The new fall menu at Johnny’s Harborside offers fresh and comforting fare
I was craving a pleasant, tasty, and leisurely brunch with an exquisite view, so, under a cloudless sky, we headed to Johnny’s Harborside at the small craft harbor. Soft butter melted gently into warm, itty bitty cinnamon-scented muffins which tasted of chocolate with autumn walnuts while we reviewed the new fall menu.
Chef Brian Woods’ new creations include a number of starters such as grilled shrimp cocktail with avocado ($13), grilled romaine salad ($7) with smoked tomatoes and citrus Caesar vinaigrette, warm spinach salad ($9) with bacon vinaigrette, caramelized onions and goat cheese, and vegetarian spring rolls ($7) with sesame vinaigrette.
Since his arrival he has also recreated the accompaniments to “Fresh Catch Your Way.” The new Provençal treatment includes polenta with roasted red pepper cream sauce, capers, and kalamata olives. The southwestern style features sweet potato hash with mango salsa and ancho chili BBQ sauce.
Added to the Signature Selections is Butternut Squash Ravioli ($19) with goat cheese and roasted orange-fennel sauce. Johnny’s also offers an extensive gluten-free menu.
As we enjoyed the bright harbor view on that Saturday morning, diners at a neighboring table were enjoying thick, half-pound bacon burgers: the aroma of their garlic fries wafted tantalizingly to our table. Regular and sweet potato fries are also available, as is a small salad or fruit cup.
A nice array of sides is offered with most breakfast selections including polenta, roasted potatoes, hash browns or fresh fruit and a selection of toast.
The Harborside Benedict ($13) still features “Alvaro’s famous” house-made Hollandaise with a hint of Tabasco. On a bed of blanched baby spinach, plump poached eggs perched atop smoky crab cakes in which large pieces of sweet-tasting crab were evident. The hash browns were nicely crisped in flavorful fat.
The day’s fish included steelhead, catfish, seabass and scallops. For the Fresh Catch Salad ($16) I chose Alaskan Salmon. Crisp romaine and mixed greens were dressed lightly with vinaigrette which was slightly sweetened with caramelized shallots and topped with sliced radishes, blackened salmon, and thick cubes of chewy, salty, sautéed pancetta. At this time of year, when days of sunshine and ripe tomatoes are numbered, I savored the perfect crimson cherry tomato-topped cucumber slices that encircled the salad. The salmon was cooked to a soft medium-rare as requested; its blackening rub a tasty mixture of numerous dried herbs without much spicy heat.
Small Bites of house-made dessert ($3) include Crème Brûlée, cheesecake, and chocolate mousse. Some well-behaved boys finished their meals with a scoop of ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce in cylindrical slant-topped porcelain bowls with a mound of whipped cream and a sliced strawberry.
Larger desserts ($8) are just as tempting, with chocolate cake à la mode and seasonal cobbler.
Johnny’s Harborside, 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 479-3430. Full bar. Open Monday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. until 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Weekend brunch served from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Visit johnnysharborside.com.