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August 16-23, 2006

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Morning at Mollie's: A neighborhood Scotts Valley diner with a welcoming buzz and sturdy fare.

The Hungry Ones

Supersized breakfasts make Mollie's an all-you-can-eat adventure

By Selene Latigo

There's something so pure and simple about breakfast. At no other time of day do you get to start with a clean slate. From that greasy pile of hangover-curing bacon, eggs and potatoes to one single perfect piece of summer fruit, or even if breakfast is only a steamy cup of coffee, there's still a sense of beginning and rejuvenation in the face of a new day. We started our recent Sunday at Mollie's Country Café in Scotts Valley, a tried and true neighborhood diner with a welcoming buzz and sturdy fare.

As the name would suggest, this cafe is full of old-fashioned country kitsch, from the homemade-looking lace curtains, plastic plants and long counter with regulars on stools. Several families were already tucking into platefuls of pancakes and country-fried steak when we arrived. Our waitress, an obvious seasoned veteran with swift service and smooth, endearing words, was at our table in a flash to fill our mugs and take our order.

As is commonly the case, Dave was ready for a huge amount of food this weekend morning, and was delighted to see that Mollie's menu seemed to slant toward this inclination. It was a tough choice between "The Special," an outrageous combination of a dozen scrambled eggs, a pound of meat, a pound of home fries and an entire loaf of bread, or the aptly named "The Hungry One," which offers three pancakes, four pieces of bacon, sausage or ham, two eggs, home fries and a small O.J. Ultimately, the all-you-can-eat weekend breakfast buffet ($11) won him over after a few eyefuls of the extensive offerings, thanks in no small part to the all-you-can-eat part.

From the second his empty plate was handed over we barely spoke. A constant stream of selections appeared after each trip to the double-stationed buffet and he heartily wolfed it all down. Luckily I was able to sneak some tastes in when he would pause for gulps of coffee between forkfuls.

One cheesy scramble was packed with fresh vegetables while another tray held at least three types of meat. Small, classic buttermilk pancakes and cinnamon raisin French toast satisfied the sweet tooth along with the myriad of donuts scattered about like confetti. Two types of somewhat dry, layered rounds of home fries, one with melted cheese, took over the potato category, not to mention the vats of hot homemade gravy, oatmeal, biscuits and platters of fruit.

Even though Dave is well aware of the fact that a buffet often means stale, rubbery, pre-made food, he was satisfied with this one and loved every minute of it. Next time, though, he proclaimed that the way to go is with the fresh, hot platters of steak and eggs or pigs in a blanket that he eyed coming out of the kitchen.

I was tempted by the special French-toasted waffle, dipped in egg batter and grilled, but knew that I wouldn't get any help from preoccupied Dave and decided on a more well-rounded selection. The Spanish scramble ($7.50) featured a deep, dark chile sauce with chunks of celery and melted cheese on top. A whole pickled jalapeño pepper added extra tangy spice. Next door to this huge flavorful scrambled mass was a thin, golden crisp slab of excellent hash browns. The potato was grated in wide, razor thin strips and flecked with bits of green onion, all grilled to the perfect crunchy consistency. I chose a biscuit instead of toast or tortillas and it was fluffy, tall and yet slightly spongy. I traded out the cup of artificially bright yellow margarine for a pat of butter, which pooled and soaked into the steaming biscuit to create an amazing scooping device for my eggs.

The look on Dave's face went from concentration to a little bit of fear, and then to complete disgust with himself as we waddled out the door. Despite his total state of discomfort, he rubbed his belly and said, "I'd go back there soon." And we will.


Address: 219 Mount Herman Road, Scotts Valley

Phone: 831.438.8313

Hours: 6am-3pm Mon-Tue, 6am-8pm Wed-Fri, 7am-8pm Sat, 7am-3pm Sun

Price Range: $4-$12.

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