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Photograph by Carlie Statsky
rejavanated : Molly Landau pours it on for Teressa, Ayano and Yusuke.

Zachary's at The Break of Day

Simple and delicious, the classic downtown eatery stands the test of time.

By Christina Waters

We can all remember them, the dishes that instantly get our attention. These indelible winners walk straight into our lives, throw their arms around us and make themselves at home. The incomparable Chili & Eggs at Zachary's is such a defining dish. So resounding are its flavors, so plush its texture and so persistent its feisty finish that it provided a clear case of love at first bite. Even if we don't get down to Zachary's every weekend, just knowing that the chili specialty is there, waiting to bring unexpected bliss, puts everything in its place. Like watching the sun slide into the horizon at sunset. Zing! Ah! Yes!

We've had on-and-off affairs with the glorious Mike's Mess, Zachary's sassy retort to Olympic-size appetites. The Mess involves nothing less than three eggs, bacon, mushrooms, home fries--all mixed together (hence the "mess")--and then doused with cheese, sour cream and tomatoes. At other times, we've fallen for the classics like the Italian scramble laced with fennel sausage, or fresh-baked cinnamon walnut coffee cake.

But last week we answered the call of our all-time Zachary's favorites--and for Jack that could only mean Chili & Eggs ($8.75). Purists might scoff that eggs need nothing more than their rich proteiny selves to pump life into the gloomiest day. They might have a point. But those purists would be missing out on what can happen to eggs if they're allowed to be creatively unleashed.

Visualize this: a layer of chili topped with a layer of perfect scrambled eggs. The chili, incidentally, is freshly made, and varies according to the kitchen's creative mood. This day it was loaded with luscious stewed pork, pinto beans and cilantro. Hold that thought and add a large glob of sour cream, an equally large glob of guacamole, and now top it all with gooey cheese. On the side of the platter sat a fresh-baked square of Zachary's infamous jalapeņo corn bread, and somewhere on what was left of the plate's surface was an incendiary pool of Miguel's hot sauce ($1 extra). What Jack was looking at was breakfast and lunch, which was just fine with him. A glass of grapefruit juice and plenty of very decent java helped him work his way through a respectable portion of the Chili & Eggs extravaganza.

But lest you fear that I was sitting over on my side of the table just taking in the vintage atmosphere of the old high-ceilinged Victorian with its weathered hardwood floors, let me put you at ease. My personal to-die-for dish at Zachary's hails from the opposite end of the North American classic breakfast spectrum. That would be pancakes. As everybody knows, this should be a simple dish. A no-brainer. But it ain't. Most breakfast houses proudly serve up pancakes that could moonlight as spare tires, or airbeds. Pancakes so huge, so thick, so relentlessly doughy that two bites pretty much kills the rest of the day. You know what I'm talkin' about.

The sourdough pancakes at Zachary's are not only supple and delicious, with just a light perfume of tanginess, but they are thin as well. Elegant, actually. What this means to me, the breakfast consumer, is that the butter and syrup I apply actually stand a chance of moistening and flavoring every single square centimeter of the pancake surface. Each forkful offers the union of butter, syrup and sourdough tenderness. These are, simply put, the best pancakes in the region. Pliant, fragrant, inviting, approachable--sort of like a dream date that delivers and doesn't bother to argue about it.

Well, I went ahead and added that extra bit of baroque--a side of bacon. Bacon and a half stack of sourdough pancakes--paradise on a plate, and for a grand total of $6.25. The salty, the sweet, the sour--the sheer bliss of it. Jack finished off the remains of his Chili & Eggs later that day, with some help from me and my fork. But my pancakes disappeared entirely in a single sitting.

Zachary's Restaurant

Address: 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz

Phone: 831.427.0646

Hours: 7am-2:30pm Tuesday-Sunday

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