Ripe with Flavor
Sundried Tomato Cafe is a neighborhood gem with delicious food in an intimate setting.
By Linda Domingo | Photos by Jody Tiongco
Walking around downtown, you might miss it. Sundried Tomato Cafe is tucked inside a courtyard on Forest Avenue, but its charming, European cafe-style atmosphere and tasty light bites make it worth seeking out. Managing Partner Rob Quest describes the cafe as an “upscale bistro in a casual setting.” One of the three Sundried Tomato locations, the Laguna cafe features cozy seating inside at tables or the bar, as well as alfresco dining on a dog-friendly patio.
Sundried Tomato really shines with its starters, many of which are great to share. Any visit is enhanced with the signature Sundried Tomato Soup, a thick and creamy comfort dish. The popular soup, along with the restaurant’s saucy tomatoes, honey cilantro sauce and cilantro caper vinaigrette are now also available for purchase in jars. With the essential dish out of the way, try the mini “rustic jars,” filled with either sun-dried tomato hummus or a sun-dried tomato, pesto and whipped goat cheese torte. Diners can choose one or enjoy both, alongside light and crispy flatbread.
For a warm, sweet and savory snack, the new baked brie with cranberry mango chutney is perfect spread on sliced French baguette. Larger appetites will be satisfied with the addition of 1 pound of Carlsbad black mussels prepared with saffron cream, pancetta and sun-dried tomato. The diverse selection of salads will satisfy healthy foodies; the chopped salad in particular is a delicious choice with dried cranberries, pine nuts, gorgonzola, golden beets, red onions and cilantro caper vinaigrette. Sundried Tomato also offers a “half and half” combination, with a choice of any two items from a list of salads, sandwiches and soups.
Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike will enjoy the “pasta-less” vegetarian lasagna. Another vegetarian standout is the rustic grilled vegetable sandwich on an impossibly soft and fresh brioche bun. The restaurant has its bread delivered daily from a local artisan baker. Of course there are plenty of options for those craving meat, such as RQ’s lamb cheese burger, also served on a brioche bun, which Rob says is popular during winter months.
Chef de Cuisine Rodrigo Victorino creates treats for dessert that change weekly, but on our visit we had a mouth-watering banana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. Check with staff to see what’s available on your visit. In addition to lunch and dinner, all three locations offer catering for special events anywhere in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego. LBM
Sundried Tomato Cafe
361 Forest Ave.; 949-494-3312; sundriedtomatocafe.com
Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: $6 – $25 (starters – entrees)