Restaurant News & Reviews

In Santa Margarita, settle down at The Porch for a satisfying bite

Most of the sandwiches are served on housemade focaccia bread, including the grilled portabella sandwich.
Most of the sandwiches are served on housemade focaccia bread, including the grilled portabella sandwich. The Tribune

A porch is often where you sit and daydream about the future.

For Carol Samano, The Porch Café is her dream come true.

The classic Western-style building in “downtown” Santa Margarita echoes the feel of a different era, with wooden floors, high ceilings, big windows and a welcoming outdoor patio — plus the modern conveniences of wireless Internet and a big screen television. Its location attracts not only locals and county residents, but also cyclists touring on nearby Highway 58 and car travelers looking for a comfy stop off Highway 101.

During her 20-year career in security at Diablo Canyon, Samano often thought about “having my own little coffee shop in a little town where we could raise our kids.”

In 2006, fairly soon after she and her family moved to Santa Margarita, she got that chance when the original owner of The Porch — then an Internet cafe called Solomon’s Porch — wanted to sell the business.

Almost immediately, Samano expanded The Porch’s offerings, adding several items to the menu including sandwiches, salads, pizzas and burgers.

This was no small feat given the size of the café’s cooking area, but Samano said “we just look at what we can do with what we have, and we get quite creative.” The kitchen does sport a grill and convection oven “that works great for the pizzas,” and a small fryer was recently added so now you can order up some fries to go with your burger.

For breakfast, which is served until noon, you can choose from bagels, a fruit and yogurt parfait, or several breakfast burritos, such as the Hawaiian Burrito with ham, pineapple, melted cheese and fluffy steamed eggs.

If you need some eye-opening java, The Porch offers pre-brewed regular and decaf selections daily, as well as a variety of espresso drinks, all made with certified organic, fair-trade coffee from Coastal Peaks Roasters in San Luis Obispo.

The lunch/dinner menu is available anytime, including the popular pizzas. Make your own combination, or opt for one of the specialty creations such as the garlic veggie pizza with white sauce and mushrooms.

Samano and her daughter Sarah (who manages The Porch) also indulged their love of spicy food by coming up with the unique and zesty chicken enchilada pizza — chicken, olives, onions and jalapeños topped with green enchilada sauce and cheese.

Sandwich options run the gamut from basic deli-style to a turkey club, tuna salad, barbecue roast beef and cheddar, and a housemade chipotle meatloaf that Samano describes as “flavorful, but not too spicy.” There’s also a grilled Portobello that’s appropriate for vegetarians, as is the veggie wrap with tomato, avocado and artichoke hearts in your choice of whole wheat or flour tortilla.

Most of the sandwiches are served on housemade focaccia bread, just one of the many baked items that The Porch Café makes throughout the day. You can enjoy freshly baked treats such as muffins, brownies, and lemon bars, and the kitchen also whips up its own potato salad and coleslaw.

The scope of The Porch has grown in the last four years, and not just in regard to its menu.

Last April, it expanded into a vacated office space next door, a move that allowed the Samanos to start hosting singer-songwriters on Thursday nights. Soon, the casual live music program became so popular that “now it’s every Thursday and Friday, and even the occasional Saturday.

“We’ve gotten great local support and we’re very pleased the way things have gone,” said Carol Samano. “We couldn’t ask for a nicer atmosphere.”