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updated: Jan 08, 2011, 9:45 AM
By Ms. Lemonjelly
I think I've mentioned this before: a friend once said to me, "What's the difference between an ordinary breakfast and an extraordinary one?" I gave up. "About five dollars."
At the time she was referring to a popular breakfast spot on State Street, but it applies at the Hungry Cat, and I happen to really like brunch here.
My friend wasn't nitpicking over the warmth of the bread, the kind of coffee, or whether it has shelf-stable creamer packets on the table. It just comes down to whether you're willing to pay a little more to receive a greater payback. By that I mean quality, rather than quantity. The folks at the Hungry Cat source locally, including our farmers markets, local breweries and local wineries. Their fresh fruit cocktails are amazing, and a great deal if you hit up their happy hours. But my treat at the Hungry Cat is brunch.
I think their brunch is under appreciated. Or maybe under advertised? While people are queued up out the door at other breakfast spots, I've always found peace and quiet at the HC's weekend brunch. The cooks are not under pressure; so sitting at the bar can be fun with banter, or asking questions about what they're cooking, since the kitchen is right there practically in open space.
One friend got the "market frittata" with breakfast potatoes and toasted ciabatta. It's not what I've learned is a frittata, seemed more like a scramble to me, but I've seen this done at other restaurants and called frittata so okay, fine. This cost $12.
Another friend normally gets the classic bacon, eggs and potatoes, but this combination was not offered on the menu today. But they could be done as a la carte items from the sides menu. Two eggs for $4, breakfast potatoes for $4 and their delicious house cured bacon for $6 (I've seen it for sale in the past at C'est Cheese). $14 for all.
And I had the Hungry Cat Cobb Salad. Coming in at $16, it's a gorgeous combination of fresh crab, shrimp, chicken, bacon, avocado, citrus, hard cooked egg and long slices of pecorino over lettuce. It is also my favorite Cobb Salad in town. The citrus is orange and grapefruit, each peeled completely of its segment skins. The bacon comes thickly diced. And the dressing on it all is light and faintly spiced with curry, giving it a subtle exotic creamy flavor rather than the strongly salty tangy flavor of a more traditional Cobb Salad that uses blue cheese.
That's all we had for this recent New Year's brunch, but I've been a number of times in the past and taken pictures. The following photos are from past trips, I've checked out the menu and everything's still listed, or only modified for seasonality.
Yes, a photo of water. I actually often take photos of my water. I love water! The Hungry Cat uses a filtering and carbonation system called Natura. It takes regular tap water (go local!) and makes it yummy and fizzy. A flat charge of $2.50 provides fizzy or still water, on par with good quality bottled water, for the whole table with unlimited top ups. I know of one other restaurant in town that uses Natura water and it's also an excellent place that focuses on local ingredients. Kudos for using Natura water rather than bottled water.
Telegraph beer - props for serving beer from one of Santa Barbara's own, from the Telegraph Brewing Company. This is their flagship beer, California Ale. They also serve it in smaller glasses, for those who don't want a whole pint.
Cheese plate - the cheeses vary, but the price has always hovered around the same: 3 for $15 or 4 for $18. Really good stuff.
The Greyhound Proper was the first cocktail I had at the Hungry Cat and remains one of my favorites, mainly because of the house made, candied grapefruit they garish it with. I've sat at the counter and watched them make the candied peel before.
Meyer lemon parfait. I took this photo nearly two years ago, and it's one of my favorite food photos. And it's still on the menu. $6.
The Hungry Cat
1134 Chapala St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
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