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Jul 31st
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Got Brats?

Got Brats?At Dawgs!, Mardi Meyer and Cyndi Beason have taken a ball park staple and kicked it up a notch. Or six. The ladies originally envisioned a food cart, but thought the renewed popularity of hot dogs would be a perfectly fun, family-friendly fit for Scotts Valley.
They wanted their restaurant to be a unique experience. Beason noted that everyone serves fries, so they opted instead for thick house-made potato chips with a dusting of either Ranch or BBQ seasoning. The condiment bar offers traditional toppings including two kinds of mustard plus jalapeños and hot sauce.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Thai for Two

Thai for Two

The bright colors of lightly cooked vegetables sparkle in Sawasdee's uniquely flavored dishes

We occasionally visit Soquel on our errands day. It's either the dentist, stylist or CPA that brings us into the town, and even though my husband and I differ wildly on Scoville index tolerance levels, Sawasdee Thai Cuisine's huge menu satisfies us both.

Sawasdee's home is bright and cheerful, with lavender, white and paprika walls and an occasional fanciful carving. Gilded pottery lined the counter, which was busy with take-out orders, and colorful woven runners gleamed from under glass tabletops.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Outside it was gray and drizzly, but to enter Cafe Sparrow at lunchtime was like stepping into spring in Provence. Pastel sponge-painted chairs surrounded tables draped with colorful cloths and lace, protected with glass tops and paper doily placemats.

Sourdough bread with chewy crusts and soft centers was served with fresh butter. The Iced Tea ($3.50) was playfully flavored with black currants.

Two crisply browned Crab Cakes ($11.50), soft and moist in the middles, lusciously fell apart. The delicate crab flavor peeked out between tiny bits of red pepper.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

And Betty Makes Three

And Betty Makes Three

Betty Burgers Eat Inn on Pacific storms out of the gate with dynamite menu additions and a full bar

When Betty Burgers' sister restaurant Vida left town, Betty moved right in to the space on Pacific Avenue, leaving her shiny old Airstream trailer right on the new patio. Fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits and mashed potatoes with gravy are just a taste of the down-home-style comfort food that Betty's slingin' at her new Eat Inn.

The restaurant was packed on opening weekend, and a week later during a mid-week late lunch it was almost at capacity. The smiling, energetic staff was still learning the ropes – there was no service on the patio for ten minutes and then we were double-covered. A few days later, service was perfect on a very busy dinner shift.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Asada Muy Bueno

Asada Muy Bueno

A taco bar named Leo's sounds less than authentic but it was co-founded by Leonel Espinoza and Maria E. Valencia whose names are associated with La Mission and Cafe el Palomar. The kitchen is larger than the restaurant in this Live Oak establishment, and what it creates is remarkable.

A charbroiled salmon taco ($4) was so loaded with chunks of fish I ate half of it with a fork before I could pick it up. It was topped with fire-roasted salsa, cabbage, cilantro and tomatoes. The Carne Asada Taco ($2.25) was just as large. The pieces of steak were tender, smoky and charred as if barbecued in the traditional manner.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Fresh Start

Fresh Start

New menu and seating sets the stage for fun at Coldwater Bar and Grill

The Coldwater Bar and Grill has replaced Hawg's Seafood, and although the ownership hasn't changed, the restaurant's interior and menu are substantially different.

Most of the booths have been replaced by tall, freestanding tables attaining a networking, neighborly ambiance. Eight booths remain for the benefit of people with little ones, those who'd like a more secluded, romantic experience, or me, to clandestinely take notes and snap photos. The front patio now holds a pingpong table, and with five flat screen televisions Coldwater is the local baseball clubhouse.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Cake from cheese, fancy that!

Cake from cheese, fancy that!

When my mom once ordered cheesecake, all I knew about cheese was that it was hard and orange. At 5 years-old I didn't know the word oxymoron, but I knew at that moment what it felt like. At that age I expected sugary desserts and didn't come to appreciate the sour tang of her creamy indulgence for many years.

Learning that Cherry Cheesecake day is celebrated this month when the cherry trees are blooming, I remembered my first cherry cheesecake with canned pie filling, and it made perfect sense.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Carefree Highway

Carefree HighwayBen Lomond’s little Spanky’s Café offers unique breakfast specialties | by Karen Petersen
Before a day of scenic hiking in Big Basin, there are numerous eateries along Highway 9 to fuel the journey. One is tiny Spanky’s Cafe in Ben Lomond, where scalable breakfasts won’t break the bank.
The little wood-wainscoted dining room accommodates just over 30 diners with another five patio picnic tables filled on busy days.
The entire menu is available from opening until close. Choose from sandwiches ($6.25 to $7.50) and one-third pound burgers ($6.75 to $7.25) all served with either potato, macaroni or green salad.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Tiki Got Your Tongue?

Tiki Got Your Tongue?After work, I enjoy an occasional Happy Hour with friends, co-workers or my spouse. It’s a time for transition, when the day’s important issues are discussed and then left behind as we sashay into the dinner hour. On Tuesdays at Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room, Happy Hour lasts all night, and with its multi-faceted pupu menu the appetizers can easily become dinner.
I began with a $5 happy hour Painkiller, no, really, served in a stout Mai Tai glass.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Just Do It!

Just Do It!

From fried appetizers to fresh salads and giant burgers, Rocco's 503 is fresh

I have great respect for restaurateurs. It's a time-consuming profession, and in Santa Cruz, includes a seasonal risk. The odds of surviving a year in this business are small, but for Peter Rinaldi, owner of Rocco's 503, it was time to take the leap.

Rinaldi's Italian grandfather, and then his father, grew Brussels sprouts on the north coast. All of his cousins and their children still farm throughout the county.

"It just wasn't for me," Rinaldi says, "I always wanted to do something a little more social. I wanted to make my own path."

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The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

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