Los Amates

Kylie Northover
Spanish radio wafts out from the kitchen at Los Amates.
Spanish radio wafts out from the kitchen at Los Amates. Photo: Ken Irwin

34 Johnston Street Fitzroy, Victoria 3065

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Opening hours Sat 9am-noon; Tues-Sun 6pm-late.
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 03 9417 0441

Mexican food might have become the pop-up, mobile and fusion cuisine go-to in the past few years but down on Johnston Street in the ''Spanish quarter'', it's been popular for years. Los Amates Mexican Kitchen - run by Arturo Morales, and yes, he's Mexican - has been hosting rowdy dinners and parties for more than a decade, its Day of the Dead paper bunting presumably pulled down by over-excited bucks' party revellers a thousand times over.

But now, once they've cleared away the night-time nachos, they're offering Mexican breakfasts on Saturday mornings between 9am and noon. And we're not talking breakfast burritos.

Mostly, it's all about huevos (eggs). There's Huevos con chorizo (scrambled with spicy diced chorizo and onions), Rancheros (two fried eggs, served on corn tortillas and topped with salsa ranchero), Divorciados (same as Rancheros but with salsa verde as well), Ahogados (baked eggs cooked in a spicy salsa rona) or La Mexicana, scrambled eggs finished with pico de gallo. (The menu also comes with a glossary.)

Saturday morning tortilla strips with salsa will kick you into gear.
Saturday morning tortilla strips with salsa will kick you into gear. Photo: Ken Irwin

All these egg dishes are just $10, and include unlimited Mexican coffee - a dark roast made with brown sugar and cinnamon, which can also be ''spiced up'' further with a shot of rum for $6, for earnest hair-of-the-dog/early celebrating. These are pretty decent-sized serves, too, making these egg brekkies the best value non-drive-through meal around these parts. Sure, the coffee is not your specialty roasted single origin, but it's rich and sweet. And even if you don't have a second or third cup, there's something particularly satisfying about an unlimited flow.

For the hardcore breakfast crowd, there's the Desayuno Grande - the big breakfast of huevos rancheros with bacon, chorizo, frijoles bayous and mushrooms for $17. Although they star in many dishes, there are some non egg-based choices here, too. There's the quesadilla con tortilla de harina (quesadilla with flour tortilla) with rajas con queso ($3.50), zucchini and mushroom ($3.80) or cheese and ham ($3), chilaquiles rojos con res, fried tortilla strips with salsa rona, scotch fillet strips or chicken, feta and black frijoles ($14.50), or the vego option for $10.50.

There are also a couple of smaller dishes like the molletes, dinner rolls topped with refried black beans, cheese and pico de gallo. Aside from the coffee, there's Mexican hot chocolate, made with chilli, super sweet with a mild after-kick, and a range of juices, most of which would probably work well with the addition of tequila.

It's not your food blogger, Instagram-worthy, So-Cal-influenced boundary-pushing Mexican, but these are great hearty breakfasts - with excellent Saturday morning curative properties - and already popular with locals enjoying what must be the cheapest breakfast in this postcode, with the added bonus of friendly service and Spanish radio wafting out from the kitchen.