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Brunch doesn’t get more farm-to-fork than at downtown Davis’ two-year-old Monticello (pronounced Monti-sell-o and named after a nearby historic settlement of the same name). That’s because husband-and-wife owners Tony and Rhonda Gruska customize the refined, inviting bistro’s menu to showcase whatever arrives that day from Monticello’s third co-owner Jim Eldon, a longtime Yolo County farmer whose Fiddlers Green Farm provides much of the restaurant’s ingredients.
Eldon’s organic produce shines in dishes like a light, fluffy egg scramble featuring seasonal veggies like asparagus and leeks, or the popular Eggs Monticello, a delightful take on a traditional eggs Benedict layered with greens like chard and Bloomsdale spinach. Other nearby producers include Davis’ Village Bakery, whose walnut loaf is found in the decadent French toast sprinkled with walnuts and served with a house-made caramel syrup. And the organic coffee comes from Davis’ Pepper Peddler, which roasts its beans using energy derived from a stationary bicycle rider (the town is America’s bicycle capital, after all). And the farm Mary’s Free Range Chicken (with poultry raised near Fresno) provides the main ingredient for one of the eatery’s most popular dishes: a mountainous platter of moist, buttermilk fried chicken served with cheddar-and-chive cornmeal waffles.
Further illustrating Monticello’s love of regional agriculture are the photos of Fiddlers Green Farm on the walls and the massive mural of vibrant fruits and vegetables—a perfect backdrop for indulging in this exquisite, farm-fresh fare. —Stephanie Towne
If you’re like us, the white spire of the Tower Theatre on the northern edge of Land Park draws you in like a hungry moth to a flame on weekends.
Aside from the unavoidable wait on sunny days, the multicultural culinary oasis that is the Tower Café has everything you could ask for in a local hangout. There’s the sprawling, leafy outdoor patio (heated in winter and misted in summer), an energetic warren of indoor rooms strewn with exotic international art, a full bar with plenty of innovative cocktails (try the Hibiscus Sunset, with pomegranate vodka, the sweet essence of its namesake flower, lemonade and a dash of soda), and a menu that executive chef Piag Tourville regularly updates with her eclectic mix of global influences that, while complicated on the surface, fits well with the mashed-up diversity that makes this city a cultural standout.
There’s little question that the signature dish here is the cafe’s celebrated French Toast (feted in The New York Times, no less), crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, and soaked in custard overnight. But the brunch menu here is an ensemble cast, and you’d be remiss to miss the Carnitas de Mariachi with tender, slow-roasted juicy pork, fluffy scrambled eggs and flour tortillas; or the nap-inducing Monte Cristo wedged between two slices of the aforementioned French toast and served with a chipotle raspberry jam (the Madame Cristo adds over-medium eggs on top). Sweet dreams. —Anita Chabria