Fast Food, Santa Cruz-style

dining staffmuffinsI was on a mission to disprove the theory that advises against entering a grocery store when hungry. I had run out of cereal and was just too starved to cook. Across the street from my parking space at Staff of Life, Burger King unsuccessfully launched a counter-offensive, beckoning me with the promise of Cini-minis with sugary frosting dip.

Even Staff’s landscaping brings on an appetite, with bushy strawberry plants, artichokes, lemon trees (which could use some nitrogen), and numerous herbs.

I grabbed a shopping cart with a convenient cup holder which I employed to safeguard a lemongrass plant ($3.50) I had happily found out front, and aimed it at the store’s deli and bakery department.

I was quite pleased with what I found. At the hot table, vegan and vegetarian meals ($7.99/lb.) included egg and cheese croissants, vegetarian breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs or tofu and homefries with red and green bell peppers. I helped myself to an 8-ounce cup of cinnamon-scented oatmeal ($1.25) with sweet, soft currants, and still-crisp, minced Fuji apples. Another customer, presumably dressed up for work, was assembling a lunchtime salad ($7.99/lb.) with numerous toppings on the other side of the table.

But if you are in the mood for something more provocative, the in-house bakery turns out a multitude of carb-baseddining staffdanish specialties, some gluten-free or fat-free. Muffins ($2) included blueberry and carrot, large crusted scones ($1.85), numerous flavors of fruit turnovers ($2.45), vegan donuts ($1.75), and even a 12-pack of mini iced donuts ($4.95).

I chose a whole-wheat Danish ($2.75), its still-warm dough folded around sweet, fresh-tasting strawberries. Sitting outside by the waterfall which masks the sound of Soquel Avenue traffic, I enjoyed the stickiness of its light glaze with a small carton of milk. | KP

Staff of Life, 1266 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8632. Open Mon-Sat 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.; Sundays 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.

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