Elmwood café may only be four years old, but the stools inside are postwar relics. The roots of the café begin in 1921, when it opened its doors as the Elmwood Soda Fountain. After WWII, an aviator by the name Charles "Ozzie" Osborne revived the space and made it a cornerstone of community. A few years ago, after a short restoration, the space entered its latest iteration as a new player in the world of Slow Food and upscale coffee. The sign for Ozzie's Soda Fountain still sits above the door.
Any given morning, the tables are packed with readers and writers and brunchers and family. Plates of quiche with microgreens or bowls of beef stew (grass-fed, of course) pepper the tables. It's a quaint and sunny place, a cheerful emblem of the changing face of food around here.
Like so many places around these parts, Elmwood Café can also trace its roots back to Chez Panisse. Well, more precisely, Café Fanny -- Alice Waters' tiny spot that closed in 2012 after 28 years, and where Elmwood's general manager, Kara Hammond, helped run the show for eight of them. The flavors at Elmwood are familiar, fresh and seasonal, and the pastry program is one of the better in-house spreads around. Plus, they make the best chocolate chocolate chip cookie on this side of the bay (hello, fleur de sel). Just make sure you get them fresh.
Elmwood is open all day and into the night, but breakfast is one of the best things on the menu. Think cinnamon-currant toast, or lemon buttermilk waffles. Best of all, though, are the savory eggs. The quiche is light and airy, and the frittata is densely packed with seasonal greenery. On a spring day, you might find kale and pea shoots in the same slice as asparagus and mushrooms, laced with cheese crisped by the Turbochef.
Elmwood is giving more than good food back to the community. The spot actually donates 50 percent of its profits to charities and nonprofits like the Waterside Workshops, the Go Green Initiative, and the Bread Project. It's a rare model, and it tastes damn good.