Breakfast Republic puts spin on classic dishes


Johan Engman wants to revolutionize the breakfast market, starting in San Diego County.

The University Heights man, who immigrated to the United States from his home country of Sweden as a teenager in 1997, owns Breakfast Republic and Fig Tree Cafe.

Breakfast Republic — which first opened in North Park in 2015 and also has locations in Liberty Station and East Village — opened an Encinitas location in November.

The restaurant is at 251 North El Camino Real., and is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

“I had been looking in North County for quite a while, and I always thought Encinitas was a perfect area,” Engman said. “I think there’s definitely a little void for the type of breakfast we offer. It’s an affluent area, and the clientele is definitely more families than what it is in North Park, for example.”

The restaurant offers a variety of pancakes, French toast and egg dishes — with a twist. Some of the most popular choices are Shrimp and grits; chilaquiles; and breakfast bacon mac and cheese, said Engman, who has been working in the restaurant industry since becoming a dishwasher at a small Italian restaurant in San Diego when he was 17.

The goal with Breakfast Republic was to offer a unique first-meal experience, Engman said.

“Most breakfast places you go to, it’s your standard scrambles, omelets, pancakes and French toast without much invention or creativity,” he said. “We’re taking a play off a traditional dish from the South — Shrimp and Grits — and making it into a breakfast dish. We’re taking our own spin on things to stand out and be unique.”

Those who are health-conscious or have dietary restrictions are also catered to with gluten-free and vegan options, for example. Dishes can also be requested with egg-whites only.

Engman, who also owns Fig Tree Cafe’s three locations — in Pacific Beach, Liberty Station and Hillcrest — said he decided to open a full-on breakfast concept in 2014.

“What I learned from Fig Tree was less is more,” he said. “At Fig Tree, it was kind of a confusing concept where the public wasn’t really sure what we were — breakfast or lunch. With Breakfast Republic, I developed that concept over a year and a half before I even opened it. I wanted to be extremely clear with what we did.”

He plans to open a Breakfast Republic location in Ocean Beach in April and in Carmel Valley in May. He is also planning for expansions into Orange County in the next few years.

The restauranteur is also eyeing locations to open pizza and Mexican concepts later this year.

Engman said he believes that Southern California is “very much in love” with breakfast, which is a meal he considers “underserved” throughout the country.

“I don’t really factor in the Denny’s and IHOPs of the world because that’s a different class,” he said. “I do think it’s a market that hasn’t been explored from a creative aspect.”

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