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Zanzibar Café

976 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach

Zanzibar Café

707 G Street, East Village




It’s morning. Feeling lousy. No, wasn’t grog last night. Toothache. Normally, I never take pills. But Carla persuaded me. Took an antibiotic. Gripped my gut like a vice.

This mawnin’, still recovering. Weaving gingerly through East Village. Feel like a Yosemite bear who ate too many cans from the campsite garbage last night.

Whatever, need something. I’m thinking a delicate gut-liner. Nothing with red-hot chili sauce, puh-leeze. I pass a new corner place called “Neighborhood.” Burgers and beer. Ugh. Could not handle that. But it’s part of a brand-new block of lofts that’s gone up between Seventh and Eighth, and at the far end, I spot another new, Euro-looking place called Zanzibar. Love that name. Spice Island, right? Off Africa. Cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper…

And hey, it’s open. They have a deli. Another door just beyond leads into an impressive interior. I see a big parquet floor, lots of tables, classy dark wooden chairs, a wine bar with seven high bar chairs, and modern art on the walls. Walls are cream and pale green, varnished wood and brick, beautifully done. Bottles of wine are clumped all over the place. Troppo wooden, five-bladed fans hang from the ceiling. Uh, may be a little beyond this li’l wallet o’ mine.

Except, this waiter guy Joey comes up. Says “absolutely” that they’re open. He points to a sign that says “seat yourself” and waits for me to move.

I waver. Haven’t even felt how fat ye old billfold is. But…sigh. Guess if you don’t speculate, can’t accumulate.

Inside, people are running around the deli part, baking, mixing salads, and setting up platters of things like roasted giant prawns on sticks. Plus. I see customers over there pouring themselves coffees and sitting down at a little counter. So the deli has its own separate thing going. But I have to see what the full-menu deal here is. I sit down at a table with green cushioned benches along one side. Big plasma’s got ESPN rolling. Sound system’s playing a cover of John Lennon. “Cold Turkey has got me…on the run.” Man. Bit like how I feel.

“Start you off with a coffee?” Joey asks. He’s wearing the brownish monogrammed “Zanzibar” T-shirt the whole staff has on. You can tell it’s still early for them. It’s, like, just turned eight. One guy’s counting money at the wine bar, a gal’s feather-dusting around piled mega-cans of tea, another’s polishing wineglasses. All very sophisticado. Man. Gotta count the lettuce, make sure I can handle this. Uh oh. Too late. Joey’s back with the coffee ($1.55 in a “Zanzibar” mug) and a menu. It’s big. Four columns of lunch, three of breakfast items, and I see a whole ’nuther dinner and wine menu. Then I notice, hey, the breakfast dishes ain’t so pricey after all. Whew. A plain three-egg scramble with toast and rosemary potatoes and a side of fruit costs $5.95. Greek egg scramble with tomato, basil, and feta cheese (same sides) is $7.25.

Omelets are all baked. The one with avocado and fontina cheese goes for $8.95, like most of the others — except for the super-healthy “Health Nut Omelette,” which is egg whites, spinach, broccoli, mushroom, tomato, onion, feta cheese, mozzarella, avocado, and salsa. That’s $9.50.

But what’s wrong with two simple poached eggs on toast with tomatoes and salsa for $6.50?

Uh, salsa and my queasy stomach, that’s what. And, when I think about it, I just can’t handle the thought of broccoli so near to sunrise, so sayonara Health Nut Omelette.

I come back to the Greek scramble, with its harmless sprinkles of tomato chunks and basil and feta, and rosemary taters. It’s $7.25.

Aaah. Ten minutes later, I’m digging into this mess of eggs with a delicious, delicate hint of, I wanna say rosemary, but that’s what the potatoes have, so maybe it’s basil — or maybe both. They’re kissing cousins of the mint family anyway, right? Whatever, it’s like a Persian garden. Delicate, sensual. Nobody’s hitting anyone with a hammer. My stomach thanks me by not making lots of creaking noises. The little bowl of melons and grapes and pineapple and strawberry ain’t nuttin’ to sneeze at neither. But the pièce de résistance is surprising: the multigrain toast. It is so danged scrumbo and, with butter, so full of flavor, I almost forget the eggs and spuds. Joey tells me it comes from Bread & Cie. Say no more.

“This place yours?” I ask.

“I wish,” Joey says.

On my way out I come across the actual owners in the deli. Turns out this place opened only last July. But Carole Janks has been running another Zanzibar in P.B. for, like, 17 years. Have I been asleep for 17 years? “It started off as just a coffee place in 1991,” Carole says.

“They were just ahead of the coffee curve,” her daughter Michelle says. “It took off like crazy.” Michelle’s the corporate organizer here. She’s been to culinary school. She’s worked for Martha Stewart. Whoa.

“I always wanted to do food,” says Carole. “I’m from South Africa. No such things as preservatives where I came from. So I was a little despondent at San Diego’s food scene back then. Heavy on preservatives, not much that was cooked on the spot from scratch. So gradually we started introducing homemade foods. Fresh, daily, no preservatives. And now we’re here with this big kitchen, we can really go to town.”

What a find. I won’t forget that gentle rosemary-basil potato-egg combo for a while. Saved my bacon. My delicate gut feels great and grateful. Guess right now you could call it rosemary’s baby.

The Place: Zanzibar Cafe, 707 G Street, East Village, 619-230-0125 (also at 976 Garnet Avenue, Pacific Beach, 858-272-4762)

Type of Food: American

Prices: Three-egg scramble with toast, rosemary potatoes, fruit, $5.95; Greek eggs with tomato, basil, feta, $7.25; avocado, fontina cheese omelet, $8.95; Health Nut omelet, with egg whites, assorted veggies, avocado, feta, mozzarella, salsa, $9.50; eggs Benedict, with non-Canadian bacon, $9.50; breakfast panini, with two fried eggs, potatoes, fruit, $7.25; grilled chicken pesto sandwich with fontina cheese, mixed greens, $9.50; portobello mushroom salad, with goat cheese, walnuts, raisins, $9.50; three-cheese pizza, $7.95

Hours: 8:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m., Monday–Friday; till midnight, Saturday–Sunday

Buses: 3, 11

Nearest Bus Stop: Market and Eighth

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