Linda Yamamoto, proprietor of the House of Breakfast, is carrying on a 50-year tradition. She is pictured with cook Glenn Matayoshi. (SOPHIA COLE / Rafu Shimpo)

By HIKARU ITO, Rafu Contributor

It’s easy to overlook the tiny strip mall on the corner of 4th and Olympic, easier still to glance past the small restaurant tucked in the corner, and miss the jewel of edible Americana that is the House of Breakfast.  

Those who do step inside will find themselves surrounded with wood paneling, brown and orange vinyl booths, Arthurian heraldry, and Linda Yamamoto, Sansei proprietor of the House of Breakfast, rushing between customers.

Though the decor is dated, mismatched, and unmistakably ’70s, there is a sense of pride in the history of this place; of traditions that are not only celebrated, but placed proudly for all to see.  

“It used to be an H. Salt Fish and Chips,” Linda says with a smile, “This is the original decor from when we started.”

Yamamoto has been in the business for over 49 years. Ever since her parents, Mitsuo and Hatsue Yamamoto, opened the doors of the House of Breakfast on Nov. 22, 1972. A second-generation family business, you can see the Yamamotos’ picture hanging over one of the booths, looking proudly at the little slice of America they cooked up.

“It was his dream to open his own café,” she recalls. “He worked as a short-order cook at places like Denny’s after the war.”  

Her father, Mitsuo Yamamoto, was incarcerated for the duration of the war at the Jerome War Relocation Center, where he honed his skills as a cook. Even after the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans ended, the tribulations facing Mitsuo and his dream would persist. Within a year of opening, Mitsuo contracted stomach cancer. Though the future looked grim, with luck and perseverance, he beat cancer and built the House of Breakfast into what it is today.

While the decor and history of the House of Breakfast are undoubtedly memorable, the menu is what keeps many coming back again and again. The House of Breakfast serves the finest in all American breakfast food with a splash of Hawaiian influence. Glenn Matayoshi, the one and only cook at the House of Breakfast, masterfully prepares the classic dishes from behind the counter.  

Make sure you bring your appetite with you. The portions are generous and the dishes are as filling as they are delicious. Wait times for tables and food can drag on when it gets busy, but the food is worth the wait.

Portuguese sausage with hash browns and scrambled eggs, pancake short stack, teriyaki chicken, fried rice, and two eggs sunny-side up. (SOPHIA COLE / Rafu Shimpo)

The teriyaki chicken with fried rice is a popular menu item among the locals. Rich and sticky sauce coats the bite-sized pieces of chicken marinated in a house sauce that perfectly complements the fried rice with bits of ham, onion, and green pepper. Two eggs, made to the customer’s liking, round off this fantastic dish.

Other options include the breakfast special, which includes eggs cooked to order, bacon or sausage, hash browns, and toast. You can also choose Spam or Portuguese sausage as your protein for a more Hawaiian experience. Regardless of what you choose, expect the food to be cooked to perfection.  

All of the dishes are made the same way Mitsuo Yamamoto did almost 50 years ago. “Everything on the menu comes from him. A lot of it is Hawaiian style, but he wasn’t from Hawaii,” Linda says with a laugh. “He wanted to make an original pancake recipe.  That was his thing, that’s HIS batter. You know how good those pancakes are.”

The founders of House of Breakfast, Mitsuo and Hatsue Yamamoto, inside the restaurant they established in 1972. “Everything on the menu comes from him,” said their daughter, Linda, of her father. (SOPHIA COLE / Rafu Shimpo)

The pancakes are, in fact, good. Fluffy with a crispy lace around the edge and a slight salty buttery-ness that perfectly complements a rich soaking of maple syrup. Asking around the cafe, it’s clear to see that the patrons of the House of Breakfast agree.

“We’ve been coming here for 18 years,” says Jesus T., taken aback by the realization. “Wow, 18 years. We came by coincidence and made friends with a group that came here before us. Then we made a relationship with Linda. We love the food, obviously. That’s the way it started. I can’t believe it.”

“I’ve been coming here since, my God, since they opened almost,” admits Linda C. “I knew Linda when she was coming here to help out after school. It’s like a family. This is our favorite place to come. She knows exactly what we want, and everything is so good! The kids love the pancakes, of course, and I get the teriyaki burger. We were on the other side of town and almost ate somewhere else. But nope, we came over here to our usual place.”

It’s easy to see, taste, and feel why so many patrons continue to visit the House of Breakfast over the years. Though the times change, the decor, the menu, and the sense of belonging endures. Even during the COVID era with partitions between booths and an outdoor seating area creating physical barriers to keep people safe, the House of Breakfast family is still going strong.

“It isn’t as busy,” Linda admits. “It’s still good, but not as good as it was pre-pandemic.  It’s a lot more work. Takeout orders were very busy at the beginning, but things are back to normal. Our regulars kept us going. All the people who knew we were still open, that’s what kept us going.”

Here’s hoping that this little slice of America keeps on going for years to come, and if Linda Yamamoto has anything to say about it, it will. 

“This place is my whole life. I don’t know how to look for a job or write a resume. This has been my whole life for 50 years. I’m never gonna give it up until I have to give it up.  I love it here. Too many memories, so many customers and friends. So many of you grew up here.”

If you’d like a taste of Japanese Americana, the House of Breakfast can be found at 3728 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019. The restaurant hours are from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., six days a week, closed on Wednesdays. (323) 731-5405 (carryout service available)


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