Occupy the Beachfront

dining zeldasZelda’s serves locals with swift and sweet service during the off-season

It’s like being on vacation this time of year. The weather is improving, and patrons of attractions and restaurants tend to be locals, and less numerous. Now is the time for us to enjoy our seaside hot spots.

The sun was still up when we found parking on Capitola’s Esplanade and pushed a credit card into the new parking meter. Previously, I had eaten only breakfast at Zelda’s, and we were here for dinner, where a sand- and sunset-side window table awaited.

We feasted on a generous amount of hot sourdough bread with butter while we evaluated the appetizers. A garlic aroma accompanied the arrival of Sautéed Mushrooms ($7). Tops of whole cremini mushrooms in a savory brown, piping hot sauce that hinted of sweet masala were served with freshly sliced green onions and tomatoes.

We added a Dinner Salad ($5) and Side Caesar ($6), both served in large square bowls. The greens were topped with an assortment of vegetables including pickled beets, grape tomatoes and cucumber. The classic Caesar with crunchy dark and light bread croutons and grated Parmesan was tossed in a creamy dressing with a nice touch of blue cheese.

A whole chicken breast, dredged lightly and sautéed, lay atop thin strands of capellini pasta, cooked just past al dente, in a lovely, light, lemony sauce with chiffonade of basil. Pickled capers added a wonderful acidic bite.

The day’s featured fresh fish was peppered and grilled salmon ($22), lightly cooked, topped with lemon butter, and served with rice and a bright salsa of pineapple, cilantro, and minced red bell pepper and onion.

As the bay turned inky after sunset, spotlights on the building’s exterior illuminated the waves’ froth and dining zeldas.mushroomsseaweed-strewn sand, and caused the ripples in Soquel Creek to perform an undulating light show on its steep bank.

I love molten chocolate cake, but chose the Crème Brûlée Cheesecake ($6). Although not encased in sugar as I had hoped, it was a firm, rich, sweet and tangy dessert that would take me three sittings to finish.

Although swiftness in the kitchen resulted in courses served before the prior one was finished, each and every staff member was friendly, efficient and accommodating.

During the day, parking is not as plentiful, but upon finding a spot, I returned to Zelda’s for lunch. It was the Mahi Mahi I saw on the dinner menu that brought me back. Firm white fish on the sandwich version ($15.95) was joined by white rings of onion, a slice of tomato and a pile of frilly lettuce inside a soft sesame-studded burger bun. On the side were slices of sour pickle and a delicious pickle-rich tartar sauce. It was served with a crisp cabbage and carrot slaw which was dressed lightly with sesame oil.

Chocolate syrup drizzled down the inside of a pint glass and settled on the bottom of a chocolate milkshake ($6), practically a meal in itself. It was topped with perfect fresh whipped cream and sugared cocoa powder.

Zelda’s on the Beach, 203 Esplanade, Capitola, 475-4900. Full bar. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 7:30 a.m. Coffee bar opens at 7 a.m. Visit zeldasonthebeach.com.

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