As I viciously attacked my warmed spinach salad with a fork, I looked sideways at my dining companion who was enjoying some spicy squash soup, and I pondered the state of dining in Fort Bragg.
Having spent most of my life here, I can speak with some authority upon what is edible and what is not, and also upon the history of dining establishments here. When I was a small child, my father would take me to Goody’s for a kiddie burger, fries, and a milkshake. (He would also get a kiddie burger, a cause of amusement to the kitchen.) In high school, I went to Viraporn’s Thai Cafe for pad thai and vegetable curry. Lately, though, my dining options have been shrinking.
The thing is, eating out is expensive these days. And therefore, I don’t really want to go to an “ok” restaurant, I want to go to a great restaurant. If I’m going to be spending a minimum of twenty dollars, the food had better be pretty fucking awesome.
I’m somewhat loathe to write restaurant reviews here, because I don’t want to encourage the already considerable tourist decimation of my homeland. But I think it’s time to set that aside for a moment, because I have a plea to the restauranteurs here–go big or go home. My stomach has needs which are not being met.
So here’s my short list of dining establishments in Fort Bragg I eat at, and why.
1. Mendo Bistro . I eat at the Bistro all the time because it is awesome. The warmed spinach salad mentioned in passing above is a symphony of spinach and gorgonzola and pecan goodness. It fills my heart with joy whenever I eat it. The choice menu is a brilliant invention, and ideal for picky eaters. The desserts are superb. (And not just in flavour, but in presentation.) Everything they serve is made there. Everything. And I like that. I like that they use locally sourced ingredients. I like that they have a commitment to excellent flavour and also to creativity. The service is also really, really good, and the staff are always accommodating. They are also very vegan/vegetarian friendly, just ask your server for help. The Mendo Bistro is never boring, that’s for sure. The owners can often be found in the kitchen or on the floor, and they are responsive to your concerns as a patron, and I appreciate that as well.
2. The Headlands Coffeehouse. The coffeehouse for me transcends restaurant status, which is good, since it’s not really a restaurant, it’s a coffeehouse. I’ve been eating the same food there for 10 years, because they haven’t changed the menu, but really I go for the tea. (See below.) Headlands is a social gathering place, and sometimes the music doesn’t make me want to cry. Recently they had an experimental dessert, tirimisu, and it was excellent. I hope it comes back.
3. Nit’s Cafe. Despite the revolting name, Nit’s is…really good. Alas, it’s very pricy. But I have a certain friend in the city who always eats there with me when he comes up, and that’s a good thing. Everything I have eaten there has caused tears of joy to spring to my eyes. The last thing I had was her potroast, which was a delicately constructed piece of art, tender porky goodness and sumptuous vegetables and a wasabi sauce. It was, uh, really good. Nit’s is also not recommended for vegetarians or vegans. At all.
And that’s it, kids. I may on a rare occasion pop into Los Gallitos for a burrito while I am doing the laundry, or go to Jenny’s giant burger when I have a passion for cheap beefy goodness, but that’s really it. Six eateries which I grace with my presence. Now, I don’t think that I have unusual culinary demands. I don’t think I’m asking too much when I think a restaurant should examine their menu and their food motivations and try to think outside the box a little. I eat at the Bistro and Nit’s because the service is always flawless, friendly, and caring. I eat at these establishments not only because they make awesome food, but because they make it well, and because their menu reflects some diversity–and, dare I say it, the dreaded “fusion.” But it’s a tragedy when I can only safely recommend othree restaurants to those questing for good food, and something needs to be done. I’m begging you, restaurants of Fort Bragg–actualize your potential or Nick and Jaimi will end up owning my soul as well as my heart.