Just a block off bustling Camino del Mar in Del Mar is a calming oasis that’s nearly hidden from plain view, but well-known among the locals.
The Stratford Court Cafe provides breakfast and lunch in a garden patio setting, on the grounds of an early 1900s Cape Cod-style house. Guests are surrounded by flowers and foliage, and serenaded by birds, while enjoying the fresh air. Many of them bring their canine companions, which rest contentedly in the patches of sunlight and snack on house-made dog biscuits.
“You can’t duplicate a place like this,” said Terry Sonken, who owns and operates the restaurant with her husband, Greg. “It’s a one-in-a-million kind of spot. It has a relaxing atmosphere that’s quite charming.”
What adds to the appeal is the Sonkens’ desire to get to know their customers on a first-name basis. They’re constantly assisting with the service and other tasks, which gives them an opportunity to mingle with guests.
Terry also does all of the baking, primarily breads and desserts. Her specialties include the popular Lumpy Muffins, featuring apples, raisins, cinnamon, carrots and walnuts; moist slices of Banana Bread topped with walnuts; and Cinnamon Rolls.
Organic, natural ingredients are used in the fare at Stratford Court Cafe and everything is cooked to order, Greg noted.
Along with baked goods, there are bagels, croissants, granola and various egg entrees available for breakfast.
There’s also the W.O.W. (Waffle of the Week), in which different toppings such as peaches and strawberries are featured on a rotating basis.
During the weekends, there are two bonus selections: the Eggs Benedict with smoked ham and a house-made, old-fashioned Hollandaise sauce; and the roasted vegetable Frittata served with toast and fruit. If desired, patrons can pair their meals with mimosas.
The cafe also presents a full lunch, mainly consisting of soups, salads and sandwiches. The soups, created in the café’s kitchen, change daily — the majority of them are vegetarian or vegan, but there’s also Chicken Tortilla and Clam Chowder. As for the salads, there are about a half-dozen from which to choose, including the traditional Cobb with turkey, bacon, avocado, tomato, jack cheese and hard-boiled eggs; and the California, a medley of chicken breast, caramelized walnuts, smoked gouda, mandarin oranges, raisins, red onion and arugula.
The sandwiches are accompanied by a homemade cilantro pasta salad. Among the most requested sandwiches are the Vermonster with layers of smoked turkey, cranberry mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and apple between slices of toast; and the Turf Club, a stack of turkey, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato and ranch dressing on three pieces of toast. Vegetarians seem to adore the Veggie Pesto and the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus selections.
While many people visit the café for a meal, some come to enjoy “coffee talks” over hot and cold beverages, whether it’s a traditional cup of java or a specialty such as the Milky Way, almost a dessert in itself with chocolate, caramel, steamed milk and espresso that’s finished with whipped cream.