I arrived a bit early and had a few minutes to burn while I awaited my breakfast mate, Anita (MadHungryWoman). As I walked through the lobby and on down a long hallway, I was intrigued by the numerous black & white photographs of Laguna Beach past, that line the wall. These range from the late 1800’s to the mid 1950’s and WOW, has Laguna changed in 100 years. Most of these are historical photographs that are the Hotel Laguna centric, which is quite interesting, as you see the hotel change shape and form from a humble two-story, sandy and wood sided retreat to the beautiful icon it is today. I easily spent over 20 minutes looking closely at these records of the amazing Hotel Laguna and Laguna Beach’s past.
I’ve been a resident of Laguna Beach for over 14 years now, though I’ve played, eaten and partied in and about the town for more like 20 years. I sadly say, I have missed out on one of the most unique restaurant locations this town has to offer. This is the very first time I’ve had the pleasure to eat at The Terrace Cafe.
Once Anita arrived, we made our way to The Terrace Cafe, which is down the hallway to the left just beyond the historic pictorial passage. As you enter you are greeted by a warm, comfortable and casual space which seems most likely, at this early hour, meant for the lunch and later cocktail crowd.
- The Terrace Cafe’s Upper Mural Chill Out Space
From there you’ll walk around a bar and down some steps, when you realize there is a gorgeous view and extensive patio before and beyond the windows in front of you.
As Anita and I finally get outside, I really am shocked to have not known of this gem from my 14 years of life just blocks away. Really shocked…and ultimately overjoyed at the wonder of it all.
The Hotel Laguna's Inner Courtyard
The Grand and Gorgeous Patio
Crazy beautiful, right? We’d had rain all night and into the early morning. It was supposed to be a gray, hazy, cool and typical ‘June Gloom’ day for us but it was surprisingly a clear, sunny and a perfect 70 degree beach morning.
Here is where the dolphins come in! As we made our way outside to find a table, our server Genia, excitedly mentioned that they’d been seeing dolphins break just off the beach, along the kelp beds that have been growing strong these past few years, yards from The Terrace’s beach front.
How excitedly amazed was I, as no sooner had Anita and I sat down, looking out to take in the breathtaking morning, that numerous dolphins started breaking waves. I was mesmerized. I always feel like a little boy when this happens. My enthusiasm and excitement for the joy of a dolphin sighting easily overwhelms me. I grew up in the foothills of the landlocked Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and dolphins were always a fantastical dream to me then and I joyously report, an equally fantastical dream to me now as an adult, who has seen them numerous times since moving to California in the late 80’s. I never tire of the sight.
After the initial shock and awe of the dolphins and finally choosing a perfect table (among many perfect tables) along the glass wall above the sand, you can’t fail to then be awed with an unabstructed view of the amazing Laguna coastline to the south and the picturesque ‘Main Beach’ view to the north.
View to the South
View north to Main Beach
So far, so amazing, right?? And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet!
I unabashedly ordered a screwdriver (made with fresh squeezed OJ), as I’m off from work and it’s a ‘what the hell’ kind of gorgeous morning, with dolphins frolicking nearby. Though, once it arrived and after one (yes, just one) sip, I knocked it right over, onto my shorts, down the glass wall. I sadly watched it drain away… though quickly brightened up as a replacement was said to be coming. Anita was quick to point out that I oddly have a pattern of knocking over first drinks, though not seconds, and never the ever-present tall glass of water. Hmmmmm….why is that? Old age? Klutz? Both?
After two or three sips of the new screwdriver (none was going to waste, this round), it was time to focus on the menu.
Menu: Top Portion Only
I post part of it here to let you peruse just some of the teasingly delectable offerings The Terrace Cafe has to offer for breakfast. If I had more than one stomach, I would have ordered one of everything. So I narrowed it down to just two, Anita did the same, and damn, did we do good!
First to arrive was my order: Lemon-Scented Pancakes with Blueberry Compote, Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream, Real Maple Syrup.
These were a triad of large tender cakes, at least 8-9 inches in diameter each, perfectly griddled and golden. They were of light texture with an almost ‘Al Dente’ chew. I know that’s an odd way of describing a pancake but I haven’t been able to come up with one that better describes the tender pull and pleasant chewyness of them. I’m baffled as to what makes them so. Hopefully Chef Paul Bauer will whisper his recipe and technique to me during a future visit.
The Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream paired beautifully with the tart Blueberry Compote, so much so, I completely ignored the Pure Maple Syrup.
My Perfect Bite
The only chagrin was the scent of what? Lemons? Other than the lovely lemon twist garnish, I could detect nothing of the citrus about the dish. Was that the point? It’s neither here nor there for me, though what I’d like you to know is that I did have to take 2 of the 3 pancakes home and that they reheat beautifully in the microwave. Clamshelled between two plates and reheated at half power for a gentle warming, the pancakes retain their light, tender chewyness as if freshly table brought.
Now onto more delectables!
Anita ordered the Hotel Laguna Omelette (egg whites, spinach, roasted red peppers, feta cheese) which was surprisingly more flavorful than either she or I expected. Egg Whites tend to be bland but with the generous and flavorful filling, you enjoy it as part of the inclusive whole.
“Please Sir, can I have some more?” and yes, yes we can!, as Anita’s second choosing arrives.
The Braised Short Rib Hash looks heartily delicious, as it is settled on the table amongst our other plates. It’s nicely topped with a ‘nest’ of curly, perfectly fried shoestring potatoes that just barely hide two poached egg. I awaited with anticipation as Anita’s fork gently ruptured an egg so the creamy yellow yolk could ooze down through and flavorfully meld with the short rib hash. Upon sampling, sampling…and sampling, it is delicious and deep with rich flavor. A perfectly done hash.
Short Rib Hash with Freshly Sliced Varietal Melon
Short Rib Hash
What a breakfast feast already, right? Well there is one more to go.
My ordered of Crab Cakes Benedict (blue crab cakes, poached eggs, paprika hollandaise on brioche toast) is placed amongst Ooohs & Ahhhhs. A very picturesque presentation.
- Crab Cakes Benedict
Gorgeous, yes? I’m happy to say, tasty too.
They were a generous crab cake, large, thick and tender and gently crisp, on top of nicely toasted pillows of brioche rounds. The pillows of brioche were a little too thick for me as they were equal in thickness to the crab cake which I felt fought for top texture/flavor with the crab cakes. The golden and flavorful paprika hollandaise enrobed the poached eggs, perched atop, then cascaded down the crab cakes underneath.
And I haven’t even mentioned the breakfast potatoes that are a perfect complement to all the dishes. They are gorgeously golden, perfectly crisp and crunchy exterior, tender within. I could have eaten an entire plate of them.
This really was a beautiful breakfast experience. The view, the food, the ambiance along with the pleasant and helpful staff (Genia, you rock!), made us feel like we were hanging out on our own home patio.
I’m looking forward to many more good eats on the terrace of The Terrace Cafe this summer.
425 South Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651