back for brunch. Menu items like the coconut French toast and soy chorizo scramble made me wish I had a bigger appetite, or at least stretchier pants. 

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