Amy’s Patio Café is as good as it gets for breakfast and lunch
By Erica Wayne 06/12/2013
T he only time I ever ate at Amy’s Patio Café, a small breakfast and lunch restaurant on the southeast corner of Lake Avenue and Altadena Drive, was at least four years ago. What I remember most was a signboard posted at the entrance with a picture of the owner’s mother, for whom she had named the restaurant. Amy had recently died, according to the caption, but was the one who had taught her daughter to cook; the restaurant was titled as a tribute to her.
I was quite sympathetic. My mother, too, had recently died and had been largely responsible for my small talent and great love of cooking, as well as my passion for other people’s recipes and restaurants. Our lunch in the airy, light-filled indoor “patio” was quite pleasant, a nice salad and a large tasty sandwich, with fragrant iced tea and strong coffee.
I was a little surprised to hear that Amy’s had changed hands toward the end of last year and wondered what alterations the new ownership might have wrought. Luckily, not too many, at least that we could notice on our visit a couple of weeks back. The menu seems almost the same, with breakfast served all day and salads and sandwiches available from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m., when the restaurant closes on weekdays.
The dining room may have undergone some minor tweaks, but it’s primarily as I remembered it: tile floors, high ceiling, with some wooden latticework that could definitely benefit from vines (there’s some philodendron in hanging pots that will perhaps in time take the hint and stretch upward) and an ornate (but nonfunctioning) fountain against one wall.
The room is painted in a light cream with lots of bright still-life and landscape paintings, and the space is filled with real patio furniture. Even the “banquettes” along the front and back walls are wood-slat benches. Thank goodness for the decorative pillows you can use to cushion your seat. There’s a pleasant jazz background that doesn’t interfere with conversation.
As soon as we were seated, a plate of warm zucchini bread arrived at our table. It was difficult not to eat it all as we perused the menu. Actually, it was impossible. By the time our server was back to ask what we wanted, it was gone. We hesitated over the breakfast items, especially the omelets: ham, brie and avocado; gruyere, asparagus and bacon; goat cheese, sun-dried tomato, and sautéed spinach — each $10.50, served with toast and potatoes, fruit or sliced tomatoes. One fashioned from smoked salmon, scallions and cream cheese was only $1 more. They sounded mighty good.
But, since it was well into lunch hour, the sandwiches and salads seemed more appropriate. I was tempted first by the grilled prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, basil and crushed red pepper on sourdough ($11.50), while my lunch-mate briefly fixated on tuna and melted cheddar on toasted wheat ($9.95). Like the egg dishes, sandwiches aren’t served solo. The side choices are potatoes, fruit and coleslaw.
We finally decided on salads instead: the Patio Cobb (baby spinach leaves, egg, crumbled bacon, tomatoes, avocado, crumbled blue cheese, sliced turkey and ham served with blue cheese dressing); and the black sesame seared ahi tuna salad (sliced black sesame- seared ahi on mixed greens, tomatoes, scallions and cashews tossed in a light scallion peanut dressing). Each is priced at $13.
The arrangement of the ingredients on the Cobb, arrayed in colorful rows on the base greens, was picture-perfect. And it was obvious that, instead of the pre-packaged meat that passes for chicken and turkey in so many salads and sandwiches, this was the real deal — nice chunks of breast meat with a bit of golden skin attached. There was only one discrepancy. The greens were a more conventional romaine, not the spinach described on the menu.
There was a similar hitch with the ahi salad, which was lovely in appearance and contained all advertised components except one — there was nary a hint of peanut in the dressing, a tart, oniony vinaigrette. While my companion shrugged off the shift in greens, I was far less forgiving of the absence of a major element in my decision-making. I was expecting something way more exotic in the way of flavoring and, although the fish was generously portioned and well-prepared, without that peanut flavor, the salad was disappointing.
The new owner of Amy’s makes a changing variety of homemade desserts ($5 apiece). The day we were there, the display case contained a four-layer yellow cake with three-toned frosting (peach, purple and chocolate); New York cheesecake and a blueberry chiffon concoction. We were also told there was mud pie in the back. We decided to share a slice of cheesecake and enjoyed it. The graham cracker crust had caramelized, giving it a wonderful butterscotch flavor. The filling was probably not up to Lindy’s standards — a little too much flour, perhaps, but we happily polished it off.
As we were finishing, we watched two later arrivals attack breakfast entrees. The woman at the adjacent table had a huge omelet, which shared space with an enormous mound of golden-brown potato chunks. It looked magnificent, but was nothing compared to the “summer style” Belgian waffle, topped with berries, bananas and a four-inch crown of whipped cream ($9.99) that was being attacked a few tables away. It dwarfed the diminutive woman behind it, dousing the creation with a pitcher of syrup.
By the time we got up to go, both of these platters were empty, and the consumers thereof were looking extremely contented. So, although relatively satisfied with our lunches, we vowed that our next repast at Amy’s would definitely be breakfast, no matter what time we choose to dine.
Amy’s Patio Café
900 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena
No alcohol/Major cards