Monday, April 21, 2008

Eating Blackbirds

Every time I see the sign for “Four N 20” making my way through Sherman Oaks, I chuckle and inevitably will start singing:
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
They all began to sing.
Now, wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the King?

“Four N 20” has two locations, both in Sherman Oaks and Studio City, the latter being the busiest. I’d heard some rumblings indicating that you go here for breakfast or the pie. So on this Sunday morning I decided that I’d pay my first visit ever for breakfast, finally paying patronage to the place that has always sent me into an instantaneous musical.

Arriving after 9:30am on a Sunday morning I imagined I'd be driving into a mob scene, but entering their rear parking lot I was pleasantly surprised spots were a plenty. Keep a close eye out for the lot entrance, it's very easy to miss.

Inside was the same story. Looking at my surroundings I wasn't quite sure what they were going for when they designed this place. From the outside it somewhat has a cottage like appearance, but inside it reminded me of a roadside stand where the owner sticks random nostalgic knick-knacks like neon signs and vintage cola signs on the walls.

Once a busboy spotted us we were seated quickly amongst the scattered elderly and 30 something valley locals, and given two menus. One was their usual, the other was a slightly more expensive Sunday brunch menu that came with mimosa or champagne. How fancy! To bad I wasn't a morning drinker like Nana at the next table.

All morning long I'd been thinking about french toast, and on their menu I had two choices. The normal everyday variety or one called "French Toast Extraordinaire." I laughed to myself and said no contest, until I read that the only thing extraordinary about it was grilled pineapple. I went with the "Four 'n 20 Morning" which came with french toast, 2 pieces of bacon or sausage, and one egg. Not too bad a deal at $6.75.

Jenn was torn between the "Corned Beef Hash 'n Eggs" or the "Pigs in a Blanket." She went with the corned beef hash when she realized she got a choice of blueberry, bran, corn bread or toast. She chose blueberry.

The food that arrived 10 or so minutes later certainly wasn't as fancy as a glass of champagne, but I didn't really have high expectations. I was more concerned about taste then presentation anyways.

The one plate that did look the most promising was the bread. I had imagined a slice of thin blueberry bread. This was no thin slice, this was a hunk.

My french toast was fine. Nothing terrible, nothing amazing, simply french toast. The egg I ordered "over-medium" was closer to easy, but still perfectly ok. I know that cooking an egg medium takes an amount of skill I certainly haven't learned either. The bacon was crispy and again simply that, crispy but still fine bacon. At least the very fresh piece of watermelon was a nice surprise. Jenn seemed to be enjoying her hash and eggs. I gave it a taste and agreed, it was again pefectly good and simple. Although I have hardly any experience to draw from I took her word for it. But now on to the bread.

The bread was more then just a simple and ordinary experience. I took one bite and literally melted in my seat with blueberry goodness. Then I took some of their cinnamon honey butter and slathered it on. I think my head actually exploded in sunshine and rainbows. The bread was a plate of baked happiness.

Before I ate the bread I thought I'd walk away thinking "Four 'N 20" was perhaps a very slight step above "Denny's," but really nothing to tell my friends about. The bread changed my entire perspective, and I will certainly be back here again to try their lunch offerings, their bread, and dear God what I'm assuming to be equally mood enhancing pie.
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Four 'N 20
5530 Van Nuys Blvd
Sherman Oaks
, CA 91401

(818) 988-1152