One Main Street Cafe
Thursday, July 22, 1999
"Then, as the whole thing evolved, there became more of a demand for restaurant-style food and table service," notes Dwight Collins, C.E.C., the executive chef in charge of Bon Appetit Management Company's operation at the Steinbeck Center.
That meant bringing in a food professional with the kind of background that Collins possesses. With a career that began with an apprenticeship in the executive dining room at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park back in 1974, Collins moved around to other corporate foodservice positions. He eventually became the area manager in charge of dining services for several notable high-tech Silicon Valley companies. After later taking a dip into private industry and spending a couple years with a small, upscale fine-dining operation and acquiring executive chef certification from the American Culinary Federation, he joined the staff at Seascape Resort in Aptos in 1993.
Along with overseeing all the foodservice operations at the resort, including Sanderlings Restaurant, Collins happily agreed to participate in Macy's "Catch A Rising Star" Chefs Tour. Making the move over to One Main Street meant the chance to take on more fun stuff, as he explains.
"I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time developing the menu, while the cafe was being finished," Collins relates. The result was a selection that was put together "to emphasize the freshness of the Salinas Valley, with a Steinbeck twist." One of which is John Steinbeck's very own favorite rendition of spaghetti and meatballs, staying true to the recipe magnanimously donated by the frequent pasta chef and crewmember of the Western Flyer, Sparky Enea. When they weren't having fish for dinner on this historic cruise, Enea would often whip up a Sicilian-style batch of spaghetti for the crew, immortalized by Steinbeck in The Log of the Sea of Cortez. "I received a handwritten recipe from Sparky Enea," says Collins, "and that's the one I use."
The menu stays simple, with a selection of hot sandwiches, with the achiote-marinated grilled Yucatan chicken quickly becoming a hands-down favorite, slathered with spicy chipolte mayo. The Club is also popular, with the unique twist of grilled salmon paired with applewood-smoked bacon. There's an Angus burger to team up with an interesting selection of cheeses. In fact, lighter appetites may opt for the cheese board appetizer with baguette and fruit to go along with the excellent list of local wines.
Along with several cold deli-style sandwiches, there are half a dozen or so salads, with the zesty, full-of-flavor Greek chicken salad appearing as a frequent special. Built right in the bowl, the Cabernet vinaigrette lends just the right note to complement generous quantities of artichoke hearts, feta, red onion, tomato and fresh oregano. Teamed up with a bowl of soup (Collins' clam chowder has taken first place at the Santa Cruz competition two years in a row), it's a meal and then some.
The cafe just recently started opening for breakfast, now making it possible for Steinbeck fans to get an early start.