Like any other establishment which achieves status as a "hangout", especially for a hip college crowd, the Saturn Cafe is significant more because of its crowd than because of its menu - Though the calling power of its desserts cannot be ignored. Their phone number is 831-429-8505, and they tend to be open from 11:30 am to 3 or 4 in the morning. They're an excellent place to grab a snack or a meal, or fix your sweet tooth, most times you're awake.
Saturn has always been a place where you could get a decent vegetarian meal. I'm personally more of a carnivore than anything, but having been a b geek in Santa Cruz I had plenty of friends who were. And occasionally it's nice to be able to go have a nice low-grease meal in a dark, mellow atmosphere. Mind you, I'm talking about the second location here, at 1230 Mission. This is a Chinese restaurant of some sort now. It shares a parking lot with a great Thai restaurant, Westside Video (a great local video store), and a Dry Cleaners or two.
The outside of the building was always painted a fairly dark color, and the windows had a serious tint, so it stayed reasonably bearable inside even on exceptionally bright days. As for the inside, the place was fairly homey, and there were some Saturn-related decorations hanging. Definitely a sort of laid-back early eighties feel.
The labeling of the bathroom doors is worth note. I recall vividly my mortification (at the tender, naive age of 15) trying to decide which bathroom I should use: Us or Them. The bathrooms are of course unisex, each intended for a single person, and the labels were changed occasionally for the amusement of patrons and employees alike.
Now, oddly enough on the heels of the bathrooms, we must discuss dessert. The primary ice cream-based dessert of choice amongst geeks was (and perhaps still is) the Chocolate Madness - which is now "Two Gramma's cookies, a scoop of chocolate burnt almond ice cream, hot fudge, chocolate mousse, whipped cream, & chocolate chips." I seem to recall the ice cream being variable, and the cookies being a big fat brownie, but it's been quite a while since I've been there - And this particular incarnation of "there" hasn't been there for a while, either. There are also Mud Pies, which are now made only with Turkish Coffee, Vanilla, or Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream (in a chocolate crust), but were once made with whatever ice cream sounded interesting at the time. It was common to have as many as six different flavors to choose from, if you got there at the right time - Which could be any time.
The building containing Saturn's new invocation at 145 Laurel Street is shaped like a dumbbell, and they're in one of the round sections. They have some fairly exciting new foods for veggies, like some really frighteningly good meatless corn dogs. They taste just like the real thing, but they have slightly less flavor. The desserts are a little wimpier and the place doesn't have the same feeling of community it once did, like you were walking into someone's home, and they were selling you food - But it was good, and while not cheap, the prices were never outrageous.
Frighteningly enough, I want to say that the business in that building used to be a car dealer, perhaps even a Saturn dealer. But that would be too perfect. More recently, it was a Boston Market, but that didn't last long; Santa Cruzans' instinctive distrust for chain stores put them out of business fairly rapidly. The space next door is now Wired Wash internet-connected coin-op laundry (Formerly Wash Rock, a good place to read or study). The other end of the building is occupied by a Kinko's.
My fond memories of the second location of the Saturn Cafe include playing Mau with perverts and geeks while munching down on veggie food I really couldn't afford, and drinking Orangina, which I don't believe they carry in the new downtown spot. The feel has shifted from the family den to something more closely akin to the Peach Pit.
Regardless, Saturn has a great history, a happening crowd, tasty veggie chow, and hip decor. If you're a veggie, or into chocolate and ice cream, so happy together, you are required to visit the Saturn Cafe.