Photo Credit: Melissa Huston (the sister)
Have you ever declared a “home base” during vacation? The place in which you ploop your fundament, communally commiserate over first world problems, and de-stress from the micromanaged schedule of Touristy Things? The Huston annual summer pilgrimage to Santa Cruz chose Saturn Cafe as that very spot. Direction time? Brainstorm the route in conjunction with its relation to Saturn Cafe. Hunger stabs? We’ve got your apropos “space-age vegetarian diner” ri’heyuh.
Lest you doubt my sincerity, one week of Santa Cruz’in included 4 seraphic visits to Saturn Cafe. Vacation: we know the meaning of the word.
This, curious and salivating reader, is the Jalapeño Burger, extolled by our waiter as his favorite item on the menu; he possess the smarts, that fellow. The menu description verbatim: “Griller patty topped with jack cheese, spicy chipotle and buffalo sauce, beer battered jalapeño bottle caps, lettuce, tomato, and red onion with your choice of side.” Vegan subs? Follow Your Heart mozz/tofu spread for the cheese and Veganaise in the mayo sauce.
Everything in this champion of a burger was boxing it out for that winning glory punch. The chipotle mayo smothered all in a flavorful spicy din, the beer-battered jalapeños cranked up the heat a few (or ten) notches, and the (vastly under-appreciated) FYH acted as the creamy ice to the fire. This equalizes the toddler and 20-something in the culinary gods’ eyes, for no mortal (wo)man can finish said burger without globs of mayo and burger squeeze-off spattered on all contingent surfaces.
The Buck Rogers burger has all the snazzy accoutrements of the Jalapeño except, obviously, the beer-battered jalepeño bottle caps. The creamy tofu spread (recommended by the waiter) was so wonderfully addictive that I might consider a Plankton-esque life of criminal exploits to acquire the secret recipe.
Have I lionized these fries yet? They deserve top honors on that Food Network show “The Best Thing I’ve Ever Ate”: thin, crisp, zesty, never overly-salted, and served in a mountain’s share. Consider me the fry vulture swooping onto family member’s plates for scraps, no matter the size of her freshly inhaled fry portion.
Decent vegan brunch is a dining anomaly so Saturn Cafe was already clouding my eyes with puffy hearts at the thought of a non-oatmeal breakfast entrée. My facial expressions resembled full-blown anime upon first bite of this piquant breakfast burrito. Stuffed generously with tofu scramble, home fries, and soyrizo, this brekie burrito was… well… it was enough that it was. The supporting ensemble cast of pico de gallo (wholly ignored for its putrid connection to fresh tomatoes), guac, and tofu spread became dipping sauces to rev up the yum factor. yyyyyyUM.
It is the perennial weltschmerz of humanity that one cannot eat the above milkshake each and every day. My best-case-death-scenario would feature a prolonged drowning in an Olympic-sized pool of this peanut butter* chocolate shake. Disney writers take heed, for this is a non-gruesome and conveniently inoffensive way to dispose of the pesky villain at the PG tale’s end .
Awards, I bequeath them all to you, Saturn Cafe. Star-studded plaquards shall read “Most Choco-phoric,” “Decadent Dessert of the Year,” and “Everything Right in a Milkshake.” There’s a reason this shake is my blog header, y’all.
Saturn Cafe has just the right proportions of cute, kook, and kitsch to back up my hearty recommendation. Supporting facts shall be henceforth cited in no particular order:
1. One of the waiters was spotted with an “I’m the motha’ flippin’ rhymenocerous” tee. Instant crush.
2. The pink velour booths feature tables befitted with protective plastic to showcase various space paraphernalia including vintage Pez dispensers and galaxy imaging amongst other tchotchkes.
3. Waiters bat nary an eyelash at the term “vegan,” with rampant suggestions on the best menu veganization methods.
4. The vibe is chichi caj with a diverse mix of college kids, families, and tourists.
5. All entrees are under $10, which is an absolute steal considering the superior ingredients and all-too-ubiquitous vegan tax.
Most salient of all: who cannot fall in love with a restaurant that befixes smiley face stickers to their salt shakers?! Heartless grinches, ye who mutter I.
*The peanut butter is a few coins extra, but any pb-chocolate diehard would haughtily sneer at the mere suggestion of its absence.
145 Laurel Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060-4498