Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 23rd
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Fuel Stop

dining lighthouseMoss Landing's Lighthouse Harbor Grille offers tasty entrées

After kayaking, or on the way to Laguna Seca or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Moss Landing is a convenient stop for breakfast or lunch. Sandwiched between The Whole Enchilada restaurant and a huge fruit stand sits a shack-like structure which houses Lighthouse Harbor Grille.

The brightly painted interior is decorated with nautical kitsch right down to the vinyl tablecloths and curtains with lacy lighthouses. Each table held Tapatio and three flavors of Tabasco, stirring in me a craving for something spicy.

From Veggie Skillets ($9.95) and omelettes ($8.50 to $11.50) to waffles ($6.75) and real oatmeal ($3.75), the lengthy breakfast menu is sure to hold something for everybody. On our most recent visit, seasonal specials included whole wheat pumpkin pancakes with pecans and Dungeness crab Benedict.

It's no surprise that the Mexican breakfasts are done well, as the restaurant is owned by the same folks who run the adjacent Whole Enchilada and fruit stand. A crisp corn tortilla formed the base of the Huevos Rancheros ($9.50) which was topped with spicy red salsa and cheese, and served with black beans, homefries, and house-made salsa. Huevos Divorciados ($9.50) featured two softly cooked eggs separated by a sea of spicy sauce.

Locally grown produce is featured in the list of salads which includes Shrimp or Crab Louie ($10.50) and a Fajita Salad ($11) with bell peppers, cucumbers and Mexican cheese.

Sandwiches ($5.95 to $11) of the conventional diner variety are joined by those with calamari, crab, shrimp and artichokes with roasted garlic and feta.

The selection of Seafood and Chips ($8.25 to $12.75) includes scallops, oysters and calamari.

On another visit, after driving by the fields of artichoke plants, I craved a bit of my favorite thistle. We made quick work of the Artichoke Platter ($8.99). A large steamed artichoke, its thorns neatly trimmed, bloomed in the center of the plate. It was topped with salsa marinated in vinaigrette which dripped down to the heart, flavoring each tender petal. It was encircled by pieces of marinated hearts, and deep fried hearts in an herb-rich batter. Ranch dressing and mildly spicy aioli were provided for our dipping pleasure.

From the daily specials board we ordered a Dungeness Crab and Lobster Roll ($13). Wrapped tightly in paper, the soft, toasted sesame roll was lined with lettuce and stuffed with fresh, sweet seafood in a saucy dressing. Light batter adhered to the wide-cut onion rings which were amazingly crunchy and delicious.

The Classic Burger ($7.75) with two strips of crisp bacon and tender avocado ($1 each) was one of the best I've tasted in recent memory. On the smoky hand-formed Angus beef patty was piled pickles, lettuce, tomato and red onion. The large, shiny bun was spread with the house-made rémoulade. Fat sweet potato fries were crisp with soft centers.

After lunch we visited the fruit stand that was just loaded. In addition to great deals on local artichokes and Brussels sprouts, there was a huge selection of packaged and seasoned nuts, snacks, and dried fruit.

Lighthouse Harbor Grille, 7902 California Highway 1, Moss Landing, 633-3858. Beer and wine. Open daily at 6 a.m., closing at 2 p.m. weekdays and 3 p.m. weekends.

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