Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 08th
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Center of Attention

diningCenter Street Grill continues to win points for its hospitality and exceptional menu

I was on time to meet my friend Harriet for lunch at Center Street Grill. I found a parking spot right outside the restaurant and then noticed Harriet’s car nearby with the engine still running, but no sign of her. When I saw she is not in the restaurant either, Center Street Grill’s co-owner Marty Soliz, followed me outside, showing the utmost concern for my friend, who, it turned out, had gone into a nearby store and had forgotten to turn off the ignition or lock the doors.

After this shaky start, Harriet and I sat down in the beautifully decorated restaurant, ready to enjoy Center Street Grill’s offerings. I began with a nicely chilled Husch Sauvignon Blanc ($8) and Harriet got a soft drink. We both shared a laugh over the car scenario. Fortunately, hospitality and caring is served in big doses in this popular Santa Cruz restaurant.

Soliz and her husband Danny Voutos, who is Greek descent and grew up in Montreal, Canada, have owned the restaurant since November 2006 and have garnered a steady following of loyal customers over the years. Voutos’ culinary skills reflect his Greek background and his cuisine comes with a distinct Mediterranean flair. Often when I have gone in for dinner, a little plate of Greek olives appears with rich olive oil for dipping his house-made bread into. I could fill up just on Voutos’ tasty bread—it’s so good.

From the daily specials list we ordered Tempura-Fried Green Beans with Dijon Sauce ($5), an excellent appetizer as the beans are crisp, fresh and lightly battered. We eat the whole lot.

Another special is Grilled Lemon Oregano Salmon ($14.95), which I immediately ordered because I love the way Voutos prepares it. Served with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans, the salmon is tasty and nicely grilled. Harriet ordered one of her favorites—Chinese Chicken Salad ($10.95) from the main menu served with tender pieces of ginger-soy-marinated chicken arrayed on a bed of crispy rice noodles with shredded cabbage, cilantro, peanuts, green onions and a delicious toasted sesame dressing.

Voutos makes outrageously good bread pudding ($6) served with fresh-made caramel sauce and sliced bananas. I am never able to resist a hefty helping for lunch or dinner—and one portion is plenty for two to share. I once overheard a diner say it was the best bread pud he’d ever had. The restaurant also makes superb coffee, too.

Center Street Grill’s spacious interior plays host for many private parties, meetings and receptions, and on warm-weather days the outdoor patio is a perfect spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner. As one of the largest restaurants in Santa Cruz, the space can accommodate 200 people standing or 120 seated. The restaurant’s bang-up breakfast consists of a variety of scrambles, omelettes, Benedicts (including vegetarian) and, of course, pancakes and French toast. For those with a hearty appetite, steak and eggs are served, too, for $14.95.

Good deals are to be found at the restaurant during the week—Tuesday is Burger and a Brew for $6; Wednesday is Girls Night Out with champagne cocktails or draft beer for $3 and well drinks or house wine for $4. Thursday is the night for a mixology class with expert barman Mark Thompson—with a three-course special pairing menu for $60. Budding mixologists are required to pre-register for this fun class by calling the restaurant. 

Center Street Grill is located in the Santa Cruz Arts Center, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz, 423-4745, Photo by Keana Parker

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