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Photograph by Stephen Laufer

Double Vision: Sarah Kelly (left) and Rachel Christopher (center) have got a latte in common at Java Junction, while Emily Fay works the register.

Coffee Talk

The laid-back caffeine connection continues at Seabright fixture Java Junction

By Christina Waters

If the vibes at Java Junction (519 Seabright Ave.) were any mellower, the place would probably exist in a condition of flatline. At least that's the way it felt to me and Sadie last week as we joined the usual suspects in line to order up lattes and something carbohydrate at the palace of open air attitude.

Décor is an eclectic mambo of plants, multicolored walls, strings of lights, chalkboard litanies and a moody lineup of revolving local artwork, the current crop framed in bamboo. Doors open onto the true caffeine zone at Java--the sprawl of concrete terrace overlooking (in this order) the railroad tracks, Murray Avenue and the ocean. Soaking up rays, doing homework and pitching deals over the Internet or cell phone are among the random alfresco acts we witnessed while waiting to order.

Unfortunately, Java's larder lacked a full deck of spreads the day we arrived, so Sadie opted for a default cream cheese and tomato, while I was reasonably content with a spicy slab of house banana bread. The lattes were flawless, but it's always disappointing hearing the words, "We're out of almost everything," when you have money to spend and an appetite to burn.

Granted, Java's clientele takes everything in stride. It's fun watching the loadies cruising with red faces, red eyes and skateboards tucked under their arms, as well as the beach babes organizing their makeup. It's also great having lots of spacious seating--tables you can spread out on for hours while reading the Sunday Times. At JJ, you really have no worries. Whatsoever. Unless you have to use the W.C. A word to the Java Junction management: Clean up the bathroom. It's worse than something out of a David Lynch movie.

But out in the sun, feasting on espresso, you're in endless summer mode. ... Now if it's custom caffeine you desire, sans beachy ambience, you would do well to check out Johnny's Java at the Farmer's Exchange (415 River St.). Cappucino goddess Terri Taylor gives personal attention to each and every espresso specialty she prepares. None better. ... Product Plugs: The baked marinara-slathered meatballs at Avanti (1711 Mission St.) will bring out your inner Sicilian. ... Also, please don't miss the current vintage of Point Reyes blue cheese (New Leaf and Shoppers), a fromage offering plenty of cream appeal without devolving into Brie territory. Its bracing bite of fermentation doesn't ravage the taste buds-- making it an obvious choice to crumble over a salad of tender greens. ... And now even Longs carries one of our favorite breakfast ideas--the High Energy Fruit & Nut Bar from Mountain View's Whole Grains Bakery. OK, they're not really bars, more like fat whole-wheat buns (don't think what you're thinking) filled with bits of apple, walnuts and raisins. Irresistibly heightened by cinnamon, the surprise is that this wonderful alternative to the scone or the bagel contains (pay attention) high fiber, low sodium, no cholesterol and no preservatives. Which means that it's very good for you, as well as being delicious. Fruit, cinnamon, chewiness and no bad fat. Even better, you can purchase these buxom rolls in packages of six (each one, I swear, is a complete breakfast) for only $2.99 at Longs (I mentioned that), New Leaf and Shoppers Corner. And probably other places too. These carbo-carriers are sin-free wonderful. ... I have come to expect high bakery excellence from Gigi's (550 River St., across from Cost Plus World Market), but I now confess to being shamelessly devoted to their fresh sandwiches and to what must be the crustiest, tastiest, most expertly baked rolls this side of Paris. The burgundy nut rolls for example are so ultradense inside their tight crust, so walnut-intensive and somehow heightened by an indefinable something that I need to hit the gym more often in order to justify my habit. Equally good are the olive-studded sourdough rolls, the very thing to accompany grilled salmon and creamy polenta. The best 65 cents you will ever spend. And they more than justify indulging in their natural partner, butter.

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From the July 23-30, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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