.Gabriella Café’s Brunch is a Reason to Rise and Shine

Breakfast tacos, the classic Americano, expertly prepared bacon and unforgettable rosemary roast potatoes will carry you through the week

Is Sunday brunch the ultimate comfort meal? I’d say so. It’s right up there with ravioli and red wine, or birthday cake and ice cream. Name your favorite—I’ll bet that Sunday brunch is in the mix.

In the case of that downtown treasure Gabriella Cafe, Sunday brunch also happens on Saturday. By the time we arrived last Sunday, there were boisterous, if laid-back, diners both indoors and out. The narrow entry patio was filled, and several of the parklet tables as well.

Here’s why: Gabriella’s Brunch menu actually offers both breakfast and lunch. Half the menu lists incredible morning items, like waffles with fruit and whipped cream (we spotted an 8-year-old moaning with delight over his massive waffle order), eggs Florentine, hash and eggs, chilaquiles and various omelets. The other half of the menu includes sensuous entrees including tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce, steak and polenta, porcini gnocchi and the house’s famed Rodoni Farm Brussels sprouts.

We have our own destination brunch items, flavor combinations that get us out of bed on Sunday morning en route to Gabriella. One is a classic Breakfast Americano ($15), a plate of perfection involving what is easily the finest bacon on offer. Cut generously, yet distinctly lean, this bacon feels like the slenderized version of pork belly. The fabulous bacon is organized alongside a pile of addictive rosemary roast potatoes, and crowned by your choice of eggs. My go-to eggs are poached—I spear first one, then the other, and let their gorgeous yolks ooze all over the potatoes before digging in.

My companion’s favorite is the huge plate of Breakfast Tacos ($17), in which a pair of tortillas has been piled high with warm-from-the-skillet scrambled eggs, calabrese sausage and black beans. This abundance of flavors and textures is rendered baroque by being topped with shredded cabbage, sliced avocado and drizzled crème fraiche. Add some of the house salsa (to-die-for thick spicy salsa) and a few ribbons of carrot just for extra color and texture—oh, and a mound of those amazing rosemary roast potatoes—and you have frankly more than any human deserves. Or can finish! We invariably take half our potatoes home for dinner.

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We like to bookend our brunch with glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice ($5/small), sometimes a Mimosa and a small French press pot of rich strong coffee ($3). 

Gabriella Cafe, 910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tuesday-Friday, 11am-2pm (lunch); Tuesday-Saturday, 5-9pm (dinner); 10am-2:30pm (brunch). gabriellacafe.com.

Bad Animal’s Thai

Meanwhile at Bad Animal, the new Thai cookery by Lalita Kaewsawang, Hanloh Thai, fills the dining menu with intriguingly spiced items such as pan-fried roti stuffed with curried sweet potatoes; fried chicken rubbed in coriander and sweet-and-sour sauce; and shitake mushrooms, tofu and vegetables with glass noodles. The perfect moment to sample this exciting new menu, along with a varietal from the distinctive wine list, might be this coming Sunday, Nov. 6. Start by taking in the book launch celebration and reading for Cafe Vernacular: The Art of Tom Bottoms by local painter and UCSC professor emeritus Frank Galuszka from 3-5pm. After schmoozing and reading from Cafe Vernacular, you will have worked up an appetite for the in-house Thai cookery. Purchase a glass of wine for the reading and make reservations for Thai dinner following the book launch. 

Bad Animal, 1011 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Open Wednesday-Sunday, noon-9pm (until 10pm Friday and Saturday). badanimalbooks.com.

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