Zinc Cafe in Solano Beach
Zinc Cafe and Market is a vegetarian restaurant in the beach side community of Solano Beach. Although it is about 22 miles north of downtown San Diego, this small cafe and the surrounding interests make it a worthwhile trip.
Zinc's menu is somewhat limited, yet it is surprisingly satisfying. The portions are not large, yet they are sufficient for a light lunch.
The menu consists of what I call "relaxed" vegetarian: their level of vegetarianism includes egg salad sandwich, cheese pizza, spinach lasagna, and vegetarian chili bowl. The menu does not have vegemite, quinoa, baba ghanoush, or any of the items that more strict vegetarians may enjoy. Nevertheless, for your average San Diegan, this place is good enough.
Prices are not excessive but are a little high considering that the portions are small: about $9 to $10 per entree. The total adds up quickly if you choose a salad + an entree + latte + dessert (6 + 10 + 3 + 4 = $23 for a light lunch).
This branch of Zinc in Solano Beach is predominantly a cafe serving prepared foods. There is one shelf of packaged goods available for purchase. These include salad dressing, jams, dried fruit and nuts, oatmeal, granola, coffee, and chocolate.
One of the best things about Zinc is its location and ambiance. First of all, Zinc is located on Cedros Avenue Design District which is a a great shopping / walking area. Here you will find boutiques, art/photography galleries, unique home furnishings, and specialty shops. Think hand made jewelry, crafts, sculptures, antiques, woven textiles, and chic fashion.
Zinc Cafe is a little hard to find because it is covered with plants, slightly recessed from the sidewalk, and the sign that says "Zinc" is near-impossible to see. Once inside you will find that Zinc is quite small: maximum capacity inside the cafe is about 10 people. Outside patio seats about 30 to 40 people. So during peak hours, you may have to wait or take your food to go.
If you are lucky enough to get a table, be prepared for a cozy and charming experience. The tables are predominantly set for groups of 2 or 4, though you can push tables together for larger groups. The decor is lush with overhanging vines and ivy. There is a small water fountain to give a background bubbling effect.
Those who love Zinc will explain that the food is fresh, tasty, good, and good for you. The atmosphere is fabulously quaint. It is just the place to be to have a light and relaxed breakfast/lunch.
Those who hate Zinc will tell you that there is no seating, the menu is very limited, the servings are small, and the prices are outrageous.
Personally, I like Zinc Cafe because:
they are vegetarian, but not too granola-y;
they are a bit pricey, but I only go 3 or 4 times a year;
it gets crowded but I time my visit wisely.
Which camp will you fall into?
Zinc Cafe & Market
132 South Cedros Avenue
Solana Beach, CA 92075-1915
Mon & Tues 7 am to 5 pm
Wed to Sun 7 am to 6 pm
Parking is available on the street or in the shared parking lot immediately adjacent to Zinc. There is not a lot of parking, but the parking lot size is appropriate for the size of dining room. If you can't find parking, it's likely that you won't find seating either.