Santa Cruz Good Times

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Aug 22nd
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Best of Food & Drink 2009

best_food_SandDabsBest Scotts Valley Restaurant
Sandabs

 

 

 

 

 

Appetizer
Crow's Nest

I love to sit on the balcony upstairs here and enjoy the sun, the breeze and the salty air view. It makes sense, then, that CW was voted Best Outdoor Dining this year. But your love doesn’t stop there. Best Calamari and Best Appetizers also took top honors (try the Dungeness Crab cakes or the shrimp-stuffed artichoke). Topping it off, they also have the best happy hour every weekday, featuring drink specials and half-off your favorite aps. Dig in. Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, 2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 476-4560,
Runners Up
Soif
Hula's
Paradise Beach
515

Bagel
Bagelry

There are days when it just hits me and I say to myself: “You know, you really need a bagel to get grounded, bud.” No kidding. The Bagelry in downtown Santa Cruz works for that. There’s plenty of variety here but I enjoyed the Pink Flamingo—with green onions on a whole wheat. Great. But there’s plenty more to choose from in the place. I often make a mental note to nosh on a blueberry bagel some time, but it never happens. The B has been around for more than 25 years and it continues to win points for great service and great food. (Try the bagel concoction with all that great hummus spread all over it. Delish!) 320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 429-8049
Runners Up
Noah's
Bagel Cafe

Barbecue
Cole's

Napkins and bibs might help you here but oh, the fun you’ll have. Cole’s continues to nab this category year after year. Special things to know: Its chicken sandwich is stellar and comes dripping in Cole’s signature barbecue sauce. But most of the terrific meat items here do. Come hungry. 2590 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 476-4424.
Runners Up
HIndquarter
Bruno's
Armadillo Willy's
Rib King

Burger & Fries
Jack's

Despite Santa Cruz’s richly deserved reputation for tofu, granola and Jack O'Neill (no relation), this premier burger stand manages to thrive. It’s no wonder, too. Everyone but the most ardent, self-possessed health nut eventually succumbs to Jack’s even if it’s for the veggie-burger. Let it also be said that they have the best fries this side of the Mississippi, and stepping into this joint is a little like stepping back in time when gas was cheaper than water, the cows ate grass and men had real names like Bob, Jim and of course Jack. 202 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz, 423-4421
Runners Up
Betty Burger
Carpo's
Saturn Cafe

Aptos Burger Company


Burrito
Vallarta
We just can’t get enough of Taqueria Vallarta burritos, especially the vegetarian version and the plump one stuffed with carne asada, although pretty much every combination has devout fans. And with their mega restaurant opening soon on Mission Street, Westsiders can more easily join the feast. Taqueria Vallarta, 608 Soquel Ave., 1101 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, and 893 41st Ave., Capitola, 471-2655
Runners Up
Tacos Moreno
Planet Fresh
El Palomar
Michocan

Breakfast
Zachary's

A venerable fixture on Pacific Avenue, on its worn wooden floor, Zachary’s small selection of baked goods are excellent, from toasted homemade breads, to the ever-changing coffee cakes, plump moist scones and jalapeno cornbread. Each meal is fresh and flawlessly executed. Even the multi-grain cereal with raisins and brown sugar is to die for, and the sour dough pancakes unmatched. Take note of the home fries. They’re legendary, sautéed with caramelized onion, garlic and spices. (I love the occasional crispy black pieces.) In Mike’s Mess the home fries are sautéed with the eggs (or tofu). For less carb-intense side dishes, fruit or tomatoes are gladly substituted at no charge. If it’s a play day you’ve got planned, don’t forget to enjoy one of Zachary’s mimosas, certain to get you into the surf city spirit. Zachary’s, 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 427-0646.
Runners Up
Walnut Cafe
Linda's Seabreeze
Silver Spur
Cafe Brasil

Brunch
Chaminade

Perched high on a hill overlooking the glorious Monterey Bay, the Sunset Restaurant at Chaminade racks up a big win for Best Brunch. It’s here you can find the local brunch crowd on any given Sunday. Best bets? The omelette station. And while Santa Cruz touts itself to be a big veggie spot, the slow-roasted prime rib station isn’t losing business here. Based on the crowds flocking here each week, Chaminade will likely to remain tops for quite some time.
1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, (800) 283-6569
Runners Up
Hoffman's
Cafe Brasil
Walnut Ave
Zachary's   
Harbor Cafe

Calamari
Crow's Nest

I love to sit on the balcony upstairs here and enjoy the sun, the breeze and the salty air view. It makes sense, then, that CW was voted Best Outdoor Dining this year. But your love doesn’t stop there. Best Calamari and Best Appetizers also took top honors (try the Dungeness Crab cakes or the shrimp-stuffed artichoke). Topping it off, they also have the best happy hour every weekday, featuring drink specials and half-off your favorite aps. Dig in. Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, 2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz,
476-4560
Runners Up
Riva's
Stagnaro's
Aldo's

Chips & Salsa
El Palomar

The crisp tortilla chips and tangy salsa from El Palomar won over stiff competition this year, as did the refreshing and addictive margaritas. Just these two items alone could make a meal, but you’d be missing out. Their tacos are winners too, most of which are quickly prepared and enjoyed in the popular taco bar. But even more importantly, El Palomar was voted best Mexican restaurant. Lately, fresh fish is featured with topical fruit salsas, and a recent lunch special was a grilled salmon salad. (Don’t forget the Guac!) El Palomar,1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-7575
Runners Up
Vallarta
Acapulco
Manuel's

Clam Chowder
Stagnaro's

Something has to be said for an establishment that has more than 20 different types of seafood, so we’ll say: Thanks. But we’re here to talk about Stagnaro’s amazing clam chowder, which has consistently won in this category for many years now. It’s an award-winning New England clam chowder, in fact, and try as I might, I can’t find a damn thing wrong with it. Neither can GT readers because here we are again, rightly so, relishing in its top honors. Creamy, dreamy and with the perfect balance of ingredients—and, can we add, heated and served perfectly—you can’t beat it. (Hang onto your spoon. See you here next year, same spot.)
Runners Up
Crow's Nest
Riva's
Hawg's

Comfort Food
Saturn Cafe

Not only does Saturn Café serve up comfort food, but it will serve it to you deep into the wee hours of the morning. Need a burst of chocolate drizzled over some vanilla ice cream? This is why you visit Saturn. How about a veggie burger at midnight? Saturn. Some delicious nachos with vegan cheese spread on them? Saturn. Your fave also offers a predominantly vegetarian menu. Munch away. Saturn Café, 145 Laurel St., Santa Cruz, 429-8505,
Runners Up
Dharma's
Santa Cruz Diner
Cafe Cruz

Dessert
Chocolat

Brought to life 10 years ago by David Jackman, you can’t pick a better place for divine hot chocolate, or a chocolate dipping pool for cookies—or a classic slice of pie. Chocolate lives up to and exceeds the name of its restaurant. Beyond the treats, the most popular item on the menu is the chicken mole dish, which sells for $12.50 for lunch, and $14.50 for dinner. Not to be missed: Those truffles! Try the dark chocolate/mint variety, or chocolate/hazelnut truffle. Trust us, you’ll order seconds. Chocolate, 1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 420-1928,
Runners Up
Gayle's Bakery
Buttery
Bittersweet Bistro
Marianne's

Meal for a Deal
Charlie Hong Kong

Quality food can come with a pretty heavy price tag. Any label that contains the words organic, vegetarian or vegan usually means you’ll need to throw down extra just so you can handle your body (and the planet) with extra care. Charlie Hong Kong takes all that and turns it on its head, offering tasty organic eats with Oriental flair at a bargain cost (they call it “healthy street food”). Good flavors, supreme ingredients and low prices—what else could you want? And that’s why it remains a midtown staple. 1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-5664
Runners Up
Vallarta
Crow's Nest
Palomar

Sandwich
Zoccoli's

When a family of Italian immigrants by the name of Zocolli bought The Plaza Grocery in 1948, they couldn’t have imagined that the shop would eventually morph into Santa Cruz’s most beloved delicatessen. The transformation began in the early ’70s, when the Zoccolis decided to add some homemade sandwiches to the store’s inventory. Soups and salads soon followed, and it quickly became clear that the family was onto something. Though it’s been through many changes over the years, Zoccoli’s still offers all manner of tempting sandwiches, soups and salads at easy-to-swallow prices. 1534 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-1711
Runners Up
Erik's Deli
New Leaf
Togo's
Garden Deli


Tacos
El Palomar

The crisp tortilla chips and tangy salsa from El Palomar won over stiff competition this year, as did the refreshing and addictive margaritas. Just these two items alone could make a meal, but you’d be missing out. Their tacos are winners too, most of which are quickly prepared and enjoyed in the popular taco bar. But even more importantly, El Palomar was voted best Mexican restaurant. Lately, fresh fish is featured with topical fruit salsas, and a recent lunch special was a grilled salmon salad. (Don’t forget the Guac!) El Palomar,1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-7575
Runners-up: Tacos Moreno (taco.);
Vallarta (Mexican) Crow’s Nest (Happy Hour);
Olita’s (Margarita)


H Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Carpo’s

Once, after getting stood by a date, I thought: “That’s rich.” I mean—really. I washed my hair and everything. The nerve! A friend of mine who had given birth to twins more than a year ago called and suggested I join her and her husband for dinner at Carpo’s. I said sure. She said kids dig Carpo’s because 1) The Melty grilled cheese sandwiches.  2) The chicken breast tenders served with fries and 3) The milkshakes made from real ice cream. So, there I was, surrounded by happy families and couples and kids, drowning my sorrows in a milkshake … when it hit me—my friend’s twins were cool. Tammy and Tommy. Fun names. She had a 5-year-old, too—Bud. Bud loved the fries. I was beginning to feel like a broken wheel on the family wagon when Bud handed me a crayon. I took. it and drew a smiley face on his paper placemat. He clapped for me. 2400 Porter St., Soquel, 476-6260,
Runners Up
Moreno
Vallarta
Olita's
La Cabana


Cheese Selection
Trader Joe's

Runners Up
Shoppers Corner
Deluxe Foods
New Leaf
River Street Cheese


Grocery Store
Shoppers Corner

Last year, celebrating its 70th anniversary and entering the digital age with barcode-scanning registers, Shopper’s Corner continues to evolve and offer customers one-of-a-kind neighborhood ambiance. The produce section now features colorful hand-lettered signs that identify locally-grown goods. From salty imported Roquefort to handcrafted Point Reyes blue, the flavors of their wall of cheeses are unmatched. The deep wine selection practically encircles the store, and when I’m in the mood for an unusual cut of lamb from the full-service butcher shop, there are plenty of local reds to choose from. (Watch an exclusive Best Of video of this winner only at gtweekly.com.) Shopper’s Corner, 622 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-1398
Runners Up
New Leaf
Deluxe Foods

Scotts Valley/Ben Lomond
Natural Foods Store
New Leaf
Locally-owned New Leaf has reinvented itself this year, highlighting its local produce suppliers, and thrilling customers with new time-saving options. Freshly-made meals to-go, roasted chickens, and a salad bar of side dishes is tickling the palates of busy people all over town. And the new, gorgeously-styled Westside location features a cooking classroom as well. New Leaf, serving you in Felton, downtown Santa Cruz, West Side, Capitola, Boulder Creek and Half Moon Bay
Runners Up
Staff of Life
Food Bin

Kitchen Store
ChefWorks

Runner Up
Outside Inn


Bakery
Buttery

Hundreds and thousands of goodies have been hand crafted in the back kitchen of The Buttery, which is still a favorite bakery after two decades. Frosting carrots identify my son’s favorite cupcake toppings, flaky pastry twists cradle luscious glazed fruit, and long loaves of old-world bread are rapidly snatched from shelves throughout the day. These wedding cake specialists can also create treats for any size gathering, whether formal or just fun. The Buttery, 702 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 458-3020,
Runners Up
Gayle's
Kelly's
Hoffman's
Beckman's
Emily's

Deli
Zoccoli's
(see sandwich)
Runners Up
Gayle's
Erik's Deli
New Leaf
Garden Deli

Butcher
Shoppers Corner
(see grocery store)
Runners Up
Corralitos Market
Staff of Life
New Leaf
Deluxe Food


Farmer's Market
Downtown

Where can you taste homemade honey, grab a New York style, take-and-bake pizza and smell the fragrant scent of organic flowers? Rain or shine each Wednesday afternoon, local farmers and artisans gather to sell their wares; from asparagus to zucchini and everything in between. You can find all the ingredients you need for an organic, farm fresh meal. Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 454-0566,
Runners Up
Aptos/Cabrillo
Westside
Live Oak
Felton


Ice cream
Marianne's

Scoop by scoop, flavor by flavor—72 in all—this homemade ice cream haven cools your senses while it warms your heart. It’s the only thing on Ocean Street that should remain there when the entire block is overhauled to become the official “entryway” into Santa Cruz. (More on that later …) In the meantime, you can find us—next to you—ordering something as delish as the “Alice B. Toklas fudge brownie.” Oh, Marianne! 1020 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 458-1447
Runners Up
Cold Stone
Marini's

Pizza
Pizza My Heart

You’ve eaten the pies, you’ve worn the T-shirts, you’ve turned it into the crowded, late-night after-party spot following each big Catalyst concert, and now you’ve voted it Best Pizza—once again. The popular chain that found its start right here in Capitola almost 30 years ago remains a standard fixture downtown. With piping hot pizzas, lunch salads, and perfect outdoor seating to watch the Pacific Avenue parade of characters, Pizza My Heart continues to hold a warm, parmesan-sprinkled place in your heart. 116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-2511
Runners Up
Woodstock
Engfer
Pleasure Point
Kianti

Sushi
Mobo
(see Japanese Food)
Runners Up
Shogun
Pink Godzilla
Takara
I Love Sushi


Restaurant Ambiance
Shadowbrook
(see Restaurant of the Year)
Runners Up
Red
Crow's Nest
Tie: 515/Hula's


Chinese food
O'Mei

For 30 years, O’Mei’s fan base has come from far and wide to sample Szechuan-fusion specialties. They’ve added tables to this oft-reserved fine dining spot, and the recent return of the fancy but fast express lunch  offers more opportunities to enjoy specialties such as the tasty red dumplings. 2316 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 425-8458
Runners Up
Canton
Little Shanghai
Panda Inn
King Chwan
Golden Buddha


Continental Food
Cafe Cruz

It’s delivered some of the finest meals since 1995. A great dining room and cozy outdoor dining are a plus, not to mention a terrific wine list here. Better still, the French-made Rotisol Rotisserie, which allows for great viewing of your meal, doesn’t hurt the mood. Speaking of that … fans seem to come back for the way food is prepared—in bounty, we might add. Something that caught our eyes recently—probably yours, too, since you voted for Cruz—is the Trio Platter: Smoked Pork Chop, house applesauce, Maryland Crab Cake, lemon beurre blanc one-quarter Garlic Chicken, with aioli. Pass the fork. 2621 41st Ave., Soquel, 476-3801
Runners Up
Hoffman's
Shadowbrook

Exotic Dining
Hula's
(see Best Santa Cruz Restaurant)
Runners Up
Tie: Malabar / Asian Rose
Tie: Ambrosia/Sri


Italian Food
Ristorante Italiano

The aroma of sautéed garlic and the sound of laughter from the large deck fills the parking lot outside of Ristorante Italiano. Inside, authentic Italian favorites are delivered to classic red checkered tablecloths. Linguine loaded with fresh seafood, creamy spaghetti carbonara with salty prosciutto, eggplant parmagiana oozing with cheese, pizzas, crunchy Caesar salads piled with parmesan, minestrone with spicy sausage and countless house-made desserts keep this restaurant at the forefront of our heart when we’re wishing we’re in Italy. Ristorante Italiano, 555 Soquel Ave., 458-2321,
Runners Up
Avanti
Lillian's
Tie: Cafe Mare/ Kianti


Japanese Food
Mobo's

Three things that make Mobo mondo. 1) It’s known for a humongous and tasty vegetarian menu; 2) it offers the option to design your own sushi combination; and 3) growth—it expanded into three beautifully-furnished storefronts. There’s more—so much more. (Corrupter anyone?) 105 S River St., Santa Cruz, 425-1700,
Runners Up
Shogun
Takara
Pink Godzilla
I Love Sushi


Kid-friendly restaurant
Carpo's

Runner Up
Kianti


Late-night Diner
Saturn Cafe

Runners Up
Crepe Place
Santa Cruz Diner


Mexican food
El Palomar

Runners Up
Manuel's
Vallarta
Palapas
Tortilla Flats

New Restaurant
Drunk Monkeys

Runners Up
Oswald's
Ambrosia
Hawg's Seafood
The Greek


Outdoor Dining
Crow's Nest

Runners Up
Crepe Place
Cafe Cruz
Tie: Zelda's /Aldo's

Seafood
Tie: Riva's
/Stagnaro's
Every restaurant on the wharf dishes up seafood in one way or another, but Riva’s manages to stand out from the crowd. The relaxed atmosphere yet superb and reasonably priced menu mingle to create a true local experience. Weekly specials like seafood stew combine oodles of tasty creatures from the sea and the full bar makes a mean bloody mary. And you can’t beat that the revered Stagnaro’s continues to win points for it’s variety. Starters like the Ahi Tuna Salad are a plus and  fresh fish entrees like the sea bass, halibut and salmon stand out. So does the view. Riva’s: 31 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 429-1223. Stagnaro’s: 59 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 423-2180.
Crow's Nest
Hula's
Johnny's Harborside


Steakhouse
Hindquarter

Great cuts of meat, perfectly served—can’t beat it. HQ’s has been collecting your votes for years now so apparently, it has what you like. Interesting to note is how many nice fish dishes HQ has as well. Karaoke is a nice touch and bar service from Mark, an added plus. Makes the cut. 303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-7770
Runners Up
Bluewater
The Point

Thai food
Sabieng

Ten years ago Sabieng moved from Soquel to its Mission Street location in Santa Cruz. Good move. (Although, sorry about the trek Soquel dwellers.) The popular restaurant continues to provide standout dishes for all. Nice appetizers, assorted deep-fried foods and, oh, those luscious sauces. 1218 Mission St.
Runners Up
Sawasdee
Thai House
Star of Siam
Bangkok West


Vegetarian food
Dharma's

It’s always been my favorite place to nosh on a giant salad and baked tofu and douse that puppy with some extra virgin olive oil! The great thing about Dharma’s is how many things you can choose from on that impressive menu. Between shakes and smoothies and breakfasts and killer mexican dishes, you never walk away hungry. Here’s why: This place knows the importance of healthy servings. 4250 Capitola Road, Capitola, 462-1717
Runners Up
Tie: Asian Rose / Malabar
Saturn

Best Aptos Restaurant
Cafe Sparrow

At Café Sparrow, each exceptionally executed dish has a little something more than you might expect. A dressier place by local standards (button-down shirts and pantsuits are the norm), but congenial, bubbly and welcoming. Café Sparrow makes French country cuisine more than approachable. Lunch in the sunny side room, with pastel tablecloths and lace embellishments, transports me to a cozy Victorian era. In the evenings in the softly-lit main room, diners marvel at the perfectly choreographed non-stop movements of the staff in the small open kitchen. The wine list is heavy with local varietals. A recession-busting prix-fixe special ($19.95) is available nightly. The menu includes classic French specialties as well as pasta and sesame-seared ahi. Every dish has exceeded my expectations. Not just blue cheese on the salad, but roasted cloves of garlic, crab cakes with not one but two sauces, an array of six snacks to dip into the bubbling fondue, tender true filet mignon served with four uniquely-prepared vegetables, Dijon mustard on the unusually lean Reuben sandwich. Reservations are recommended here, even mid-week, because Café Sparrow goes the extra mile to create memorable meals. Cafe Sparrow, 8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos Village, 688-6238
Runners Up
Bittersweet Bistro
Ambrosia
Zameen


Best Capitola restaurant
Paradise Beach

There may be many reasons Paradise nabbed Best Restaurant of the Year—again—and the favorite in Capitola. For starters, its wide selection of salads and appetizers, such as salmon, shrimp and crab cakes, complement heartier fresh fish and meat entrées, pastas and sandwiches. Main entrees are a hit—that bacon-wrapped filet mignon and pineapple tiger prawns stand out., All that, some great service, and one heck of a great location—and all those cornucopia of luscious flavours—makes for a good outing. Kudos to Executive Chef and General Manager Stephen Hanecak, who creates pure culinary ecstasy here, using local, seasonal ingredients. 215 Esplanade, Capitola, 476-4900
Runners Up
Shadowbrook
Cafe Cruz
Stockton Bride
Dharma's


Best Santa Cruz restaurant
Hula's Island Grill

The spirit of Aloha is sought out by many a Santa Cruzan, and the flavors that accompany it are found at Hula’s. So it’s no wonder so many of us flock to the bar that touts the Lilikoi Margarita, quenching your thirst with passion fruit puree and some almighty tequila, the intimidating Volcano Bowl that’s designed to be shared—with enough rumbling alcohol to satiate no less than four patrons—and plenty more alluring cocktail mixes, like the aptly titled Painkiller and the Dr. Funk. Beware. Then there’s the more innocuous (though just as addictive) food menu: an assortment of Hula Bowls and PuPu Platters to hold over your meat eater, pescetarian and vegetarian. Finally, congrats to the vibrant hot spot that ignited the sweet-potato-fries revolution around town. We salute you. 221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz, 426-4852
Runners Up
Avanti
Tie: Oswald's / Crow's Nest

Best SLV restaurant
Scopazzi's
From this comfortable mountain lodge comes close to a century of Italian hospitality, with the current restaurant delighting diners since 1955. Enjoy Oysters Rockefeller or a prawn cocktail and well-made beverages in the cozy, tavern-like lounge with its lacquered wood interior. In the winter, bask in the warmth of the large stone fireplace while savoring ravioli with gorgonzola sauce or Chicken Cacciatore. In the summer, the sunny patio beckons, as do the Cherries Jubilee. Scopazzi’s, 13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, 338-4444
Runners Up
Mamma Mia's
Ciao Bella


Best Scotts Valley Restaurant
Sandabs

Runners Up
In Vino Veritas
Malone's
Rumblefish

Best Soquel Restaurant
Michael's On Main

There are many reasons to love Michael’s—the joviality of weekly Karaoke in the lounge, the romantic atmosphere in the fireplace room, and the casual glass of wine at the bar with small plates of handcrafted cheeses. “I love cheeses,” owner Michael Clark says. “California cheeses are approaching to be as good, if not better than European cheeses. They’re right on the cusp of being very famous.” Tuesday nights bring Wine Pairing ($25) to the sunlight-dappled deck, where the true versatility of Clark’s kitchen is showcased with international ethnic themes. Planned cuisines include Hawaiian and Argentinean. “The good thing is you sit down and you taste the wine and you taste the food and you’re drawing your own conclusions,” Clark explains. “This wine goes with this.” Clark’s mission is to be a green restaurant, sourcing most everything within a 100-mile radius. Michael’s is a restaurant partner in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, and the restaurant’s used rice oil fuels a woman’s car. “The most exciting thing is that we are working with Hunter Hill,” Clark says. “We have our own label, so we have a cabernet franc, a reisling and also a rose. We have, I want to say, at least a half an acre up there that we’re planting with organic vegetables. All our vegetables are organic. I’m blessed, right on the ocean with fresh fish and fresh produce.” 2591 Main St., Soquel, 479-9777.
Runners Up
Theo's
Tortilla Flats
Carpo's
Cafe Cruz


Best Watsonville restaurant
Green Valley Grill

An unexpected treasure, this 18-year-old fine dining establishment is perched on the third floor of a medical office building overlooking a Home Depot parking lot. Inside, the soft lighting highlights an extensive menu of appetizers, salads, pasta and wood fire-grilled protein including duck, lamb, chicken and ribs. Luscious local produce is proudly featured. The full bar is adjacent to the restaurant and includes a dance floor, that offers live music on weekends. Green Valley Grill, 40 Penny Lane, 728-0644
Runners Up
Cilantro's
Jalisco's


Restaurant of the Year
Paradise Beach Grill

Runners Up
Hula's
Cafe Cruz
Oswald's
Avanti


Brewery
Seabright

Seabright Brewery has it all! With my favorite local patio, it’s the perfect spot for spending an afternoon with hand-crafted brews, garlic fries, and satisfying gorgonzola burgers. Whether you like your beer as light as a Poquito Bandito, as dark as a creamy Oatmeal Stout, or as hoppy as the golden Blur IPA, the beer of your dreams is at hand. Take note of Tuesday nights—there are specials for neighbors, While Thursdays feature a specially-priced pint and food deals. Oh, behold that full bar too! Seabright Brewery, 519 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-2739
Runners Up
Santa Cruz Mountain
Boulder Creek
Santa Cruz Aleworks


Tea house
Asana
Even java junkies might convert once they spend some time in Asana. The new teahouse in downtown Santa Cruz offers 60 different enticing teas in its cozy, Asian-influenced venue on Lincoln Street. Having opened in the summer of 2008, Asana by far filled an empty niche, especially after The Attic closed its doors. You can step up to the counter and order practically any flavor/style, etc. of tea you might be yearning for to comfort your tired soul. Green, black, white, herbal—the list of teas goes on and on. Currently, owner Shanna Casey says the most popular variety right now is a puerh tea called Immortal Nectar, an earthy detoxification tea. “You love it or hate it,” Casey says. “Most people here love it.” Teas start at $2.50 a pot and can go up to $14 for a ceremonial green matcha. In addition, the popular teahouse also offers coffee for those more java-inclined, as well as smoothies, a healthy array of appetizers including a hummus plate which yours truly has tried to strong reviews. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all offered, with things like vegan French toast and spelt foccachia bread paninis on the menu. My favorite? The Florence—cream cheese, basil, and tomato. Tasty. Asana often boasts live music and the ambiance there is one of relaxation. What else would you expect from a place that serves tea? Asana, 103 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz, 425-8327,
Runner Up

Chaikhana

Wine Store
Shoppers Corner

Runners Up
Vino Cruz
Soif
Cava


Bar
Red Room (downstairs)

While upstairs, The Red lures in herds of glossed-out locals for each weekend’s meat market of sloshing posh, the downstairs holds on to its reputation as being old school and just plain cool. It’s known for its music savvy, sarcasm-spouting loyal patrons and bartenders alike, as well as that special gem that shines through the low lighting: the free jukebox. Then there’s the emerging “Hangover Cure” concert series. So leave your heels at home—or upstairs—and sit down for a good ol’ chat, a whiskey on the rocks, and a billow of smoke that will follow you home after soaking into your practical attire. 1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 426-2994, Runners Up
Red (upstairs)
Clouds
Tie: 515 / Crow's Nest
Paradise


Cocktails
515

So there I was walking home from Stagnaro’s (see Clam Chowder) feeling that yummy tummy buzz after eating some good grub when I walk by 515 in Santa Cruz and I think: “Hey, wait a second, 5 plus 1 plus 5 equals 11. That’s my lucky number. It’s a sign! So, I go inside, walk up that cool staircase in 515, which would make for a great shoot in a short student film that some kid from UCSC who’s reading should jump on right away, but anyway… I went to the bar and ordered some drinks. I began with champagne. “Hell,” I thought. “ Why not. I deserve some special treatment right, right?  A few friends showed up so we ordered several Hanger One martinis. Feeling good, I wondered if it was the liquor, the great vibe in 515, the company or a combo of the three. It was the combination of the three, but kudos to 515’s feel, which, like its sister, The Red, offers a truly dynamic lounge experience. Carry on ... and drink up. 515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 425-5051
Runners Up
Clouds
Red
Red Room
Hula's
Crow's Nest


Coffee House
Lulu Carpenters

As any cramming college student will attest, brewed beans and broadband shine best when taken together, and for anyone who finds they do their best thinking with buzzing conversations in the background and a heavy dose of premium caffeine flowing through their brains, LuLu’s is the place to go. The taste selection is unique and high-quality, plus there’s plenty of wi-fi to go around, which has helped earn this independent espresso-slinger top marks. Two Locations, 1545 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, 429-9804.
Runners Up
Pergolesi
Verve
Bad Ass
People's Coffee

Dive bar
Asti

The majority of the time I spent in “The Nasty” was with the graveyard crew at the Saturn (who referred to it as “the break room”). There was lots of PBR and Jack Daniels. It’s all a little hazy. But despite its rougher edges, the Asti is kind of pleasant. There are simple rules, don’t order anything complicated. Don’t use the pool cues for anything other than pool. Do not puke on the urinal cake. Follow these, it’ll be fine. Besides, the douchebag to citizen ratio is tolerable, unlike some other dive bars I can think of. 715 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-7337.
Runners Up
Brady's
Rush Inn
JJ's
Double-oh-seven


Happy Hour
Crow's Nest

Runners Up
El Palomar
Hula's
Clouds
Vida

Exotic drinks
Hula's

Runners Up
The Red
515
Clouds


Margarita
El Palomar

Runners Up
Olita's
Acapulco
Margaritaville


Martini
Clouds

Is there anything better to drown away those economic sorrows than a martini at Clouds? No. Here’s three that stand out and which you should swallow—soon! Three that stand out: That sugar-encrusted rimmed Lemon Drop, the Caramel Apple martini and Pink Slipper, “an essence of peach, pear, and vanilla with a blend of fresh juice and a touch of cream.” Can I buy you a round? 110 Church St., Santa Cruz, 429-2000
Runners Up
Red
515


Local Winery
Bonny Doon

Runners Up
Bargetto
Storr's
Soquel Vineyards


Wine list
Tie: Soif / 237

Runners Up
Vinocruz
Cava
Tie: Red / 515
Pearl Alley