Amy and I were in need of a great breakfast stop while driving back from Monterey to San Francisco on Route 1. For a task as specific as this, I hopped on Chowhound to see if any helpful threads already covered this topic and sure enough there was one perfect for my needs. Through this thread, I learned about a very highly regarded shop called Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria located in Capitola just south of Santa Cruz. It was also only a two minute detour off of Route 1 so it seemed like a perfect fit for our breakfast situation.
Gayle’s is super popular. The number of frantic hungry people racing around in this place was frankly astounding. If you don’t enter prepared for this kind of hustle, I’m sure the experience could get rather overwhelming. But, I had read up on the place before entering and knew to make a B-line straight to the ticket dispenser in the corner the moment I stepped foot in the door. Over the loud speaker, you’ll hear constant hollering overhead to indicate when it’s each number’s turn. And when your number is called, you better know what you’re getting – you don’t want to hold up that line. Once we had a number in hand, we mad-dashed around the numerous display cases to check out all of the offerings so that we would be prepared when our number was ultimately called.
My visit took place on a Monday morning and it felt like literally the entire town of Capitola was inside of Gayle’s getting their breakfast and baked goods fixes before heading to school or work. The place was founded in the 1970s and it seemed like it hadn’t changed one bit over the past 35 years. It had a throwback pastel paint scheme that reminded me of a 6-year-old’s retro doll house and there was a fitting mix of families and elderly locals to fill the place out.
When our number was called, we stepped up to the register and confidently ordered one savory breakfast item a piece and added one sweet pastry to split that came highly recommended by our cashier. We then grabbed two seats in the outdoor covered patio to check out our haul and dig in.
I went for a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Chive Biscuit and was not disappointed with my decision at all. Not to undersell it or anything, but it reminded me a lot of McDonald’s Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit – albeit a really high quality one. I don’t have a whole lot of nice things to say about McDonald’s or fast food in general, but this breakfast dish is something that transports me right back to my childhood.
At Gayle’s, the biscuit was big and crumbly, the eggs were deliciously fluffy and cheesy, and the bacon was impressively crispy and well done. This sandwich maybe could have used a touch of salt and pepper, but other than that, I don’t think it could have been improved. This breakfast sandwich really hit the spot for me.
For Amy’s savory main, she went for their Ham and Cheese Croissant which was curiously served at room temp. But, even at room temperature, it was still a really excellent breakfast item. The crispy, flaky, buttery, pastry layers were incredibly delicious and the meaty cheese filling elevated the simple croissant to another level of awesomeness. Really though, this thing would have been perfect if it had come fresh out of the oven.
Finally, to finish off our meal, we dove into our cashier-recommended sweet pastry pick – the Bear Claw. A Bear Claw is another one of those dishes that throws me right back to childhood in a single bite and the Gayle’s rendition was an incredibly good one.
It was massive and came loaded with crumbly chocolate cake filling and a sticky almond slice topping. I definitely tasted the bold and distinct flavor of almond liqueur in every bite which I felt was a really nice way to round out the flavors and add additional complexity to the creation. Yes, this was an great Bear Claw.
So, Gayle’s definitely draws a feverish crowd, but for many good reasons. Everything we had tasted delicious and homemade, was reasonably priced, and was made even better by that distinct, unique, retro, throw-back Gayle’s atmosphere. If you find yourself passing through Capitola just like we were, I’d recommend a stop to get your sweet or savory pastry fix.
Got another great breakfast option near Route 1 that I should check out next time I’m in the area? Let me know in the comments below.
Gayle’s Bakery & Rosticceria
504 Bay Ave. Capitola, CA 95010