Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunday mornings & Backdoor fun

Now that I have your attention, allow me to elaborate.

For the last 3 weeks, I have been investigating what I once thought to be a San Clemente urban legend. It started innocently enough. Hungry & perhaps a little hungover, we walk 2 blocks to Antoine's Cafe, a cozy little bistro serving breakfast & lunch. As can be expected on weekends, the line was out the door & onto the sidewalk. I vaguely remember hearing that you can order Antoine's food from the neighboring bar, The Red Fox Lounge.

The Red Fox Lounge is a salty little dive bar accepting cash only. I have always considered it the "late night spot" as it is open until the early morning hours, a rarity in San Clemente. We refer to the shenanigans that occur there as Fox Tales. Although most folks leave around 2am, the joint reopens bright & early, 7am.

My guy & I go in through the back door, ready to explore the possibilities of finding a quicker route to breakfast. On that first fateful Sunday morning, it seemed like the bar itself had a hangover. Smelling like last night's beer & tequila shots, the interior was scattered with colorful characters who seemed like they never left. I became more optimistic when I spotted small tabletop menus with breakfast & lunch offerings from Antoine's. The bartender, a no-nonsense straight-shooter, quickly explained how to go about ordering.

Through the door marked "OFFICE" is a small closet with a sliding window that looks straight into the kitchen of the cafe. After peering voyeuristically into the kitchen waiting for one of the cooks to notice us, I spot a light switch on the wall. Once flipped, a red light clicks on in the kitchen. A cook stops, and comes to take our order. The menu is simple, 9 breakfast items & 9 lunch items, all designated by numbers. Ryan gets to order breakfast (his fav, 2 eggs over easy, 3 pancakes & sausage: the #2 breakfast) & I decide on lunch (my fav, BLT with avocado & fries: the #2 lunch). Cash is passed through the tiny window. We are told that we will see the red light inside the bar illuminate when our food is ready. Such a quirky little system...I am instantly charmed by the whole thing.

Back at the bar, we order bloody mary's (spicy, half tomato/half clamato juice, salt on the rim). Music fills the bar, crooner classics. The bartender seems to take great joy in quizzing the patrons with name that tune, reliving the classics from his glory days. Ryan, the trivia genius that he is, rules at this game. The atmosphere is entertaining. A 60-something couple starts to slow dance at 10am. When another couple starts to make-out at the jukebox, the bartender announces "Get a room, this is a family bar!"

Soon, the red bulb above the "OFFICE" lights up. Our food is ready! We re-enter that closet & collect our breakfast. It was the quick-fix brunch we were looking for...way faster than waiting for a table next door, not to mention the entertainment! I feel privy to a San Clemente secret.

For the following 2 weeks, we make this pilgrimage, albeit, 2 blocks. The scene is slightly different from week-to-week, sometimes quieter than others. Regardless, we enjoy simple yummy food, a morning beverage. Breakfast & a show!

Admittedly, not everyone's Sunday brunch of choice, but I love borrowing this entertaining atmosphere for an hour. When we awake on a Sunday morning and I ask "Wanna have some backdoor fun?", my husband can't seem to help but say "YES!"