De Laveaga, the Golden Gate Park of Santa Cruz, offers hearty, fresh meals with its recreational opportunities
The familiar road wound past weathered cacti, fir trees and the sixth fairway where five young deer grazed. I approached the green, seven iron in hand. It had been four months since I last felt its smooth metal brush the damp grass. My hip had been broken and subsequently replaced, but finally crutch-free, I had come to celebrate with breakfast at De Laveaga Restaurant, home to the only sport I am still permitted to play.
De Laveaga is a jewel. Vincente de Laveaga originally envisioned a “Golden Gate Park” of Santa Cruz, building a zoo, movie studio and amphitheater, later donating the land to the city and county as a park. In the evenings, hawks wail at their mates from atop tall eucalyptus trees while woodpeckers squawk and hammer on oaks, and robins hunt for worms in the damp earth. At the far end of the road, disc golfers make an aerobic climb to Top of the World, sailing their saucers into chained baskets.
It’s unusual to get a table on Sundays without a reservation, so we were lucky to be sitting at the bar when an adjacent table was vacated. George, the morning’s host, motioned for us to sit and we enjoyed ESPN on the flat screens. Windows from this second story restaurant overlook the shimmering green approaches of the sixth and ninth holes and the forest beyond.
Egg dishes ($6.95 to $13.95) are served with hash browns, fruit, award-winning salsa and choice of toast, and can be as hefty as skirt steak and eggs or as delicate as a shrimp omelet.
The Crab Omelet ($12.95) was stuffed with Dungeness crab and moistened with a bit of Hollandaise sauce. It was plated with sliced tomatoes, sourdough toast cut from a crisp-crusted baguette, a mound of peppered hash browns, and garlicky fresh salsa which included red and green onions.
Chef Sean Powers, who I hear delivers a mean drive from the tee box, also makes a stellar meat loaf. Just one of the numerous daily specials, thick slices were served with sprigs of fresh rosemary, prompting satisfied sighs to emerge between bites from the gentleman seated at a table next to us.
Also special that day were two huge hotcakes ($8.95) topped with a generous amount of fresh blueberries and joined by a side of smoky bacon ($4.95).
With a Combo Special ($8.95) come two eggs with bacon or sausage, and pancakes, French toast or a waffle. For this full-sized meal I enjoyed pristine easy-over eggs, bacon, and a crisp Belgian waffle. A similar Golfer’s Special ($11.95) with toast and hash browns includes a Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, or Salty Dog.
Lunch is just as exquisite and substantial. Hot sandwiches ($7.95 to $14.95) include choice Black Angus skirt steak with onion rings, roast beef with onion gravy, and Patty, Tuna, or Turkey Melts with slaw.
The selection of four Club Sandwiches ($10.95) includes beef, bacon and turkey, and turkey, Swiss cheese and avocado.
Salads ($4.95 to $15.95) range from a simple tuna-stuffed tomato to full and half Chefs, and Louies of crab and/or shrimp.
Cold sandwiches ($5.95 to $13.95) are served with potato salad or cole slaw, but add a dollar for either green salad, fries or a fruit cup. Choose from favorites such as deviled egg, triple grilled cheese (Swiss, Cheddar and Jack), tuna, or bacon and egg.
I was amazed by the bounty of treats that came with the Shrimp Sandwich ($11.95). Carrot curls, beets, tomatoes, olives, bean salad, baby corn and a carved radish partially concealed the open-faced sandwich. Four slices of Francesi bread were topped with large bay shrimp drenched in a marvelous pink Louie sauce dotted with minced sweet pickle. There was so much food that I had to bring home the beautiful fruit cup of berries, banana, nectarine and melon.
Even heartier are the Build Your Own Black Angus or Garden Burgers ($7.95) with embellishments ($1.50 each) and fries. Sitting on the sunny eastern-facing deck, I looked out over the large practice green toward the lake on the 18th hole. The huge burger, flavorful by itself, was topped with half of an avocado, crumbles of salty blue cheese and rich, chewy bacon. As tall as it already was, I added red onions, tomatoes and a touch of Dijon, and managed to eat a third of the monster. I dipped the thick, waffle cut, sweet potato fries in ketchup and green Tabasco.
Of special note to the ladies, Women’s Wine Down Wednesdays begin on May 2. Enjoy a beverage at the third tee, and end with delicious appetizers and camaraderie every Wednesday through the summer. Players of all skill levels are welcome.
De Laveaga Restaurant, 401 Upper Park Road, Santa Cruz, 423-1600. Full bar. Breakfast from 7 to 11:30 a.m. weekdays; 2:30 p.m. weekends. Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Lounge open until 5:30 p.m. (winter); 8 or 9 p.m. (summer). Closed Mondays in winter. delaveagagolf.com.