Hoffman's in Downtown Santa Cruz for Brunch
Y and I had the pleasure of meeting up w/ Alice Patis and her husband for Sat. morning brunch at Hoffman's. Located in downtown on Pacific, it's the kind of place that I walk by all the time and take for granted. The menu is pretty straightahead American cafe w/ Californian or European touches. What's nice is that they have a full bakery, so their baked goods are made in house. It's a pretty big operation since they also have a coffee bar w/ specialty coffees and make wedding cakes. Not to mention they open everyday from 8-9pm and have jazz on most nights.
Here's their current weekend brunch menu (kudos to them for keeping everything updated!): http://www.hoffmansbakery.com/weekend.htm
Alice and her husband both ordered variations on the 3 egg omelets. Seafood combo for her and "Green Giant" combo for him. Egg dishes come w/ choice of hashbrowns or cafe potatoes, and cafe potatoes it was for both. Y got a variant on the standard Eggs Benedict by ordering the one w/ house-cured gravlax. All come on Hoffman's own sourdough bread, which may turn some off, although they might be able to accommodate substitutions. He got the hashbrowns on the side. I'm always on the hunt for a good waffle since I don't make them at home, so I ordered their waffle w/ the added option of tropical fruit (which I thought would come on the side, but more on that later). Three of us ordered regular coffee (they carry our favorite SC Coffee Roasting Co.) and one got the mocha w/ ganache.
A really nice touch is that they start you off w/ a complimentary basket of scones...one for each person. One was currant and the other was a spiced walnut. Here are photos of our spread along w/ prices: http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow...
Overall, I thought brunch was very pleasant. The food alone didn't bowl me over, but the ingredients were generally good, prices fair, and food was lighter and healthier (ie, not loaded w/ fat or salt) than most places. Good if you're watching what you eat or don't want to nap afterwards. I liked the fluffy, tender texture of the omelets, but was lukewarm on the fillings. Y's benedict came w/ three small poached eggs w/ rich, orange yolks but not left as runny as I like. Gravlax tasted good w/ a bit of dill, and the sauce was competent but not as dreamy as Canteen's in SF. The scones were probably my favorite part of the meal...
I was disappointed w/ my waffle since it wasn't as crispy or light as advertised, and the fruit came on top and not on the side, which made it even more soggy. While the fruit was fresh and fairly flavorful, I didn't care for the shredded coconut which made it really taste like dessert. Next time, I'll go for something more savory or maybe try the cheese blintzes.
I'm glad we made an OpenTable reservation since it was completely full at 11am w/ a short wait. They did bungle it up by giving our booth to another party, but they were apologetic and gave us some options. We waited for about 5-10 min. before getting a nice, comfy booth. The company was great as usual, and I felt vindicated when I saw Alice be directive about what her husband should order (I do the same thing!).
I feel like this place has potential, so what might be the gems among everything they offer? How about pastries? Also, any place to get a really good Belgian-style waffle in SC County?
What I really liked at Hoffman's was that the menu had so much to choose from, including basics (some with a litte twist) plus harder to find dishes. Not often that you see chilaquiles on the same menu as eggs benedict (using sourdough toast) and potatoes tofu saute. I could see coming back many times to try everything.
I agree that the food was not very special, but the choice of ingredients were good, and the prices quite low considering the atmosphere & ingredients you get. My seafood omelette was a little bland, it was monotonous in color and taste. Some chopped scallions would've helped. And salt. But they get points for real crab, not surimi. Ironically I chose this omelet because it doesn't have cheese, but I ended up wishing it had cheese or something to give it some oomph. In all the filling was weak. Or maybe it was the egg part of the omelette that was weak. It was dry (almost crumbly), and the pale uniform yellow didn't help with the monotony. I guess I was hoping for a french style quick-cooked omelette with the filling melded into the egg. This is definitely slower cooked dry omelette wrapped around a filling.
The green giant omelette had the same dry egg but the combination in the filling was tastier, with the feta cheese a salty point to the artichokes, spinach & asparagus. I enjoyed the taste I had of the eggs benedict w/ gravlax except that the sourdough toast was quite crusty and hard to cut, and like CL said, the yolk could be runnier (the yolk bottom was solid).
I would've tasted CL's waffle if it didn't have the coconut on top and after hearing her say it wasn't very crispy I knew I'd just echo her disappointment. But you get real maple syrup here.
Oh, and the cafe potatoes were kind of bland, a few crispy bits but not enough herbs or anything to make it more than just some cubes of potato. The hash browns looked nicely browned.
Oh, and hubby & I agree those scones were a hit, although we're not usually big on baked goods. The walnut spice was very tasty and unique (and I think it had whole wheat) and the currant scone had almost like a thin crispy layer on the crust. Very well done.
I too think this place has potential. It seems more special than your regular american breakfast cafe, but has the same prices as a regular place.