Paul Cocking Gabriella Cafe burger
Dining Reviews

New Owners for the Buttery

Plus Gabriella Cafe menu addition and cocktails at Soif

Paul Cocking, owner of Gabriella, with the bun-less option of their grass-fed burger. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

I’ve just had the perfect summertime lunch. Always cozy, chic, and brimming with fresh ideas, Gabriella Cafe in downtown Santa Cruz delivered the culinary remedy for a particularly stressful day. Our electronic devices were dysfunctioning, bigtime. Determined to raise our spirits, we gave up and headed for Gabriella, where über host Paul Cocking shared tales of the city (Manhattan) with us while taking our orders. Our moods were lifting already.

The menu included the ultimate grass-fed Gorgonzola cheeseburger, with choices. You can either have your fat beef patty—slathered with bacon, Gorgonzola, and caramelized onions—on a sesame bun or wrapped up in a pale green cloud of butter lettuce ($15). My choice was clear: butter lettuce, please. Brilliant.

My companion ordered the always life-affirming Idaho trout salad ($19), along with a tall glass of soothing ginger green tea. For me, a cafe presse pot of strong coffee. Out came a plate of those addictive spicy Castelvetrano olives and a portion of soft, fragrant focaccia.

Once our huge lunch plates arrived, the morning of computer glitches dissolved entirely to sparkling flavors of fresh trout filet on tender inner leaves of baby romaine, arugula, cucumbers and zest of carrots. Perfumed with tarragon, a vibrant dressing added nuanced zing to the wonderful dish.

My burger reclined on a pillow of butter lettuces. Cooked to my exact specs—between rare and medium rare—the beef was juicyness incarnate, topped with bacon good enough to turn a vegan, a sweet toasty blanket of caramelized onions, and Gorgonzola. With each bite I recalled the best burgers of summer, any summer. Ketchup? Absolutely-Italian Mutti ketchup, which managed to taste exactly like ketchup with an Italian accent. It was a great choice—unbelievably good and so abundant that even after sharing with my companion, I had a healthy portion to take home.

“It seemed like a no-brainer,” was Cocking’s comment when I praised the burger sans bun. Here is the ultimate burger for those who really just want to dive into the meat (if you take my meaning) and leave those filling carbs behind.

The coffee was as bracing as ever. It was a perfect lunch. Iced tea, coffee, sensational olives, trout salad, and a robust designer burger. Electronica be damned, lunch like this is the best revenge. On the spot, we decided to make lunch at Gabriella part of our midday To Do list every week. Gabriella Cafe, 910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 457-1677, gabriellacafe.com.


5 O’Clock News

Yes, you can now have a cocktail at Soif. The mighty restaurant and wine emporia has graciously expanded its liquid legacy to include state-of-the-art libations containing spirits. In addition to all of the classics, look forward to artisanal rye, whiskies and gins, plus innovative signature surprises. The expanding wall of rare, aged, and hard-to-pronounce amari liqueurs has already got our number. Go with a spirit of adventure.


Revolving Door

The Buttery Bakery has—gasp—changed hands. Few details, as yet, are verifiable about the low-profile transition, but we are told that expansion of the interior premises is in the works. All I can say is thank you, Janet Platin, for many years of amazing food, sumptuous pastries and exceptional coffee—and the greatest carrot cake cupcake on the planet. Stay tuned.


Mole and Mariachi

The festival returns to the Santa Cruz Mission State Park from 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Sept. 10. Free admission; $10 mole tasting kits. Bring the kids for piñata fun, and bring an appetite. Mission Hill Creamery will be there, as well as Discretion Brewing, Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard wines, Garcia’s Fish Tacos, and lots of other flavors for purchase. Celebrate the 25th year of the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park.

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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