Jason Tsai has always loved California’s brunch culture. In fact, the slogan of his family brunch restaurant, Popping Yolk Cafe, is “let there be brunch.”
“I used to go to different weekend brunches,” Tsai said. “That’s how I feel about California: everyone brings their own culinary culture to this community.”
Tsai moved from Taiwan to Southern California about 16 years ago. After opening his Fika Fika cafe in Arcadia in 2019, he soon opened his first Popping Yolk Cafe in Alhambra. The Hacienda Heights location opened in 2020, followed by Pasadena last March. About 80 employees work between the three sites.
“I tell my employees that our message is good food, good mood,” Tsai said. “The Pasadena community has a huge demand for brunch and (all locations) have been very popular since we opened.”
While the Alhambra location has a hip, modern vibe, Tsai wanted to make the Pasadena location her concept restaurant with an old-school yet modern California vibe.
“Yellow is the signature color, and we used wallpaper, hand-drawn flowers by my partner, Avis Tao, and pastel green on the plaster,” Tsai said. “The furniture is also custom-made. The place just has a very chilled, relaxing and youthful vibe.
Popping Yolk uses all fresh ingredients from local markets, while strawberries and oranges come straight from the farm.
“It’s not just traditional American cuisine; we infuse different and trendy ideas into our restaurants,” Tsai said.
The menu offers a variety of brunch dishes, including unique Eggs Benedict ($16-$19) such as BBQ Pulled Pork Benedict with a Poached Egg, BBQ Pulled Pork, English Muffin, Spring Mix, Butter and Hollandaise sauce; Benedictine fish fillet with poached egg, fried fish fillet, coleslaw, tartar sauce, butter, English muffin and Hollandaise sauce; the Nashville hot chicken Benedict with poached egg, Nashville hot chicken, coleslaw, English muffin, butter, pickled cucumber, spicy honey mayo sauce and Hollandaise sauce; and the teriyaki chicken Benedict with a poached egg, teriyaki chicken, spinach, butter and hollandaise sauce.
“Eggs Benedict is a signature brunch item,” Tsai said. “Nashville hot chicken is trending and the breakfast has over 10 different ingredients in flavor.”
Omelets ($15-$19) are also served, including the BBQ pulled pork omelet with BBQ pulled pork, BBQ sauce, mushrooms, spinach and toast; the Californian omelet with cherry tomato, avocado, pesto, spinach, mushrooms and toast; and the Spam Kimchi Omelet with Spam, kimchi, Korean chili mayo, mixed cheese, and toast.
“The California omelet is the healthiest and most common,” Tsai said. “The kimchi omelet is also good because it has a variety of Korean flavors.”
Crisp French toast ($8 for a half, $15 for a full) is another popular item, with the homemade version having fried toast, mixed berries, maple syrup and condensed milk and the banana version with caramel having fried toast, banana caramel, maple syrup and caramel sauce.
“It’s a French toast that’s very crispy on the outside and very soft on the inside,” Tsai said.
Other dishes include the classic breakfast ($17) with bacon, sausage, cherry tomato, garden springs, fried potatoes, toast, and a choice of scrambled or sun-kissed eggs; crepes and waffles ($11-$15) with the crispy honeycomb crepe with fresh strawberry, cereal, crispy honeycomb, whipped cream and caramel sauce; Charbroiler burger sandwiches ($15-$19) at the Popping Yolk Burger with Angus beef, egg, grilled mushrooms, cheddar and honey mustard sauce; and salad and snacks ($4 to $9) consisting of the garden’s spring mix, arugula, and seasoned sweet potatoes or Cajun fries.
“The Popping Yolk Burger is popular because our patties are juicy, homemade, and have a sunny egg,” Tsai said. “Our potatoes are also fresh, and they’re chewier because they’re fresh.”
A variety of drinks ($4 to $14) including coffee, tea, fresh juices, cocktails, beer, and wine are also served.
“Our orange juice is very fresh, and the bottomless mimosas are doing very well,” Tsai said. “The coffee is custom made and is a product of Fika Fika, where I roast my own beans.”
Going forward, Tsai plans to open more Popping Yolk Cafe locations across California and franchise the business.
“We want to expand everywhere,” Tsai said. “Popping Yolk has potential, and we want to share the brand and the food in different communities.”
Popping Yolk Cafe
WHERE: 88 W. Colorado Boulevard, Suite 102, Pasadena
HOURS: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily