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Food

What's Cookin' Behind the Curtain - A New Twist on a Familiar Friend

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Every Friday, LAist is taking you on a trip down to Orange County to uncover the unique dining experiences that await adventurous eaters willing to explore beyond the county line.

I’ve always been a huge breakfast fan. Favorite meal of the day. Breakfast for dinner? Tight. Eggs, potatoes, pancakes, sausage, it doesn’t matter, it’s all tasty.

However, when I think about breakfast restaurants, the places that come to mind are typically diners, bakeries, or coffee shops. More Waffle House (why there are no Waffle Houses in California is a whole separate post) than Wolfgang Puck. Rarely are the terms “breakfast” and “haute cuisine” associated with each other. But this week’s restaurant seeks to blend those concepts together.

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Break of Dawn Restaurant in Laguna Hills takes traditional American favorites and adds a European/Vietnamese influence to create a high-end eating experience from comfort foods. Chef Dee Nguyen leverages his prior background as the executive sous chef at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel to infuse fine dining principles to a more typically casual meal, challenging the convention that all culinary creativity can only be found at dinner.

Interestingly enough, Nguyen opened Break of Dawn last year primarily because he wanted to spend more time with his family. As such, the restaurant is only open from 7 am to 3 pm on Tuesday through Sunday, which enables the chef to look after his disabled son. While the restaurant’s hidden location in the back of a shopping center tends to attract far more senior citizens from nearby Laguna Woods than destination eaters, it provides an ideal spot for Nguyen to achieve the work-life balance he craves, given that his house is less than ten minutes away.