Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 17th
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A Lush Cliff

dining_hotplatePeople often wait on the sidewalk in front of tiny Cliff Cafe. The photocopied and stapled menu is three pages long, and from the narrow strip of a kitchen come thoughtfully-designed and marvelously-flavored breakfast and lunch.

Thick, translucent plastic protects the brightly-colored tablecloths on just six tables. A stainless steel Metro rack holds coffee cups and a selection of children's books.

Choose from simple, wholesome Chunky Oatmeal ($4.75) with raisins or dates ($1) to filling omelets ($6.95 to $9.25) like the bacon, avocado, tomato and cheese. At 11:30 a selection of five sandwiches ($6 to $7.75) joins the lineup. Of special note are the six tofu sautés.  Neither an afterthought or a simple substitute for scrambled eggs, these dishes are designed with tofu in mind, and I noted the aroma of turmeric wafting from the kitchen from one of these masterpieces.

I was in the mood for something basic and comforting, so I ordered the Hannahbanana ($8.50) with bacon and eggs. The two easy-over eggs were pure white and dotted with oil; their yolks still jiggling gently within. Three pieces of meaty bacon were both chewy and crisp.

The large, thick, dark and perfectly circular pancake was cooked until almost crisp on the surface. Inside it was airy, but still had the toothsome structure furnished by whole wheat flour. Sweetened with honey and loaded with cinnamon, the first bite brought to mind memories of gingerbread. Succeeding forkfuls held ivory slices of fresh banana. Having been raised like most on maple-flavored corn syrup, I splurged on a generous side of pure maple syrup ($2). Thick and sweet it had an almost floral dimension which is lacking in supermarket imposters. This was simply the best pancake I had ever eaten.

Cliff Cafe, 815 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 476-1214. Breakfast and lunch weekdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; weekends 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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