For breakfast, the choices along the central coast of Monterey and Santa Cruz counties are plentiful and varied.
Starting from the North Coast of Santa Cruz County, and moving southward, more or less, here’s a quick overview of the top locals picks for breakfast eateries – along with a few nearby attractions, short walks and picnic spots.
Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant and Inn – still referred to by the former name Davenport Cash Store – is situated on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway One, in the whale-sighting village of Davenport – a ten minute drive north of the City of Santa Cruz.
The Inn and the massage offerings are new, but the restaurant has grown and only improved over the years, with more and more local – and even wild foods – offered seasonally. This old beloved standard still houses the unique Cash Store, which is an upscale gift boutique with a bit of a western flare.
While there aren’t too many cowboys in the area these days, the historical plaque at the now retired old Davenport Jail, just two blocks inland from the Roadhouse, does seem to throw us back to the early twentieth century when the jail was used to house a couple of bold adolescent horse thieves from up the coast.
Davenport Road House at the Cash Store is open for breakfast Tuesdays through Saturdays 8 am -11:30 am.
Weekends 8-12 noon Full Breakfast – Specialty Eggs Benedict and Full Bar. Closed Mondays. 1 Davenport Avenue, Davenport, CA 95017, 831.426.8801
After your meal, stroll up the hillside to 450 Highway One, just a few steps, to the newly opened, in 2011, Davenport Art Gallery, open 11-5 Wednesday-Sunday. 831-426-1199
While on the North Coast, if the wind happens to be subdued – which is more likely in the morning, check out the beaches at Scott Creek and Waddell Creek, both right off of Pacific Coast Highway One. Picnic tables are available at Greyhound Rock, which is situated between the two beaches, about a ten minute drive north of Davenport.
Although you may not think of breakfast as the time for a picnic, give it a try – the lack of wind in the morning around the Monterey Bay, and the adjacent open ocean cliffs, makes heading toward the coast with some local fare an ideal outing for early in the day. Early morning risers seem to spot more dolphins and whales as well.
Due to the easy accessibility, Waddell Creek Beach is a favorite for windsurfing and parasailing – especially in the mid-afternoon when the winds whip up. The beach is the “sea end” of the famous “Skyline to the Sea” trail of Big Basin State Park – California’s first State park and home of waterfalls and fantastic flora and fauna, which you can learn all bout at the nearby Rancho Del Oso Nature and History Center.
If you are in downtown Santa Cruz and looking for a great restaurant that serves breakfast all day – with a small patio that’s great for people watching on a sunny morning – head on over to the Walnut Avenue Cafe at 106 Walnut Avenue,
Walnut Avenue Cafe is just a few steps from Pacific Avenue – aka Pacific Garden Mall, a hopping pedestrian open air mall that, in 2010, has banned cigarette smoking throughout.
In the early morning, the smell of the Walnut Avenue Cafe’s potatoes cooking wafts over to Pacific Avenue. If you happen to love Eggs Florentine, or fresh veggie omelets and scrambles, then you will be in heaven here with the breakfast specialties and daily specials at the Walnut Avenue Cafe. Breakfast served all day Monday-Friday 7-3. Weekends 8-4. 831- 457-2307
Downtown Santa Cruz’s other hearty eatery that wafts potato aromas in the early morning is the venerable Zachary‘s – or Zach’s as the locals call it. Crowded on weekends and closed on Mondays, weekdays are the best time to try their freshly baked breads that come with the basic breakfast – or the Mike’s Mess – with those fabulous turmeric-spiced potatoes smothered in sour cream and salsa.
Zachary’s is open Tuesday through Sunday 7-2:30. Located at 819 Pacific Avenue, 831-427-0646
If the lines are too long at Zach’s, or it’s fresh baked goods that you crave “for here or to go,” then walk one block from Pacific Avenue to the downtown Bagelry at 320 A Cedar Street, open weekdays 6:30-5:30, Saturday 7:30-5:30 and Sunday 7-4. Fast counter service with no credit cards accepted, but an ATM on site, and very reasonable prices. 831-429-8049
A Santa Cruz institution, the Downtown Bagelry is a great place to pick up picnic items, to sit on the sunny garden patio or to spend time listening to the rain inside the large cavernous dining area where the ovens and bakers are visible.
Fresh bagels, tasty and nutritious spreads – including vegan options like hummus and guacomole – alongside the usual cream cheese offerings – plus great cookies, salads and soups, all made fresh daily in their humming kitchen – that also produces one of the best hot Chai tea in town – plus a huge array of cold drinks – makes this place a mainstay for many folks, whether they are in a leisurely mode or need to grab something to take-away quickly.
Founded in 1977, the original Bagelry has indoor seating, and the same great fare, at 1636 Seabright Avenue, tucked away behind a big video joint – on the corner of Soquel Avenue, towards the ocean. Open 7:30-4 everyday except Sundays when they have special bagels and are open 8-4. 831-425-8550.
The Seabright Bagelry is a great place to grab a picnic before you head over to Castle Beach, a State Park with the best long sandy beach for swimming – situated at the end of Seabright Avenue – and often called just Seabright Beach.
The Soquel Bagelry has a small amount of outdoor seating as well as indoor seating in a convenient mid-county location in Soquel at 4763 Soquel Drive, open 8-3 Sundays, 7:30-4 :30 Saturdays and weekdays 6:30-4:30 pm. 831-462-9888
All Bagelry locations serve the same reasonably priced fare – including hard-to-find delightful bialys – all fresh from their kitchens and ovens.
If you are in the vicinity of downtown Santa Cruz and want to sample the completely outside-the-ordinary truly local fare eatery, then a short walk to the River Cafe in the Farmer’s Exchange Building at 415 River Street, suite K, is just the ticket. Open Mondays 9-6, Tuesday through Saturday 6:30-6 and Sunday Brunch from 10-3. 831-420-1280.
Be prepared for the freshest produce, baked goods, preserves, hot specials and outstanding local cheeses, and a chance to dine al fresco on the patio – all for a bit higher price, yet worth the splurge.
Be prepared, also, for the fact that this is a tiny place, with a tiny kitchen specializing in the freshest local ingredients, so they often do run out of the popular breakfasts items, such as breakfast burritos and goat cheese fritattas.
Homemade granola includes whole flax seeds and dried cherries and is served with local honey and the stellar Strauss Family Creamy Yogurt.
If you have a few moments, or more, for fabulous deals on outdoor clothing, check out the Patagonia Outlet Store next door to the River Café in the unique “Farmer’s Exchange” building.
Toward Seabright Beach, on the other side of the San Lorenzo River, for a traditional breakfast, the locals choice is often Linda’s Seabreeze Café at 542 Seabright Avenue.
An excellent value with tofu medleys along with omelettes, pancakes, great potatoes and fresh muffins. Open Monday – Saturday 6-2 and Sunday 7-1. 831-427-9713
If tofu scrambles, a Santa Cruz area signature dish, are your style, head on over to the super tiny Cliff Café on 41st Avenue in Capitola, tucked near the corner of Portola Drive in the nook formerly occupied by the Rainbow Cafe.
Or, take a break from eggs and meat at the vegan and dine at Dharma’s at 4250 Capitola Road, just off of 41st Avenue.
Open 7-days a week, from 8am to 9pm, serving breakfast until noon, lunch and dinner from 11am on. Outdoor seating and take-out orders. 831-462-1717
Believe it or not, when they began this eatery, it was McDharma’s; but, after lawsuits and threats from the proverbial golden arches, changes came to the name.
While in the neighborhood, stroll the ever-changing cliffs along the area the natives called “Soquel Point” and now known as Pleasure Point and The Hook by the surfers who love the spot where the now one-way East Cliff Drive meets the commercial drag 41st Avenue.
Staying right along the coast, you can drive, bike or walk through Opal Cliffs neighborhood and down the hill, stopping at the cliff overlooking Capitola Wharf and/or spending a little time in the quaint Capitola Village and nearby Capitola Beach.
If you are more inclined toward greenery, or you wish to picnic or camp, then New Brighton State Beach is an excellent choice.