Those vintage black and white photos of legendary longboarders Doc Scott the surf doctor and his champion daughters, now share the wall with flat-screen ocean sports videos. Across the room on a wall of recycled lumber, colorful shortboards remind the clientele what’s a few blocks away. Yes, you’re at Westside Coffee, a refreshingly unpretentious oasis of great, inexpensive coffee that offers daily comfort to Westside Santa Cruz patrons. Bagels with various toppings, house-baked muffins, breakfast specialties—you can actually enjoy some real food here. But I come for the coffee, and I’m not alone.
Newly spiffed up, the welcoming sanctuary for students, professors, industrial fabricators, contractors, and surfers is loaded with coastal chic. Without attitude. There are plenty of other coffee palaces for that. Bob Dylan was delivering the acoustics when I went in last week for a jolt of Full City made fresh at the brew bar (with house signature Santa Cruz Roasting Company beans). For $2.75 (16 ounces) I had about as much full-flavored caffeine as I could handle, augmented with two blueberry mini-muffins (50 cents each), and grabbed a table to consult the headlines on the BBC web. Sure, Westside has wifi—this is Santa Cruz after all—but the real magnet here is getting together with fellow java-heads and having some face-to-face. At the far end of the room, a large table hosts vintage adult males (they probably never go home!) who were engaged in a happy argument about somebody’s recently-drilled well. The consensus from these guys, some retired, some local ag honchos, was that the well would never produce.
In the front of the house, lined with small tables, is a retro L-shaped sofa that offers a bit more coziness when needed. Marine paraphernalia with wave motifs and rambling homages to surfing lanes punctuates the newly-painted charcoal grey walls. The staff gets it: You’re there for coffee and a breakfast snack. They seem happy to please. Nobody’s trying out for Barista of the Planet, that I can tell, although you can get a righteous macchiato at Westside. I love this place for a quick dash in and out. Terrific coffee. Which is the point. Right?
Westside Coffee Co. is between ACE Hardware and Safeway in the Almar and Mission complex. Open 5:45 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday, and from 6 a.m. on Saturday.
Aquarius Salutes St. Patrick
When I was a kid I loved to honor my Irish ancestry by wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. Part performance, part old-fashioned fun. So I was delighted to find out that Aquarius, the dining room overlooking the ocean at the Dream Inn, is offering a whole host of Irish-themed specials during St. Patrick’s Week, March 16 through 23rd. What sort of thing would the Irish eat in solidarity with the 6th-century monk who allegedly drove the snakes out of the Emerald Isle? Well, for lunch they might like Aquarius’ potato and leek soup with soda bread. Or the braised corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich. Yes, there’s Guinness fish and chips too. On the St. Paddy’s Week dinner menu you’ll find traditional corned beef and cabbage, as well as Old World cottage pie with ground beef and veggies, frosted with mashed potatoes. Even if you haven’t done an AncestryDNA test, you might just have a wee drop of Irish blood yourself. So hoist a pint at Poet and Patriot and then head over to Aquarius and feast like an Irish saint. Don’t know how they did it, but the cooks at Aquarius even discovered Patrick’s personal recipe for apple caramel bread pudding. On the dessert menu. Éirinn go Brách!