Café Mimosa sits inside the same tucked-away building that used to house Back Street Bistro, the popular soup-and-sandwich spot that closed in 2017. Back Street is a tough act to follow. Its blend of good, simple sandwiches, first-rate soups, and tempting desserts — combined with the gregarious friendliness of owner David Jacoby — generated intense brand loyalty among many Santa Feans.
After Back Street closed, the owners of Café Mimosa started an interior renovation that went on throughout the winter and spring of 2017-2018. The new restaurant opened in May, and an early visit hinted that the kitchen might need time to reach cruising speed: Several of the items listed on the website menu weren’t available yet, and the food I tried was OK but not really memorable.
But during two end-of-summer meals, it was clear that Café Mimosa has upped its game, serving a variety of familiar and innovative brunch items inside one of the more relaxing dining spaces in the city. Back Street was loud and cramped, with the feel of a busy New York diner. Café Mimosa is brighter, airier, and very soothing. The tables — there are roughly 15, seating from two to 10 people each, plus a row of tall counter stools near an open kitchen — are spread out over a sprawling floor space enclosed by mostly white walls and an exposed ceiling. Even on a day when the restaurant was two-thirds full, it was quiet inside, making this a perfect place to go for a real conversation over a meal.
Café Mimosa is already licensed to sell beer and wine, and the offerings include three kinds of draft beer, red and white wine, and two bubblies — an Italian Prosecco and a cava from Spain — that show up in four different mimosas. You can also order coffee, tea, and three different coffee drinks. We tried both the latte and the mocha — both were rich and creamy.
Now that the menu is up and running, there’s plenty to choose from: nine different egg dishes and omelets, more than a dozen sandwiches, salads, and soups; pricier entrées and daily specials, including blackened chicken Alfredo and pork tenderloin; waffles, pancakes, and desserts. The chef here, Alex Hadidi, has had a wide range of culinary influences: He grew up on the coast of Algeria and has studied and worked in Minneapolis, New York, and Atlanta, where he was on the faculty of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. He clearly cares about quality at every point in the process: procurement of ingredients, preparation, and presentation.
The Green Eggs & Ham omelet came with a simple side salad of fresh greens and fruit and a crisp, filling potato latke. The omelet combined three eggs, Gruyère cheese, thinly sliced Black Forest ham, green chile, and basil. All the ingredients seemed fresh and first-rate, and whoever flipped the thing had their timing down: It was nicely browned on the outside, eggy-moist on the inside, and not rubbery at all.
A friend tried a sandwich called the Beetnik, which comes on your choice of bread — he went with multigrain — and features sliced roasted beets, variable grilled seasonal vegetables, spinach, goat cheese, and a dribble of maple-walnut vinaigrette. When the sandwich arrived, there was an oopsie: no
beets inside, just a few strips of red pepper that had been sautéed into shiny limpness. This was an honest mistake, of course. Once the kitchen heard about it from our waiter, we were sent home with an apology and a full replacement.
On a second trip, I tried a mimosa called the Signature Blood Orange, a mix of fresh-squeezed blood orange juice and the Spanish cava. It was all right, but I found myself questioning the $9 price tag on this drink. Next time, I think I’ll pay less ($8) and just order a glass of Prosecco.
As patrons of Back Street Bistro will remember, they served an excellent mushroom soup there. So does Mimosa, a rich mushroom bisque that contains artichoke, leeks, chives, and lemon juice. The ingredients are puréed and (I’m guessing) mixed with cream, then loaded with mushroom bits that are browned in oil. And the eggs Benedict with smoked salmon gets high marks all around: You get perfect poached eggs and a generous amount of cold smoked salmon under a yolky hollandaise sauce.
A steak sandwich with blue cheese, onion, mustard, and vinaigrette was good but messy — the thin-sliced pieces of steak kept sliding out. The dessert we shared — apple strudel — was the standout of both meals, a combination of very delicate pastry, thin-sliced apples, and a lava slide of cream.
The café is only a few blocks from Clafoutis, one of the most popular brunch destinations in town, but Mimosa offers a different package: It’s quieter and slower-paced, with much less emphasis on baking. Both places obviously care about quality, so here’s hoping Café Mimosa develops a loyal following of its own.