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Whale of a Setting

[whitespace] Whale City Bakery and Grill
George Sakkestad

Jump, Jive & Whale: Whale City Bakery and Grill owners Kristen and Stephanie Raugust offer up fresh-baked goodies as well as tasty pub grub.

Out at the Whale, there's a whole lot more to see than just those migrating cetaceans plying the ocean blue

By Christina Waters

IN THE MORNING we love to watch the fog dissolve from the front porch of Whale City Bakery, Bar & Grill, formerly the lovable Wild Bunch bar known as the Whaler. The purple-painted railing barely contains this all-purpose cafe's morning crowd of bleary-eyed surfers and mountain men ready to head out to whatever it is that mountain men do these days. We often just grab one of those gigantic cinnamon buns, help ourselves to coffee in glass mugs and meditate on the elusive mysteries of the North Coast, easily one of the most beautifully soothing stretches on the entire Highway One.

In the evening, a half hour before sunset, we like to head out to the Whale, as we call it, to gaze at the setting sun and cozy up to a long, slow pull of Red Hook ale. Then we share the hardwood tables and chairs with locals catching up on sports on the big-screen TV, unwinding over a beer just like we are. On weekends, the local Davenport and Bonny Doon regulars share this joyfully warm and funky turf with bikers on vintage Harleys, cyclists on muddy mountain bikes and the odd bus load of German tourists.

The Whale, embraced by those gumdrop heaths and hills behind Davenport and facing the remains of the Victorian-era pier, offers all kinds of aid, comfort and sanctuary to those in need of enlightenment, or just a well-made cheeseburger.

Jack and I have become hooked on the Whale's version of the great American burger, which arrives with a full company of tomatoes, lettuce, onions and a big bottle of ketchup. French fries are required side orders with these classic burgers--chargrilled the way you like 'em. The fries are fat, just greasy enough to be classic and completely delicious. Jack likes one of those draft pints of Red Hook ESB ($2.75) with his. I go for the house red wine, which just happens to be Bonny Doon's Ca' del Solo (a.k.a. Big House Red) for a bargain-priced $2.75 per very full glass. Every time out-of-town guests visit, we take them to the Whale, where we munch burgers and fries, and then cross the road and train tracks, out to the very edge of the cliff where the answers to life's secrets all seem to swirl in the tide far below. Nobody ever comes away unmoved by this matchless place, and nobody doesn't fall in love with The Whale's casual ambiance. And those sunsets are better than a fistful of Paxil.

We made a recent departure from our regular fare when we ordered the Chinese chicken salad--a huge platter of romaine, lots of mushrooms and peppers, plus shredded grilled chicken and teriyaki sauce ($6.99).

I loved my shrimp plate, packed with fat crispy breaded shrimp--perfectly deep-fried--served with tartar and cocktail sauce, like Howard Johnson's when we were kids. Excellent shrimp, with a huge green salad on the side for only $7.25.

The olallieberry pie is substantial--crust like your grandma's-- and the intense berry flavor rivals the products up the road at Duarte's. My highest praise.

The breakfasts are equally bountiful, especially Jack's favorite, the abundant huevos rancheros, and my ubiquitous eggs over-medium with home fries and bacon. The rancheros involves the classic refried beans, red sauce and tons of cheese slathered over crisp tacos and embedded with eggs. The eggs and home fries are exactly like you want them. And they taste even better when you can watch the fog lift and listen to the Whale regulars all gearing up to have a great day.

Whale City Bakery, Bar & Grill
Address: Hwy 1, Davenport
Phone: 831/423-9803
Entrees: Inexpensive
Extras: Folk history, mountain ambiance, big TV
Service: *** Led by the incomparable Cathy, this is a good group of cheerful youth who aim to please
Ambiance: *** Quintessential California coastal surfer-mountain man atmosphere, with extra frills when the locals get excited about political and sports issues
Cuisine: **1/2 Hey, it's Davenport, and the breakfasts and pastries and burgers are better than they even need to be.

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From the September 17-23, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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