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What's Good Roundup

Coffee at the Vance and lunch at the zoo

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All in the Familia

When Bandit Savory & Sweet left the oak counters of the ground floor of the Vance building in Old Town Eureka, along with the sadness that has followed so many closures in the last year, I felt a twinge of guilt. While I happily shared in this paper and elsewhere how very good the hefty, sea salt-sprinkled chocolate chip cookies were, I kept them from my family. I selfishly feared these delights would replace my own homemade recipe as their favorite and so they never even got to taste the Bandit cookies. I'm a monster. A cookie monster.

Now the worker-owned Familia Coffee Roasters has moved into the spot at 525 Second St., offering pour-over coffee, espresso drinks and house specialties like a mocha made with Dick Taylor Madagascar chocolate. The Cafe Miel, a latte with cinnamon and coffee blossom honey, is warm in flavor and in the hands.

The menu board offers soft, tangy chilaquiles topped with little hunks of cloud-like spinach, jalapeño and cheese frittata, as well as creme fraiche. The Sweet and Savory toast — a thick slab of Josh Fox Bread topped with marmalade, ricotta, fragrant basil and apricot slices drizzled with that same coffee blossom honey and a little sea salt — leans sweet and is more substantial than one might think, even without the addition of prosciutto.

And there on the counter, under gleaming domes, are the Bandit cookies, along with Familia's own muffins, granola and coffee cake. Bandit owner Erica Davies works for Familia in her old spot now, baking and organizing the collaborative menu that leans on local producers like Josh Fox Bread, Shakefork Farm and Dick Taylor Chocolates.

A rosemary lemon cookie dips well in a latte — nearly as well as the chocolate chip that, now available once more, I'll be eating in blissful solitude in the driveway. What? I'm sharing the chilaquiles.

Feeding time at the Zoo

With all the excitement over the newly opened Redwood Sky Walk at the Sequoia Park Zoo (3414 W St., Eureka) and its elevated view of the big trees, it's easy to miss changes on the ground. But descend the ramp, hang left past the flamingoes and the otter habitat, and you'll come upon the newish Ecos Cafe, completed during the pandemic.

Christine Silver — owner of Sixth & E Neighborhood Eatery, Delish on 5th and Humboldt Soup Co. — has taken over the café that caters to zoo visitors under the watchful eyes of tree-lounging red pandas painted on the walls by muralist Blake Reagan. And while I have fond memories of the old cafe's grilled cheese, which already shamed the sad nuggets and flimsy burgers offered in most zoos and museum cafeterias, the menu has evolved.

The western burger, topped with a thick onion ring, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and barbecue sauce on a toasted bun, is solid. So are the thick fries you might sub for the sweet potato species, which are soft and steamy inside, sprinkled with sea salt and served with a little paper cup of peanut sauce. There's a house-made chickpea and vegetable burger on offer, as well.

If you were hoping to snag a chicken finger from your kid's plate, just one might not do it. The fried chicken strips are brined overnight, dredged in buttermilk and fried for a crisp crust and juicy interior. (PSA: In this brief, often cruel life, you do not need to eat unseasoned fried chicken breast that relies on the crust to impart flavor. You just don't.) Dipping the tenders in ranch dressing at a picnic table on the covered patio post-Sky Walk should be part of your calculus when deciding whether to invest in that annual zoo membership. 

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

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