The owners of Chinatown spot Nick’s Cafe — Rod Davis, Kimberly Sinclair and Carlos Morales — opened Rock’n Egg, a new breakfast restaurant, in the old Auntie Em’s location on Eagle Rock Boulevard Jan. 28.
While Auntie Em’s focused on comfort food and baked goods, Rock’n Egg will focus on classic breakfast food, such as pancakes and omelets, as well as simple lunch staples like sandwiches and salads.
Just one year after the closing of Auntie Em’s, Rock’n Egg filled the vacancy in the bright red building.
“I was living in Eagle Rock and I liked the area,” Morales said. “I ate at this restaurant when it was Auntie Em’s and I liked the location.”
Although the owners have a history in the downtown breakfast scene with Nick’s Cafe, they said they are embracing their new location in Eagle Rock. In fact, many of the Nick’s Cafe customers live between Eagle Rock and Mount Washington, according to Davis. The name Rock’n Egg is a play on the words “Eagle Rock” and “egg,” according to Morales.
Ysadora Mirabelli-Montan (senior), who works at the owners’ original Nick’s Cafe establishment downtown, said she is confident that all of the owners will honor the history of their new building.
“It’s not as if some big chain of restaurants has swooped in on the old location of Auntie Em’s and taken over,” Mirabelli-Montan said. “Rather, a group of individuals who have worked to maintain the local history of Nick’s Cafe in Chinatown have expanded to Eagle Rock, a place that is also decidedly rich with cultural history.”
Mirabelli-Montan said the team of three owners at Nick’s Cafe have preserved the character of the downtown favorite over the years — the U-shaped counter in the center of the restaurant and the ham and salsa dish have been mainstays of the cafe since its opening.
According to the cafe’s website, the cafe opened downtown in 1948 after the apocryphal Nick — a veteran of the Navy — allegedly returned to the United States. A pair of LAPD detectives later purchased the restaurant, and it went on to become a favorite among by enforcement officials and workers from the Department of Water and Power.
The owners plan to keep the basic outline of the Auntie Em’s restaurant including the marketplace, dining area and kitchen, according to Davis. He said the old Auntie Em’s location was a perfect fit for a sister restaurant of Nick’s Cafe.
“The building has a long history like Nick’s Cafe, and we plan to carry on the tradition of great food and good service the same way we have done at Nick’s Cafe,” Davis said. “I believe in the values and work ethic of immigrants opening small cafes across America and building a dream with the labor of their hands and dedication to their profession. Nick’s Cafe is a throwback to that time and I am honored to be its custodian.”
The owners plan to take advantage of the larger kitchen area at Rock’n Egg to train young culinary talent.
“We believe there are good people looking to work hard at their future who will join us in making Rock’n Egg Cafe a great place to visit,” Davis said.
Auntie Em’s shut down in January 2017 as the owner, Terri Wahl, decided to focus on her catering business exclusively.
“I was upset to learn that Auntie Em’s was going out of business because of all the great brunches and lunches I’d had there with friends and family,” Pai Miller (junior) said. “I was also really surprised since it was always so packed when I went that it was hard to find a table!”
According to Wahl, there are a few key ingredients to a successful breakfast spot in Eagle Rock: community relations, great food and supporting local farms and farmers. When she first opened up Auntie Em’s 15 years ago, Wahl even came over to Occidental’s campus to hand out fliers to the students.
“[Community relations is] bonding with the community,” Wahl said. “Being friends with them. My staff and I had a very tight bond with the community. They were our friends. We miss them dearly.”
Rock’n Egg is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday, at 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041.