This is the fifth of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.
Zac Craeger opened Midtown Cafe in January 2014. It’s primarily a breakfast and lunch place, although they are open “most Friday nights” (more on that later) and they do have beer and wine available. It’s a casual, friendly neighborhood spot. There is some counter seating by the front window, a few small tables inside, and plenty of tables in a relaxing back patio.
Breakfast is served all day — well, until they close at 2 p.m. Lunch dishes are served from 11 a.m. onward. One of their most popular dishes is organic polenta topped with a fried egg, organic sautéed kale, and chimichurri sauce. You can add avocado and/or bacon for an additional charge. As Craeger says, “It’s a simple dish we came up with and people really love it.” I agree; it’s a wonderful blend of textures and flavors. Unfamiliar with chimichurri? It’s a green sauce originally from Argentina that typically includes parsley, garlic, and olive oil plus other ingredients. Other breakfast dishes include Nutella toast: Nutella, candied walnuts, sea salt, and powdered sugar on Compagnon bread from Kelly’s Bakery. Kelly’s also supplies them with croissants, morning buns, and Francese rolls for their sandwiches. Midtown makes its own pies, cookies, and cakes.
All sandwiches come with a side of organic kale Caesar salad or mixed greens with vinaigrette. If you’re not in a bread mood, any sandwich can be made into an entrée salad. Midtown’s most popular lunch order is grilled chicken with the kale Caesar side. The sandwich, a staple on the menu since they opened, features Mary’s free-range grilled chicken, brie, aioli, and organic mixed greens. Other popular sandwiches include turkey/avocado/cheddar, which is a more recent addition to the menu and includes Diestel meat, honey mustard, and organic mixed greens. You can add bacon for an extra charge.
The flavorful coffee and espresso drinks are worth mentioning. Midtown uses Seaside-based Acme Coffee Roasters, and they’re the only venue north of Seaside that serves this coffee. Acme, operated by a local husband and wife team, roasts their own beans and supplies lots of popular restaurants in the Monterey area. Midtown also serves tea, chai, beer on tap, wine, and mimosas.
Midtown Cafe’s hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but they are also frequently open on Fridays from 5-10 p.m. Last fall, they started doing Friday night “pop-up dinners” — first cooking the food themselves. Word quickly spread to other purveyors who were interested in joining the fun. Now it’s mostly guest chefs that visit on Fridays, like H&H Fresh Fish, Back Porch, Mortal Dumpling, and Fogline Farm.