Shadowbrook, the world-famous Shadowbrook restaurant in Capitola, California has opened its doors after a false start several weeks ago. Upon entering, I immediately looked to the right of the hostess stand to see if my favorite barstool was available. Ever since Rob, the bartender, started the tradition, I order a pre-dinner Grey Goose martini up, slightly dirty, two onions, two olives. Not today. There were no bar stools. There were very few tables in the normally packed Rock Room.
My friend Kathy’s eyes swept the room and her face lit up. Through her mask she exclaimed, “The table by the fireplace is open! I’ve never sat there before.”
“Let’s do it!” I cried as the hostess smiled, nodded, and checked our names off the reservation list. The tables were so far apart we felt as if we had the entire room to ourselves. As we sat across from each other I scanned the room and caught the eye of one of my favorite bartenders who smiled and nodded from behind the empty bar. How did I know he was smiling since his mouth was covered by a fashionable black mask? His eyes crinkled up and his mask expanded slightly. You get to know the subtle clues after six months of mask-wearing.
After sitting at the coveted table, I wriggled out of my jacket, having worked up a sweat after making our way down the hill via the stairs. Normally, I like to take the cable car down and walk up to work off dinner. Today, there was a long line waiting in the socially-distanced queue. In the pre-pandemic days, four to six people could jam into the small car with lots of giggles when the car jerked on start-up, and folks were thrown against each other, often perfect strangers.
When we saw the line, Kathy turned to me in her sensible flats and said, “Stairs?”
I looked down at my feet noting my medium-high stilettos. “Yes, stairs!” I agreed, happy I had opted for the medium pumps in favor of the five-inch royal blue platforms with the peacock feathers I had considered when dressing for the outing.
Years ago I had counted the stairs on the windy, twisty path that meanders through giant fern groves and a spectacular rock waterfall. I think I counted a hundred and seven or eight. I remember doing it several times since I got two different numbers—one going up and a different one going down. That didn’t make sense to me, so I did it again. And again. I was wearing running shoes at the time. Looks like I’m gonna have to dust them off and do it yet another time so I can report the correct number in the appropriate chapter of the book I’m writing about Shadowbrook. Yes, I am still writing it! It’s only been ten years since I started it. Somehow I always get side-tracked. Imagine that?
As always, the staff at Shadowbrook treated us with friendly enthusiasm and warmth. The young ladies that waited on us were thrilled to be back at work. Shelle, our waitress, told us she was offered another job but held out until Shadowbrook got clearance to open. Her eyes softened when she told us that the owner, Ted Burke, went to great lengths to keep as many employees on the payroll as possible by holding Zoom training classes and juggling finances while adapting to the restaurant rules of pandemic dining.
I felt heartened to hear laughter coming from the main dining room below us. There must have been a family at the large table in front of the enormous fireplace. I’m only guessing since I didn’t dare wander around.
With the mandatory table spacing, I doubted if the secret table was still there—table twenty-two which was hidden behind the fireplace. On second thought, it’s so isolated perhaps it is still there. I had envisioned going there alone some time, dressed in a sequined gown, ordering my special martini and my favorite blackened lamb dinner while being a “fly on the wall.” I get some good story ideas by simply eavesdropping with my little notebook which I carry in my purse at all times.
At least I can be assured that table ten, the little table tucked away in the alcove in the middle of the stairs, is still there. It’s one of those tables that people either love or hate since folks walking by can’t help but look. I especially get a kick out of people who try not to look but can’t help it. Some good-naturedly comment on the food, others try so hard not to look they start to stumble and have to grab the handrail. At least that’s how it used to be. I’ll have to request that table next time I go and see what happens.
Meanwhile, Shelle was busy serving other customers so we grabbed another waitress, Vanessa, a delightful young lady who happened to be walking by. We asked her to take our photos—one with masks and one without as she told us stories about how thrilled she is to be back at work with her Shadowbrook family.
Kathy and I were also thrilled, had a fabulous scallop dinner and a delicious Grand Marnier afterward. As we walked up the stairs to go home, I started counting them but gave it up as we chatted about how lucky we are to live in such a magical place as Santa Cruz in general, and Capitola in particular.
Shadowbrook is now open during the day with hours from noon to four. I will don my sneakers soon, grab my notebook and make an accurate count of the stairs. Who wants to join me? You can do your own count and we’ll compare. No talking.
On second thought, it might be more fun to tell stories along the way and we can still count. If we get it wrong, all the more reason to go back and do it again. And again. I simply do not tire of going to Shadowbrook. Ever.
I think I’ll go write a chapter in the book now. Or maybe I’ll just go have lunch since the Rock Room is now open from noon until four. Whoo hoo!