Resistance is futile at Savory Cafe

Resistance is futile at Savory Cafe

03/26/2009

Savory Cafe & Bakery
419 E. Main St.
Ventura
652-7092

$8.95- $14.95

Upon entering this quaint downtown eatery, where guests are seated at neat little tables in an enclosed courtyard, I was struck immediately by the atmosphere — part European café, part chill coffee shop, and part gourmet bakery. With its open, patio-style dining room that allows diners to be outside and inside at the same time, Savory is the only restaurant of its kind in Ventura.

Complete with warm sunshine pouring in, little birds hopping around, and great people watching, Savory is great for a romantic lunch, brunch with friends, and even laid-back enough to bring the kids. The only things that take away from the atmosphere are the strangely mismatched chairs (some of which scream hotel banquet hall) and the sometimes odd choice of rock music coming out of the speakers. Additionally, guests often seem confused upon entering — do I seat myself or wait to be seated? Nevertheless, the food and service outshine any of the restaurants little quirks.

The breakfast options make it hard to choose between sweet or savory — from brioche French toast to savory crepes to omelets, there are many great options to suit your mood. One of the stars is the pomme frites — brown and crisp, dusted with coarse sea salt and served with your choice of remoulade dipping sauce (basil, barbecue or caramelized onion with roasted garlic). Hey, who doesn’t love her own tin bucket of fries sitting in a cone of crisp parchment paper? Every time I visited, I couldn’t resist ordering something that came with the pomme frites — they are totally worth every bit of the splurge.

The omelets are made to order, and customers can choose from a variety of unusual fillings — including jalapenos, brie, roasted garlic and even crème fraiche. Always cooked to perfection, they are just the right size. Another winner is the sweet-potato griddle cakes — topped with candied pecans and whipped cream. Crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, they’ll make your sweet tooth smile. And if you’re not in the mood for a gigantic serving, the side order of pancakes is a good choice — just enough to fill you up. If you’re grabbing a coffee and treat to go, the bakery counter is the place to hit — from blueberry teacakes to muffins to shiny, gigantic chocolate chip scones (crisp on the outside, soft and full of chocolate inside), willpower doesn’t stand a chance here.

Another great brunch choice is the huevos rancheros — eggs cooked to your liking, served over a blue corn arepa, and topped with a black bean and corn salsa, cilantro, avocado and cotija cheese. If you haven’t had this South American delicacy before, think thick pancake meets corn bread, and you’ve got an arepa. The use of the arepa instead of a tortilla sets this dish apart from all the other huevos I’ve eaten. The arepa was buttery and crisp, and coupled with the blue corn, it conjured up the same cozy feeling I get whenever I eat good, southern cornbread. And with a layer of melted cheese, buttery eggs, salsa and all the other toppings, the flavors sang together — the perfect balance of sweet, salty, spicy and cooling.

The lunch menu is equally exciting — ranging from soups and salads to macaroni and cheese to crab cakes. The Kobe burger is one of those items that make you blush a bit when the server puts it in front of you because of its giant, towering presence (especially if you choose the bucket of fries to go with it). But once you bite into its juiciness (topped with bacon, caramelized onions and blue cheese), the whole world and your embarrassment just melt away. The side salad was mediocre — as the carrots, tomatoes and chickpeas seemed like a random selection of toppings, but the blackberry balsamic vinaigrette accompanying it was perfectly emulsified and even had small chunks of blackberry in it, telling you it was the real deal. The dressing was so good; it took the salad from mediocre to great.

A variety of drink options are offered but my favorite is the very generous glass of wine — which adds to your desire to sit and linger over the meal. Sodas are out of the can and overpriced. My chai latte was really good, lots of nice foam and served in a nice heavy mug, but it wasn’t hot enough.

Each time I dined there, I found that I didn’t want the meal to end, it’s the kind of place I wanted to linger (and that’s not the giant glass of wine speaking). The servers never made me feel rushed, even when they were getting ready to close after lunch service. Although it has a few idiosyncrasies, this is a great destination for locals and out-of-towners, offering something for everyone at your table.

Allison Costa is a seasoned cook, restaurant enthusiast, and lover of all things food, cooking, and eating. She lives in Ventura with her family.

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