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Bow Wow! Chow

H' Diggity
George Sakkestad

A Steak Through the Stomach: H' Diggity owner Barry Seidman takes a bite out of his fabled cheesesteak.

H' Diggity's spices up Capitola Village's beach scene

By Christina Waters

THE SCENE AT H' DIGGITY'S--ensconced on one end of the Capitola Esplanade--is pure, 100 percent West Coast beach. And the cuisine at H' Diggity's is, appropriately enough, pure All-American beach food. Only it isn't just beach grub translated through the Pac Rim filter of California dreaming. It's beach food that will appeal to anybody from Anywhere, USA.

Think archetypal fries. Major burgers. Philly cheesesteaks. Yes. Exactly!

Given the name, the place does pack a heavy dose of dogs on buns, as in Polish hot dogs, smoked bratwurst, garlic bockwurst, Calabrese Italian sausages, classic wieners and more. So if you crave the simplicity, the Zen that is a sausage-filled bun, H' Diggity's is the spiritual center of your universe.

And even if you require something more complex--like, say, a sloppy Joe--this slice of beach heaven sings a siren song.

Well, not only did we succumb to the unmistakable call for beach food last week when it was high summer, but we actually scored one of those celestial parking moments--a space right on the Esplanade. It was kismet, synchronicity and cosmic vibes all rolled into one.

The H' Diggity's experience gets lots of its ambiance from location. While it's true that the huge sprawling deck you see before you belongs to Zelda's, if you take that cold beer up to one of the HD window counters facing the ocean, you access a view that only Fellini could rival. The very Fresno, the multiply pierced, the buffed, the bad and the fashion-challenged--they're all here, getting sunburned, giving attitude, flirting, kissing and playing volleyball. The view is superb--surfers, sailboats, strollers on the wharf. Babes and bods, everything that makes Capitola prime planetary turf.

The deal at H' Diggity's is that you really need an appetite to enter this magic food kingdom, where the guy at the cash register is almost as young, cheeky and adorable as the playful and talented cook. Nothing costs too much here, from baby back ribs for a little over $5 and cheesesteak for $4.50 down to sausage sandwiches for $2.25 and microbrews for under $3.

Temporarily mesmerized by an inventive aquamarine and canary-yellow skull tattoo just outside my window, I broke the spell by asking the staff about the $2 garden salad. "That would be iceberg lettuce, right?" I queried nonconfrontationally. "That would be iceberg lettuce, yes," responded the chef du jour, "but it's also got romaine, purple cabbage and carrots." Later he chimed in "and Spanish black olives," but I was no longer listening.

My Philly cheesesteak was ready.

I sprang from my stool and scooped this aromatic, freshly made creation from the counter. This is not fast food. H' Diggity's proudly custom makes every order. Marinated tri-tip slathered with melted Swiss cheese and sweet, golden grilled onions saturated the substantial roll ($4.50). I'm here to tell you this was an incredible hot sandwich. Everything a Philly cheesesteak should be--but better, on account of the superior tri-tip. Moist, succulent, tender.

My companion hadn't said a word for over five minutes. That's because he was too busy romancing a sloppy Joe that tasted exactly like 1960--it was perfect. Juicy, but not runny. Packed with tomatoey-sweet ground beef. Simple, direct, accessible.

There is nothing designer about anything here. Especially the sublime french fries, which could give any Parisian bistro a run for its money. Seriously. These are easily the finest french fries in the county and, for $1.85 a basket, one of the all-time deals.

Even as my companion moved on to a rather obscene Calabrese sausage sandwich--really huge flavor, but not enough finesse for my taste--I returned to the oral poetry of the Philly cheesesteak. A lovely sesame bun, substantial, not gooey. Amazing onions. Accompanied by perfect fries--perfect.

Dion and the Belmonts throbbed in the background as we worked our way back to the car like two fatted calves. Beach calves.

H' Diggity's

Address: 201 Esplanade, Capitola
Phone: 475-7720
Hours: 11am-10pm daily (till midnight Fri. -Sat.)
Price: Dirt cheap
Ambiance: ** The view rules
Service: ** Aces behind the counter
Cuisine: *** Quintessential hand-held summertime American beach food
Overall: This place is a treasure--unpolitically correct flavor-on-wheels food that is not to be missed.

****Great, ***Excellent, **Good, *Okay

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From the July 31-Aug. 6, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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