2977 Upas Street, North Park
Living in North Park a few years back, I got into the habit of picking up a turkey croissant from a local restaurant on my way to go surfing. At the time, the newly opened Cardamom would run out of their croissants early in the day, so my morning visits to the beach were my best shot at enjoying them. But even at 9 a.m. I sometimes left empty handed.
Cardamom serves a lengthy menu of breakfast and lunch dishes for those looking for a sit-down experience, and its sidewalk patio proves a terrific spot to run into neighbors and catch up with friends. But I love passing through for the stuffed croissants, when I can get them.
They make more of them these days — and not just of the turkey asiago I originally craved — but they do still run out on busy mornings. So I’ve tried a few alternatives: goat cheese with basil and scallion, spinach and blue cheese, and the turkey/cream cheese/jalapeño.
Asiago’s a pungent cheese, adding a beautiful umami to the turkey filling of the flaky pastry surrounding it, so branching out seemed a little deflating at first. To wit, the blue cheese is even more pungent, therefore used sparingly, so with the wilted spinach it winds up leaving a hollow space in the croissant’s center. It’s delicious, and a decent source of iron, just a tad less substantial.
Heavier is the turkey jalapeño and cream cheese, a slightly spicy sandwich with the ingredients playing well together.
My new favorite is the goat cheese, scallions, and basil. Despite its gorgeous sesame seed crust, I was leery at first to bail on the satisfying presence of turkey or the healthful allure of spinach. But this croissant has what makes the idea of a pastry so appealing: lightness, playful textures, and distinct yet morning-friendly flavors. The basil and goat cheese tang deviates a bit from most traditional breakfast items, in a good way, and the sesame wraps it up nicely.
More than anything the flaky dough makes this, and all the sweet or savory croissants, a great grab-and-go option.
Cardamom doesn’t have the slick new digs of neighbors Underbelly, Influx, and Modern Times and lacks the hip factor of newer breakfast spots that have opened nearby in North Park. But we don’t live in a fresh out-of-the-oven culture anymore, so any neighborhood with an active bakery turning out daily bread and croissants like this should count itself lucky.