Tuesday, September 28, 2010

“What Part of Retirement . . .”

I asked my Favorite Traveling Companion, “don’t you understand?”

As we were walking into the Mission Café in San Juan Bautista, Chuck spies a flyer taped to the café’s window: For Sale…$80,000.00. Suddenly, I had visions of rising at 4:00 a.m. to “make the donuts.” Not on your life.

The Mission Café, constructed about 1856, is a a block from the Plaza Hotel. The Plaza was built in 1858 by Angelo Zanetta and has been restored to look as it did in the 1860's.

Zanetta also built what he hoped would be the county courthouse, but when Hollister was chosen as the county seat, the first floor of Plaza Hall was modified to serve as his family's residence, while the second floor was used for public meetings and celebrations.

This Mission Cafe had been closed for a number of years and reopened in March 2008. Those who knew the café in both its past and present lives say that nothing has changed all that much.

In the front window is a large table for six or eight. Along the side are four four-seater booths. In the middle are four small tables for two and there are ten stools at the counter. So max, this place, which is open only for breakfast and lunch, seats forty-two.

The floor is red and white tiles in a checker board pattern.

The valances are made of black and white checked fabric. The walls are decorated with old photographs, both of local scenes and of unidentified persons. And the window sills contained curios--many of a South of the Boarder variety.

The breakfast menu is extensive, but I fortunately had read a few on-line reviews and noted one reviewer had raved about the San Juan Special. This was a take on Eggs Benedict substituting sautéed fresh vegetables for the traditional Canadian bacon or ham. Sounded good to me.

What came was more than just good. I was scrumptious. First, the toasted English muffin was crisp, but could still be cut with a fork. Have you ever had Eggs Benedict where the muffin can’t be cut with a steak knife? I have. Second, the eggs were perfectly poached with no runny white and lots of runny yolk. Third, all of the veggies were cooked to crisp tender. The sautéed mushrooms had never seen a can and the spinach had never seen a freezer. And the large chunks of tomato were warm, but not mushy. The hollandaise was rich, but was light on the lemon. But this omission was rectified by the acid in the chopped tomatoes.

With this came a large serving of hash browns, cooked crisp as I requested. I am sure that ninety percent of the time, restaurant hash browns are poured frozen from a bag. So my standard of measure is whether, under the crisp shell, they retain some form of texture integrity. No soft mushy center for me, please.

Chuck eyed a breakfast that included eggs, chicken fried steak, home fries, and your choice of toast or a pancake. Cooler heads prevailed and he realized that this was too much even for him. Instead, he asked our server if he could just have the home fries and the chicken fried steak. “No problem.” she replied. So he received a good sized piece of very tender steak that had been crusted with a very good seasoned coating and then covered with equally good sausage gravy. The gravy almost made me with that I had ordered the biscuits and grave. Almost.

His home fries were made with new white skin-on potatoes, grilled with bell pepper slices and onions. If they had been my home fries, I would liked them crisper. But they were his home fries, and he seemed to think they were just fine.

I don’t think this breakfast counts as the “more interesting food” that he referred to yesterday. Still, this was a very good diner breakfast and still merits a 4.0 Addie rating.

I went outside while Chuck was paying the check. When he came out he tells me that he had been talking with one of the staff about the café being for sale. “Oh, No,” I thought. Then he told me that the purchase price does not include the building. Just the equipment and furnishings and the café’s “good will.”

I dodged a bullet this time!

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