They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and judging by the number of restaurants in Orange County that offer brunch, diners agree. But Paragon Cafe chef Dean Isom is interested in making breakfast more than just a Sunday affair.
“We want to lock this down and be Orange County’s gourmet brunch spot,” Isom said.
Isom started Paragon with his friend and business partner Markuz Valdez. The concept began in 2020 as a pop-up inside the Shuck Oyster Bar at OC Mix in Costa Mesa, where the pals both worked at the time. They served breakfast in the morning when Shuck was closed and changed when it was dinner time.
They withstood shutdowns during the pandemic, which Valdez said wasn’t horrible for them.
“We were able to build slowly, and then as people started coming in, we were more ready,” Valdez said.
Then, says Isom, things accelerated.
“Once we kind of started rolling there, we had a pretty big following,” Isom said. “We have regular customers and we’ve had a lot of good feedback.”
Isom and Valdez decided to look for a permanent space for the pop-up and recently opened at OC Mix in a corner of their own across from ARC Food & Libations. The restaurant has two outdoor terraces, a full bar, and blue velvet upholstered seating.
The duo are focused on creating a breakfast experience on par with the kind of upscale dinner service that can be found in Orange County. For them, that means refining traditional brunch dishes.
“We took classic breakfast items and elevated them,” Valdez said.
Dishes found on most brunch menus can be found on the Paragon menu but with a twist. Their chicken and waffle dish, for example, features mashed sweet potatoes, cinnamon-maple blended butter, and sweet and spicy fried chicken.
“Our steak and eggs are premium filet mignon,” Isom said. “We are very careful how we cook it. It contains duck fat, potatoes and chimichurri.
Isom said the difference was not just in revenue.
“It’s the quality of the ingredients we use, the technique we use, down to the plating,” Isom said. “We make almost everything on the menu here from scratch.”
This scratch mentality also carries over to the bar program, which Valdez runs.
“All our juices are pressed by us. We all make our own syrups at home,” Valdez said.
The cocktail program goes beyond mimosas, although these are also available with watermelon, yuzu and grapefruit juice in addition to orange juice.
And breakfast is not only served on weekends. The Paragon Cafe serves breakfast Tuesday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
There are plans to open for dinner eventually, and the two owners are excited about the wine locker program, which will offer special order wines and spirits for members at a lower rate, to go with it.
Most importantly, Isom said they want the breakfast to get the credit it deserves.
“I want people to see perfection as much as possible, all around,” Isom said.
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