Before I tell you about the food’s flavors and the staff’s professionalism and the café’s charm, let me tell you about Benny. Benny has been waddling into the café every Sunday for the past six years, he has been taking his place of honor beneath an outdoor table and under a red umbrella, and he has been waiting patiently for delicious scraps to come his way. Okay, Benny waits not so patiently: he is not above a bit of begging or a little whimpering, like a neglected soul, for one succulent morsel. Let me be clear – Benny is not neglected. The six year old pudgy pug is a well-fed gourmand. And, in my humble opinion, Benny’s favoritism for The Crema Cafe is spot-on. (His discerning taste could be due to his lineage: his grandsire is the none other than Tugboat Willie, the first and only pug thus far to win Pug Dog Club of America’s National Specialities three times.)
On my first trip to The Crema Cafe, as on my second, the place was packed inside and out. Though I had perused the menu online, the options left me wanting one of everything so I turned to the cashier/barista/waiter for help. I only have one meal, I told him. What do you recommend? He suggested the Breakfast crepe because of its uniqueness (scrambled eggs inside) and yummy goodness (with cheese, chorizo, avocado, sour cream). When I was leaning toward the fresh fruit as a side, he shepherded me towards the roasted potatoes. He was correct in doing so – the potatoes were crisp and spicy, middle-hot and flavor-layered, and the crepe crisp and perfectly fixed – just the right amount of each ingredient so that every fork full was a blend of each flavor. I would have devoured it all except I wanted to try a sweet Simple crepe for dessert – cinnamon and
sugar drizzled with homemade caramel and a side of fresh whipped cream with a beautiful ripe strawberry for decor. None of this went to waste. On my way out, I picked up a chocolate croissant and a baguette for the five hour drive home. Both were divine, though the croissant was not quite as good as the one back home; however, the baguette tasted like one I bought my first time in Paris – only this time I had no Toblerone bar to melt between it on the train to Calais.
To taste The Crema Cafe this time, I organized my trip so I could enjoy an early Sunday morning breakfast. The Sunday regulars (Benny and company among them) give the café a welcoming atmosphere and, with the exception of this solitary writer, the tables were buzzing with laughter and talk – signs of good food. Patrons lingered over their meals, enjoying another cup of coffee from the self-serve carafes, or talking for a bit with passing friends. Their canine companions lounged about the outdoor tables, greeting canine and humans alike with a smile or tail wag.
Seating is indoors and out, and when the mornings are chilly, free-standing heaters dot the patio to ward off the crisp air. My server this Sunday morning was Jennifer. Attentive and conscientious, she smiled the entire time, whether she brought meals or bussed tables or simply walked back inside for the next order up.
Wanting to try something different, my breakfast was a spinach and mushroom and cheese crepe. Though good, it lacked in comparison to the Breakfast crepe. Its
edges contrasted well with the perfectly browned middle; however, the filling did not retain its heat, and by the time I was a third of the way through, the crepe had cooled. I also made the error of ordering the fruit in an attempt to have at least one healthy item on my plate. Next time I will throw health to the wind and order the roasted potatoes or the Belgian Waffle with whipped cream or the Buttermilk Pancake or the Roasted Vegetable Benedict smothered in hollandaise – and, of course, a sweet crepe for dessert – maybe the Caramelized Apple & Pear à la mode. Of course, I had to try a sweet crepe for dessert, and, of course, I opted for the one carrying the café’s name, the Crema Crepe. This one’s every bite delighted. Shamelessly, I combined the caramel and the whipped cream to create my own bit of heaven. While I was savoring the deliciousness, stacks of waffles floated out of the kitchen only to be inhaled by waiting diners. In fact, all food that came form the kitchen disappeared and plates were left too clean for Benny to find any scrap to lick.
Should you be in Seal Beach for a day, or passing by on your way to somewhere else, take a moment to turn down Main Street and have a delicious meal at Benny’s favorite spot, the Crema Cafe.