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June 03, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, June 03, 2005

Patio sets Michaels apart Patio sets Michaels apart (June 03, 2005)

Popular Shoreline eatery perfect for breakfast, lunch

By Mandy Erickson

Michaels at Shoreline is a restaurant for summertime. It has a charming patio that overlooks a tranquil pond, the greens of the golf course and, farther west, the coastal hills.

As for the food, its salads, always appropriate for warm weather, are very nice. And it offers a good selection of beer, that favorite summer drink, on tap: Fat Tire and Steelhead round out the more usual Anchor Steam and Gordon Biersch.

The cafeteria-style restaurant, at the east end of Shoreline Boulevard, draws golfers and weekday working types from the Shoreline Business Park. For lunch it serves a number of standard salads and sandwiches but also offers daily specials including pasta, enchiladas, soup and meat-and-vegetable entrees.

And for breakfast, Michaels offers the usual two-eggs orders, plus some special scrambles and omelets. The restaurant is not open for dinner.

When I visited on a sunny weekday for lunch, Michaels was a pleasant respite from work. I took my Santa Fe black bean salad ($6.95) outside, and there, watching Canada geese and cormorants, I happily finished my crisp mixed greens topped with a black bean, corn and pepper mixture and grilled chicken breast. The slightly spicy, slightly smoky dressing tied all the ingredients together well. The only downer was the accompanying bread, slices of a squishy baguette toasted and buttered on one side.

Another salad, the chopped cobb ($7.25), was also good. The restaurant's idea of tossing together shredded iceberg lettuce with bits of avocado, bacon, blue cheese, tomato and hard boiled egg worked beautifully, as each forkfull featured most of those ingredients, and the tastes married well. You have to eat it quickly, though, because it'll soon grow soggy and lose its appeal.

The side salad ($3.25) was also a winner. A simple romaine, tomato and crouton number, the ingredients were nonetheless fresh and crisp. I chose to have it topped with cheese, and was glad I did, as the grated Romano proved to be full of flavor and a good match with my ranch dressing.

When I -- and Mother Nature -- strayed from the summer theme, however, Michaels was far less appealing. I showed up during a late-season rainstorm, and the dining room, crowded because the patio was closed, was so noisy my friend and I had to raise our voices. We found distracting the line of people waiting to order and all the shuffling around as customers filled their drinks and picked up their orders.

My meal was also a disappointment: the breaded tilapia sandwich ($6.95), one of the day's specials, featured a too-soft roll with lettuce and tomato and tartar sauce. The tilapia was less than fresh and fishy-tasting, and the accompanying fries were soggy.

The desserts also proved to be not worth the calories. The chocolate mousse ($1) was light and sweet with little taste: I had to really concentrate to discern any chocolate flavor. And the bread pudding ($2.25) was terribly heavy, tasting like day-old doughnuts.

A cup of roasted red bell pepper soup ($2.75), however, was quite nice: Made with a simple stock-and-pepper recipe, it let the flavor of the red pepper shine.

The restaurant doesn't make it easy for newcomers to figure out its fairly complicated food retrieval system. On my first visit, my friend and I saw easily enough that we needed to stand in line, but once we placed our order we were lost. The cashier handed us a droid-like device without saying anything -- only after several trips to the counter, the device's going off and more than a little confusion, did we have all our food.

The process would have been clear if I had looked at my receipt rather than stuffing it into my purse (but who does that?). A note at the bottom read, "Pick up cold salads and sandwiches at deli. Wait for pager to buzz to pick up hot food."

And on my third visit, when I thought I had Michaels figured out, I drank my ice tea warm because I never could find the ice. Only after my meal did I find a low cart, next to the coffee table, that was filled with ice cubes.

On a recent warm Sunday morning, however, Michaels offered a very pleasant brunch. My Belgian waffle ($5.50) with strawberries and whipped cream, was crisp and light, without any of the acrid taste from preservatives.

The textures in my sister's veggie Joe scramble ($6.25) were just right: The eggs were soft without being runny, and the mushrooms, spinach, tomato, bell peppers and onion were all well cooked. The dish came with the same baguette toast that accompanied the black bean salad and diced potatoes, which I found soggy rather than crisp. My fruit salad ($2.75) was also very serviceable.

After our brunch, we would have been happy to sit on that patio all day. Michaels has enough seating outside that you can choose a table in the shade or the sun -- or part shade and part sun -- and comfortable wicker chairs.

In fact, the patio draws a few non-paying customers. A sign tells you not to leave your food unattended; when we saw a ground squirrel scampering about and birds flying hopefully around the patio, we understood why.

Michaels at Shoreline
2960 Shoreline Blvd. (650) 962-1014 Open Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Reservations - no Credit cards - yes Lot parking - yes Alcohol - yes Takeout - yes Highchairs - yes Wheelchair access - yes Banquet - yes Catering - yes Outdoor seating - yes Noise level - high Bathroom cleanliness - OK

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