Millie’s: Breakfast “By Hand, From Scratch” in Silver Lake

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Millie's has been a longtime Silver Lake breakfast destination.

Millie’s is a Los Angeles breakfast institution that’s occupied the same location since 1926. The current owner is Robert Babish, a long-time customer who bought the café seven years ago from a notoriously surly woman. Thanks to her, the gritty Eastside café is graced with a locally infamous slogan: “Service With A Fuck You.” I can still remember a meal there in 1999, when a commanding cook with a scraggly red beard jettisoned a customer in emphatic fashion for answering his cell phone. There’s still a strict no-phone policy, so I’m glad I had my cell on vibrate when it recently rang at a sidewalk table. I would have been sad if I was denied such good comfort food.

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For the most part, Babish has stuck with tradition. The same shimmering silver coffee pots lines the counter wall, next to the neon-framed Millie’s clock.

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Tables in the small dining room are still affixed with decorative coffee beans, and you’ll find stools at a counter topped with defunct jukeboxes.

He’s kept the same logo, a cartoon boy wearing a beanie and rubbing his belly, saying, “Good’N’Side.” Robert instituted friendly service after he took over, but he still sells T-shirts, panties and tank tops with the aforementioned slogan.He even continues to adhere to the same proven approach, which is codified on the back of the menu: “Millie’s remains committed to offering the best ingredients prepared by people who actually care. We use real butter to cook our fresh eggs in. We use Altadena Dairy products because they don’t give their cows that hormone crap. We don’t even like yellow dye in our cheese, so we get white cheddar. We fresh grind each pot of French roast coffee. Our bread is baked daily…We do everything the pain in the ass, old fashioned way, by hand, from scratch, because there is a difference. Can you taste it?”

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I can taste it in best sellers like the Devil’s Mess ($9.95), eggs scrambled with fistfuls of shredded white cheddar and free-form Cajun-spiced turkey sausage. Incredibly, the menu claims that the near Frisbee-sized disc of egg and meat is made using only three eggs. If so, they sure don’t come from chickens. I’d guess ostrich. The “mess” is plated with scoops of salsa, chunky guac and sour cream.

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I usually order Neptune’s Mess ($9.95), named for the Roman god of the sea, not for the eighth planet from the Sun. Three eggs are scrambled with chips of smoked salmon, cream cheese, sherry wine and diced scallions. Cream cheese contributes moisture and flavor. This mess is an incredible bargain; there must be an entire fish in the dish.

Some specials aren’t named for supernatural beings; they’re named for actual people. Maynard’s Special – eggs scrambled with spinach and toasted pine nuts – honors Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan, a regular customer. The Eleanor R. Special – two eggs and cheddar over rosemary potatoes, salsa, guacamole and sour cream – is named for legendary First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Another specialty is Millie’s Heavenly Hash ($8.25), a house-made corned beef hash rectangle with little filler and a nice outer crust, served with two eggs cooked however you like.

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For more adventurous diners, Millie’s Hangtown Fry ($9.95) is a concoction of eggs, bacon and oysters that originated during the Gold Rush in Hangtown, a northern California mining town now called Placerville. Millie’s version combines finely chopped bivalves and bacon with onions, bell peppers and marsala wine. Even with bacon and oysters, the flavor was surprisingly mild.

House specialties come with grilled skin-on rosemary potatoes and a choice of biscuit or toast. Opt for the house-made biscuits, which are molded in muffin tins and served steaming hot.

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Be sure to slather biscuits with butter and spoon on fresh raspberry preserves, which reside in crocks on each table.

For true carnivores, pork chops aren’t just grilled; they’re “super-grilled.” There’s even a rare-for-L.A. chicken fried steak, “certified Texas size, pounded fresh and smothered in country-style gravy.” There are also some compelling sides, including salmon fillet, chicken apple sausage and Italian hot links.

Under the prior regime, the grill was so small that French toast and pancakes were only available during the week. Robert installed a larger grill. Now pancakes with bananas and roasted walnuts or fresh berries are a daily possibility.

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Millie’s Special ($8.25) highlights some surprisingly light options. You know a restaurant is proud of a dish when they tack their name to the front. This self-referencing dish refers to a scrambled egg trio with liberal amounts of chopped spinach and cream cheese.

I doubt the original owner could have foreseen a “Veggie Vittles” section when they opened pre-Depression, but that’s just what Robert added. Since most items Millie’s makes are good, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Robert’s subtitle: “Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it has to suck.” Maybe so, but the section contains way too much tofu and soy cheese for me to ever partake. Still, I’m sure veg-heads will be happy for the options.

Whatever you choose, unless you’re a serious trencherman, expect to leave full. Portion sizes are massive. And thanks to Robert’s continued commitment to old-fashioned excellence, you’ll want to eat it all.

Millie’s: Breakfast “By Hand, From Scratch” in Silver Lake


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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