Supposedly, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I mean, it’s right there in the name—it is literally breaking the fast that you have been (theoretically) engaging in since last night’s dinner. A good breakfast sets the table for a successful day like no other meal can, and I had long been hearing such good things about Zachary’s morning offerings that I decided to try them for myself.
Now, by morning, I mean almost afternoon. Like 11am, at the earliest. This is the time a night owl like me considers ideal for breakfast. Luckily, they serve it all day, from 7am-2:30pm Tuesday-Sunday. I walked in recently and was greeted immediately and offered not only a table, but also coffee right away—a nice service touch. Once seated, my prompt, friendly and efficient server came by and offered to help with the menu. But I already knew what I wanted: the ham and egg breakfast and the famous sourdough pancakes that have been made using the same starter since the 1989 earthquake. Waiting for my food, I basked in the ambiance. Rich hardwood floors are complemented by industrial accents in a space bigger than it looks from the street, with a mostly open concept and an airy and roomy feel thanks to high ceilings. The whole place had classic local-favorite diner feels. The food showed up in short order, and as I looked at my table, now full of all the good breakfast things, my only question was where to begin?
I decided to start with the ultimate foundational breakfast item: eggs. I got them scrambled, which are easy to do, but not so easy to do well. Good scramblers take constant attention and love, and mine got plenty of both. They came out light and fluffy with just a little chew, and had no browned spots, burnt edges or crispy skin-like parts. The ham was impressive, too. I got thick cut slabs, resembling two gigantic Trivial Pursuit pie pieces made of pork that tasted like they had just been carved off a homemade holiday roast. Lightly seared, lean and meaty, they had just a touch of smokey flavor. Even for a cured product, it had a fresh taste—no lunch meat vibes here.
From there, it was time to try their signature home-fried potatoes. I was given a local’s hack to order them extra crispy, and I was more than glad that I did. Not only were they some of the best home fries I had ever had, the portion was generously hearty to say the least. There were onions mixed throughout, and the savory seasoning blend was on-point and present, yet not too bold for breakfast. My texture-fiend palette was wooed by the crispy chunks and edges throughout, and the extra cooking also imparted subtly bitter notes that rounded out the flavors of the entire meal.
It was then time to try the homemade toast. Even many fine dinner houses do not bake their own bread, and the fact that Zachary’s does is impressive. Options include sourdough and oatmeal molasses, but I opted for the dark rye. I got two thick, lightly toasted slices that definitely had that homemade thing going on: dense and bready with good chew, juxtaposed with a yeasty light and fresh flavor. And I found it to be a milder rye, with just enough of that uniquely spiced and nutty signature taste.
The sourdough pancakes were a strong finish. The real maple syrup with predominant notes of caramel was a perfect complement, and the pancakes themselves certainly lived up to the hype. They were light, thin and restrained with regards to sweetness. They weren’t dense or heavy at all like many other pancakes can be, and the flavor was delightfully delicate with just a kiss of sourdough tang for levity and complexity. The entire meal was simply delicious and a great value, too—I feel like I damn near had half the menu on my table and my bill was only $20. I can’t believe it took me so long to get here, and I’ll be back.
Zachary’s, 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-0646; zacharyssantacruz.com.