Cafe Delmarette
Dining Reviews

Cafe Delmarette’s Recipe for Downtown Nostalgia

Revisiting a go-to for indulgent daytime meals

Delmarette employee Elle DeLyons with The Roncado sandwich. PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

The Delmarette was an institution when my mother was a girl, one of those classic lunch counter soda fountain places run by sturdy women in aprons who called you “Hon.”

Despite multiple transformations—and one big earthquake—this tiny landmark continues to serve honest, delicious breakfast and lunch items to a multi-generational clientele.

I love this place, and when a chef with three Michelin stars reminded me that this is one of the best espresso places in town, I took the hint. Laid back yet can-do, today’s closet-sized Delmarette is stacked to the rafters with artwork, chalkboards, bags of coffee beans, and adorned by wooden tables, chairs and one long bench that reminds me of grade school furniture somewhere in the 1960s. The city rolls by and the Del Mar theatre marquees keeps watch over a trio of serene staffers who thoughtfully prepare, and personally serve, every single item. 

I was presented with an impeccably designed double macchiato (beans from Cat & Cloud, $3) that sipped rich, rounded and buttery, but not bitter. David was right. And from the all-star list of “Famous Toasted Sandwiches,” I went for the headliner, Rita’s Breakfast Sandwich ($8.50). Awaiting my main dish, I noted that Delmarette offers a choice of exotic iced teas made of hibiscus, passionfruit-jasmine, and caramelized pear. You can select your favorite milk from among hemp, almond, soy, coconut, and two organic cow’s milks. 

I used to tease my students when they told me their favorite Santa Cruz food was the rococo California Burrito. They would laugh if they could see me noshing on this over-the-top house special. Rita’s is a culinary study in grilled layers: herb-laced frittata, roasted potatoes, aioli, and white cheddar cheese were all pressed together into a glorious gooey mass between slices of toasted compagnon bread. An opulent breakfast that arrived with potato chips! Such indulgence. I added Cholula. Next time, I’ll add ham for a few dollars more. Delmarette has a vibe that qualifies as only-in-Santa Cruz. Not fast food, so bring a book and relax. In warm weather the outdoor seating beckons. 

Cafe Delmarette, 1126 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 420-1025, cafedelmarette.com. 

Popping Birichino 

Get ready for some delicious Full Steam Dumpling action on Thursday, July 11, when the winemakers from Birichino, Alex Krause and John Locke, prepare a neo-Throwback Thursday event at the tasting room with what Locke calls “older vintages of this or that” intended to pair with steamed bao, gyoza and assorted spicy dumplings. 

Birichino, 204 Church St., Santa Cruz. birichino.com.

Farmers’ Market Breakfasts 

It’s peak season for morning feasts to complement the experience of shopping for ultra-fresh produce at our various neighborhood markets. While you need to know that the two breakfasts scheduled for July at the Santa Cruz farmers’ market are already sold out, you can still jump in for your place at the Aug. 10 table with Chef Katherine Stern (of La Posta fame), who will be cooking up tomato and roasted corn salad, Fogline Farm pork loin, grilled little gems, marinated rock cod, potato biscuits, and lemon verbena-poached peaches with raspberry fool, all accompanied by 11th Hour coffee. Don’t miss this! 

santacruzfarmersmarket.org. $45.

Truck Stop

On the third Friday of the month during the summer, and fourth Friday in September and October, look for Food Trucks on Pacific Avenue. Rogue Pye, Ate3One, Union Foodie, Nomad Momo, and others will be parked and loaded. No alcohol served. Come hungry.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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