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[whitespace] Sally Please Be Seated: Bleu Spoon diners are greeted by 'Sally.'

Photograph by George Sakkestad

Lovin' Spoonful

Mimi and Bob Snowden light up the dining scene with Bleu Spoon in Aptos

By Janet Blaser

WORD OF MOUTH is a powerful force, and when it's two-fold--as in spreading the word about a good place to eat--the effect can be pretty awesome. Such seems to be the case with The Bleu Spoon, the newest venture of Mimi and Bob Snowden. This diner-come-back-to-life has been packing in a full house every night since it opened barely two weeks ago. The Snowdens, you may remember, were the founders of Aptos' Café Sparrow, still a landmark restaurant in the area. Well, the Snowdens seem to have done it again, transforming a former Chinese restaurant into a homey, American bistro with a definite diner feel.

Now, some of you old-timers may know this building from the '70s as the old Cookbook diner, and that may explain some of the crowds there already. You see, the old yellow spoon outside has been repainted blue and outlined with blue lights that beckon taste buds from afar. And on each table, you'll find a blue (bleu?) spoon with each place setting, especially useful if you order one of the "bowls" listed in the Simple Bleu Spoon Menu--but more about that later.

The interior has been redone, lightened and brightened and modernized. The kitchen is all new, and there is a delightful ambiance of kitsch and class, what with the old diner feel and the new contempo look. Seating includes a front counter that seats four on the floor, booths set diagonally into windowed walls and a back dining room that is struggling to overcome its unfortunate acoustic ceiling and cramped layout. There is a small bar in the back, too. Natural-wood tables, chairs and stools also lighten up the space, and Mimi's handmade papier-mâché sculpture next to the front door adds a touch of whimsy.

So what is on the menu? Well, everything from simple burgers to full-dinner salads. Entrees, the most expensive of which is $14.95, are all served with a cup of soup or house salad, your choice of gourmet starches (Gorgonzola spinach polenta, white-bean fricassee with herbs, hand-cut fries, smashed potatoes) and vegetable of the day. Roast chicken, brisket of beef, pork tenderloin and a "beefless" bistro steak (actually a grilled, herb-rubbed portobello), calamari, fresh fish of the day--a good selection, with a wide variety of flavors and textures.

While we're talking about soup, the Bleu Spoon's Mama's Soothing Chicken Soup, available every day, is worth a mention. The thick, creamy gravylike base was brimming with chunks of chicken, celery, carrots and other veggies. More like a stew than traditional soup--which is not a criticism, merely an observation--the soup was pleasantly spicy and certainly satisfying. The one thing I did think odd was the choice of penne noodles in this; something smaller and definitely more delicate might have been more appropriate. Also of note is the savory bowl section of the menu, devoted to everything you can eat with a spoon. You'll find Mimi's Mumbo Gumbo and a vegetarian version, too; two Thai-inspired offerings, a mussel bowl and a noodle bowl, the latter available with chicken or tofu; and a classic California cassoulet. The Bleu Spoon is at 207 Searidge in Aptos off State Park Drive--just look for the big blue spoon. I'd recommend reservations for dinner; the number to call is 685.8654. Hours are Tuesday-Friday for lunch, 11am-3pm, and dinner, 5-9pm. After the New Year, breakfast may also be available on weekends only. Note that a children's menu is available, and that the little ones are more than welcome here.

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From the December 22-29, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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