Variety and accessibility make Santa Cruz Diner a popular destination
A yellow banner hangs from the roof at the Santa Cruz Diner announcing that “Guy ate here.” This would be a reference to Guy Fieri, host of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Clearly, this give owners Chip and Kim Kirchner something to cheer about.
The duo has owned the 24-hour restaurant since 1998 and it continues to be a popular Santa Cruz eatery.
I have enjoyed breakfast here since its opening—most breakfast items are served all day, and the menu includes a number of Vietnamese specialties along with east coast diner staples. Cage-free three-egg omelets ($7.99 to $8.79) include Hollandaise-topped shrimp and avocado, Hawaiian with pineapple, ham and Monterey jack, Portuguese with linguiça and cheddar, as well as the go-to Denver. My personal favorite is a three-item build-your- own with mushrooms, bright spinach and chewy bacon. I also like the choice of starches for most egg dishes which include a choice of potatoes plus either toast or two medium pancakes. There is always enough food to guarantee that half of the omelet will make it home with me.
Skillets and Scrambles ($8.49) feature vegetarian options; artichoke, avocado and cheddar for the former, and curry-seasoned tofu for the latter, with a choice of three vegetables.
The two-egg Breakfast Combinations ($4.99 to $10.99) range from meatless to New York steaks. The selection of pancakes ($4.89 to $10.49) includes simple short stacks of buttermilk or whole wheat as well as those topped with fruit, and even potato pancakes.
With berries in season I ordered a waffle topped with fresh strawberries ($5.99). The soft, fluffy, Belgian-style waffle was topped generously with sliced, ripe berries, a few of which weren’t fully cored. Their healthy sweetness needed just a light touch of syrup. Thin slices of bacon ($.99 per slice) were salty and smoky.
Most lunch items are also available all day. A nice selection of salads runs the gamut from Caesar to Cobb, Chinese Chicken and salmon on spinach with Asian dressing.
Sandwiches are served with a choice of fries, cole slaw or apple sauce, which can be upgraded to salad, soup, curly fries, or onion rings ($.99). Toppings for the flame-broiled burgers ($5.99 to $8.49) include my favorites such as blue cheese, avocado, bacon, andmushrooms. On the long list of Hot and Deli sandwiches ($3.99 to $8.79) you’ll find a French toast-based Monte Christo, Teriyaki Chicken, and meatball with parmesan. There are 12 vegetarian and four vegan options including a veggie melt sandwich and a teriyaki-tofu rice bowl.
The Vietnamese Iced Coffee ($2.99) was a very sweet, decadent mixture of strong espresso (the Diner grinds their own coffee beans)
and condensed milk with chipped ice.
The salad upgrade was served separately. Crisp iceberg lettuce, red cabbage, crunchy seasoned croutons and kidney beans were topped with a light Italian dressing.
Extra napkins were required for the Barbecue Chicken Sandwich ($7.89). A chicken breast was slathered with sticky, sweet-tart sauce and I piled the big bun high with tomato, bacon, pickles, onions and leafy green lettuce.
Santa Cruz Diner, 909 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 426-7151. Beer and wine. Open 24 hour/day. Dinner is served from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. Visit santacruzdiner.com.