A sign on the wall above the display case at Del Mar Danish Pastry and Coffee states a simple philosophy: "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."
For those who take that to heart, perhaps another message, say a warning from the surgeon general, should be plastered on some of the pastries below--especially the bakery's most popular item, the "seven sisters coffee cake"-- Caution: This confection contains custard, almonds and raisins. It can be habit-forming, and may be hazardous to your belt.
It's hard to resist the siren song of the seven sisters.
"There's one little old lady who is literally addicted to it," said Pat Napoleon, who runs Del Mar Danish with her husband, Al. "She panics when she has only one or two in her freezer." In such emergencies, the woman has been known to hire a cab for a quick trip to the small bakery in the heart of Del Mar.
Those who resist choose from a display case full of other items: bear claws, cheese danish, cinnamon danish, French custard squares and a chocolate eclair to die for. But killer pastries are only half the story. Del Mar Danish is a neighborhood visiting spot, socializing spot, studying spot. Sunday mornings, Del Mar Danish is crowded with serious bicyclists, families returning from church and people reading the newspapers.
Tables on the small deck in back are bordered by red wooden flower boxes spouting bright impatiens or leafy philodendrons. Wandering vines form a canopy between the flower boxes and the corrugated fiberglass roof. Down the stairs in back are several wooden patio tables shaded by large umbrellas. Bougainvillea crawls along the red fence on the alley, and an ocean breeze often blows through the drooping branches of the eucalyptus. But the clincher is the bottomless cup of coffee--good coffee that you can refill as many times as you like.
The Napoleons were living in Orange County when they bought the shop from a Danish couple in December, 1979. They had scoured Orange County searching for the right little bakery, but could not find what they wanted. Then they saw a classified ad in the paper, and drove down to Del Mar.
"We had never been to San Diego before," said Pat. "One look and we knew this was it."
Genuine Danish recipes translated into English by the bakery's original owner are still used.
DEL MAR DANISH PASTRY & COFFEE
1140 Camino Del Mar
Hours: 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.
Take Note: The shop is closed from Dec. 25 through mid-January.