Named simply “The Coffee Shop,” you might not expect more than a cup of coffee and a pastry at this local eatery. But its loyal customers go for the diner-style breakfasts and lunches and friendly service.
Michael and I arrived around lunchtime on a Saturday, when the breakfast crowd was breaking up, to be replaced by folks stepping in for lunch. But breakfast is served until 2 p.m., so I ordered a Greek omelet. Michael ordered coffee and a toasted Ruben sandwich on wheat bread with a side of coleslaw. You can choose your sandwich one of three ways: cold, toasted or grilled.
Traditional breakfast items can be found on the menu at very reasonable prices, including omelets, pancakes, French toast, and breakfast specials ranging from $5.95-$7.95.
For lunch, all sandwiches and burgers come with a choice of potato salad, coleslaw, green salad, French fries or soup. Burgers and sandwiches run from $4.50 (grilled-cheese sandwich) to $8.95 for the “Bigger Burger,” offering half-pound of ground Black Angus beef on a garlic French roll with cheese.
There is also a selection of salads, and for dessert, try the homemade cinnamon and walnut coffee cake or a milkshake.
The Coffee Shop deserves the time-honored category of diner—in the sense of the no-frill American eateries (originally built into lunch wagons and derailed diner cars), that evolved into restaurants with lunch counters, booths and tables, serving breakfast and lunch items, specials and local favorites.
The Shop reflects this retro ambience, with its Formica counter, colorful padded stools and booths, and a framed print of Edward Hopper’s iconic diner painting, “Nighthawks,” hung above the counter. We noticed with amusement a sculpture attached to the ceiling—the bottom halves of two ducks, their webbed feet “paddling” the air, giving us the strange feeling that we were underwater.
I was very happy with my Greek omelet, which was generously stuffed with tart feta cheese textured like smooth ricotta and smothered with spinach, artichoke hearts, onions, large olives, tomatoes and bell peppers. It was accompanied by a pile of homestyle fries sliced thinly into rectangular pieces and fried perfectly—a little crisp on the outside but not too crisp. It may be a bit of a cliché, but the meal tasted homemade, a high rating in my book.
Michael was equally satisfied with his Ruben, which contained plenty of corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. The coleslaw was thinly sliced, dressed with mayo, and not too sweet—which my companion considers a plus.
I noticed that the server, Nicole “Pepper” Chavez, referred to many of the customers by name. She kept up a friendly banter with them while delivering meals promptly and with an economy of motion and diplomatic communication that showed she knew her stuff. Later, I learned that she has worked there for 14½ years.
The owner of The Coffee Shop, Danny Cabico, has had 47 years of experience in the restaurant business; he learned his chops in the Santa Cruz Wharf restaurants run by the Stagnaro and Castagnola families, and managed several popular restaurants of his own in the Santa Cruz area.
Cabico informed me that ingredients for his Greek omelet can change according to his whim, or whatever is available on a given day. With his dedication and experience as a chef and restaurateur, I’m willing to trust his judgment. I congratulate him and the staff of The Coffee Shop on their 25th anniversary this month.
The Coffee Shop is at 912 E. Lake Ave. at East Lake Village Shopping Center. Breakfast and lunch is Mondays-Saturdays, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. 831-722-5047.