Howdy folks. It’s Monday again. MINION MONDAY. I love this whole “let someone else write for Monday” thing.
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Tucked in near the Del Mar Horse Park, Cafe Cantata sits at the forefront of the recently revamped Flower Hill Promenade. Though we weren’t on our way to play with the ponies, Allison and I were both excited to be invited to the newly opened cafe that offers comfort food in a setting that’s not unlike a relaxed living room – something that is definitely unique to the area.
The restaurant seating is actually split into two large areas – one indoor and another outside on the patio. The two are joined by large, wide windows lined with counter seating that can be used as a desk where you can get some work done even if you’re not composing the next great American novel.
This is actually one of the biggest highlights of the cafe. The founder and owner, Johan Engman, envisioned the space as a place where people loved to gather – whether it was to catch up on some work, find a nice corner to study, or decompress with some live music on Thursday evenings after a long day at the office. The decor is quirky and fun, with lots of rustic dark wood tables, big leather couches, and colorful wall coverings. I was particularly a fan of the wall covered in shipping pallets, adorned with some rather apt coffee-related quotes.
The menu is mainly focused on light, healthy breakfast and lunch options, along with a nice selection of pastries. It’s not a huge selection, but concentrated on providing a handful of well-tailored choices. Hungry from the hectic work week that I had just completed, I opted for the breakfast burrito and a large mug of their house blend coffee. Allison was craving french toast, so she decided to be adventurous and ordered the gluten-free cinnamon raisin version along with a Mexican hot chocolate.
Mugs in hand, we chose a small table in the back corner. The coffee was a nice house blend from Cafe Moto, served piping hot. Normally a fan of their roasts, I wasn’t super impressed by the flavor. The mild roast provided a little bit of tang on the sides of your tongue, but nothing really amazing. The hot chocolate was also disappointing. You could only taste a tiny hint of the chocolate and the temperature was luke warm.
Not ones to be easily dismayed, we eagerly awaited our breakfasts. Shortly after we sat down, one of the very friendly servers brought over our orders.
The breakfast burrito looked great and was served with a welcome side of fresh fruit. After taking my first bite, I was impressed by the soft, chewy tortilla and big chunks of creamy, ripe avocado. The small cup of homemade salsa also added a good amount of heat to the savory combination of eggs, tomatoes and slices of bacon. Overall, it was satisfying if not life changing.
The french toast plating was lovely. Accented with sliced strawberries and a lemon marmalade syrup, it was very inviting. Taking our first bites, we were introduced to a rather dense bread. It was very similar to fruit cake, even with the slight inkling of crust from the frying. The syrup was very tangy and sweet simultaneously, which helped some when added to the toast, but we couldn’t get over the texture. We’re not sure if the consistency issue was due to our lack of experience with gluten-free items, but I can’t say that we enjoyed the plate.
I really wanted to give the cafe a rave review, as I’m a big fan of the atmosphere and the fact that it seemed to have so much soul – especially compared to the other local options. The food, however, just didn’t match the quality of the ambiance. The breakfast burrito was a small highlight, but the rest of the meal was uninspired.
If you live in the area, I think that it would be a great place to write some code, study or hold a meeting. Grab a cup of coffee, but skip the snack.
Disclaimer: We were invited for a complimentary meal thanks to Alternative Strategies on behalf of Cafe Cantata. No further compensation was received and all opinions stated here are the writer’s own.
2670 Via De La Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014