On a brisk rainy day along West Cliff Drive, it’s hard to beat the view of the wind-whipped waves from the front porch of Steamer Lane Supply, where hard-working innovative cuisinartist Fran Grayson runs a very tight ship. A trio of surfers skipped the actual surf in favor of lunch treats from SLS and I joined them, awaiting my call-in order.
The menu here is so dreamy it could provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for any adventurous diner. Fusion Mexican ideas are here laced with kimchi and ingenious slaws, as well as salsas and gloriously original seasonings. Back home, our lunch order fulfilled the SLS promise of confident, high-wattage flavors and colorful presentation. Even wrapped snugly in foil and biodegradable boxes.
For sheer freshness and beauty, not much beats the house bowls (all gluten-free!), and that day we went for the albacore tuna salad bowl ($10.25). Generously mounded into a box, this bounty of smart ideas began with tuna, but didn’t stop there. Next to the tuna salad sat brown rice and Napa cabbage in a light dressing, and next to that a row of the delicious house pickles. Layers of seaweed salad (nice surprise), sliced ripe avocado and an addictive helping of spun carrots—all spiced in ginger mayo and topped with plump sun sprouts. That’s a lot of compelling gastro-entertainment for around ten bucks.
Our chicken tamale, packed into a thick masa wrapping (easier to eat right out of the hand, but thicker than I might prefer), was topped with drizzles of sour cream, queso fresco and transformational salsa verde. Seriously filling for a mere five bucks.
But then … then there was the life-changing Vegandilla. SLS offers a long menu of variations on the justly popular quesadilla. Dillas with scrambled eggs, with kale, with pulled pork, with Kimchi, with tuna, and the sexiest variation—the Vegandilla ($8.95). Pro tip: just because you may be a devoted carnivore, as we are, you shouldn’t avoid checking out the vegan side of a sophisticated menu. Our “toasty pressed burrito” (as the SLS menu describes it) involved a large rectangle pocket of tortilla (really large), filled with a layer of wildly unexpected goodies. Curried tofu salad, pickled veggies, seaweed, even brown rice and curry-intensive sambals. Frankly phenomenal. We couldn’t stop eating until this really large pressed burrito was consumed. And when I was through eating it, I wanted another one. No higher praise.
Eventually we will eat our way through Grayson’s entire menu and back again. But it will be almost impossible to go to this very Santa Cruz seaside pit-stop without bringing home one of those outrageous Vegandillas. Steamer Lane Supply is a local treasure that should be on everyone’s short list of go-to depots of fantastic flavors. Open daily, 8am-5pm.
Steamer Lane Supply, 698 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 831-316-5240; steamerlanesc.com.
Can’t wait for the opening of the new restaurant home of chef Katherine Stern, mostly recently the chef-in-residence at Bad Animal. Her incredible handiwork (available through her farmer’s market Midway outlet) will finally find its own home on Soquel Avenue, where Oyunaa’s Mongolian Cuisine held forth for many years. The word is that Stern’s new place could open early in 2023. For those of us who recall her incredible years as chef and menu designer at La Posta, this new dining showcase for her considerable skills can’t come soon enough … Farewell to longtime Santa Cruz chef Scott Cater, whose culinary expertise powered the kitchen of Casablanca for many years, and most recently Paradise Beach Grille in Capitola. Such a skillful hand with seafood specialties—thanks for the memories, Scott.