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[whitespace] Tristan Nathe
Dai Sugano

Saturn Rising: Tristan Nathe surveys the interior of the new,
soon-to-open Saturn Cafe.

Saturn Cafe readies to reopen downtown

By Janet Blaser

IN AN ENDEAVOR that seems to be as long as the planet Saturn's orbit, Santa Cruz's beloved Saturn Cafe has been struggling to open its new doors since a New Year's Eve fire closed its old blue ones. Without going into the gory details, suffice it to say that Saturn's woes have been enough to drive the average business owner quite bonkers. With luck, though, that's all in the past, and co-owners Abigail Andromacha and Tristan Nathe are crossing their fingers (and working their butts off) preparing to open by the end of the month.

Housed at one end of a strip of 24-hour stores (Kinko's and Washrock), Saturn will follow suit and serve its delights 24-7. That idea started out as a joke, Abigail says, but soon began to seem logical as the staff considered the lack of late-night eateries in this area. Besides downtown's So Say We and Denny's, and Tiny's in Capitola, if you're hungry at 1am, your choices are limited.

Saturn Cafe

Sharp-eyed readers have probably seen all the hullabaloo at the corner of Laurel and Pacific, and maybe, like me, even peeked in the windows of the former Boston Market. The spacious dining area is round, surrounded by floor-to-high-ceiling windows, and sectioned by a pair of chest-high curved walls that are pink on one side, black on the other. The walls are painted with bright, colorful, even outlandish designs, done by local artists who donated their time and expertise. Make a point to walk through the black-light hallway that connects the back entrance to the dining room. This new Saturn is going to present diners with a novel problem--where to sit--because there are so many really cool options to choose from. Capacity is 110 inside, and another 20 outside on the enclosed patio. Red booths and Saturn's famous diorama tables line the rounded walls under the windows, flanked by collage tables, done by local artists. There's a gorgeous black bar whose underside features a backlit, punched-tin design of stars in the night sky. A Tiki Lounge sports a thatched roof, bamboo walls and hula-girl paintings. And a cluster of gold-speckled upholstered seats surrounds the massive center pillar (also gold). Sigh. That's where you'll find me and my cookie dough, which, thankfully, is still on the menu.

And speaking of the menu, will it be the same? I've been assured it will, with expanded offerings of items originally called "mystery meat" when they were created in the 1940s as substitutes for the real thing during the war. Nowadays, that translates into foods like veggie corn dogs (yum) and mock chicken patties (double yum). But you'll still find all your old favorites: soups, salads, sandwiches, hot entrees, Chocolate Madness and a wonderful breakfast menu, too. And yes, Saturn is still a vegetarian establishment, with tuna offered specifically for tourists and parents of students who often have a hard time when faced with only nonmeat options.

So, when does the fun begin? Well, Abigail says that as soon as they're 10 days out, a countdown will be posted in the big windows facing Laurel Street. Then, a grand opening party, with a limited menu, will take place from 5pm to 1am. "We'll close and recover, then open the next day from 5pm until forever," she says with a laugh. In the future, you'll be able to find the Saturn Cafe by heading toward the giant neon ring on the roof, but for now just go to 145 Laurel St. in downtown Santa Cruz. Need to know more? Call 429-8505.

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From the August 25-September 1, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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