The only surprises at Ronnie’s Diner are good ones, especially the zesty tomatillo  eggs benedict Photo from K.

The only surprises at Ronnie’s Diner are good ones, especially the zesty tomatillo
eggs benedict
Photo from K.

Ronnie’s Diner hits the spot with big portions of American favorites that won’t break your budget

By Richard Foss (

Last week a friend of our family was going through some hard times, and we offered to take her anywhere she wanted for brunch. (As friends have pointed out many times, my answer to any problem usually involves going out for a meal.) I wanted to give her a treat and suggested some places that were well beyond her limited disposable income, figuring that stylish, civilized surroundings would be a welcome novelty and distraction.

Instead we went to Ronnie’s Diner. In retrospect, her choice made sense — she wanted comfort food, a place where she didn’t have to dress up or be anything but herself.

Ronnie’s fit that need perfectly. This is an old-school coffee shop with an interior that might have looked modern in the Eisenhower administration. In reality, the place was established in 2000, but it feels a lot older.

The menu is a parade of American favorites, so retro that it was something of a surprise that they offer espresso and cappuccino. I didn’t see too many of those being served, as most people were there for big breakfasts and straightforward coffee.

We had a few minutes to figure out what we were going to order because there was a line to get in, but this seems to be the case almost any time Ronnie’s is open. The wait was short, however, because the restaurant is big and service is fast.

Soon we were shown to a table where a cheerful pro named Kelly took over. If any casting directors out there need someone to play a coffee shop server, they should call her. Kelly set just the right tone, moving from table to table in a friendly yet businesslike way, keeping track of an improbable number of orders while giving useful advice about what we should have.

We chose two of the specials, a tomatillo eggs benedict and pumpkin pancakes, and two from the regular menu, French toast and a cobb salad. Kelly was easygoing about special requests, and had the kitchen add sliced bananas to the French toast at
no charge.

Our friend visibly relaxed as we sipped coffee and waited for our food, and I realized how correct her instincts were when she chose this environment. The casual buzz of the place was warm and alive, with customers of all ages cheerily getting on with their lives. She smiled at the small girl at the next table who offered eggs to a plastic pony with a rainbow mane before eating them herself, a small moment of unexpected magic.

Our meals were the big portions we expected, and they hit all the bases. The cobb salad had a plentiful supply of chicken, avocado and crumbled bacon, and the banana French toast hit the table hot with a big beaker of maple syrup on the side. (It was maple-flavored syrup, but that’s to be expected when the breakfasts are all under ten bucks.)

The only surprises were positive ones, such as the full flavor of the pumpkin pancakes, which were not covered up with pie spice as sometimes happens. These were fluffier than standard pancakes and had a slight crispness to the exterior, and though I’m not usually a big fan of pancakes I’d happily have them again. It’s a winter flavor, warm comfort food with eggs and sausage on the side.

My favorite item was the tomatillo benedict, a vegetarian version of the classic with a slice of tomato instead of the traditional Canadian bacon or ham. The sauce was mild with a citrusy flavor and just a bit of heat, and it was a polite wake-up call to the palate. Ronnie’s offers classic benedicts as well, but I’d come back for this one — or for that matter almost anything that involves this sauce. I’d happily have the tomatillo benedict on top of the home fries; the breakfast potatoes served here have no onion or peppers and are mildly seasoned. They’re cooked soft unless you request otherwise, but I asked for them crisp and they came just to my liking.

Our portions had been nicely calibrated, so we finished full but not overstuffed. More importantly, we finished the meal in a much sunnier mood than when we arrived.

Comfort food had worked its magic — and at just over $46 for four people, it was magic on a budget.

Ronnie’s opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 7:30 a.m. on weekends, closing at 2:30 p.m. daily.

Ronnie’s Diner 12740 Culver Blvd.,  Del Rey (310) 578-9399