Mornings in Orange County: Here’s What Night Owls Are Missing

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Bright & Early Eats

It can be tough finding a non-chain restaurant serving hot breakfast before 7 a.m., so we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites to start your day off right.

K&A Cafe. Photograph by Emily J. Davis
  • K&A Cafe, Anaheim
    Opens: 6 a.m. on weekdays
  • Cafe Calypso, San Clemente
    Opens: 6 a.m.
  • Laguna Coffee Company, Laguna Beach
    Opens: 5:30 a.m.
Nate’s Korner. Photograph Courtesy of Nate’s Korner
  • Nate’s Korner, Santa Ana
    Opens: 6 a.m.
  • The Bagel Shack, Dana Point and San Clemente
    Opens: 5:30 a.m.
  • Dick Church’s, Costa Mesa
    Opens: 6:30 a.m. on weekdays
  • Ham ’n Scram, Westminster
    Opens: 5:30 a.m. on weekdays
  • Cowgirls Cafe, Santa Ana
    Opens: 6 a.m. on weekdays, 6:30 on weekends
  • Sugar Shack Cafe, Huntington Beach
    Opens: 6 a.m.
  • Glee Donuts & Burgers, Fountain Valley
    Opens: 6:30 a.m.
  • Victory Diner, Orange
    Opens 6 a.m. Mondays, 24 hours Tuesday through Sunday
  • Harbor House Cafe, Dana Point and Sunset Beach
    Open 24 hours
  • Mae’s Cafe, Garden Grove
    Open 24 hours
  • Cafe Westminster, Westminster
    Open 24 hours

Doughnuts for All

These shops offer something for everyone—traditional, vegan, and gluten-free treats.

  • The Donuttery, Huntington Beach
  • Good Town Doughnuts, Costa Mesa
  • Friendly Doughnuts, Orange
  • JD Flannel Donuts, San Juan Capistrano

Not Your Mama’s Java

Shake up your caffeine routine with these unique coffee drinks.

Neat Coffee. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Coffee Soda

This drink at Neat Coffee is made by brewing a strong coffee concentrate infused with lime juice, cardamom, and cane sugar and shaking with lime and mint before it’s poured over sparkling water. $5.50 Costa Mesa, 949-873-6328

Coffee Dose. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

The Burner

Wake up quick with Coffee Dose’s take on a bulletproof coffee, featuring MCT oil, grass fed butter, and coffee. You’re sure to get the early morning jolt you need. $6.50 Costa Mesa, Irvine, Stanton

Strawberry Angostura Espresso Soda

This concoction at Daydream Surf Shop is nothing if not tropical, made with strawberries, vanilla, Angostura bitters, cream, sparkling water, and espresso. Fittingly, it’s served in a tiki cup. $9 Costa Mesa, 949-612-7175

Star Anise Latte

Located inside of a car wash, Rosetta Coffee Brewing Company is a hidden gem offering several inventive “potations,” including this one made with star anise, vanilla, espresso, milk, and simple syrup. $5 Laguna Niguel, 714-728-4885

Durian Ice Cream Coffee

Popular Asian flavors such as ube and matcha appear in some of the drinks at DaVien Cafe & Dessert. One you’re not likely to find anywhere else is coffee topped with a scoop of the shop’s durian ice cream. $7 Westminster, 657-346-2010

Banana Coffee and Javacado

Both unique drinks stand out from the crowd at Phin Smith. The banana coffee, a customer favorite, is drip coffee infused with fresh bananas ($4.25). The Javacado is an ice-blended coffee made with avocado ($5). Garden Grove

PB Mocha

A signature offering at Tribute Coffee House, it combines rich dark chocolate and coffee with sweet, creamy peanut butter. Try it hot, iced, or blended. Whipped cream optional. $4.75 Garden Grove, 714-852-3005

Palo Santo

Buenas Coffee makes simple syrup infused with palo santo—wood from a tree native to South America that is thought to have healing powers—and adds it to coffee and oat milk with a garnish of espresso salt. Try it hot or cold and see if the positive energy around you increases. $5.50 Costa Mesa

 

Two for Tee

Start your day with an early round at some of the county’s top golf courses.

Pelican Hill Golf Club. Photograph Courtesy of Pelican Hill Golf Club
CourseCityNumber of HolesEarliest Tee TimesCost (per player)
Pelican Hill Golf ClubNewport Coast36 (Two 18-hole courses)7 a.m.$315
Monarch Beach Golf LinksDana Point187 a.m.$111
Brea Creek Golf CourseBrea96 a.m.$16
Ben Brown’s Golf CourseLaguna Beach96 a.m.$40
Tijeras Creek Golf ClubRancho Santa Margarita186 a.m.$136
Lake Forest Golf and Practice CenterLake Forest96 a.m.$17
Mile Square Golf CourseFountain Valley186 a.m.$45
Oak Creek Golf ClubIrvine186 a.m.$150

 

Monarch Beach Golf Links. Photograph Courtesy of Monarch Beach Golf Links

Inside tip: Many of these courses book times a week or two in advance. Check the websites for updates and to reserve your preferred tee time.

 

All-Day Energy

Get your blood pumping with morning workouts that go beyond Pilates or cycling.

Group Hike Photograph courtesy of Irvine Ranch Conservancy
  • The Workout: Shred (high-intensity class set to music)
    The Place: Moxi3 in Costa Mesa
    The Time: 6 a.m.
  • The Workout: Free guided group hikes
    The Place: Various Orange County Parks
    The Time: Starting at 7 a.m.
  • The Workout: Tai chi
    The Place: OC Tai Chi Studio, Harvard Community Park in Irvine
    The Time: Saturdays at 8:30 a.m.
  • The Workout: Boxing
    The Place: Boxhaus in Newport Beach
    The Time: Classes start at 6 a.m.
  • The Workout: Indoor rock climbing
    The Place: Sender One in Santa Ana
    The Time: Opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays.
Indoor Rock Climbing. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

A professional surfer and Team USA surfing coach

Huntington Beach’s Brett Simpson shares his passion for early morning surf sessions.

Brett Simpson. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Where’s your favorite spot to surf in the morning?
Huntington Pier is my go-to. It’s usually the most consistent spot in Orange County. There’s always some kind of wave. There are places in the world where you get up early and it might be flat, whereas here you know you’re going to be able to ride a wave, which is pretty awesome.

Is it worth it to get out there early?
The cleanest, most predominant conditions are in the morning. You get glassy and/or offshore winds, which is what you want. It makes the wave really clean on the face of it. During a typical Southern California afternoon, we get west winds or northwest winds, which makes it a little bumpier and somewhat harder to surf. The 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. window usually (offers) the cleanest conditions that we’ll get.

Any other benefits to surfing in the morning?
For me, it’s this peace of mind. There’s something about surfing early, being amongst Mother Nature, dolphins, whatever else is out there. There’s no better way to start my day. It wakes me up and prepares me for whatever’s ahead. For me, there’s not a better feeling in the world.

Where do you grab coffee or breakfast?
Java Point, Sugar Shack, and Northside Cafe.

Did you do any Olympic training in O.C.?
We did do a little training here. John John (Florence) came out a few weeks before and Kolohe (Andino) and Caroline (Marks) live in San Clemente. We were able to go to Newport, Huntington—spots where we could find similar conditions to the waves in Chiba, Japan.

 

A baker

Sara Lezama, owner of Costa Mesa’s Rye Goods, shares her typical schedule.

Sara Lezama. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

When do you start your day?
We’re honestly here 24 hours a day. We have bakers going around the clock. Most of our bread mixing and croissants and all that stuff will start around 4 a.m. It gets cold fermented, and then we have bakers who come at midnight; so the typical baker’s schedule to do a morning bake is midnight to 8 a.m.

What does the process look like when you come in at 4 a.m.?
Taking our levains, which are starters of bread, to get the bread mixed to get it fermenting and then sourdough shaping. At the same time, we have bakers who are baking all that stuff that was made the day before. If you happen to be up—and there are these wild humans that you’ll see, especially in the summer, like bike riders who are out at 4:30 a.m.—they’ll come by the shop and just pause because it smells like loaves of bread and cookies and everything. It’s amazing.

What’s something about being a baker that people wouldn’t expect?
I always tell people you actually have to be really strong to be a baker. We’re picking up multiple bags of flour and sugar and cases of carrots and everything you can possibly think of, and it all just comes in big crates. You’ll be in the kitchen, and it’s so loud, and you’ve moved all this flour, and you’ve taken all this stuff out of the oven. You walk outside, and the sun is coming up, and it’s just dead silent; I think that’s the epitome of why we do it.

 

A TV weatherperson

Yorba Linda resident Henry DiCarlo is an Emmy-winning meteorologist for the KTLA 5 Morning News.

Henry DiCarlo. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

“The first question everyone asks is how early I have to get up. I get up between 2 and 2:30. I have everything laid out and ready to go, so I just basically brew a cup of coffee, say goodbye to the dogs, and it’s a 40-minute commute to our studio in Hollywood. I’m on air every 7 to 10 minutes from 4 to 7 a.m., and after that we film a digital talk show for the KTLA+ app and I’m done.

I’ve always been a morning person. Getting up early doesn’t bother me. I don’t wake up in a bad mood. But you never get used to waking up that early. I feel fortunate that I enjoy working with my coworkers and I’m at a great station where the format is much looser than a conventional format. My role is more to entertain and make people smile. When it comes to weather, we’re all saying the same thing, so it just comes down to, who do you want to get that info from? I try to make things lighthearted and put a funny, positive spin on it.

They really encourage us to share our lives and not just be a weatherperson on TV but to be a person in the community. And not just in L.A. but in O.C. and all of SoCal. When I look at the weather, I think about how it’s affecting people like my wife, who is taking the dogs out and taking the kids to school. My job is to remind people to grab a jacket or look after their pets. It’s not just about regurgitating the weather but incorporating things that happen in everyday life so it becomes much more personal.”

 

A farmer

Montana Berumen discusses how her family runs Rosewood Farms in Fountain Valley.

Montana Berumen. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

“We’re a family farm, and we wear many hats. My husband, Daniel, has been involved for at least 15 years. His father, Jose Manuel, is the founder. He has retired on paper, but I don’t think he will ever completely let go because it’s his heart and soul. In 2018, we stepped in to rebrand the business and get into grocery stores and restaurants. I always tell people, “A farmer’s job is never done.” Wakeup time is 5:30 a.m. for at least one of us. Everything is starting at 6 a.m., when our pickers arrive ready to work. Before they get there, we have to walk the fields and check the plants. We check the leaves, as they will tell you the health of the plant. If you don’t check and you’re not consistent, you can get a whole crop that gets sick with a minuscule mite that will ruin the plant. We check the plants, check the soil, and turn on the water before the sun comes up. You never want to water when the sun is (high). We water twice a day: sunrise and sunset. We do everything by hand, which is time consuming and hard, but it’s much better for the soil and the quality of fruit. We’re a small boutique farm, so we can still get away with it. … There’s a stillness in the morning that you can’t get even at sunset. There’s such a different energy in the morning. You’re awake before the whole world is; that’s how it feels. If it’s a nice sunrise, I like to be out in the field. Sometimes, sitting on one of the tractors, you get a nice view.”

 

A coffee roaster and barista

Nick Han shares the process of roasting coffee for MoonGoat Coffee Roasters in Santa Ana.

Nick Han. Photograph by Emily J. Davis

“Before I started working at MoonGoat, they were operating in a small warehouse that roasted and served coffee. I visited and met my current boss, David (Yardley). It was incredible talking to him and seeing how nerdy we both got about the coffee. I joined MoonGoat at the end of 2019 when it opened the Costa Mesa store. I was usually there around 5:45 a.m. for the opening shift. Depending on the time of year, I got to see the sunrise, which was like pink cotton candy skies. I loved getting to meet new customers, especially at the Costa Mesa store (where) you get a bunch of different characters coming in; people from all different backgrounds. I consider a couple of the regulars my actual friends.

Now I’m mostly just roasting, but if they need coverage at either store, they’ll call me up.

I typically start roasting around 8 a.m. Farmers will send us samples, and we have a tiny roaster we use to see if it’s something we like; then we’ll buy it and adjust from there. Every Friday, we’ll lay out all the coffees that we roasted for the week. At the moment, my favorite is our Ethiopia Bekele. It’s super tea-like but has a lot of citrus in it, and it almost has an Earl Grey quality to it, which is interesting.”

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