Café Serendipity’s awesome Cajun Chicken Wrap is not the only delicious thing on the menu.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
There is one thing about Café Serendipity, a year-old eatery on downtown Monterey’s Alvarado Street, that I can’t seem to get past: the Cajun Chicken Wrap ($8.95). Ever since becoming hooked on the wrap—which is a tight little roll filled with small chunks of chicken breast, spicy rice, mushrooms, tomatoes, sour cream and cheddar cheese—I have been unable to explore the diverse range of other menu items that the restaurant serves for breakfast and lunch.
On a recent Monday afternoon, I finally forced myself to venture out into other menu items when my girlfriend said she would order the Cajun Chicken Wrap and give me a few bites. Free to explore, I walked up to the counter and ordered a salad called Vincent’s Toss ($8.95).
After a short amount of time—considering that the place was three-quarters full—a young waitress brought our lunch over to our table, a small circular two-seater painted with swirls of sky and stars like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Unfortunately, my plate-sized salad arrived without one of the item’s primary selling points: the diced chicken. We told our waitress, and my salad was scooped up and returned with all the essential ingredients: chunks of tasty bacon, chicken, capers, croutons and clumps of bleu cheese on a bed of fresh greens with a creamy vinaigrette dressing.
While thoroughly pleased with my salad, which at times tasted like a perfect BLT sandwich, I couldn’t get my eyes off of my girlfriend’s Cajun Chicken Wrap. This time, she had decided to pay an extra dollar for an herb and pine nut pasta salad instead of the green salad, potato salad or batch of French fries that usually comes with the meal. After tasting the pasta salad, which was a little bland, I decided that Café Serendipity’s homemade French fries are truly the restaurant’s standout side item.
Before heading off to work, my girlfriend offered me half her Cajun Chicken Wrap. Though I had eaten the better part of my huge salad, I couldn’t refuse the offer. Right away, after tasting the way that the Cajun spices on the rice and chicken is tempered by the cool, sweet dollops of sour cream, I knew that I would be back to my favorite menu item on my next lunch visit.
On another recent excursion, I was forced to order another item besides the Cajun Chicken Wrap when I went to the restaurant for breakfast with my friend Brooks. We ordered our items at the counter and our breakfasts were delivered by our combination cashier, server and busser, who looked like a Los Angeles-based rocker or male model.
Despite the fact that the menu promised an order of hash browns with Brooks’ Huevos Serendipity Breakfast Sandwich ($6.95) there was nothing on his plate but a couple of wedges of fruit and the sandwich. Brooks quickly learned that the hash browns were actually inside the sandwich, with the scrambled eggs, Anaheim chiles, Monterey Jack cheese and huge pieces of whole Yucatan cilantro sausages that were split in half.
After biting into the large sandwich—and pretty much finishing it without putting it down—Brooks seemed to think putting the hash browns in the bun was a good idea.
“I dig it,” he said. “The hash browns are real unique. It’s like putting chips on a sandwich.”
Meanwhile, I dug into my Monterey Scramble ($8.45), which came with fruit wedges and a tangle of translucent hash browns. Though the scramble had a range of ingredients—including shrimp, strips of avocado, fresh tomatoes, green onions, fresh basil, chunks of mushroom, lemon zest, parmesan cheese and beads of capers—they complemented each other surprisingly well with the eggs. The briney taste of the capers kept me from reaching for any other seasonings.
Since opening on Alvarado Street in January of 2003, Café Serendipity has been a welcome addition for diners looking for inexpensive healthy food—all menu items are under $10—in downtown Monterey. Co-owner Rob Castro, who owns Café Serendipity with his wife Laura, says he and head chef Lorena Lostis make sure to get all of the Café Serendipity’s ingredients from the Monterey area.
“Everything we get for the restaurant is local,” he says. “We don’t use [the huge restaurant supplier] Sysco.”
With so much to recommend Café Serendipity, including an upbeat and arty décor, there is one major problem with the eatery: it is not open for dinner. According to Castro, this might change in the near future. Castro says that he and his chef are looking into turning Café Serendipity into a lunch and dinner establishment instead of a breakfast and lunch restaurant.
I just hope they have that Cajun Chicken Wrap on the dinner
470 Alvarado St., Monterey, 643-2233
Breakfast: 8-11am, every day.
Lunch: Monday-Saturday 11am–6pm; Sunday 11am-4pm.