More than meets the eye at Camarillo's Old Town Cafe

By Allison Costa 10/06/2011

Old Town Cafe
2050 E. Ventura Blvd., Camarillo
$4.50 - $9.25

It was one of those sunny, classic Southern California mornings when we stopped in for a late breakfast at the Old Town Cafe, the petite breakfast and lunch spot at Camarillo’s Bella Capri Inn. With a few umbrella-topped tables out on the sidewalk and a handful of tables inside, the cafe is fairly nondescript in the looks department, but upon closer look, its menu offers more than meets the eye.

After being seated by one of the plate glass windows inside, our coffee arrived promptly, and we settled in to peruse the menu. What at first appears to be a short and simple list of offerings is actually a menu full of dishes with unique twists, with a bit of humor sprinkled in. Southwest eggs benedict and marinated beef kobeyashi jump out on the breakfast menu, while the Likker Burger (where the burger meets the french dip sandwich) and the Bad Boy of Sandwich (think tri-tip, chicken, bacon and fries all piled onto a hefty sandwich) jump out from the lunch offerings.

And then there are burgers and salads (one topped with steak and french fries), omelets and pancakes thrown into the mix as well.

We chose three entrees and shared them around the table. Of all the dishes, the Southwest benedict had the biggest wow factor — shocking us with its heft as it landed on the table. It was a true stack of flavors and textures: crispy fried chicken strips, smoky bacon, vibrant green spinach, fluffy eggs and salty melted cheese, all on top of two halves of a buttery English muffin. Though the menu mentioned a guajillo pink sauce, we couldn’t find it, but were more than happy with the dish as it was.

Given that you rarely see an Asian-inspired beef dish on an American breakfast menu, we couldn’t resist trying the marinated beef kobeyashi with eggs. The meat was tender, caramelized to a nice, dark brown, and expertly cooked. It was accompanied by three fluffy scrambled eggs; and with subtle hints of the soy and pineapple marinade in the background, it offered an ideal amount of flavor for the first meal of the day.

The section of the menu titled Paninis with attitude caught our eye and made us giggle as well. Though the tri-tip with siracha sauce and the panini with carnitas and tequila salsa sounded interesting, it was the Cubana torta that won our hearts. The grilled and pressed bread offered the perfect balance between soft and crunchy; and the crust cracked a little with each bite, but was soft enough to hold everything together. The tangy mustard and pickles were the perfect partners for the tender pork and ham. It is no wonder the Cubano sandwich has been a lunchtime favorite for more than 100 years.

On another visit at lunchtime, with our curiosity leading the way, we decided to tackle the Bad Boy of Sandwich, which our server likened to a “panini on steroids.” Built on the same bread as the torta, it is as massive and over-the-top as it sounds, and almost too thick to bite into. Though it was fun to experience all the different flavors — beef, chicken, bacon and french fries — together, there was almost a bit too much going on for my taste. In contrast, the chicken panini was straightforward, with sliced chicken breast, melted cheese and a bright-green cilantro pesto.
All of the dishes come with a choice of fruit, french fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings or homefries. Of all the options we tried, we loved the large serving of fresh fruit and the homefries the most. They are unlike any other breakfast potatoes I’ve ever encountered — a mix of chunks of potato and pieces cut thin like potato chips. All were fried until crispy, and we reveled in the nice contrast of the two sizes of potatoes and the different textures.

The service at the Old Town Cafe is friendly and prompt, and the prices are reasonable, with the most expensive item on the menu ringing in at just under $10. Whether you’re looking for breakfast or lunch, something sweet or savory, the hearty portions, interesting flavor combinations and the sense of humor at the Old Town Cafe are sure to delight.    
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