Right beside my breakfast table: a painting so real you think you’re out there
A couple of years ago, up in Valley Center, I found this li’l farmhouse where the Twelve Tribes early Christian group had set up their shop and eatery, in the middle of nowhere. Fresh, healthy, standard fare. And they sourced as much as they could from their Valley Center farm.
315 E. Broadway, Vista
Today, I’ve rediscovered the motherlode, right here in Vista’s Old Town. It’s the original house Twelve Tribers built to create a cafe and sell the produce they grow. It has such an atmosphere, something makes you long to belong, even without knowing all the wrinkles of what you have to believe and do.
Yakir brings my poached egg breakfast out onto the patio.
It feels like they built this place as a work of love. Hand-shaped everything, including stair banisters; stone fireplaces; rough-hewn, smooth top, deep-varnished plank tables; intricate wrought iron stanchions beside hand-slatted lampshades.
So no surprise that much of the food is made right here, by hand. “We serve the fruit of the spirit at the deli,” says the front of the menu. And the good news is that today I have time: there’s a Sprinter train that takes off for Oceanside in an hour. Perfect. So I walk up to the lectern on the trellis-arched path. “Inside or outside?” says the ponytailed guy. Hmm. That beautiful inside, except the sun’s shining at just the right intensity here in the courtyard. Daffodils are bursting out in just the right shade of Yellow Deli yellow. “Outside,” I say, and soon I’m sitting at one of those varnished plank tables. They’ve set it beside a “families working in the field” mural that’s so realistic, I keep doing double-takes.
So this is going to be breakfast. Been up since five, seven hours on the trot. Not even a coffee. I see the hand-written, hippie-style yellow menu is exactly the same as they had in their Valley Center cottage. Cool with me. They had a lot of dishes I never got to up there, even though it is the simplest of menus. It’s either sandwiches (mostly $8.25), soup of the day or “hearty beef” chili ($7.25 per bowl with artisan bread, or $4.75 for a cupful), and salads (mostly $8, or $6.25 for half-size).
Cream cheese pie, luscious steal
But sandwiches are the main thing. The Bristol Bay is built around “our own Alaskan-caught salmon.” Uh, say what? Yakir’s friend Takif says yes, they send up a team every summer to Alaska to sail out and actually catch their own wild salmon to freeze for the year. Man, that’s over and above.
“Our own Garden Burger” features veggies that they largely pull straight from their own fields. Onions, tomatoes, lettuces, avocados, and sprouts. (The burger also comes with mustard and garlic spread.) Plus, for the $8.25 you get a veggie bowl or a mini soup tossed in. Or you can create your own sandwich from choices of meat, cheese, and bread.
That’s it, except for desserts and drinks.
But hey, breakfast? Ah, on the back page. Also simple. And the choice for me is simple, too. Well, really should go for the home-made granola, with fresh fruit and milk ($4.75). The others are mostly egg/sandwich combos: the Spinwich ($6.25), with egg, cheeses, and fresh spinach; or the Breakfast Sandwich ($6.75), which is egg plus cheddar and pepper jack cheese, plus wads of roast beef or turkey. Not sure I’m ready to start the day off with such an invasion.
Happy hens? It’s all in the yolk.
I end up asking the bearded guy who’s serving out here, Yakir (his name is from the Bible, of course. It means “beloved.”) for the simplest dish of all: two poached eggs on whole wheat toast, with a little pot of jam. That’s it. Costs $4.75. This is the thing. TheYellow Deli seems to practice what it preaches. It is charming, unpretentious, genuine (they make so much themselves), and really cheap. You know they’re not out to grab your wallet.
You wonder if the conventions of the religion make their cooking a little unadventurous; if the search for purity leads to a more puritanical view of what’s appropriate to eat, and ends up cutting out the fancy stuff.
Whatever, I’m looking for a hot drink. Almost go for yerba mate, but I need the guaranteed energy of coffee. I get a big steaming (and refillable!) cup for $2.
And the thing I notice about the poached eggs is the yolks. Like the daffodils, they are Yellow Deli yellow. These hens must have been eating more than protein pellets. Although, turns out, at someone else’s farm. “We haven’t been able to let our hens run completely free,” says Takif. “We can’t figure out a way to persuade the coyotes to stay away.”
Inside, the world of the Hobbit
Final decision: dessert or not? Because they have cream cheese pie for $4, or $4.50 with strawbs.
I linger on this one, in the sunshine, to the recorded sounds of the Twelve Tribes’ own bluegrass band, plus customers intimately chatting here and upstairs on the Juliet balcony, plus a fountain’s chuckle. I chomp into the sweet gunge, but slowly.
Finally hand over all of $12.18 plus tip.
’Course, I could stay longer. They’re open 24 hours, five days a week. Except, the Sprinter. Dang! Missed it. Oh well. Half an hour. I grab another refill.
- The Place: The Yellow Deli Vista, 315 East Broadway, Old Vista, 760-631-1888
- Hours: Open 24 hours, Sunday 12pm (midday) thru Friday 3pm; closed Friday 3pm thru Sunday 12pm
- Prices: Breakfast Granola, fruit, milk, $4.75; Spinwich (egg, cheeses, spinach), $6.25; breakfast sandwich (roast beef or turkey, egg, cheddar, pepper jack cheese), $6.75; two poached eggs on wheat toast, pot of jam, $4.75; Yellow Submarine sandwich (with spread of the week, sprouts, lettuce, onions, olives, tomatoes, yellow peppers, chips or veggie bowl), $8.25; Deli Rose sandwich (roast beef, corned beef, pepper jack), $8.25; Garden Burger with mustard and garlic spread, includes veggie bowl or mini soup, $8.25; Bristol Bay sandwich (salmon, tartar sauce, cheddar), $8.25; soup of the day or “hearty beef” chili, artisan bread, $7.25 per bowl, $4.75 cup; cranberry-cashew salad, $8, $6.25 half-size; cream cheese pie, $4; with strawberries, $4.50
- Buses: 302, 305, 318, 332
- Nearest Bus Stop: Vista Transit Center, 240 North Santa Fe Avenue, Vista
- Train: Sprinter
- Nearest Train Stop: Vista Transit Center