Soscol Cafe. Corned Beef Hash? / long
- gordon wing
Yesterday morning I made the journey up to Napa and had breakfast at the Soscol Cafe. As I was pulling up about 6 folks arrived and got in before me, so I had to wait for a seat. This was OK because it gave me an opportunity to check the "scene" out...it was really abuzz with activity and conversation. 10 or 12 counter seats and 7 or 8 booths around the perimeter- all full of folks with large platters of food. The Huevos Rancheros looked very good...a fried flour tortilla base, lots of black beans, two eggs, salsa, sour cream, and maybe green onions and /or guacamole. One guy, Javier? was doing the lion's share of the cooking and was very fun to watch...very efficient, very calm. My meal got off to a rough start when the orange juice I sipped was on the edge of fermenting- just beginning to turn but not dramatically so. I sipped a bit more just to make sure and finally decided to ask for some water and told the waitress that the OJ was off. She quickly offered a fresh glass - with a smile. The guy next to me also mentioned that his OJ was off and got a new glass....It's interesting how hard it is for most diners to ask for something even when it is justified. If I hadn't brought it up the gentleman next to me probably wouldn't have said a word. Moving on... I ordered the corned beef hash-which was a surprise. I have to admit I bring some expectations along when I order this dish.
This version started out on the grill with a handful of julienned lean corned beef-fried cooked until semi crisp and then onions and potatoes are added and all of it cooked until the corned beef is pretty crispy. When it is turned out onto the plate it doesn't hold together - it's more like a scramble of ingredients. The corned beef julienne was lean and a bit on the dry side, although crispy. My ideal corned beef hash is a tender mix of rich(some fat) corned beef and small potato dice with a nice crust. Some onion in there is OK. Definitely not a traditional interpretation. I'd go for the Huevos or an omelette next time. The home fries were a bit mushy for my taste, also. He was doing such a volume of business that they didn't have time or room on the flat top to crisp up. Although, I didn't have the experience I was hoping for - I'm glad that places still exist. Most of the customers were local and knew the waitresses and/or cooks - there was a great energy here.
It makes me miss Ann's Cafe in Oakland all the more!
Gordon, I am so saddened and dismayed to read this post from you. I very much wanted you to love Soscol Cafe as much as I do. I've had maybe 6 meals there now and only one was not a rave.
I re-read my original post and don't think I lead anyone astray on the corned beef "hash" (pasted below). There's no excuse for mushy home fries though - crisp brown edges should be de rigeur.
Do you think my chowhound judgement has been unduly influenced by the romantic ambiance of the place? (vbg)
"The corned beef hash is made with strips and hunks of corned beef and home fry-style seasoned potatoes
for a man to sink his teeth into. Some of the pieces of meat are a little too chewy for my
taste, but I love the concept. A platterful of the corned beef hash, 2 eggs, the best hash
browns around (I order them "well" for extra crunch), and toast is $5, plus tax and tip."
re: Melanie Wong
the Soscol Cafe has a lot going for it - many of us would love to have a warm, friendly place to go and have a good hearty breakfast/lunch for a few bucks.
Even though I didn't care for their version of corned beef hash, I probably will be back to try something else at a future date. It probably won't be on a weekend however. I think he may be overextending himself on those very busy times...the size of the flat top and the number of burners will only allow someone to do so many meals - no matter how skilled they are. At the now closed Ann's Cafe she only had a flat top grill to work off but she only had 12 or so seats to cook for amd was able to banter with all the customers. (When the Soscol Cafe is full it seats maybe 32+?) There was no such thing as a quick meal here. But it was worth waiting for and always entertaining. Sorry, I didn't mean to dampen your enthusiasm for the Soscol Cafe.
re: gordon wing
No, you didn't dampen my own enthusiasm at all. I hope you'll give it another go because I think Javier is a great short order cook.
As you mentioned the huevos rancheros look great - a plate was up when I was last there. Each time I go I pick what I have to order next time! It'll be the huevos or what's called a Napa beef sandwich. I'm working my way through the menu but the daily specials keep sidetracking me.
You make a good point about being overextended. He's got a big lunch take-out business too. I've been there either at 11:30 or 1pm, avoiding peak cooking times.
re: Melanie Wong
Last week I had the chance to chowdown at Soscol again and ordered the huevos rancheros. A winner here for something like $5.50. Two big flour tortillas are deep-fried as the base, covered with a scoop of really tasty black beans, topped with two eggs, melted jack and cheddar cheese, guacamole, salsa fresca, sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped scallions. The black beans are just the right firmness in a creamy base and studded with bits of carrots, zucchini and aromatic veggies. I ordered my eggs over easy, and they were perfect as usual. Javier covers the eggs with cheese and then pops the skillet in the oven to melt. The guacamole is suprisingly spicy and has bits of cilantro, onion and visible jalapeño chilis. I would have liked more salsa fresca and should have asked for an extra portion on the side. This would have livened up the balance and made it seem less heavy. This is a goody - I recommend it, but ask for more salsa.
The omelets don't look that appealingn to me. Too done, and the scrambled eggs too. But i'm sure if I'd ordered them more loose, Javier would hit it spot on.
Sitting at the counter, I saw several orders of seafood pasta being prepped. The sauce is heavy cream, white wine, butter, diced tomatoes, scallions and sun-dried tomatoes plus sauteed rock shrimp. The linguine is pre-cooked and reheated in the pan with the sauce. Topped with a blizzard of grated cheese. Looks awfully good for $6.50. Think that's what I'll get next time.