Amir Rofougaran’s Café 27 is a delightful American-style diner where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch and lattes, as well as occasional jazz nights or poetry slams.
In 2015, when Amir Rofougaran and his partners bought the building that housed Pat’s Topanga Grill and turned it into the Topanga Table, he soon realized it wasn’t quite the right fit for Topanga.
As he grew to know his clientele and some of the history of the establishment, he solicited their feedback, then changed course. He renamed it Café 27, and created an American-style diner that returns to its heritage as a casual eatery offering traditional fare that also includes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. He retained the hand-carved wooden counter inside,
Open for breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, Café 27 has something for everyone. Best of all, they pay a mid-week homage to Pat’s Topanga Grill by offering his classic “Canyon Breakfast,” two eggs, any style, toast, bacon or sausage.
When asked why he changed from Topanga Table to Café 27, Rofougaran was very clear: “We changed from haute cuisine to a diner, because organic food should not just be haute cuisine,” he said. “It can be as American as anything and I believe that all good things come from regular folks.”
The casual-style diner menu has also undergone a major upgrade thanks to chef Brian Gregg, who helms the kitchen with an eye towards organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed beef, and ensures that all meats and eggs are from humanely raised animals.
Eschewing plastic and eventually even glass, Café 27 serves its food on natural-pressed palm leaf plates, uses paper straws and coffee cups that are compostable, recyclable, and reduce water use.
Rofougaran is an innovative restaurateur with the soul of a poet. He spoke of the many ideas he has to maintain a community-oriented, and environmentally responsible business.
“My philosophy about the restaurant is I want it to be a model of environmental consciousness,” he said. “In restaurant service, I believe the move is toward fresh, natural food, and we are going for 100 percent organic as much as we can, as well as environmentally-safe disposal.” For starters, he installed a state-of-the-art water filtration system that makes the tap water at Café 27 truly remarkable.
In keeping with his philosophy, Rofougaran also expanded and redesigned the southern patio for a spectacular view overlooking one of the small ravines that carry winter rains through the canyon to the sea.
THE EAGLES’ NEST
Looking out, we remarked on a eucalyptus tree that seemed to be half-cut. According to Rofougaran, it was destined for removal, but seeing it at this stage, he had an idea to build an eagle’s nest on top of it. “They have kits for those,” he said.
Noting that what we mostly see in the canyon are hawks and owls, not eagles, he replied with a shrug, as if to say, “We’ll see. Build it and they will come.”
Later, we researched the possibility of eagles in Topanga and what did we find? A National Parks Service report that said, “In June, a pair of golden eagle chicks, a fully protected species in the state of California, were discovered in a nest in a remote area of the western Santa Monica Mountains. The last time a nest was confirmed in the mountains was in the late 1980s near Lobo Canyon, in the central portion of the mountain range” (for the full NPS report, “The Eagles Nest,” see page 11).
With rents the way they are in Topanga, hawks or owls may beat the eagles to occupancy at the highly desirable real estate of Café 27 property.
Mornings on the patio at Café 27 are mellow enough to ease you into a busy day. A bracing cup of black coffee, Classic Eggs Benedict ($15) with hollandaise sauce, Canadian bacon and a side of Patatas Bravas is more than worth getting out of bed for.
If you think avocado toast is too trendy, try the “Let’s Get Toasty” version of smashed avocado, furikake, lime, jicama, and cilantro ($9) and you may change your mind. Add an egg, not just any egg but one that is organic with a bright, almost orange yolk, for an additional $2.
Also highly recommended is the Frozen Breakfast Bowl ($12) of seasonal blended fruit sorbet, house-made granola, sliced banana, toasted coconut, kiwi, local honey, and almond butter. Sweet.
The breakfast menu also includes pancakes that include vegan and gluten-free options, omelets, breakfast burritos, or the Tortilla Española ($10) served with confit potatoes and onion, organic eggs, piquillo aioli, herb salad, and choice of toast. All are in the $10-$15 range. Steak & Eggs is $18. Fresh baked muffins, scones and gluten-free pastries are also available.
LUNCH IS SERVED
As we enjoyed iced tea and waited for our order, Rofougaran said, “We are hoping to catch the “Americana” spirit in our food, something that will be the happy middle, that will put us in the center.”
We started with a Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Kale salad ($12) with Medjool dates, pea puree, candied walnuts, and pimento vinaigrette that was magically delicious and completely vegan without the added chicken.
That was followed by the California Classic Burger ($15), of grass-fed beef from the Santa Carrota Ranch, near Bakersfield. Carrots are added to the free-range grasses, thus infusing the meat with moisture as well as beta carotene.
The burger was served on a slightly sweet bun with crunchy lettuce, a thick, fresh slice of yellow tomato, onions, pickles, and Café 27’s secret “animal sauce” that meets Rofougaran’s goal to serve only the finest ingredients without toxins or outrageous prices
With the burger came a restaurant favorite, Patatas Bravas—Café 27’s Spanish-style fried potatoes garnished with sweet garlic aioli and a nuanced piquant sauce whose kick is not so bold as to allow the flavor to share the palate with the spice. It’s a master touch and a reason the Patatas Bravas are so popular.
Fish and Chips ($18) is a refreshing take on an old standard, with fresh-caught cod in a surprisingly light batter, paired with crispy skinny fries and homemade tartar sauce.
For the kiddos, the entire menu is available to them plus the usual kid-fare—grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, butter noodles with Parmesan, and chicken tenders—all made with the Café 27 touch.
Among the desserts is the “must-try” house-made Persian lime mini cake.
POETRY READINGS AND EVENING EVENTS
With an almost Buddhist-like calm, Rofougaran comments on life, philosophy, poetry, food, and the future—his ideas are many and flow like water.
“We want to be reflective, to be sensitive to the community,” he said. “Poetry is my passion and I believe that all thoughts are received and poetry is the finest of the receipts.”
Although Café 27 closes at 3 p.m., he is looking to the future as he plans food delivery service in the canyon and evening events, such as jazz on the patio, and, of course, poetry readings.
“We want to find the happy center among the mosaic of Topanga,” he said. “My style is circular; I set the stage for people to play their roles properly [Among them are his genial staff]. Me, I only manage; ownership is an illusion.”
Café 27 is located at 1861 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290. Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Annemarie Donkin is a journalist who wrote for The Signal in Valencia, CA and was the Managing Editor for the Topanga Messenger from 2013 to 2016. She is thrilled to write for the Messenger Mountain News to continue the tradition of excellent community newspapers. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel throughout California, read, watch movies and keep bees.
Well that sounds really yummy AND it’s great that Amir is in tune with Topanga so he is able to change to menus that work best. Poetry and jazz night sounds terrific! Will be sure to come visit when we are in town next.
PS Sure wish we had anywhere to eat/entertainment in Berry CReek, CA – the two places that used be here are no longer!