Over Easy Cafe is one of those tiny little breakfast joints that’s so top-notch you wonder how they fit all their customers into such a limited space. Their food is locally-sourced, fresh, and well-prepared. I typically go for the Basic Breakfast (pictured above), and it may be “basic” but it’s definitely a cut above the rest. That’s their house “soysage” you see between my scrambled eggs and side of fruit, and yes, you can opt for a biscuit instead of toast (at no extra charge).
In addition to breakfast, Over Easy has an impressive selection of juices and smoothies (that’s the Waking Up juice pictured below) which they make right there when you order. Yup — freshly juiced fruits and veggies to round out your meal. I really, really love this place. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that they have excellent service!
Dado Tea + Coffee was the first place I ate in the Boston area. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Dado on Church Street was a cute little establishment with lots of fresh air and sunlight pouring in the large windows and open doors. The friendly and down-to-earth staff made ordering fun, and set the mood for the entire meal. I was delighted by the fresh and original menu options, and once I saw the Monkey Wrap (above) I knew I had to get it. The fresh apples and bananas in this whole wheat wrap were held together by peanut butter, and while I’ve made several of these on my own since visiting Dado, the ones at Dado somehow tasted better. I also couldn’t resist getting myself a little treat when I saw a giant glass jar of Sabbiosini cookies (below) by the register. It was a simple and quick dining experience, but one of my favorites nonetheless.
The French Loaf Bakery in Grandview, Ohio, is a great little place that dishes up quality pastries, pies, and cookies (plus an assortment of other baked goods) for surprisingly low prices. The tiny bakery is staffed by friendly and helpful people who let you take your time as you peruse their bountiful cases. When I went in, I purchased this adorable cherry pie (pictured above) that was tasty and fresh — and how cute are those star-shaped cut-outs? They’re a nice touch that made the pie really fun to eat! I also couldn’t help myself and grabbed a Croissant Amandes (a croissant filled with almond pastry cream and topped with powdered sugar and sliced almonds). It was beautifully messy, and unbelievably delicious. If you have $5 and feel like a nice sweet treat, swing by this charming little bakery and check out their delectable selection.
So technically, Nugget is a grocery store in Davis, California, not a deli. That doesn’t stop it from being my absolute favorite deli of all time. I’m not kidding. I love Nugget. I make a point of stopping in whenever I’m even remotely near Davis (or Sacramento, Woodland, Vacaville, etc. where they have other locations). This particular location — the Covell Road location in Davis — is my personal favorite. Their ingredients are just so good — super fresh, top quality, and they have a huge variety of toppings. They also toast the sandwich for you if you want, and that makes the whole thing all warm and delicious. I sat outside in the sunshine to eat this sandwich, and it was a wonderful lull in my travels. If you’ve never been to Nugget, you absolutely must go in — for groceries (esp. artesian cheeses and chocolates), for beverages, and definitely for a sandwich. I’d move back to Davis for this store alone!
I love the Blue Angel Cafe in South Lake Tahoe, California, and I was really excited to get to eat there again this winter. It’s been a couple of years, and I missed their innovative and veg-friendly menu. This time, I ordered their Butternut Squash and Walnut Ravioli (pictured above). It was really good, with just a light butter sauce and some walnuts and parmesan flakes on top. The ravioli were filled with the butternut squash, and the whole dish was very flavorful and mild. To drink, I got the hot cocoa (pictured below), which (like their coffees) comes from the Alpen Sierra Coffee Roasting Company — just one example of Blue Angel’s dedication to local, natural, and organic foods. The food and service were so good that I went back the next day and got…
…the buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and avocado sandwich (pictured below) with a side of the quinoa, served cold. It was just as delicious as it sounded, and I really enjoyed the quinoa salad. If you’re ever in South Lake Tahoe, you really should try to get in to Blue Angel. They won’t disappoint you, and they have the friendliest staff around. Plus, there’s a stone fireplace and some couches where you can get some work done if you find yourself needing a place to hole up and hop online.
On the way from San Francisco to Tahoe, I popped in to the Bella Bru Cafe in El Dorado Hills, California. I was just looking for a quick, simple breakfast and was really excited when I found that they had more than just bagels and muffins. The fact that they use natural and local ingredients was an added bonus. I ordered their Huevos Rancheros (pictured above), which came complete with eggs, corn tortillas, black beans (they’re hiding under the tortillas in this photo), salsa, avocado, and potatoes. It was cooked to perfection (the eggs weren’t at all runny, but they were also not overcooked or chewy), and the service was incredibly fast. I also ordered a white tea and an apricot scone for the road (pictured below), both of which were delicious as well. I actually forgot about the scone for a day or two, and when I got around to eating it, it was still fresh and flavorful. This was, by far, the best surprise-meal of the trip!
Some friends took me to Chow Food + Bar in Lafayette, California, and I loved it. To start with, while we waited for our table, they had a little grocery area with all sorts of great cheeses, desserts, baked goods, and beer for us to look at (and we got some beer while we waited). It was so much better than sitting in a waiting area or, even worse, wandering around outside in the cold with one of those stupid vibrating coasters in your pocket. When we were seated, we ordered the Arancini (pictured below), which were absolutely delicious. They were perfectly moist inside, but still nice and crispy on the outside…and not too rich, as arancini can be. For my entree, I ordered the Organic Vegetable Noodles with tofu, squash, and broccoli in a chili-citrus-miso-sesame sauce. I couldn’t really imagine what that sauce would taste like, but it was truly a taste adventure. It was sweet and spicy, and warmed me through and through. I so badly wanted to keep eating even when I was already full because it was just such a creative and interesting flavor explosion. Most of Chow’s menu was really innovative, and they use a lot of organic and natural ingredients, which I always appreciate. If you’re in the area and are looking for a unique and fresh meal, you should swing by Chow and give ’em a try.
Once again, the Northstar Café in Columbus, Ohio came through for me. This vegan tomato soup with olive tapenade and bread was served up as a daily special at the Northstar located in Easton Town Center. In the background, you can see the winter salad I enjoyed (and boy did I ever enjoy it!). Notice the hearty chunks of butternut, the modest cubes of beet, and the nice mixed greens. This place never disappoints!
This beautiful array is a combination of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream‘s Peach Buttermilk (left) and Coriander Raspberry (right) flavors served up in a recycled/able paper cup, wearing their signature house-made sugar cone as a hat. And what a tasty hat it was…. I don’t think this amazing treat even lasted 5 minutes before I was licking the bowl. There’s a reason Jeni’s is a citywide must for locals and visitors alike, and why their book is selling faster than their ice cream. If you visit Columbus, or if you live in one of the many nationwide metropolises where Jeni’s is sold (they ship!), make a beeline for Jeni’s. And bring your friends!
Photo by Anne Jansen
The Global Gallery Coffee Shop in Clintonville is a fair-trade, ethical coffee house and gift shop. They have the best hot chocolate in at least a 5-mile radius — it’s light and airy, and has a delicious milk-chocolate base. Their food is also healthy and lite, and a step up from the usual coffee shop fare. I tend to order the house-made granola with vanilla yogurt (plain if they have it in stock, but this is something they do to accommodate my specific preferences — they’re very willing to do what they can to please their customers) — it’s a hearty treat that sits lightly and keeps me going for hours.
Photo by Anne Jansen
Photo by Anne Jansen
The Northstar Cafe is one of my favorites, but I rarely make it there for breakfast. On this particular day, I not only had breakfast there, but also lunch. For breakfast, I started the day with their fantastic strawberry smoothie and a day-old oatmeal cookie. Both were fantastic, and together they were light yet filling. I’m addicted to this strawberry smoothie, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Photo by Anne Jansen
I also stuck around long enough to have lunch (Northstar is the kind of place where you can eat, study, and eat some more — they don’t mind lingerers). I chose one of my favorites from the menu: the Square Meal. It’s spicy and flavorful, and loaded with veggies of all kinds. It’s also incredibly filling (I was only able to eat about half). I love Northstar, despite the sticker shock; if you go with a partner, a single meal is the perfect price and proportion. The large crowds during busy hours are an indication of how worth-it the food is, even for lone eaters.
Photo by Anne Jansen
This is the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Leave it to the Natural Cafe to take a simple dish and make it both more nutritious (it has freshly sliced tomatoes in it) and more tasty (three types of cheese). The Natural Cafe is a great place for herbivores and omnivores alike, offering dishes that are light and tasty — and very affordable (which is a real accomplishment in Santa Barbara). It’s one of the restaurants I miss the most, and one that I try to go to every time I’m in town. This is a must-try if you’re ever in the area!