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Omelets Etc. feels uneven, but hardly uninspired

Should I ever require surgery, I'll likely avoid a clinic named Appendectomies, Etc. There's just something about the vagueness of "et cetera" that's at times unsettling, as if everything that follows is but a carefree afterthought.

With that in mind, I wondered how much passion the owners of now-five-month-old Omelets Etc. could bring to their Eighth Street diner. Upon approach, I feared a colorless vessel for eggs 'n stuff. But what I got in the former Pikes Perk space is actually quite the opposite.

Stone floors, a dark blue exposed ceiling, local artworks, modern wooden seats and a curvaceous counter embracing an open kitchen lend a vibe that's less greasy spoon and more cool café. And though the menu reads like a typical American diner's, flavors are fairly bright overall, evidencing ample concern — and no ho-hum hash-slingin'.

Husband and wife owners Robin Turner and Juan Gonzalez bring a total of 30 years IHOP experience and some satisfying buttermilk and multigrain pancakes (a 99-cent upcharge) to their own venture. I'm picking on them for the name, but really the playful blame goes to Turner's grandfather, who ran his own Omelets Etc. for around a decade in the '70s in Santa Barbara, Calif. Some of his recipes are on the menu, as are subtle touches from Gonzalez's family in Zacatecas, Mexico.

One of two large blackboards above the newly installed hot line announces something to the effect of, "the best green chile in town." Unfortunately, my breakfast burrito would prove otherwise: The chile's not hot, it's a little runny, and I needed ample bottled hot sauce to bring the egg, onion and tasty, but also not-too-spicy, chorizo sausage to life. The portion is otherwise generous for $6.99, especially considering that includes toast or two small pancakes.

The Eggs Benedict (also $6.99) fares a little better, with a house-made hollandaise sauce over Canadian bacon and a standard English muffin. I recommend subbing fresh fruit in for the generic hash-brown side. Ditto on the biscuits and gravy ($6.49; add two eggs for $1), which pairs decent homemade gravy with sometimes-homemade biscuits and two fine sausage patties.

Because you can't skip the item from which the place derives its name, we also hit up the Western omelet ($7.29; includes hash browns and either toast or pancakes) of ham, green peppers, onions, green chile, cheddar and sour cream, adding chorizo for 69 cents. Nicely folded, stuffed and fluffy-thick, it represented well.

From the menu's lunch section, the Philly Griller of roast beef, sautéed onions and mushrooms, and Swiss cheese ($6.99; with fries or onion rings, both better than average) also spoke true to the East Coast style. Two daily specials ranged, though. A chicken-bacon melt with avocado on sourdough ($7.49 with fries) was too dry and burdened by cheap Swiss cheese flavor. On the flipside, two pork chops ($7.99; with eggs, hash browns, pancakes) blew us all away with tender, salty goodness.

As for sweets, pleasing pies and muffins ($1.99) are occasionally made on site, and cheesecakes ($2.99) and cinnamon rolls ($3.99) are well-sourced from outside. Rainforest Alliance-certified Royal Cup Coffee ($1.99, bottomless) unsurprisingly pairs well with everything start-to-finish.

So even though its offerings are generally satisfying, I figure the whole "Etc." name actually fits this outfit perfectly. For one thing, there's a legacy being carried on here; for another, the menu's so familiar that you can order without even seeing it. And sometimes, that's just what the doctor ordered.

matthew@csindy.com

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