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Photograph by Stephen Laufer

Most Important Meal of the Day: The stellar breakfasts served at Linda's Seabreeze Cafe are the reason for that long line outside the door every weekend.

Breakfast of Champions

Some landmarks actually deserve their wildly popular reputations--and here's why

By Christina Waters

IF YOU'RE WONDERING why all those people wait so long for a table every weekend at Linda's Seabreeze Cafe on Seabright, then wonder no more. There are, as it deliciously turns out, many good reasons for such rabid devotion and most of them involve some of the finest fresh-baked muffins, cobblers, crisps, cakes and rolls on the planet.

A true pastry Michelangelo is at work in the kitchen of the mighty Seabreeze Cafe, and the results are whisked out of the ovens and onto the countertops continuously during the busy breakfast times at this local landmark.

"You gotta try the cinnamon rolls," insisted the exceptionally finicky Soo. And so we had breakfast at the Seabreeze last week, dining so energetically that they had to practically roll us (cinnamon-roll us?) out the front door afterwards.

The place seems to be perpetually packed with an array of very happy folks. Big round tables stocked with bouncy kids, surrounded by their toys and having a ball, hold down the central space. Gingham-checked curtains and lots of colorful artwork embrace the walls. A sea of funky tables, chairs and assorted plants fill the cozy dining room all the way to the open-beam ceiling. It feels more like your godmother's kitchen than a restaurant, especially when you can see those cobblers and cakes set out on the counter directly from the oven.

Was Soo exaggerating? In a word: "No!" Along with a plate of eggs with lean, thick bacon--the kind of bacon to which even a vegan might surrender--came a cinnamon roll that was so cinnamon-intensive it might have formed its own spice island. Oh stop gushing Christina, you're thinking. This isn't gushing; it's factual testimony.

An order of oatmeal-raisin pancakes was spherical perfection-fragrant, hot, light yet filling ($4.25). "I think the test of a great pancake," said Soo, helping herself, "is whether they're good without any syrup." These were.

Throwing caution out the front door, we dug into a warm blueberry muffin with a grainy cake texture, probably some cornmeal in there, that blew away every other muffin I've had in Santa Cruz. Fresh from the oven.

But Soo had been pitching the incomparable cinnamon buns, about which I'd been thinking, OK, fine, but how life-altering can a cinnamon bun be? The answer is, very life-altering. Intensely cinnamony, barely sweet, light and absolutely nongooey, these buns perfumed the air for three feet in every direction. There was no, I repeat, no sticky sweet frosting to mar the perfection of this warm, fragrant ode to the most popular spice in the world. Soo was right--it was perfect.

Did I mention that my two eggs were also done as if I had gotten up, gone back in the kitchen and watched over their production from start to finish? In others words, they were exactly the way I like 'em. Over-medium, still runny but not too much. I added some of the table's resident salsa, which was a nice bit of sass. But frankly, I find something close to a religious high just alternating a bite of yolk-rich egg with a bite of lean, thick bacon. And killer home fries. After a quick palate-cleansing with a sip of fine house coffee, I began again. Egg, bacon, coffee. Egg, bacon, oh maybe another bite of that thick, blueberry-studded muffin dripping with melted butter (breakfast is the meal at which I break my "no butter" rule), and then some more coffee.

No wonder there's a line outside the Seabreeze every weekend. This place deserves its wildly popular reputation.

Linda's Seabreeze Cafe
Address: 542 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz
Phone: 427.9713
Hours: Mon-Sat. 6am-2pm; Sun 7am-1pm. Breakfast and lunch only.
Service: *** Skilled, friendly and patient
Ambience: *** Down-home, neighborhood cafe vibes don't come any warmer, realer or more welcoming.
Cuisine: *** Breakfast receives hearty reverence at the Seabreeze, and lunches are equally fresh, simple and delicious.
Overall: Let me say it again: there's a good reason why this cafe has the most devoted and persistent clientele in town.

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From the March 27-April 3, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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