Strawberry’s Shelter Bay Cafe is overlooked by many because of its unusual placement: wedged between real estate offices and outclassed by the large Piatti restaurant across the street. Upon entering the cafe, however, the quaint and enjoyable environment takes a front seat. The delicious aroma of sandwiches fills the room while both the cashier and chef work diligently to fill every order. The cafe is small and cluttered: dessert, refreshment, and side dish stations are crammed together to allow people to enter and exit with ease. Nevertheless, the chef has each sandwich ready to go in under five minutes.
Among the many food choices, two meals stand out among the rest. The BBQ tri-tip sandwich ($7.95) and the pesto chicken panini ($7.95) are both delicious and highly recommended.
The BBQ tri-tip sandwich consists of tri-tip meat slathered with barbecue sauce combined with mayo, tomatoes, onions, and green bell peppers. The one problem with the BBQ tri-tip is that the combination of barbecue sauce and mayo takes away from the real barbecue sauce taste, and instead leaves an unusual aftertaste following each bite. The next time I ate at Shelter Bay, I ordered the BBQ tri-tip without mayo. With each bite, the apparent taste of barbecue sauce complimented all the other ingredients.
Most paninis at Shelter Bay have a similar taste with the same main ingredients, only allowing you to vary the cheese choice. The pesto chicken panini is the exception. Consisting of chicken, tomatoes, pesto, provolone cheese and onions all covered in aioli sauce, the pesto chicken panini has its own unique Mediterranean taste. In contrast to the combination of barbecue sauce and mayo, the pesto and aioli sauce is a much better blend.
While most meals are for lunch, Shelter Bay also offers a small breakfast menu with an assortment of breakfast burritos and bagels. All choices without extra additions are under $5.00. A bacon or sausage addition to the breakfast burrito adds extra taste, but costs another $1.00. The bagels are nothing special, tasting like any other average bagel. On the other hand, the breakfast burrito was much better, with the rich taste of eggs, lightly salted potatoes and spicy salsa deliciously combined together.
With speedy service, Shelter Bay is a terrific cafe to go to during school lunch. After calling and ordering ahead, the sandwich will be warm and ready for pickup upon arrival. Ordering directly at the cafe would take about five minutes longer, but the sandwich is well worth the wait.
Shelter Bay Cafe in Strawberry seems far away, but in reality, it takes a total of 20-25 minutes to drive there, order/pickup a sandwich and drive back to Redwood. Being a less frequented lunch destination, lines are usually short. Also, freeway congestion is not often a problem when driving to Shelter Bay.
Shelter Bay isn’t only a cafe for lunch pickups. Quick early morning breakfast stops are also possible. Despite the slightly pricey food, the acceptable distance from Redwood and the assortment of food choices make eating at Shelter Bay a memorable experience.