10 Great Breakfast Spots In Orange County

4. Trieu Chau
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Edwin Goei
Breakfast in Vietnam and Cambodia usually involves noodle soups like those Trieu Chau serves starting at 7 a.m. To come, you have to have a soft spot for noodle soup first thing in the morning (and why wouldn't you?), and an even softer spot when it comes with the meat of at least four different animals. Trieu Chau's Chao Chow noodle soup, also known as hu tieu or mi nam vang, is just that dish, topped with shrimp, liver, fish balls, chewy flaps of fish cake, ground pork meat, slices of roast pork and, last but not least, roast duck. And of course, the broth! It's a deep-flavored, marvelous, golden, soul-nourishing nectar, wrung from the bones of bird and hog, and probably MSG. Get there early enough and you'll be able to snag some deep fried crullers you can tear into pieces or dunk into your soup.  4401 W. First St., Santa Ana, (714) 775-1536.

3. Pop's Cafe
Edwin Goei

You'll wish you had a fedora to hang up as you enter. Pop's is the kind of diner that's pretty much extinct everywhere except in an octogenarian's fading memories and old film noirs in which Bogart plays a gumshoe. The cherry-red swivel stools at the counter wiggle unstably, worn from decades of use. Above you, precariously hung long-stemmed ceiling fans sweep the air like the propellers of a plane taking off to fight the Nazis. Coffee is poured generously into thick mugs, the beverage of choice for the breakfast plates that feature hash browns as hash browns should be: massively portioned, crisped brown where starch met griddle and soft as mashed potatoes in the middle. The same can be said of the corned-beef hash, which is the closest you get to meat pudding. The deep fried French toast sticks is recommended. And of course, their country biscuit is blanketed in a pepper-flecked gravy as rich as a milkshake. Under the deluge, you'll find a sausage patty huge enough to be mistaken for a gourmet burger. Enjoy it as your grandparents might have in their youth: without a care in the world about their heart health. 112 East 9th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701-3505, (714) 543-2772

2. Da Lu'au
Edwin Goei
Da Lu'au's breakfast should be appreciated not just because it's cheap (there's a permanent $4.95 special on two pancakes, two eggs, hash browns and a meat of your choice); but because it's good and cheap. There's also the fact that the ukelele music that they've got on a loop never fails to transport you to some island town where Spam is served with scoops of rice without a trace of irony. You can ask for Da Lu'au's bevel-sliced Portuguese sausage for your meal--a breakfast meat rarely seen stateside except at places like Da Lu'au. Spicy enough not to require Sriracha or Tabasco, it is imbued with chili flakes and sweats red grease. And the pancakes are so thick, so airy, you could conceivably lay your head down on it to take a snooze. The eggs are, yes, just eggs, cooked properly to your specification; but Da Lu'au supplies not one but three hot sauces to douse them: the aforementioned Sriracha and Tabasco, but also their house gochujang, which never fails to make an egg breakfast more than just an egg breakfast...even if it's already "Hawaiian". 14151 Jeffrey Road, Irvine, CA 92620, (949) 748-8855

1. Break of Dawn
Edwin Goei

Dee Nguyen is no stranger to lists like these. As far as this rag is concerned, the former Ritz-Carlton chef who struck out on his own to create OC's preeminent breakfast and brunch stop in the shadow of the Laguna Hills Mall is the Godfather of Brunch. Who knew that what we've been missing all these years is the thing he calls tempura-poached egg? Or that Portuguese sausage, scallion purée and pickled green papaya salad are the multicultural friends your sunny-side-up has always needed? We could write about the beef short rib or the crème brûlée French toast with Mexican chocolate, but really, by now, you should've already paid your respects and had your lives and bellies enriched by il capo di tutti brunch capi. 24351 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills, (949) 587-9418; www.breakofdawnrestaurant.com.

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