I stopped in for lunch at the original Zanzibar Cafe in Pacific Beach. There are two more locations now, one Downtown and the other at the UCSD Loft, but the PB shop has the benefit of being near the beach to set it apart from the others.
My initial impressions of Zanzibar Cafe was that the food and decor had nothing whatsoever to do with an East African archipelago, and that it was nevertheless beautifully decorated.
The place had fresh flowers, great lighting, cozy banquettes, compelling art on the walls, and a wonderfully shaded patio. The atmosphere inside Zanzibar was far and away its most attractive feature. It's not an overstatement to say that the cafe was decorated with the care befitting a charming, full-service bistro.
Additionally, the wine and beer list seemed excessive for a sandwich and coffee shop; but this was one instance where too much of a good thing was perfectly fine. There were plenty of good glasses of wine and craft beer in bottles, should one feel so inclined.
The food, on the other hand, fell short of the promise made by the decor. A smoked chicken sandwich was assembled a bit carelessly with the toppings unevenly distributed and the roll burnt around the edges.
The one bright spot was a rather beguiling vinaigrette on the side salad which had been added, seemingly as an afterthought.
On the whole, Zanzibar's sandwich and salad menu seemed uninspired and mildly overpriced. Lunch items for $8-$11 would have felt justified at about fifty to sixty percent of that cost, but as it was the choices seemed too mundane to get excited over.
To end on a bright note, I can say that Zanzibar's cute atmosphere, good drink selections, espresso bar, and pastry case might lend the restaurant credibility as a pre- or post-dinner stop.
978 Garnet Avenue
Friday & Saturday 7AM-10PM