Patty's Caf& %s;
Despite its location on a major thoroughfare, many people drive right by the goodness inside Patty's Caf& %s;.
Thursday, September 13, 2001
Tom´:s Gonzales, owner of Patty''s Café, serves house-made meals that rely on fresh ingredients.If Patty''s, a family-owned Mexican café, were on Cannery Row, Fisherman''s Wharf, or even in downtown Pacific Grove, it would undoubtedly be packed to the gills and have a line outside to boot. With only a dozen tables spread out across two small rooms, it wouldn''t take much to pack the place, especially once word got out about the piquant, homey and satisfying chow. Instead, it''s tucked away on the non-descript intersection of Lighthouse and Reeside, just west of the tunnel. I had driven by Patty''s on numerous occasions but never stopped; this location is a strange place to think about stopping for dinner.
Fortunately for locals, this means that even on busy weekend nights, tables are available without a wait--on the spur of the moment, you can tuck into a mouthwatering meal. I called ahead on a weekend night to see if I needed reservations. The person who spoke to me over the phone asked how many in my party. When I replied "two," she said without hesitation, "No problem, just come in." When I asked about takeouts, her reply was equally inviting, "Sure, you''ll just have a wait a few minutes."
That being said, don''t expect "atmosphere." If there were any less atmosphere in those two rooms there wouldn''t be oxygen to breathe. Not that there is anything wrong in my book with bright lights, blaring hip hop music (on one visit the stereo was near the register; the next visit it was in the kitchen so you could only hear it if you were near the counter), beer mirrors, and a gigantic wall-covering mural of El Salvador. Patty''s is the kind of place to bring the kids, good friends, or your longtime spouse or mate. It is not, in my opinion, the destination for romance or a business meeting early in a relationship. Can you imagine pulling up and the first thing your date or client sees is the "Bikers Welcome" sign hanging in the adjacent Ocean Thunder Bar window?
Don''t let this stop you. Go for the food. Every sauce, salsa, chip, tortilla and entrée is housemade. "We buy nothing from the outside," said the hostess/server/manager on duty on one visit. "Everything is made fresh." Perhaps that is why the meals at Patty''s are so satisfying. Each bite has so much going on that you want another and another until your plate is clear, but the kitchen has a light hand with oils and fats so you don''t feel like you have overindulged the next day. Patty, the daughter of the original owner, grew up in Mexico and mastered that classic cuisine, but the extended family that still owns and operates the restaurant originates from El Salvador. This may explain the more delicate touch in the kitchen.
Patty's Café204 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey.
11am to 9:30pm Thursday-Saturday
One chip dipped in that warm, rich spicy salsa sauce--it is smooth, not chunky--sends you reaching for another. The sauce is addictive; the heat zings just enough to have you jonesing for more. The chips are not salty, not oily, and actually have a bit of that sweet corn taste. By the time your basket is empty, entrées are served on plates so hot the hostess/server/manager wears oven mitts. Huge ovals loaded with rice, beans, salad or guacamole, and entrées such as Camarones a la Plancha--about eight jumbo shrimp grilled to perfection with red and green peppers and onions (the peppers were a surprise)--or Carne Asada--three flattened pieces of succulent, tender, slightly charred beef the size of a small pancake with a gazpacho-like side of chopped tomatoes, mild sweet white onions and cilantro with plenty of fresh tomato juice--are served with complimentary flour or corn tortillas hot off the grill. The most expensive of these plates is Pescado a la Plancha (grilled fish) or Pescado a la Veracruz at $12.95. Shrimp lovers have multiple choices and on a chilly afternoon or evening, the Siete Mares--a bountiful bowl of abalone, crab, octopus, scallops, clams, fish, and shrimp in a tomato-based stock with lettuce, peppers, and onions--may be just the ticket.
Tostados, tacos, and burritos start at $4.25, and a Super Burrito plate with all the trimmings is a reasonable $6.50. If your appetite is raging and a full plate isn''t enough, side order tacos (beef or chicken) are $1.75 each. And if you want to "kick it up a notch," individual jalapeños can be had for a quarter. Three egg dishes round out the menu, and a kid''s menu is $3.95 including milk or juice and a taco or an enchilada with rice and beans or two bean and cheese burritos. Eight imported bottled beers including Dos Equis and Bohemia are available at $2.95 each, and glasses of wine or a "Wine Margarita" are available for $3, along with sodas, iced tea, coffee, orange juice, and lemonade.