Bistro One Twelve
Dining Reviews

Bistro One Twelve: The Little Café That Could

Art-inspired eatery offers a fresh take on bistro fare

PHOTO: JULES HOLDSWORTH

In the heart of The Tannery art studio complex, two visits to the rustic, eclectically decorated Bistro One Twelve rewarded us with astonishing, fresh lunch ideas. Our first mid-day visit was when friends from Italy arrived. After a pit-stop at the catamaran offices, we all went to lunch at the café across the little courtyard.

Bistro One Twelve is a great place to soak up the genuinely boho-industrial ambience of the former tannery. Plenty of outdoor seating rings the café, but we liked sharing a communal table in the high-ceilinged-yet-somehow-cozy interior. For a little café, there’s a lot on the menu, distinguished by locally harvested produce, inventively seasoned eggs, plus charcuterie items from El Salchichero.

Our first meal roamed the menu from festive, brilliantly seasoned salads—the quinoa and kale was especially addictive ($5/small)—to plump, crusty flatbread creations hot from the oven. That quinoa and kale dish is truly a destination experience. Maybe it’s the roasted garlic, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. Maybe it’s the lemon and olive oil dressing, but tender kale and earthy quinoa rarely make such a sensuous impact.

I loved the Flatbread alla Fiamma, with its puffy browned edges barely containing a melting lake of mozzarella studded with olives, mushrooms and roasted artichoke hearts—all topped with more pecorino-romano cheese ($12). Another piping hot Salsiccia flatbread was covered with red sauce and shredded mozzarella, along with outstanding dry-cured sausage and pepperoncinis ($12). These were delicious and generous faux pizzas shared amongst the four of us.

On another visit, we sampled a deluxe bistro coleslaw ($4/small) that went nicely with a Caprese (tomato, mozzarella, pesto) and baguette ($6/small). The baguette sandwiches are playfully named after artists, the Caprese a “Picasso.” The beauty of this menu is manifold: daily specials show off the kitchen’s way with earthy stews, soups and artisanal egg dishes. All soup, salad and sandwich items are available in two sizes.

On our second visit, we discovered one of the culinary secrets of the bistro: the mixed pickles trio—better known as $5 well spent. A pretty pickle tray offered green cherry tomatoes, yellow carrot pickles (fab) and outrageous brussel sprout pickles. The latter were nothing short of bright, tangy and terrific. Very regional, too.

Pastries from Kelly’s and exceptional drinks from 11th Hour Coffee make Bistro One Twelve a logical destination for those who welcome a respite from downtown coffee shops, or a quiet place for a meeting or conversation. The tempting wine and beer lists also make Bistro One Twelve a good happy hour option.

Bistro One Twelve at the Tannery, 1060 River St., Santa Cruz. Open 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon-Wed; until 9 p.m. Thurs-Sat; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun. bistro112sc.com.

New Cocktails at Soif

Bar Manager Matt Barron has worked his magic once again, and the resulting house cocktail menu at Soif Wine Bar & Restaurant is spring-loaded with intricate specialties. For those with time to kill and money to burn, there’s the Vesper, a $25 creation of Monkey 47 gin, Jewel of Russia vodka, and Cocchi Americano. Take your time with this one. And there’s much more, like the Sessions ($12) made of beet-blood orange shrub, St. George terroir, Vermouth Blanc, and soda. I want a Bishop ($12) made of jalapeño-infused tequila, lime-orange shrub and agave nectar. Find your new favorite.

Cookie of the Week

The ridiculously satisfying chai shortbread from Companion. I tried one at Cat & Cloud last week. A large, star-shaped, buttery, spice-driven cookie that was big enough for two, and strong enough to partner a double macchiato. $2.50ish. Mmmm.

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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