It’s All About the Happy

Mari Vees opens in San Marino with good food and good vibes
Published on Feb 28, 2024

When it comes to favorite meals of the day, I know it’s a close field of competitors, but I’m going to go with breakfast. Coming in a close second, of course, is breakfast for lunch.

Not brunch. I mean breakfast for lunch. Pancakes, coffee, juice and the like.

Thus you can imagine my delight at seeing a full stack of blueberry pancakes arrive at my table just before noon, delivered by Mari Vee herself, wife of ebullient and gregarious owner, Roger Valdez.

Roger is living proof that a little personality will go a long way, and a lot of personality will go a lot further. Add to that a delicious breakfast, and you can just hold the doors open.

Mari Vees is still in its soft opening phase, but you could have fooled me by the steady stream of diners dropping in, as if the restaurant had always been in the neighborhood.

“I already have some regulars here,” Valdez said, grinning a huge smile.

“Before I opened here,” said Valdez, “I Googled breakfast places and found that the closest one was more than a mile away.”

When the former seafood restaurant occupying his space departed, he was able to move in quickly.

A former Bay Area general contractor who moved to Southern California just a few years ago, Valdez had also just happened upon an online video many moons ago, describing something called a “steamed cheeseburger.”

Steamed means what it sounds like. Burgers cooked without flame or oil, just steamed. When he saw those, Valdez thought, “I could make those.”

He tried. It turns out, yes he could. And they were very successful.

He bought a food truck to serve those burgers, and it was an immediate hit.

But we’ll get to that.

For now, breakfast is on the table. The Mari Vee pancakes—with a choice of wild blueberry, banana walnut or chocolate chunk—come with a thick, rich warm Maple Butter, which I poured between the pancakes. Between the blueberries and that butter, breakfast went from delicious to delicious-er.

Mari Vee also serves a small-batch roasted blend of coffee from Caffe Luxxe in Santa Monica and baristas Mark Wain and Gary Chau, who were inspired to search the world for their own brand of coffee after a blissful espresso served to them on a holiday trip to Italy in 2006.

Add two delicious link pork sausages, and this breakfast will carry you long after lunch to your late dinner.

Along with the aforementioned pancakes, the soft opening breakfast menu also includes an American Breakfast with two, double smoked bacon, hash browns, and sourdough toast; a Spanish Scramble with chorizo, Huevos Rancheros, a B.E.L.T. (add an egg); Mari Vee’s omelet, with sausage, asparagus, mushroom, spinach, pimento, and Parmesan cheese, and served with the aforementioned hash browns.

The menu also includes a “Good Morning” omelet and Chilaquiles, because Chilaquiles.

There is a happy, relaxed vibe at Mari Vee’s, which one can’t put a price on. At least so far, Mari Vee’s is a winning proposition. Just ask the neighbors.

And we’ll get back to those steamed burgers very soon.

Mari Vees is at 2150 Huntington Dr, San Marino, CA 91108. (626) 234-2085.

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