If you felt at home in the retro living room ambience of Cafe Bene for all those years, then you’ll love the coffee house’s reincarnation as Tabby Cat Cafe, which was opened a few weeks ago by former Bene barista Lisa Curran and Jeb Purucker.
The ambience is matchless, the coffee is exceptional, and I might even be willing to say that the macchiato I had at T-Cat this week was the best I’ve had in Santa Cruz. Strong, smooth, without bitterness, and served in a beautiful miniature coffee mug.
Light floods the vintage space, lending the front alcoves and main reading room a welcoming vibe. I once wrote film reviews in an office above Tabby Cat, and have fond memories of this location, close to downtown yet tucked away from the crowds.
We ordered a macchiato and a regular house blend coffee, plus one of those cranberry scones from Black China Bakery that I always loved when I visited in the past, then took a seat at a corner table marked “Reserved” for the Santa Cruz French club. We would be gone before their meeting time.
We glanced at the newspapers and watched the large-scale industrial action across the street while awaiting our coffees. As regulars came in—and it seems that Tabby has inherited a full roster of fans from the previous administration—they were personally greeted. It feels like you’ve entered the front parlor of a private home, calm and mellow. The atmosphere is a welcome alternative to the hipster frenzy of many other downtown coffee spots. Conversations are possible, and so is reading and writing—those arts from the pre-iPhone era.
The new owners are clearly at home behind the eclectic front counter. Posters still cover the cabinet wall beside the condiment table. And regulars still stash their favorite mugs on a high shelf. In the larger room, mismatched couches offer old-school coziness for interviews, meetings and just hunkering down for a morning coffee. Not designer, but not generic, the old footprint—brick floors, wainscotted walls—provides a funky elegance that is pure, 100 percent Santa Cruz.
A large assortment of bagels and toppings, plus an array of inviting quiches and soups, make it a great lunch option, as well as a morning caffeine mainstay. A good Wi-Fi connection, too.
Tabby Cat Cafe, 1101 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Soft opening hours 7 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends.
I met new Ristorante Avanti co-owner Jonathan Glass last week at my first lunch since a change in the ownership lineup.
Now we can look forward to a special sandwich and a burger added to the lunch menu. Last week, it was a robust version of the East Coast Italian meatball sandwich. Rita and I loved our beautiful plate (new plates, too!) of seared scallops with crisp roast potatoes and arugula salad. The lunch scene looks, and tastes, familiar. Updates are already underway, with ergonomic new chairs and patio dining enhancements. Wishing Jonathan and Tatiana Glass good luck with their Westside venture.
Ristorante Avanti, 1917 Mission St., Santa Cruz, ristoranteavanti.com.
If you’ve got a product for the shelves of the new Aptos location of New Leaf Community Market, make sure you hit the vendor fair planned for next Wednesday.
New Leaf plans to join the Aptos community this spring with a store in Aptos Village. Interested vendors will want to come to New Leaf’s corporate office.
Feb. 13, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. New Leaf office, 1101 Pacific Ave., Suite 333, Santa Cruz. newleaf.com/vendorfair.