Carefree Highway

dining_spankysBen Lomond’s little Spanky’s Café offers unique breakfast specialties | by Karen Petersen
Before a day of scenic hiking in Big Basin, there are numerous eateries along Highway 9 to fuel the journey. One is tiny Spanky’s Cafe in Ben Lomond, where scalable breakfasts won’t break the bank.
The little wood-wainscoted dining room accommodates just over 30 diners with another five patio picnic tables filled on busy days.
The entire menu is available from opening until close. Choose from sandwiches ($6.25 to $7.50) and one-third pound burgers ($6.75 to $7.25) all served with either potato, macaroni or green salad. Mushroom melts on grilled rye, chili burgers and cheesesteaks are just a few of the options.
A selection of eggs ($6.75 to $8.25), served with Potatoes O’Brien and either toast or biscuits and gravy, includes eggs and New York Steak as well as an Egg Crêpe filled with sour cream, cottage and jack cheeses and two omelet fillings. Pancakes ($1.75) and French Toast ($2.50) are sold individually, and recently they had two special hotcakes ($2.75 each); blueberry and chocolate chip.
I had heard good things about the Chicken-Fried Steak ($10.25), a thin, tenderized cut of beef prepared like German schnitzel, which occupied two-thirds of the plate. The light coating of herbed flour gave the tender meat a wonderful flavor. It sat upon thin and slightly sweet gravy that paired perfectly with the steak. Two eggs were at over-easy perfection and the skin-on cubed O’Brien Potatoes were also tasty with an occasional crunchy, seasoned face.
Stuffed French Toast ($3.75) was made from two large, thin ovals of sourdough bread with cream cheese and walnut pieces between them. Topped with Spanky’s special butter and powdered sugar, I enjoyed a side of stewed Hot Strawberry Topping ($1.25) with whole berries in a translucent pie-like glaze.
The biscuits and gravy? Although I really liked the gravy, I would have preferred to dip the perfect, tender, fluffy biscuits in the strawberry sauce. I’m not much of a southern gal, ya know.

Spanky’s Café, 9520 Highway 9, Ben Lomond, 336-8949. Full breakfast and lunch menu served 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.


“Hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way!” goes a childhood song, and there are numerous places to celebrate the occasion with brunch on April 24.
Last I knew the Bunny did not visit French children, but instead, church bells ringing with joy dropped gifts. Ma Maison offers an Easter repas français from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The buffet includes Grilled Leg of Lamb de Provence, Eggs Cocotte (baked in ramekins with cream and morel mushrooms), and Pain Perdu, meaning ‘lost bread’ which we know as French Toast. Cost is $25 per person.

Ma Maison, 9051Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-5566. Full bar. Visit mamaisonrestaurant.com.

Clouds Downtown is also celebrating Easter with brunch, in this case warming cockles with down-home southern-style comfort foods. Live jazz will accompany such menu items as waffles with fried chicken, Eggs Benedict and Bananas Foster French Toast from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Clouds Downtown, 110 Church St., Santa Cruz, 429-2000. Full bar. Visit cloudsdowntown.com.

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