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America Sits Down to Breakfast

Monitor writers report from four cities, coast-to-coast, about the meal that weekend diners love to linger over

Los Angeles

In the land where international cultures are coming together like nobody's business, nobody does better business for breakfast than where the international restaurants come together under one roof.

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In Los Angeles, that means Farmer's Market, where the locals crowd in for such foreign twists on the ordinary egg as huevos rancheros (with salsa), egg foo yung (with rice and brown sauce), eggs sardou (poached on cream spinach in hollandaise sauce), and eggs lafayette (scrambled with fresh basil, tomatoes, peppers, sausage, and garlic).

You have to travel to a half dozen places for all of the above, Mexican (Castillos), Chinese (Peking Kitchen), Cajun American (the Gumbo Pot), French, and American Modern (Kokomo), in that order. But they're all within shouting distance of the 160 other stalls here offering food, souvenirs, coffee, cheese, meats, fresh produce, baked goods, and more.

There's also plenty of places for good 'ol sunny side ups, Belgian waffles (Coffee Korner), French Toast (Phil's, DuPars, Magee's, Charlie's), and specialties like Red Flannel turkey hash, bagels, and double-smoked, double-thick bacon (Kokomo).

Opened in 1924 as a marketing cooperative for local farmers, Farmer's Market is centrally located near the city's Wilshire district, behind CBS's Television City. The building looks just as old, with a single asphalt floor that sprouts old-time soda stools in several open areas, half covered and half open to sunny California skies.

That makes for sultry heat by about 10:30 a.m., when the smart patrons have already split and when the omnipresent tourist buses disgorge camera-toting visitors by the hundreds.

There are several specialty shops as well as breakfast joints, where health-conscious Los Angelenos belly-up to the bar for dozens of fresh-squeezed juices (papaya, mango, passion fruit, coconut, and more at Paul's Juice and Salad Bar.)

"I come here once a week to juice up for breakfast and take several bottles home," says Jasper Kresjnek, a Romanian regular to Farmer's Market for 12 years.

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Farmer's Market continues to be popular among film studio moguls from nearby Paramount Pictures on Santa Monica Blvd. You can spot them easily; they're the ones making deals.

"I can come here twice a week and never eat the same thing for at least three months," says Benny Jimenez, feasting on huevos rancheros at Castillos. There are lots of people who come here solely for the ambience, the gritty feel and wafting mixture of smells, he says.

"It's a hangout. You come for breakfast, but you also come to watch the masses mingle," says Jimenez. "It's where Los Angeles wakes itself up."

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