Spiced-up breakfast

Alonzo’s Restaurant

5649 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95824

(916) 453-9225

It is a sad irony of the restaurant world that places called “coffee shops” typically have execrable coffee, and Alonzo’s Coffee Shop in south Sacramento is no exception. His brew is weak, but what it lacks in flavor is more than made up for by the Mexican breakfasts.

This is an old-school breakfast joint (though they serve more than just breakfast), the kind where from the looks of things—pink and mint green décor straight from the ’50s, a big mirror along one wall, kitschy holiday decorations—you might expect the waitresses to be called Flo, to snap their gum and call you “hon.” There’s a difference here, though: It’s not an all-American coffee shop. Instead, the menu is half-Mexican and that’s by far the interesting half. The staff and clientele is equally mixed, as well, but I didn’t see much of anyone ordering anything besides the Mexican breakfast specialties on our visit, mainly spicy (or spicy-ish) variations on the theme of pork or beef, eggs, tortillas and such.

It’s a good theme, one worth a little detour to the old-school Fruitridge Shopping Center. That’s not to say the American items are bad. We ordered up a kids’ pancake breakfast for our daughter—one fluffy pancake, one sausage link and a scrambled egg. It was perfectly acceptable in its diner-breakfast way. That is to say, the pancake was lofty but had a baking-powder aftertaste, the sausage looked like a mass-produced brown-and-serve type (no old-time link here; the casing ended in a disturbing little round before the sausage’s end), and the eggs came in firm bright-yellow curds.

In other words, it was a standard greasy-spoon breakfast and our daughter scarfed it down. But if you’re going to order that, you might as well head to Pancake Circus for its more intensely campy atmosphere. Go to Alonzo’s, instead, when you want a little spicy salsa with your breakfast.

Indeed, it looked to me like they kept one of their salsas—a hot pureed red type—in a pitcher on the back counter and it’s dispensed liberally on your breakfast order, along with a truly incendiary and unusual chunky green salsa. These came in one of those plastic baskets they use at drive-ins, along with our piping-hot tortillas, when our breakfast order was up.

Choosing from among the variations on the menu was the hard part, particularly when it came down to a choice of pork chile verde or the less familiar “hot pork chicana.” I went with the latter, which arrives accompanied by home fries (crunchy on the outside, though they seemed to bear the distinctive flavor of mass-produced frozen potatoes) and a choice of eggs. I had scrambled, which I prefer when accompanied by salsa and spicy pork.

The pork came in big chunks in a liquidy sauce with chunks of tomato and pepper. The chunks themselves were a tiny bit dry, but when the whole thing was dosed with some of the green salsa and sopped up with corn tortillas, it was a great combination. It was terribly hot on its own, but a pleasant piquancy added to the hearty flavor.

My husband ordered chorizo and eggs, which were fluffy and miraculously greaseless. They too were on the mild side, though the savory, chili-spiked flavor of the chorizo came through in full. They were a good match with the toasty flour tortillas, as well as a pile of rich refried beans and some rice.

One of the specialties of the house is pozole, which can be purchased to go. (Another—and the thing the people behind us were ordering—is menudo, but I’ll fess up that though I like plenty of so-called variety meats, I can’t really hack menudo.) For less than 10 bucks, you can get a quart of brothy, mild stew with plenty of accouterments: tortillas, more of that bright-red salsa, crunchy shredded cabbage, chopped onions and lemon wedges.

We took a quart of pozole home and found it a more than adequate dinner for two, with lots of chewy, toothsome hominy and big chunks of pork. Spiking it with a good pour of salsa and a squeeze of lemon woke up the quiet but tasty broth. As in the pork chicana, the meat itself was on the dry side—I preferred the slightly fattier pieces, to be honest—but the whole bowlful was satisfying and hearty, yet not overly heavy.

There are plenty more distinctive breakfast specialties and lunch items to be discovered at Alonzo’s, such as the machaca and eggs (shredded beef, our server said) and a full range of egg dishes. I suspect it would be just the place to wake your senses back up from a mild hangover or to fortify yourself for a good day of outdoor work. Just make sure you make other arrangements for getting a good cup of coffee.