246 North Cedros Avenue, Solana Beach
Always on the hunt for dog friendly eateries, I've heard from a number of friends I that need to check out Claire's on Cedros in Solana Beach. I looked into it, and according to Feaster Mary Beth's article from a few years back, this was the first local restaurant to be LEED certified. So, both dog friendly and eco-friendly — if Claire's has a place for me to nap after my meal, it might turn out to be the perfect restaurant.
Okay, that was too much to ask, but the converted house does have a large, comfortable, and dog-friendly patio that turned out to be my pup's favorite yet. With room to move around a little bit, Loki didn't feel confined under my table, and stretched out on the pavers, where fellow diners passing by could stop and give her a little pet. We're talking about a very social dog here, so while I enjoyed some brunch, she got to know some of the dog-friendly people of Solana Beach. When my waiter brought her a large, full, water dish, I started to worry she wouldn't want to leave.
Of course, my other major concern was the quality of the food. The Tuscan benedict is said to be a signature dish, at least according to my server and the web at large, so despite a vast menu of breakfast and lunch items I would have liked to have sampled top to bottom, I stuck with that.
It wasn't too much of a hardship. The twist on this benedict is that the poached egg and hollandaise is served with braised spinach, roasted tomatoes and pesto. Also, while it's offered on an English muffin, per usual, they also will sub in a croissant. The value of this is that Claire's bakes its own breads, including this croissant — but not the English muffin.
I dunno if piling a benedict between slices of croissant means it should be called something different, — perhaps a breakfast sandwich? — but I went ahead and ordered it that way. I could not imagine a scenario where I'd regret doing so. I mean, English muffins are great and all, but how often will it beat a baked-on-premises croissant? Either way, it went for $11.95. I could have added Italian sausage for a couple bucks more, but I wanted to see how good this thing could taste without the benefit of meat.
Pretty good, it turns out. All the individual components worked well, as they should have: the croissant was chewy and flaky, the spinach intensely green, the hollandaise rich and eggy. The basil pesto united the dish, but the real winning ingredients were the roasted cherry tomatoes. They were bold — pungent and acidic — their flavor really holding its own in the absence of sausage. I can't recall enjoying a meatless benedict before in my life; I've always found there to be something missing, and these tomatoes might have been it. If Claire's can win me over without the benefit of either a nap room or meat, I can't wait to return, pup in tow, and see what they accomplish with the implied decadence of their braised short-rib hash.