Photograph by Stephen Laufer
Huevos Rancheros and Ginger Tofu Veggies: Not pictured: Soaked bike riders eating hash.
Back in the Saddle
The New Davenport Cash Store delivers the goods, no matter how you make the trek up the coast
By Peter Koht
Writing this, soaked to the bone and peering out through the fogged windows of a local coffee shop, the thought of mounting my bicycle and pedaling up the coast is not the most appealing idea circulating in my waterlogged cerebrum. Looking at the forecast for the next three months is depressing in the extreme, but come one day, it will be feasible to take my favorite Saturday morning ride up to the Cash Store in Davenport.
There are two arguments against procuring breakfast in Santa Cruz. The first, of course, is the wait. Though assuaged with free coffee and sections of the newspaper, it's a precious waste of the few minutes we get to spend outside of work.
The second is the calories. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it's also the most likely to be laden with salted meats, carbohydrates and enough butter to choke a horse.
Hence the bicycle component of this particular weekend trip. Through the investment of 30 minutes in the saddle, you can avoid both the tedium of the waiting list and the encroachment of excess weight brought about through the consumption of maple syrup.
The ride itself is a joy. Unless you meet the head wind from hell, it's mellow and the scenery is amazing. Taking Highway 1 at a slower speed, you become aware of the diversity of the landscape, from the shale cliffs past Coast Road to the coastal wetlands right before Wilder Ranch.
After ascending the last hill into Davenport, a true reward awaits. Over a 100 years in existence, the Cash Store is still a reliquary of Santa Cruz history, even after suffering through a disastrous fire in 1953. The walls are festooned with tapestries and hangings, and the hand-turned chairs and rustic tables are nestled underneath a collection of artifacts and bric-a-brac. It's a haven of timeless tranquility.
Of course all the ambience in the world counts for nothing with a rumbling stomach, and the ample portions at the Cash Store quickly dispense with that particular affliction. My friend chose the Gingered Vegetable Hash ($6.95) to start her morning. Hash is a dish unaccustomed to the gourmet treatment, but it gets treated like royalty in Davenport. Subtly flavored tofu and slivers of ginger nest among a colorful assortment of vegetables in this delightfully original creation. As our visit came in winter, slices of squash and leafy greens formed a good portion of the mélange. It was more than worth the effort cresting that last hill.
Contemplating the ride home encouraged stocking up with a serious breakfast. Deciding that the Lumberjack Special ($10.95), with its two eggs, three strips of bacon and two pancakes, was just a tad too much to quaff before noon, I opted for the Whale Watcher, a delightful meal of corned beef hash accompanied by two eggs. You don't have to be Irish to appreciate this feast.
Other equally delightful options populate the menu, including a colorful and plentiful version of Huevos Rancheros ($8.50) and a spicy rendition of Eggs and Chorizo ($8.75) that features homemade sausage and eggs with delicious home-fried potatoes and a salsa delivery system of corn tortillas.
Service is unobtrusive and friendly at the Cash Store, though the staff's liberal interpretation of the concept of "an empty cup of coffee" might lead to a serious case of the jitters. There are greater sins in the service industry, and each visit has been filled with good cheer, good company and great service.
Luckily the return trip has two things going for it. After braving the traffic and hanging a left out onto Highway 1, the first 1,000 yards of the journey are at an 8 percent downgrade. You can ease into that whole pedaling thing. Also, prevailing wind patterns on the coast move southeast—and a tail wind is a beautiful thing after a serious meal. While it's unlikely that this particular journey can be accomplished without rain gear and immunity to wind-chill in the coming weekend, as soon as there is a break in this storm you will find me in the bike lane, savoring the most pastoral of morning rides up to Davenport.
New Davenport Cash Store
Address: 31 Davenport Ave., Davenport (10 minutes north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1)
Hours: 8am-4pm Mon-Tue; 8am-8pm Wed-Thu and Sun; 8am-9pm Fri-Sat