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[whitespace] Delilah Sunshine and Harry
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Puppy and Chow: Delilah Sunshine and pal Harry take a lunch break at Westside Coffee Company.

Everybody's Surfin' Now

Surfer lattes? You bet--at bracing Westside Coffee Company

By Christina Waters

THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT of this gnarly hangout tucked behind Ace Hardware in the Almar Complex. From 5:45am (cowabunga!) until 7:45pm, this place rocks with the bracing vibes of excellent espresso, serious munchies and laid-back energy. In the very early am, you'll spot bona-fide surfers attempting to wake up for that first set. Midmorning finds the place packed with students and university types, carbo-loading and getting that caffeine fix to go to class.

I like the fat berry muffins made by the house, as well as their delicious pumpkin and banana breads. Once I add my double latte, I'm good to go until noon. Westside has a devoted following for lunchtime and afternoon munchies as well--slabs of pie, sandwiches and specialty bagels with luscious toppings, like the currently reigning smoked salmon and cream cheese unit.

But this is not just a to-go scene. Given the Tsunami Tropics décor, it's the sort of user-friendly coffee place that has become a welcoming hang-out. Lots of homework, first novels and high-tech business plans have been created at those tables underneath the jungle of palms, banana and ficus plants that make the place look like the desert island set of Survivor. Art exhibits line the walls, including wonderful photo displays of top surfer superstars. If you're from Mars or Holland, you'll thrill to the sight of actual surfboards lining the walls in a colorful 3-D fiberglass procession. Point being, you never forget where you are at Westside Coffee Company--exactly two clicks south of some of the best waves on earth.

Even when the surf's not up, Westside cranks out yummies like potato and egg burritos, veggie chili and quesadillas. The jet fuel can range from espresso drinks to your choice from a fully functional Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company bar. By the time you get outta there, you'll be ready to tackle Maverick's. That's Westside Coffee Company at 849 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz; 427.1300.

This and That

Gossip: Fresh from a vacation in Tahiti with hubby Jim, June Smith--of Roudon-Smith--emailed me last week that R-S has recently rereleased its popular claret, said to be a favorite tipple of Shakespearean Paul Whitworth, among others. Everybody's always cruising for a decent red wine under $10. Well, the 1999 claret could just be your new best friend. It's what June describes as "a friendly combination of syrah, cabernet, carignane and grenache--percentages in that order." Locally, you can look for it at enlightened emporia like Staff of Life (have you tried their fresh sushi yet?), Shopper's, K's Liquors and Zs' on Portola. This crimson beauty has already won a Gold Medal in the Fifth Annual San Francisco World Taste du Vin competition, and that's a lot of clout for only $9.95.

Two Things from Safeway: New are the large, brown, CCOF certified organic eggs, noticeably fresher and more delicious than any other organic eggs I've found around town. Check them out, along with the Land O' Lakes brand nonfat half-and-half. So help me, this stuff tastes 99 percent like the real creamy stuff.

Italian Etc.: Every time I see Stephen Plager--an avid gourmet who moonlights as one of the area's top ophthalmologists--he talks my eyes off about his favorite restaurants in Florence. So here's one for you, dottore. Beccofino--across the Arno from all the big tourist monuments--is a spiffy, year-old wine bar/ristorante serving brilliant daily specials: arugula salad topped with warm mushroom terrine, or prawn and asparagus risotto drizzled with basil oil. When you walk out the front door, you're treated to a dreamy view of the red-tiled rooftops of Florence. Beccofino--Piazza degli Scarlatti 1r.

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From the March 14-21, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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