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The Beach Gourmet: Café Dana: Cozy and Quaint:

Though we are spoiled with limitless dining options in Santa Monica, it is rare to find something on a well-traversed street that is still somewhat of a local secret.

My friend Barb suggested that we meet at a place called Café Dana on Montana Avenue’s most voguish strip.

“Where?” I quizzed, in response to which she educated me about the existence and location of a cute café for those “in the know,” with a fine reputation for serving delicious brunches in a calming hideaway environment. Just steps from the street, it appears far from the blusterous traffic of our city.

We sat at a table in a delightful little brick courtyard, admiring people with puppies and other urbane denizens of Montana Avenue’s charming colony.

Soon enough we were being attended to by some rather polite and well-spoken staff, and before long I was sipping a delicious and generously large cup of fresh coffee as Barb was enjoying an English breakfast tea, complete with steamed milk.

We were handed not one but two extensive menus, one a breakfast and the other a lunch, and, in between our lolling in the comfy chairs and complaining about the sad state of the nation (well, only for a very short while), we perused our menus and made our choices.

The breakfast menu took me on a journey from bagels with cream cheese ($4.25) past a House Scramble (three scrambled eggs, feta cheese, onions, bell peppers and ham, with potatoes and fresh fruit on the side, served with bread and a small fresh squeezed juice, $12.50) and Chicken Crepes (two homemade crepes filled with seasoned chicken breast chunks, topped with homemade hollandaise sauce and served with garnish, $11.95), eventually arriving at the Salmon Benedict (poached eggs, Norwegian salmon and tomato slices on a toasted English muffin, topped with herbed hollandaise sauce and served with fresh fruit, potatoes and juice, $13.50).

The scenery on my friend’s journey included Eggplant Moussaka (layered eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, white rice and lean ground turkey, seasoned with herbs, topped with homemade tomato sauce and served with soup or small house salad, $13.95) and a delicious-sounding Paprikash (vegetable stew with white rice, tomatoes, bell peppers and seasonings, served with bread, $10.50), but her chosen destination was a tasty Broccoli-Zucchini Quiche served with salad, $9.50.

The service was prompt, and when our dishes arrived they were well presented with adequate and balanced portions.

My Salmon Benedict was delightful, with delicious slivers of salmon, fresh tomato and soft eggs. But the potatoes really stood out as something special; grated hash- style and browned to perfection, they had a light melt-in-the-mouth quality that I found to be most appealing.

Barb’s quiche was outstanding too, with the quarter pie being fresh and good, and the broccoli and zucchini being more of the purée style than whole pieces of vegetables, making the dish soft and easy on the palate. I would most definitely choose this as a tasty lunch choice myself.

With a Mediterranean-centric menu and a relaxing and enchanting patio dining area as well as a rather homey but small indoor space, Dana’s gave us a succulently quaint and quiet dining experience.

Café Dana, 1211 Montana Avenue, 310.394.0815.

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