The old, clunky alarm clock on the bedside table first pierced the night at 4:30 a.m. but not yet ready to start his day, Jon Schlagel silenced the alarm by hitting the snooze button.
Another five more minutes pass and the alarm clock is up to its same old tricks, urging its owner to get out of bed and attack the day ahead. But, for the third time Schlagel hits snooze.
Before Schlagel could fall back asleep though, he had his inspiration – he was going to serve breakfast for a living. Thus, Snooze an AM Eatery was born.
“I woke up one morning and I wanted to do something where I could do what I love and still see my friends and family every day,” Schlagel said, during the third day of the soft-opening for Snooze’s first San Diego location – on Fifth Street in Hillcrest.
It was in 2006 when Schlagel and his brother Adam opened the first Snooze restaurant in Denver, Colorado. Since, the restaurant has expanded in Colorado to include five locations, two in Denver, but Schlagel said he always knew he wanted to open a restaurant out-of-state, he just wasn’t sure where.
“[My brother and I] did breakfast research in a lot of places,” Schlagel said. “We went to Chicago, L.A., New York; whenever we asked ourselves ‘where do we want to go’ we kept coming back here. We had a knowledge of the area and references and Mother Ocean is beautiful – she’s hard to turn down.”
After looking at potential locations in Mission Beach, La Jolla or as far north as Del Mar, Schlagel and his San Diego business partner Robert Butterfield chose Hillcrest because he said they felt a strong connection to the local community and Mission Beach and La Jolla felt “too transient; too touristy,” Schlagel said.
The result, a little more than one and a half years in the making, is one of the more unique breakfast restaurants you’ll find in San Diego County. Described by Schlagel as “Happy Days meets The Jetsons,” the location on Fifth Avenue, just north of University Ave, wakes you up almost the moment you step foot through the doors.
“Normal is so boring; mediocrity sucks,” Schlagel said. “When I started Snooze I wanted to think outside the box – no, I hate that saying ‘think outside the box.’ There is no box, it’s about being a free thinker.”
The vaulted ceilings, we’re talking close to 30 or 40 feet high, provide an abundance of natural light. The bright oranges, yellows, greens and blues used for the lights, tables, coffee mugs and wall decor produce what Schlagel likes to call a “comfortable, but intense vibe.”
“This is how people start their day,” Schlagel said. “Breakfast can be culinary but I wanted to take the pretentiousness out of it. I wanted eye-candy but I didn’t want to be too trendy. I wanted something that would be cool now and still be cool 20 years from now.”
And it is not just the design and layout of the restaurant, which includes a combination of round tables, rectangular booths and an old-fashioned diner-style bar, that is unique for a breakfast restaurants. The menu itself provides a fresh-take on the most important meal of the day.
Snooze’s menu boasts six categories of cuisine: Flavors from the Hen, The Art of Hollandaise, Pancake Bliss, Like a Feather, Sweet Utopia and Brunch all the Time. Some of the more unique menu items include a breakfast pot pie, an all-veggie Eggs Benedict, a rotating pancake of the day – for those with an extreme sweet tooth – or the ability to for any brunch item to be served with an egg, open-face style. Can’t choose between the carne asada Eggs Benedict and the breakfast tacos? No problem at all. Snooze allows patrons to order half-portions or combine meals all to provide the customer the ability to customize breakfast.
While filling up on food, everybody needs something with which to wash it all down and that is where the liquor liscence comes in handy. Snooze’s drink menu includes five different versions of the Bloody mary, five takes on the Mimosa, including a brewmosa – yes, Belgian-style ale and orange juice, and other morning or early afternoon cocktails. When it comes to dinner, though, Schlagel says you need to look elsewhere.
“I always say that you come here and you can have breakfast for lunch or lunch for breakfast but you have to get dinner elsewhere,” Schlagel said. “I could probably tell you where every happy hour is within five miles.”
Becky Long, Snooze’s marketing, catering, social media and philanthropy guru – her title is “All-Purpose Flour – said the menu for this Snooze was tweaked from its Colorado counterparts to take advantage of local ingredients. This emphasis on the local community is another factor that adds to Snooze’s uniqueness. They donate 1 percent of sales back into the local neighborhood – “within 5 miles of the restaurant,” Long said.
Before opening its doors Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for a soft-opening ahead of Friday’s grand opening, Long researched as many as 30 local philanthropies to which Snooze would donate tip proceeds from the three-day soft-opening. She settled on three, one for each day, all inadvertantly carrying a similar theme.
It is no widely known that San Diego has a very large youth homeless population. The Monarch School, a school located downtown for homeless youth, immedietly grabbed Long’s attention. With a new, larger school planned that will actually have a yard as opposed to the city streets that surround the school’s current location, Long said Snooze wanted to donate money to help build a garden. Then, with a focus on sustainable foods, Snooze plans to put together a curriculum about “green” foods and how to eat healthier.
After learning that nearly 40 percent of the homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Long was drawn to the LBGT center, specifically the center for youth housing. The Sunburst Youth Housing Project provides “safe and supportive housing for San Diego’s homeless youth, including LBGT and HIV-positive youth.”
Finally, after a minor uproar over a Shepard Fairey mural that was removed during construction of the new restaurant, Long felt motivated to donate to A Reason to Survive, or ARTS, which provides arts-based programs, education, and employment opportunities low-income or disabled youth. The San Diego-based non-profit organization runs on the belief that “the visual, performing, and literary arts can literally transform lives – especially those of kids.”
Fairie, who became widely known after creating the the now-iconic “Hope” poster during President Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, created the mural on knowing it was only going to be temporary. When construction began, the lot was previously a parking lot, Hillcrest residents were outraged the mural was being destroyed. As a response, Long said Fairie painted a second, smaller mural for Snooze and signed a copy. Long said they plan on donating the painting to ARTS and getting a second copy to hang in the restaurant.
On Friday morning at 6:30, the sixth Snooze restaurant officially opened for business. If the buzzing crowd that still filled the restaurant at noon is any indication, then Snooze will seemingly have little problem building an extensive clientele. Open 6:30-2:30 Monday through Saturday, Schlagel said he hopes the restaurant is able to draw a wide variety of people.
“That’s the beauty about serving breakfast, there are a bunch of different things people eat for lunch and dinner, but when it comes to breakfast, everybody usually eats the same thing. I want to provide a unique twist on that common breakfast.”