Dining Reviews

Café Carbonero

foodieScotts Valley gem serves healthy, wholesome food day after day

Tucked away near the Redwoods in Scotts Valley, lies Café Carbonero, a small cafeteria-style restaurant that has gained a loyal following—with locals as well as people from all over the county willing to make the trek. The options are simple: burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, but the ingredients are primarily organic and local, with quite a bit of it made in-house, from scratch. Owner Byron Gravelle calls it a “hidden gem.”

GT: On your website, you say you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. What do you look to put on the menu? 

Gravelle: Salad bars and burgers are an easy start, but we get creative with our core ingredients. To a certain degree people want to come in and see something they are familiar with and have had before. The goal there is to provide something that people can eat often without incurring a deficit of health. We start out with a grass fed burger, nine-grain bun, we use fresh French fry potatoes for freshness, so you’re getting a plate that looks like a hamburger and fries, but we’ve taken every step possible to make it wholesome and heart-healthy.

How do you make the salads unique?

We have a fresh-picked salad bar full of organic greens. We make our dressings from scratch, and they’re all gluten free. We’re able to tell people about our products because we make it from scratch. My doctor, when I was 50 and taking blood tests, said if anyone can figure out how to cook heart-healthy for my age group it could be me. That was the challenge. Out of that has come a healthier approach to food. Because I made a place where I’m feeding people, the same people, maybe every day, my commitment is to serve healthy, wholesome food, as much as possible.

What kind of coffee do you serve?

We use Santa Cruz Roasting Company’s coffee. I use their brew bar. We keep our staff trained on all of that. Once again, we have repeat customers almost every day. If we don’t maintain consistency, we’re going to hear about it.

What about your soups?

They’re all made here from scratch from our own stock so we know what’s in them. We’re very committed to having one vegan soup out there, and one with some kind of protein, a meat option or chicken or whatnot. The soups are switching out every couple of days. It’s according to how popular the soup is and how much it sells.

Why do you prefer grass-fed to standard corn-fed beef?

The difference between the two is really minor. I like it for its purity. The steer, that’s what they are designed to eat. It feels better knowing it’s cleaner than when they finish on corn, which is what our palates have become used to. It doesn’t mean it’s right. It was never right.


915 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley. 740-4673. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER

Contributor at Good Times |

Aaron is a hard-working freelance writer with a focus on music, art, food, culture and travel. In addition to Good Times, he's a regular contributor to Sacramento News & Review, VIA Magazine and Playboy. When he's not working, he's either backpacking, arguing about music or working on his book about ska. One thing's for sure—he knows more about ska than you.

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