Saturn Cafe seems to be beloved by many locals, especially of the college student ilk. It's no wonder since, based on their website (linked below), it's open til 3 or 4am. It's also in a very central location of downtown (corner of Soquel & Pacific) and, in keeping w/ its name, is housed in an eye-catching spherical space. Atmosphere is bohemian diner and adorned w/ satirical, anti-big business propaganda (we were seated at a table w/ the "Swineopoly" board poking fun at Starbucks, McD's, various oil giants). Seems like the kind of place you could hang out at for a couple of hours and drop $10 total. Don't expect swift service though.
I had heard about it, but never considered going for a couple of reasons: 1. I'm beyond my college years and don't want to be called "maam" by a co-ed waiter and 2. It's a vegetarian diner which is such an oxymoron that I couldn't help scoff at. So what finally brought Y and I to orbit our way over to this quirky place at 10pm last night?...McConnel's ice cream.
I learned about McConnel's from a link on the SF board provided by Caitlin McGrath, who I believe is a former banana slug. McConnel's is produced in Santa Barbara, but is commercially distributed. I wanted to see how this "M" would compare to my beloved "M"...Marianne's at 1020 Ocean St. in Santa Cruz.
I displayed restraint and ordered one scoop of the mint chocolate chip ($1.95). This was after a letdown, when the waitress proclaimed that they no longer served chocolate burnt almond, even though it remained in print on their menu (grrr). Y ordered the mud pie w/ Turkish coffee ic cream ($3.50).
My scoop was on the small side, so not a great value. Crisp menthol flavor, but the chocolate chips seemed more like chocolate cookies (not a detractor, but just a note). Refreshing but on the icy side and not nearly as creamy and satisfying as Marianne's mint chip or mint oreo (I've had both).
Y's mud pie was good-looking. Not a gooey monstrosity, but more neat and tailored, which was a plus for us. Crust was made w/ crushed Oreos, ice cream was packed densely, covered w/ a thin layer of chocolate ganache, and garnished w/ a pin wheel of real whipped cream. Very decadent and frankly delicious. Turkish coffee ice cream was better than the mint chip, but again, the texture and flavor weren't on par w/ Marianne's cafe flavor.
So...Marianne's still has my loyalty. Especially since the recent emergence of their seasonal cantalope flavor has shaken things up. The food on other tables at Saturn did look tasty though. Fries looked very crispy, veggie burgers hearty, and salads fresh. Any hounds have opinions on the food? May need to make a second orbit to find out.