In Good Taste
Still a familiar menu but big changes are on the horizon
By D.K. Crawford 01/12/2012
Savory Cafe and Bakery
419 E. Main St.
Savory Cafe was bought in August 2010 by comedian Andres Fernandez (Andy), who owns both the Ventura Harbor Comedy Club and Andreas Wine Bar, also in the harbor. I was curious upon my visit there to see what had changed and what had remained the same.
Savory is a gorgeous, light-filled, high-ceilinged, open-air restaurant with both a covered dining area, and a deli dessert case in the back, and a sprinkling of iron tables outside. In the heart of downtown, sitting outside is always colorful. Along with watching parking enforcement officers scrutinize a diagonal parking job in front of us, we saw proud Ventura citizens casually stroll by in their pajamas, breathed in puffs of smoke released by passersby and fed the tiny sparrows hopping around the tables some crumbs. You can also add a festive beer or glass of bubbly to enhance your dining experience.
The menu appeared pretty much the same — mostly breakfasts and lunches — but showed hints of change. As we sat and ate, slowly the story unfolded, and what began as a simple review quickly morphed into a preview and glimpse of what “will be.”
On the breakfast menu the sweet potato griddle cakes with candied pecans sounded sinful and the crab cake benedict with a jalapeño beurre blanc spoke to us, but, alas, it was noon so we looked toward the lunch menu.
There was also a “betwixt” menu offered all day — honestly, we’d have been pleased with it alone. The build-your-own Savory crepe and the BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato on a mini-loaf) sounded fun, as did the crabby patties. For lunch, our waiter recommended the Cristo sandwich with such enthusiasm, we couldn’t say no. We also added the salmon spinach salad and the crabby cakes to start. Most options on the menu are in the $12-$15 range, so we stopped at three items.
Dishes were presented elegantly. Tall cones of pommes frites (fries) were served up in tin buckets and some sandwiches came in square pewter dishes. We were excited when we received our plates. Everything leading up to that moment, from the service to the menu descriptions to the presentation, was pleasant.
We first sampled the crab cakes and pondered. They were looser, not bound together, and less crispy than the average crab cake; and the sauce with them, listed as a jalapeño beurre blanc, was very lemony (read acidic) and overpowering, if we got much of it. The individual flavors were delightful yet the details of temperature and the execution weren’t quite there.
The Caprese Cristo sandwich also looked stunning. Listed as “grown-up grilled cheese,” we excitedly anticipated our first, melted bite. But it also wasn’t quite as expected. The bread, though it appeared grilled, didn’t have any crunch; and with the cheeses, pesto and tomato, it was a bit soggy. The flavors were also wonderful on their own (yummy house-made pesto and kalamata olive bread), but together they sadly got lost. The fries were also not as crisp and delicious as they looked.
The salmon salad was, for me, the saving grace. The salmon could have been cooked a bit less, but it was a beautiful piece of fish, and the fresh spinach leaves, candied pecans and blackberry vinaigrette were a fresh, vibrant, gorgeous combination. We agreed it was the dish that most came together that afternoon.
An evolution: Savory Cafe will be evolving into a more NY-style deli.
Photo by: DK Crawford
As we ate, the chef came out and started checking in with the tables, and to my intrigue the couple next to us brought up their issues with the fries. Andy (the chef/owner) handled it beautifully and shared with them, and us later, his vision for the restaurant.
For now, Savory is still serving the same menu plus a few new items, like hand-rolled New York-style bagels and with flavored cream cheeses. Andy’s also added melts and a signature burger to the menu, and started serving a prix-fix dinner a few nights a week with one entrée option, salad and dessert for $15.95. But his dream for Savory lies far beyond the current menu.
His goal is to change it from a service-oriented restaurant to a deli-style establishment — something downtown Ventura is seriously lacking and something someone originally from New York, as Andy is, might know a bit about.
He also wants to bring in entertainment in the evenings and serve food into the wee hours at night — another thing Ventura has very little of.
So it appears Savory Café itself is “betwixt” — somewhere between where it was and where it hopes to be.
For us, the execution wasn’t complete with the current menu, but when listening to Andy speak of his future plans, we could feel how excited he is about bringing a little piece of NY to Ventura. I look forward to watching his vision unfold.
For more of DK Crawford’s writing and photography, go to www.thefoodsavant.blogspot.com.