Getting Fresh: Santa Barbara’s Fresco Café by Katie Miserany...
I’ve always thought that there were two sides to California—one is full of pin-ups, plastic surgery and pop music, but the other can only vaguely be described as fresh. Like the air around a redwood tree, the sound of waves crashing or the latest genius idea born in some geeky garage startup, this alternative buzz gives the whole state a fleeting high that is always in danger of fading away in a wash of wannabes.
The fact of the matter is that California, like Australia, is full of beachside towns where stylish people love to sit at chic cafes discussing fashionable things. Unlike Australia, however, far too many of these cafés are called Starbucks, and they tend to be more ho-hum than humming with life. Within this unique ambiance of energetic ennui, it’s refreshing to stumble upon a place with something surprising to offer. Fresco Café is just such a place to the lucky residents of Santa Barbara, a sweet little city nestled against the state’s only southern-facing stretch of coastline.
Fresco isn’t outrageous. It’s got a simple strip mall façade with an arty interior. Weird art lines the walls. It feels even feels vaguely familiar. What is unusual about Fresco is the food. The menu is stuffed with crisp, fresh veggies, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, wraps and mounds of buttery, oh-so-irresistible seared ahi tuna. The salads are divine, the wraps are delicious, and once you order they have rows of bread baskets stacked high with the fluffiest focaccia you’ve ever hoarded—all just for the taking whenever you please! But the real genius of Fresco is that in order to place your order, you have to lean over what appears to be a glass dessert tray, but is in actuality a sugary black hole that sucks you in with such ooey-gooey chocolate-coconutty force that most diners are powerless to resist. Massive cupcakes towering with delicately whipped frosting smile up at you from a sea of crisp apple pies, raspberry tarts, marble cheesecake brownies, trifles and something divine-looking called a coconut pecan chew.
All of these breathtaking sweets are crowded together right below you like a hoard of little cherubic, chubby faced school kids who all giggle in unison, “Aren’t we adorable?” Naturally, you have to take one home. Or possibly two. Or maybe eat two right there at lunch after stuffing your face full of ahi. I chose a red velvet cupcake and a coconut cupcake, but only out of duty to you, dear reader. A cake correspondent’s job is a tough one.
There I sat, with two massive mountains of cake before me, one creamy and pink and the other shimmering with coconut flakes. They were almost too pretty to destroy, but once my fork slid through the pile of luscious pile of frosting to the moist cake below, I couldn’t get enough. The coconut was my favorite—the thick frosting dotted with a shock of coconut flakes easily gave way to the bed of springy white cake, creating a perfect bite that’s bursting with subtle coconut flavor and a blend of textures that’s simply sublime.
To top it all off, since Fresco is a bit off the beaten path, you can savor every bite of these luxurious coconut mega-treats in peace, without once hearing someone say something wanky like, “Oh 2006…that was a good harvest…” or “I really think people have evolved beyond basic monogamy.” All in all, Fresco is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in Santa Barbara. Fresh, sweet, stylish and comfortable, everything about the café feels inviting, and it’s completely free of self-important Starbucks types to boot. It’s the exact kind of place you’d want to come to get away from it all and enjoy the true bliss that comes from a deliciously simple, well-made coconut cupcake...
...Jesus. We Love Fresco and We Love You Katie! If you insist on being so amazing it's just rude of you not to come back to Sydney. Cup cakes, tarts, buttery ahi, girl love: happiness.
Thanks Katie!! xx