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Aug 01st
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Best of Best of Food and Drink 2011

bo_foodIt’s official: you dig El Palomar Restaurant. For many things. But the local Food Giant is just one of many favorites. Last year, Soif nabbed Best Appetizers, but this year, Crow’s Nest too back the crown. Meanwhile, Soif racked up other wins. New category: Best Hog Dog. Take a peek. .

Appetizer, Calamari, Comedy, Happy Hour, Outdoor Dining

Crow’s Nest

There are a number of good restaurants throughout Santa Cruz County, but unless they have panoramic ocean views, top notch steak and seafood, a classy dining room, a fun sports bar and live entertainment five nights a week, they probably don’t hold a candle to the Crow’s Nest. Whether you’ve celebrated a birthday in the sunset-lit dining room or sipped on a Whole Lotta Piña Colada while cheering on the Giants in the upstairs bar, chances are you’ve enjoyed at least one of the five reasons Good Times readers love the restaurant: appetizers, live comedy, calamari, happy hour, and outdoor dining. Eight pre-entrée delights are available to hold you over until the servers wheel out the sweet Broiled Lobster Tail or the Cajun-spiced Ahi Ruby Rare, a creamy Crab & Artichoke Dip, Dungeness Crab Cakes, and, of course, the so-good-it-won-its-own-category award-winning Calamari. If you’re able to take your eyes off the mouth-watering appetizers, it’s easy to get lost in the atmosphere of the restaurant, which has a breathtaking view of the mouth of the harbor and hosts three live comedians every Sunday at 9 p.m.  THING TO KNOW: The Crow’s Nest has been presenting live comedy to sold-out crowds for 30 years now. 2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, crowsnest-santacruz.com, 476-4560. | Jenna Brogan

Runners-up
(Appetizer) Soif, Hula’s, Paradise Beach Grille
(Calamari) Riva’s, Stagnaro’s, Aldo’s
(Comedy) Blue Lagoon
(Happy Hour) El Palomar, The Red, Hula’s
(Outdoor Dining) Crepe Place, Aldo’s, Kianti’s

Bagel

Bagelry

The difference between a freshly baked bagel and thawed donut-shaped bread is like comparing apples and oranges. Luckily, the Bagelry values the former. Treating every bagel like a canvas on which to paint the customer’s wildest dreams or, at least, favorite spread—cream cheese, garlic, honey butter, pesto, peanut butter, lox, tomato herb, hummus, to name a few—the Bagelry’s got this circular food down to a science. If you’re looking for a healthy start to the day (there are whole wheat, low-carb and vegetarian options), or a mid-day meal, they’ve got you covered, with everything from egg-filled Scrambagels to fruit salads and sandwiches. There’s hot coffee and a refrigerator brimming with beverages to wash it all down, just remember to bring cash, unless you feel like coughing up an extra $2 to use the in-store ATM. THING TO KNOW: The Bagelry makes one million bagels per year. That’s 300 dozen per day for all three locations in Santa Cruz, 320 Cedar St. # A, Santa Cruz, 429-8049. | JB

Runners-up Noah’s , Main Street Bagels

Bakery

Gayle’s

If you close your eyes and imagine the house where Candyland’s Queen Frostine lives, it probably looks a lot like Gayle’s Bakery. Thing To Know: Get ready to drool: cheesecakes, tiramisu, chocolate soufflés, éclairs, boysenberry turnovers, strawberry shortbread cookies, chocolatine croissants and much, much more. Breathe … now go get me a danish. 504 Bay Ave., Santa Cruz, 462-1200, gaylesbakery.com. | JB

Runners-up Buttery, Kelly’s,  Emily’s

Bar

The Red

If you’re looking for mingling singles or a classy, cushioned-filled locale with tantalizing cocktails and late night bites, The Red remains the light in the dark. Brimming with students on weekends, the bar shakes things up with its fresh Cool Hand Cukes, Super Bloody Marys, Marilyn Monroe cocktails and gourmet mixology—their Dark and Stormy is a kick in the pants.  Thing To Know: The Red also offers a hefty late night menu (served until 1 a.m.) that includes mouth-watering Shoestring Fries, a scrumptious Watsonvillain pizza, a perfect-for-sharing Lil Mac Platter, and a Rosewater Cardamom Crème Brûlée for those with a sweet tooth.  200 Locust St., Santa Cruz, 425-1913, redsantacruz.com. | JB

Runners-up Motiv, Clouds, Crow’s Nest

Barbecue / Best Aptos Restaurant

bo_food_smoqeSmoqe Photo: Kelly VaillancourtSmoQe BBQ & Wood Fired Pizza

Some of the best barbecue this side of St. Louis is to be found at SmoQe in Aptos. Ever since owner Aaron Duncan and his wife Nancy opened the restaurant’s doors in December 2009, they’ve done a roaring trade. Word has spread about SmoQe’s delicious barbecue and the restaurant’s garnered some rave reviews. Duncan dry-rubs his barbecue and slow smokes it for hours until it’s perfect. Favorites are beef brisket—served with regular or spicy barbecue sauce—short ribs and pulled pork. SmoQe’s delicious pizza is made with organic house-made dough, topped with all natural local ingredients and cooked in an authentic Italian wood-fired pizza oven. Try the Duke, with fresh-cut grilled pineapple and marinated pulled pork, or the Huntsman with prosciutto di Parma—and served complete with a quail egg. SmoQe also has delicious salads, side dishes and desserts. If you’re not too full from eating terrific barbecue, try the caramel apple dumpling—a Fuji apple wrapped in pastry with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. Thing To Know: SmoQe is a casual eatery and families are welcome. Try the S’mores Sampler, where you can roast S’mores right at your table. 10110 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 662-2227, smoqe.com. | Josie Cowden

Runners-up
(Barbecue) Aptos Barbecue, Cole’s, Bruno’s Barbecue
(Aptos Restaurant) Manuel’s, Palapas, Zameen

Burger & Fries

Betty Burgers

Ever since Betty came to town, she’s been the No. 1 gal when it comes to Santa Cruz burgers. Go traditional with the Basic Betty, the most popular burger in the joint, which gets you one-third-pound beef and the “secret lube” for only $4.95. Or go a little wild with one of their other burgers, like the Texas Two Step, a half-pound beef patty, onion rings, bacon, cheddar and Betty’s homemade barbecue sauce ($7.49). The meat is all hormone- and antibiotic-free, from grass-grazing cows, and cooked to order. For the herbivores out there, Betty’s also makes one hell of a veggie burger—the fresh, homemade wheatberry and vegetable patty is thick, crispy perfection. No Betty Burger meal is complete without an order of their crispy french fries or sweet potato fries (and if you can’t choose between the two, order a 50/50 basket and try both). Thing To Know: Co-owner Laurie Negro says the restaurant’s fictional character of Betty (a seductive bad girl if there ever was one) is like a “Betty Boop gone bad.” 505 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8190; 1000 41st Ave., Capitola, 475-5901, bettyburgers.com | Elizabeth Limbach

Runners-up Jack’s, burger, Surfrider Cafe

Burrito

Tacos Moreno

Talk about ironic—our famous tacos haven nabs … “Best Burrito?” It’s true. Once again, you folks love this place for its memorable burrito creations. Whether it’s filled with meat, fish or just plain veggies, we know this: these babies are made with love. (A staple from the well-known Moreno family.) Thing To Know: These babies now come in Regular, Veggie and Supreme. 1053 Water St., Santa Cruz, 429-6095. | Greg Archer

Runners-up Planet Fresh, Vallarta

Breakfast

Zachary’s

The expression “worth the wait,” must have been coined by someone visiting Zachary’s for breakfast on a weekend. This has become an absolute must for breakfast lovers, and it’s not for the faint of heart—the portions are huge. Try the buttery sourdough pancakes or Mike’s Mess (for the egg inclined). The flaky oatmeal molasses toast, syrupy French toast and salty corned beef hash are also hot sellers. Aside from the scrumptious entrees, the warm staff and homey, small-town feel inside the restaurant, make the long line remarkably easy to swallow. Thing To Know: Ordering the small portion Mike’s Mess doesn’t make you less of a man, it makes you smart. Go for the full-size only if you’re sharing. 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 427-0646. | JB

Runners-up Silver Spur, Walnut Avenue Café, Linda’s Seabreeze

Brewery

Seabright Brewery

For locals, Seabright Brewery remains the  “neighborhood bar” and restaurant known to successfully serve up a hearty dish of Bay Area sports pride, with a wide variety of award-winning beers to wash it all down. Aside from their regular brews, all made with water, malt, yeast and hops, brewer Jason Chavez throws seasonal beers into the mix throughout the year. Though the Pelican Pale ale and the Peroni Italian lager keep locals coming back for more, the brewery’s Seabright Oatmeal Stout—a creamy blend of chocolate and coffee flavors, and a five-time winner in the Great American Beer Festival Awards—is a must for first-timers. Thing To Know: Its brewmaster uses two-row Harrington pale malted barley, roasted barley malts, hops from Oregon and Washington, and select brewers yeast to produce their beers on the premises. 519 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz; 426-2739; seabrightbrewery.com. | JB

Runners-up Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Santa Cruz Ale Works, 99 Bottles

Brunch

bo_food_harborHarbor Cafe Photo: Keana ParkerHarbor Cafe

No wonder Harbor Café was voted as best place for brunch. The restaurant serves up a huge variety of delicious goodies. From basic brunch food such as eggs any way you like them, to terrific waffles, scrambles, benedicts and everybody’s favorites—pancakes. There’s cereal and oatmeal, too, if you want something simple for breakfast, and then hearty brunches such as Huevos Rancheros and Harbor Breakfast Burrito. If you really want to fill up, try The Whole Boat with two eggs, sausage patties, homefries and homemade biscuits and gravy. Eat inside or on their terrific little outdoor patio.  Thing To Know: Harbor Café’s most popular dishes are the California Benedict, the Cali croissant, and the fruit salad which has 10-15 different kinds of fruit at any given time.  535 7th Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-4948, harborcafesantacruz.com.  | JC

Runners-up Chamanade, Walnut St. Café, Zachary’s

Butcher, Grocery Store, Wine Store

Shopper's Corner

There is a reason why Shopper’s Corner has been around since 1937. Customer service and fresh produce is top of the list at this friendly local supermarket. The butcher’s section is one of the last old-time meat markets around, where the staff goes out of their way to provide good service. All the meat is ultra-fresh and perfectly prepared. Look for prime-grade beef, pre-soaked meats for barbecues, and specialty cuts. Also available are a large selection of sausages. A wide selection of local fresh fish is sold also. Meanwhile, it takes top rank for Best Wine Store as well. It always requires a bit of thought when choosing a bottle of wine. It’s not like buying a bunch of radishes! If you’re looking for a robust Malbec from Argentina, or a crisp Chardonnay from Chile, Shopper’s Corner has it all. Best of all, the choice of local wines is amazing. It’s a huge source of pride for the store that they carry one of the best selections around—both local and international. Prices range from top-of-the-line expensive to mid-range and downright reasonable.  Things To Know: Try their delicious Habañero and Cheese or the hot and spicy Louisiana Hot Links. For wine: it serves more than 3,000 wines from around the world and local wines as well, so you can’t go wrong. 622 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-1398. shopperscorner.com. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. | JC

Runners-up
(Butcher) El Salchichero, Corralitos Meat Market, Staff of Life
(Grocery Store) New Leaf, Staff of Life, Scotts Valley Market
(Wine Store) Soif, Vinocruz

Cheese Selection

Whole Foods

Whole Foods has the most incredible selection of cheeses—and at all price ranges. There’s everything from a very expensive raw sheep’s milk cheese called Ossau Iraty, which sells for $50.99 a pound, or a Tartufo, an aged sheep’s milk cheese infused with mushroom truffle at $41.99 a pound, to an inexpensive nutty-flavored cheddar or a fiery pepperjack for around $5 a pound. But there’s always an opportunity to try something new at the cheese counter. A cheese specialist is always there to help you, and will open up anything on display for you to sample. If you’ve never tasted a French D’Affinois, a double-cream cow’s milk Brie, or a nice bit of British Stilton, then you are certainly welcome to try some. And cheeses go on sale regularly, especially the most popular ones. But Whole Foods’ best-selling cheese by far is the sharp-flavored Parmegiano-Reggiano—the original authentic Parmesan imported from Italy—perfect on its own or for grating on food.  Thing To Know: Check out the little basket of reasonably priced cheese samples. 911 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-9901; and 1710 41st Ave., Capitola, 464-2900, wholefoodsmarket.com.  | JC

Runners-up Shopper’s Corner, New Leaf, Deluxe Foods

Chinese Restaurant

O’mei

O’mei has been everybody’s favorite Chinese restaurant for years. The restaurant serves rich and flavorful cuisine with an authentic flair. Appetizers include Red Oil Dumplings, Spring Rolls, and Chinese Chicken Salad, which could be a whole meal. Entrees include everything from beef and pork to chicken, seafood and vegetarian. Try the O’mei Lunch Express for around $6. It’s a bargain. A bright red chili pepper by various dishes denotes hot and spicy.  Thing To Know: This is the best place to try Chinese food you’ve never had before, such as black mushrooms and marinated seaweed. Your server will bring you little plates to sample, so here’s your chance to try something new. 2316 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 425-8458. | JC

Runners-up
Little Shanghai, Panda Inn, Dynasty

Chips & Salsa, Margarita, Mexican Restaurant, Tacos

bo_food_palomarEl PalomarEl Palomar

There is truly something for everyone at this beloved Mexican restaurant. For a more formal dining experience, enjoy a meal of fresh seafood beneath the grand vaulted ceilings of the main dining room. Or, bask in the sunny warmth of the atrium, where you can watch sports on one of the six flat screens, order a pitcher of their famous traditional margaritas (tequila, Triple Sec, sweet and sour and lime), and nosh on their addictive chips and fresh, homemade salsa. Next-door is the El Palomar Taco Bar, where great deals are to be had. Monday through Thursday is Happy Hour at the Taco Bar, where tacos are $2.50, pints of draft beer are $3, and margaritas are $4.50. El Palomar is traditional in some ways (the recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, coming to Santa Cruz from Southern Mexico), and unique in others (they don’t use lard, or any animal fat or stocks, in their cooking—good news for vegetarians looking for some tasty rice and beans). The seafood and produce is fresh and delivered daily; and the handmade corn tortillas will keep you coming back.

Thing To Know: El Palomar’s main bar has 120 different tequilas. Join the restaurant’s Tequila Club and begin sampling each one, getting prizes along the way. 1344 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-7575, elpalomarcilantros.com. | EL

Runners-up
(Chips & Salsa) Manuels, Olitas, Taqueria Vallarta
(Margarita) Olita’s, Palapas, Tortilla Flats
(Mexican Restaurant) Manuels, Taqueria Vallarta, Tortilla Flats
(Tacos) Tacos Moreno, Taqueria Vallarta, Olita’s

Clam Chowder

Stagnaro Bros. Restaurant

Clam chowder is one of the most favorite soups around, especially when you live in the clam-rich Monterey Bay, and Stagnaro’s serves up the best. Their award-winning New England clam chowder is available in a cup, bowl or bread bowl. Anyway you like it, it’s absolutely top notch. Established in 1937, Stagnaro’s know a thing or two about anything to do with fish and shellfish. They even catch the fish themselves and sell it next to their restaurant. The restaurant is situated right at the end of the Municipal Wharf, so you couldn’t ask for a better view as you’re chowing down on your chowder. Thing To Know: Stagnaro’s has two full bars, great ocean views and a good local vibe. Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 423-2180, stagnarobros.com. | JC

Runners-up Riva’s, Crow’s Nest,  Severino’s

Cocktails

515 Kitchen and Cocktails

Sure, any bar can whip up a “cocktail” if you request one. But will they mix that cocktail with the gusto of an impassioned artist working on a masterpiece? Do they have a long, mouthwatering list of quirky signature concoctions that you’ve never seen anywhere else? The answer is no, unless the bar in question is 515 Kitchen and Cocktails, the hip establishment on Cedar Street in Downtown Santa Cruz. The most popular cocktail here is the Sex Bob-Omb!, but we recommend trying Le Pamplemousse ($5), a neon orange libation comprised of Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Aperol, liqueur, and lemon, orange and grapefruit juices. Or, on a hot day, try The Cantankerous Mr. Finch ($7.75), a refreshing hard-hitter made of Seagram’s Peach Tea Vodka, fresh lemon juice and homebrewed ginger beer. It’s a lip smacking, front porch sipping delight. (Ask for Pickle … as in the bartender!) Thing To Know: The numbers in the name 515 add up to 11, the mystery-shrouded favorite number of GT’s own Greg Archer, whom, coincidentally, has a drink named after him at 515. Created by Head Mixologist Addison Kester, the “Greg Archer” is a sweet mix of sugar plum spice, gin, simple syrup and fresh squeezed lime—in Kester’s words, “an odd variation on a Cosmo.” 515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 425-5051, 515santacruz.com. | EL

Runners-up Motiv, The Red, Clouds

Comfort Food, Late Night Dining

Saturn Café

If you haven’t found yourself squeezed into a sparkly Saturn Café booth at 2 o’clock in the morning, sipping a milkshake and inhaling vegan nachos, you haven’t really lived life in Santa Cruz. But as you Saturn-lovers surely know, the space-age joint’s vegetarian fare is tasty any time of day, as well, making it the first choice in town for traditional diner chow for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. What else is there to say about this iconic Santa Cruz diner, except that it just keeps getting better? They recently revamped their menu to be even more vegan-friendly (vegan cheese that melts? Yes please! Plus, vegan pancakes—finally!), and have even begun branching out with a new location in Berkeley. Thing To Know: The folks behind Saturn keep a blog (saturncafe.com/saturnblog) that dishes up commentary on everything from the new soup of the day to political causes. 145 Laurel St., Santa Cruz, 429-8505, saturncafe.com. | EL

Runners-up
(Comfort Food) Santa Cruz Diner, Dharma’s, Gayle’s Bakery
(Late-Night) Santa Cruz Diner, Crepe Place, Charlie Hong Kong

Continental Restaurant / Ambiance

Shadowbrook

When it comes to fine dining in Santa Cruz, the Shadowbrook has the market cornered. Because, really, no matter how hard another restaurant tries, will they ever be able to beat the lush, winding gardens and waterfalls, or the quaint cable car that’s been taking diners to the dining rooms since 1958, or the setting right on the banks of babbling Soquel Creek? Shadowbrook has been a special place for Santa Cruzans since 1947, offering a cozy and classy experience that includes food and wine as renowned as the atmosphere. The food is classic American with an elegant twist—the finest ingredients cooked to perfection and served with style. (Think salmon, steak, pasta and more.) Their wine list is equally as delicious, and, as if wine lovers needed more of an excuse to visit Shadowbrook, their Winemaker Wednesdays offer 50 percent off glasses and bottles of featured local wines and a chance to chat with local vintners while noshing on complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Thing To Know: The recession got you down? Well, that’s no reason to miss out on what this distinguished local establishment has to offer. “Two Fer” Tuesdays (4 to 6 p.m.) feature two-for-one pizzas and appetizers, and cocktails, beer and wine for only $3.95. 1750 Wharf Rd., Capitola,  475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com. | EL

Runners-up
(Ambiance) Paradise Beach Grille, Crow’s Nest, Café Cruz
(Continental) Café Cruz, Paradise Beach Grille,  Oswald

Coffeehouse

bo_food_verveVerve Coffee Photo: Kelly VaillancourtVerve

With award-winning baristas, “green” coffee, roasting next door, a hipster vibe, and the friendliest staff of any establishment in town, Verve has a lot of verve. It’s the place to go, to be seen, to see, and, most importantly, to drink a fantastic cup of coffee. There are a lot of coffee shops in town, and Verve beats them all with its industrial, contemporary “look” and the crowd that it draws there every day. Go green, go beans, go Verve.  Thing To Know: Verve purchases its coffee beans from independent farmers in Indonesia, Africa, El Salvador, Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica which are then roasted and prepared with care to bring out the coffee’s optimal flavor. 816 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-7776, vervecoffeeroasters.com. | Christa Martin

Runners-up Coffeetopia, The Abbey, Lulu Carpenter’s

Chocolate

Donnelly Chocolates

When you’ve got a sweet tooth for some handcrafted, world-class chocolate, you head to Mission Street. An unassuming storefront on Highway 1, Donnelly Chocolates procures the kind of mouth-watering morsels that have made it into magazine pages and on television. Let’s put it this way: Chocolate is an aphrodisiac, and these ones have been praised in Playboy. Richard Donnelly has been perfecting his recipes for nearly 25 years, and the resulting bite size truffles, chocolate bars wrapped in Japanese paper, brownie recipes, sauces, and chocolate-flavored lip balm take the cake. Whether it’s lavender chocolate or honey caramel macadamia nut chocolate, these gourmet delights don’t fall far from the cacao tree. Thing To Know: Donnelly was in Chocolatier Magazine’s list of top 10 chocolate artisans in America in 2001. 1509 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 888-685-1871, donnellychocolates.com. | Linda Koffman

Runners-up Mackenzies, Marinis/Ashby Chocolates (Tie)

Deli Sandwich

Zoccoli’s

Owned and operated by the Italian Zoccoli family since 1948, you can often see a line out the door during the lunch hour at this popular eatery. The large selection of cheese, sausage, pasta, soup, salad, beer, wine and chocolatey desserts aims to please even the pickiest taste bud. Thing To Know: Most popular item on the menu lately: Meatball Italiano ($6.35)—comes on a sourdough french roll, with meatballs, provolone cheese and chopped red onions, and “smothered in our own homemade meat sauce.” 1534 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-1711, zoccolis.com. | JB

Runners-up
(Deli) Erik’s DeliCafe, Garden Deli, Palm Deli
(Sandwich) New Leaf, Garden Deli, Erik’s Deli

Dessert

Chocolate

Everyone knows that the best desserts that exist contain chocolate, so it would make plenty of sense that a restaurant called Chocolate would, of course, make some of the best chocolate in town. Located on Pacific Avenue and offering both cozy indoor seating and lovely outdoor options, you must try everything on the list. Choose any of the hot chocolate items and you won’t be disappointed, especially with that cookie and the whipped cream that comes with it. Or try one of the affordable and scrumptious truffles—divine. Thing To Know: After trying Chocolate’s Spicy Chocolate Barbequed Pork Roast for dinner, have "The Chocolate Orgy,” a sampler platter of sweets for you and your dinner companion(s). 1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 427-9900, chocolatesantacruz.com. | CM

Runners-up Bittersweet Bistro, Gayle’s Bakery, Penny Ice Creamery

Dive Bar

Brady's Yacht Club

Think Cheers, but stir in that distinctly original Cruzan flavor. Why do we dig Brady’s? Is it the great staff here, the vibe, the community? Hell, yes! It’s hard not to feel at home in this truly original and downright unique neighborhood bar, which has been grabbing Best Of votes for a number of years now. Thing To Know: We dig the $2 PBRs.  413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. (No phone) | GA

Runners-up Castaways,  Rush Inn,  Asti

Exotic Dining / Exotic Drinks

Hula’s

This popular restaurant brings the tiki-laden islands to Santa Cruz, and you love to crowd its dim-lit, two-room layout. Here, surf movies stream on a flat screen above a bustling bartender at a bar where locals plant themselves like  birds of prey sipping alcohol-fueled tropical concoctions. The Lilikoi Margarita quenches your thirst with passion fruit puree and potent tequila, the intimidating Volcano Bowl erupts with enough rumbling alcohol to satiate no less than four patrons, and the Zombie is loaded with enough rum to turn you into one. Featuring plenty more alluring cocktail mixes, like the aptly titled Painkiller and the Dr. Funk, this is the bar to hit up if you want to get lei’ed. Thing To Know: On Mahalo Mondays, Hula’s donates 10 percent of sales to a local nonprofit. 221 Cathcart St, Santa Cruz, 426-4852, hulastiki.com. | LK

Runners-up
(Exotic Dining) Malabar,  India Joze / Pearl of the Ocean (Tie), Laili
(Exotic Drinks) 515, Motiv

Farmers’ Market

Aptos Farmers Market

Stroll through this bounteous outdoor market and behold fresh, local foods from 80 different vendors. Produce out the wazoo, sustainable seafood, natural meats, artisan breads and cheeses, oysters, fresh-baked pastries, fair trade coffee, the list goes on and on. The market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, year round. Thing To Know: The Aptos Farmers’ Market is part of the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers’ Markets, which are the oldest on the Central Coast. Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, montereybayfarmers.org/aptos.html.  | EL

Runners-up Downtown Santa Cruz (Wednesday), Live Oak (Sunday)

Fro-yo

Top A Lot

Self-serve frozen yogurt places are the rage now, but here, you can’t beat the more than 40 toppings and frozen yogurt flavors including: vanilla, chocolate, lemon, almond rocha, cheesecake slices, mochi balls, sauces, fresh fruit and more to choose from including gluten-free, Kosher, low calorie and vegan options. Phew. Kudos to the keen, retro 1950s diner vibe with leather seats inside and outdoor seating as well on the patio. Thing To Know: Buy one, get one free Tuesdays are a hit. Plus, it also supports local business through discounts for the adjacent Santa Cruz Martial Arts classes.  738 Water St., Santa Cruz, (831) 426-1375, topalot.com. | Dana Burd

Runners-up Yogizmo, Yogurt Delight, Swirl

Hot Dog

Dawgs!

Blink and you’ll miss the tiny maroon building along Scotts Valley Drive that houses the best hot dogs around town. And what a shame that would be. Hot dogs may seem like recession fodder, but at Dawgs!, the tubular links are treated like an upscale delicacy. Whether you’re interested in a classic ball park-style entrée, a spicy Louisiana hot link, Chicago style or a cheesy chili dog, the always smiling staff will whip up your taste buds’ delight atop a French or sesame seed roll—without burning a hole through your wallet. Dana’s House Fried Potato Chips (Ranch flavoring is the best) and Marti’s House Fried Jack & Bleu Cheese Sticks make for addictive sides. Thing To Know: A wide variety of house made toppings are also available for the adventurous, featuring things like guacamole, fresh garlic, peaches and corn. 5272 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, 438-5800, dawgs-sv.com. | JB

Runners-up Gary’s Snappy Dog, Lucy’s Hot Dog Stand

Indian Food

Ambrosia Indian Bistro

Your favorite nook to get your naan on, Ambrosia Indian Bistro in Aptos is a quiet little spot tucked away off State Park Drive. Here, the smells of simmering spices say it all. The Butter Chicken lives up to its name in a melt-in-your-mouth fashion, while the Prawns of Heaven are, you guessed it, out of this world. Known for its $11 lunch buffet, Ambrosia is a great place to hit up for an afternoon feast with co-workers or a romantic evening with your significant other. A welcoming staff and sweet décor complete the warm ambiance, and the rest of the heat comes on the metal dishes sporting an array of flavorful chutneys, breads, meats, fishes and grilled vegetables—all sautéed and authentically cooked to perfection. Thing To Know: Ambrosia means “food of the gods” in Greek mythology. 207 Sea Ridge Rd., Aptos, 685-0610, ambrosiaib.com. | LK

Runners-up Sitar, Royal Taj, Malabar

Ice Cream

Marianne’s

A local spot for frozen treats since 1958, Marianne’s has a stock of more than 70 flavors at any given time. Unique flavors include, but are not limited to, licorice, garlic and the 1020, a mouthwatering combination of caramel ice cream with fudge swirls and Oreos. If you do not enjoy taking a walk on the wild side, they offer the classic flavors of vanilla and chocolate, as well. Thing To Know: Some popular matches include the Macapuno, a coconut ice cream, and the pineapple ice cream to create an alcohol-free Pina Colada; the Mexican chocolate flavor with the horchata for a taste trip south of the border; and mix the lychee and green tea flavors for an Asian-inspired treat. 1020 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 458-1447. | Christina Kharbertyan

Runners-up Penny Ice Creamery, Polar Bear Ice Cream, Mission Hill

Italian Restaurant

Lillian’s Italian Kitchen

There’s a reason why Lillian’s always seems to have customers spilling out of its doors like an overstuffed cannoli oozing sweet ricotta cheese. Try the black truffle-stuffed gnocchi swimming in white wine creamy pesto, or the best-selling Sunday Gravy (Bolognese sauce) over your choice of pasta. With an intimate and comfortable environment hosting affordable yet authentic meals, this family-owned Italian kitchen manages to keep it simple without cutting the flavors. Including every delicious assortment of pasta, polenta, and even prawns, the folks at Lillian’s make it the way Nonna would. Sicily never felt so close. Thing To Know: The restaurant is named after family matriarch Lillian Moreno, an Italian grandmother who migrated to Santa Cruz and was known to cook for her Westside neighborhood. 1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-2288. | LK

Runners-up Ristoranti Italiano, Avanti,  Café Mare

Japanese Restaurant / Sushi

bo_food_moboMobo Sushi Photo: Kelly VaillancourtMobo Sushi

While I’m fairly certain that there is no support group for it, I’m starting to believe that sushi is addictive. And I blame Mobo for getting me hooked. The menu is just plain huge, and the restaurant is downright festive and fun, but it’s the fresh, delicious food that keeps everyone coming back. Mobo’s rolls are particularly habit-forming. The Nor-Cal is a local twist on the traditional California roll: filled with crunchy popcorn shrimp and sweet sauce. The Death Star has tuna, basil, garlic, avocado, cream cheese and macadamia nuts (be warned, this Death Star, according to the menu, is “fully operational”). Another show stealer is the Spicy Big Mac—this aptly name fatty is a spicy tuna roll with cream cheese and avo, deep fried and served with sweet sauce. Other favorite rolls include the Pineapple Express and vegetarian delights Iron Man and Emerald City (their page-long list of veggie rolls makes Mobo a favorite for local herbivores). Be sure to come on a Friday or Saturday night, when the owners give free sake bombs to everyone over 21 years old who wants one. Even if you don’t drink, it’s worth witnessing as the bartenders line beers on the bar, top each with chopsticks that balance a shot of sake, and then proceed to pound on the bar, causing a domino-effect of sake plopping into golden beers. Thing To Know: Mobo Sushi uses more than 1,000 lbs of house wasabi every year and over 50 lbs per year of fresh wasabi grown in Oregon. 105 S. River St., Santa Cruz, 425-1700, mobosushirestaurant.com. |EL

Runners-up
(Japanese) Takara,  Shogun, Sushi Garden
(Sushi) I Love Sushi, Takara, Shogun

Kid-friendly Restaurant

Carpos

Who doesn’t love a big fat juicy burger? Carpo’s is famous for its half-pound Black Angus burger, made with freshly ground chuck and served on a francese roll. There’s also a regular burger, served on a sesame bun, and hot dogs. This is just the kind of food that children love—as well as adults! Kids can even order a very small burger for only $2.99, or a small ice cream for the same price. When Todd Todd established the restaurant in 1981, one of his goals was serving food that families could afford. Thing To Know: Carpo’s is not only kid-friendly, but they also have a noteworthy Meal for a Deal. 2400 Porter St., Soquel, 476-6260, carposrestaurant.com.  | JC

Runners-up Saturn Café, Santa Cruz Diner, Kianti’s

Martini

Clouds

Clouds is no stranger to winning best martini. Their reputation for martini excellence can be attributed to their long, luscious list of specialty martinis that are big, strong and deliciously memorable. The Caramel Apple martini is an attraction in and of itself—drawing people in with its hot green, caramel-drenched allure and keeping them coming back for more. The list includes several other sweet, sinful treats, like the to-die-for Chocolate martini (it’s an uncut chocolate booze bomb—Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, Kahlua, Stoli Vanilla and Dark Creme de Cocoa, with melted chocolate on the rim), the Jolly Rancher (bright pink and a dead ringer for the candy), and a perfect adaptation of the timeless Lemon Drop. They also do a mean classic martini—try one with Hendricks gin, dirty. Thing To Know: The secret to a great martini, according to one Clouds bartender, is “bruising”—the act of shaking the drink really hard so that, when poured, a thin, frosty layer of ice crystals tops the drink. This allows the drinker to “ease into” the sharper, liquor tastes below the ice. 110 Church St., Santa Cruz, 429.2000, cloudsdowntown.com.  | EL
Runners-up Motiv, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, Oswald’s

Natural Food Market

New Leaf Community Market

Why do I love New Leaf? Let me count the ways: one, its bounteous bulk bins are a natural foodie’s paradise; two, the deli is unwavering in its delicious offerings (at the top of the list: Coastal Kale Salad and Tempeh Noodle Salad); three, the colorful, hearty salad bar is a 9-to-5er’s best friend come lunch time; four, Kombucha Botanica on tap (need I say more?); five, the guarantee that everything on their shelves has been carefully selected and researched and is sustainable, organic, and all natural. I could keep going, but, based on the market’s first place win, I think you already agree that it’s a grocery paradise.  
Thing To Know: The store, which already has six locations in Santa Cruz County, will be opening a new market on Silver Creek Road in San Jose this coming fall. For locations and hours for the six Santa Cruz locations, visit newleaf.com. | EL
Runners-up Staff of Life,  Whole Foods, The Food Bin

New Restaurant

bo_food_liali2LailiLaili

Word spread like wildfire about the Laili Restaurant—voted Best New Restaurant by Good Times readers. With its Afghan influence and flavors of the Silk Road, it offers a unique and different dining experience in Santa Cruz. Here, you can enjoy an atmosphere rich in taste and ambiance—where delectable dishes are complemented with authentic herbs and spices, and pungent Mediterranean flavors. You’ll find scrumptious chicken served with saffron basmati rice, roasted okra, cauliflower, tomatoes and yogurt; lamb shank; beef; trout, and much more – as well as a vegetarian pomegranate eggplant dish. There’s a very good selection of wines, and some irresistible desserts. Try the cardamom rice pudding or the walnut date tart. A good selection of tea awaits you, but everybody’s favorite is the chai. The restaurant is beautifully decorated in colors of chocolate, sand and sage—just like you’d find on the Silk Road. And then there are all those exotic dishes to try as well. Thing To Know: Laili has a stunning open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. There’s also a charming courtyard with little lights and heaters.101 B Cooper St., Santa Cruz, 423-4545. lailirestaurant.com. | JC
Runners-up burger, SmoQue, Main Street Garden Cafe

Omlette

Zachary’s

Looking for the best omelette in town? Then head straight to Zachary’s—a casual local eatery serving up dynamic grub. This is where locals know to go for some of the best breakfasts around. Here you can create your own omelette and put in whatever you want—from a choice of 15-plus ingredients. Zachary’s also has rotating special omelettes, one of the most popular being the smoked pepper bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. Or try the spinach chorizo sausage with ranchero salsa and jack cheese. The list is endless. Thing To Know: Zachary’s Creative Omelettes are served with home fries and a choice of homemade bread. 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 427-0646. | JC
Runners-up Walnut Avenue Café, Silver Spur, Cliff Cafe

Pizza

Pizza My Heart

Regular pepperoni pizzas get boring after a while and Pizza My Heart comes to the rescue with unique flavors and toppings, a refreshing change to the mundane. Their award-winning pizzas are topped with tasty ingredients such as organic tomato sauce, Portobello mushrooms, ricotta cheese, artichokes, and even apples. Pizza My Heart has many vegetarian options for the eco- and health conscious consumer with toppings so delicious, the meat is not missed. Thing To Know: The pizzas here bear names from classic Santa Cruz landmarks such as Depot Hill with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and chicken: Natural Bridges with pesto, ricotta and Roma tomatoes, but without any red sauce; and 38th Avenue Special with spinach, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes & feta cheese. 116 Pacific Ave., San Cruz, 426-2511; 209 Esplanade # A, Capitola, 475-5714, pizzamyheart.com; 2180 41st Ave., Capitola, 475-6000. | CK
Runners-up Engfer’s,  Kianti’s, Upper Crust

Restaurant (Santa Cruz)

Ristoranti Avanti

When it comes to innovative cuisine, Ristorante Avanti comes out tops. Here the food is prepared as naturally and simply as possible with the kind of spirit found in an Italian village. Using local organic produce, and real Italian cheeses and meats, the restaurant has garnered a loyal following of diners who appreciate good fresh food. When it comes to fresh seasonal salads, delicious entrees and some of the tastiest pasta dishes in town, Ristorante Avanti knows no bounds.  Thing To Know: As well as an ample list of Italian and local wines, here you can find wine from other parts of the globe such as France, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Slovenia—and even Greece. Ristorante Avanti, 1711 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 427-0135. ristoranteavanti.com. | JC
Runners-up Crow’s Nest, Hula’s Island Grill

Restaurant (San Lorenzo Valley)

Scopazzi's

Voted Best Restaurant in the Valley, Scopazzi’s deserves more than a few accolades. With a ton of history behind it—the redwood dining room opened in 1924—it’s consistently serving up delicious food. House specialties include appetizers such as escargot, oysters on the half shell; and entrees such as venison roast, rack of lamb, range-fed veal, and, of course, a variety of ever-popular Italian pasta dishes.  Scopazzi’s has an impressive wine list as well, including an eclectic assortment of local wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. And for the family outing, there’s a Young People’s Menu—three courses served all day for $11. Thing To Know: Every year, Scopazzi’s puts on a fundraiser for Hospice of Santa Cruz County, when every single staff member at the restaurant works for free. 13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, 338-6441, scopazzi’srestaurant.com. | JC
Runners-up Oak Tree Restaurant, Tyrolean Inn

Restaurant (Scotts Valley)

Sandabs Seafood & Wine Bar

There’s one word that sums up Sandabs in Scotts Valley—delicious. Ever since Greg and Edyta Young opened up, the restaurant has been a huge success. Greg buys ultra-fresh fish straight from fishermen to get fish “two or three steps before a regular retail restaurant.” As the one-time owner of a commercial fishing boat himself, he knows exactly what to get. And then there’s the wine bar—proudly serving up many local wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. So if you’re looking for good fresh oysters and an excellent local chardonnay, then this is the place for you. Thing To Know: This cozy little restaurant was once a stagecoach stop. 11 Camp Evers Lane, Scotts Valley, 430-0657. sandab.com. | JC
Runners-up Jia Tella’s, Rumble Fish, Bruno’s Barbecue

Restaurant (Soquel)

Michael's on Main

Winning best Soquel restaurant was an easy feat for Michael’s on Main. Now famous for its “cutting edge comfort cuisine” this upbeat restaurant continues serving the freshest local food available for lunch and dinner. Chef and owner Michael Clark is always adding new dishes to the menu, often using all organic ingredients. The Creek-side Terrace is one of the best places to be in summer, especially on Tuesdays for the $25 weekly wine-pairing buffet dinners—featuring mostly local wineries. For some good liquid therapy, Michael’s bar is unbeatable. Don’t miss the Happy Hour 4-6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Thing To Know: Looking for some action? There’s live music most nights a week, plus karaoke on Wednesdays. “Never a cover, always a blast!” 2591 Main St., Soquel, 479-9777. michaelsonmain.net. | JC
Runners-up Tortilla Flats, Sawasdee,  Café Cruz

Restaurant of the Year/ Restaurant (Capitola)

Paradise Beach Grille

Paradise Beach Grille has done it again. Voted Best Restaurant in Capitola for five years in a row, this beachside paradise is popular with locals and visitors alike. Everyone loves a good time, and that’s what you’re sure to get at PBG. This restaurant offers good food, good service – and a good time, too. And it’s right at the water’s edge. Serving all sustainable seafood, natural beef—and mostly organic food—the restaurant is all about terrific cuisine and excellent wines. Check out the weekly specials such as flame-kissed mahi mahi quesadilla, and grilled petrale sole—not to mention scrumptious desserts. Try a classic root beer float or a caramel apple pie. The full bar serves up Happy Hour with a smile from Monday to Friday, 4-6 p.m. and appetizers are half price. And there’s live music every week. Thing To Know: If you’re a Surf & Turf lover, you can get it every Wednesday when PBG serves up filet mignon and lobster for $25. Paradise Beach Grille, 215 Esplanade, Capitola, 476-4900, paradisebeachgrille.com. | JC
Runners-up
(Restaurant of the year) Shadowbrook, Lillian’s , Café Cruz
(Capitola) Shadowbrook,  Dharma’s

Restaurant (Watsonville)

Cilantro’s / Green Valley Grill (Tie)

Two of Watsonville’s most popular restaurants tie. Cilantro’s always cooks up terrific Mexican food—with a Michoacan influence that’s about as authentic as it comes. For the meat lovers, Cilantro’s makes a killer Carne Asada, and the piscatorial selections are many, with one of the favorites being charbroiled red snapper and jumbo prawns. And a few vegetarian dishes mean there’s something for everybody. Happy Hour is Monday to Friday 4-7 p.m., and there’s always something going on at Cilantros. Check out the Mariachi band on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday brunch, and their famous Tequila Nights in the summer. Ole! And … Green Valley Grill always scores highly with its customers. With an excellent selection of American fare such as delicious grilled steaks, baby back ribs, lamb chops and Alaskan halibut, there’s something for everybody in this friendly restaurant. Specialties include duck breast, fresh-shucked oysters, ahi tuna, and lobster on weekends. With some of the country’s best produce growing right there in Watsonville, the restaurant prides itself on serving the very freshest greens and fruits. In a separate room, a spacious circular bar with a good vibe awaits those out for drinks and munchies. A wide selection of cocktails and an extensive wine list give you lots to choose from. Green Valley Grill is a casual, family-oriented restaurant—there’s also a kids menu—which welcomes groups and private parties, too. Hot tip: Try the polenta lasagna, Gorgonzola prawns over linguini or their homemade clam chowder. You’ll be glad you did.  Thing To Know: Cilantro’s, 1934 Main St., Watsonville, 761-2161. elpalomarcilantros.com. Green Valley Grill, 40 Penny Lane #5, Watsonville, 728-0644. | JC
Runners-up Jalisco’s, Imura’s

Seafood

Riva Fish House

You can’t get any closer to the ocean than Riva’s. You’re just a few feet away from watching fish leap out of the water, and then maybe onto your plate. After all, Riva’s serves up ultra-fresh seafood—from right there in the Monterey Bay. It’s walking distance from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, so you can check out the fun there and then stroll over to Riva’s for dinner. Thing To Know: Well known for their fresh oysters, steamed mussels and delicious fish and chips, don’t miss the Fisherman’s Plate also—where you can sample a variety of seafood all at once.  31 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 429-1223. | JC
Runners-upStagnaro’s, Johnny’s Harborside

Smoothie

New Leaf

New Leaf is Santa Cruz’s favorite place for everything good (and good for you), so it makes perfect sense that this local health food store would nab the first ever Best Of award for smoothies. The store is a go-to juice destination for locals, who gather ’round for thick, delicious smoothies packed with organic fruit and all-natural supplements. The Strawberry Shake mixes strawberries, bananas, soy milk and apple juice for a healthy twist on a classic dessert favorite, while the Acai Energy Smoothie gives its drinker an Amazonian power boost with a dose of acai tossed into a similar concoction. Their most popular smoothie, however, is the Power Solution—don’t let the green color turn you off, this smoothie is sweet, filling and addictive. In it are bananas, soy milk, spirulina, pineapple-coconut juice and protein powder (we recommend choosing hemp protein). Thing To Know: The downtown New Leaf smoothie bar goes through 10 pounds of bananas a day. Visit newleaf.com for location information. | EL
Runners-up Java Junction, Café Brasil

Steakhouse

Hindquarter Bar & Grille

The Hindquarter has been everybody’s favorite steakhouse for years. Serving up fat, juicy steaks is the restaurant’s M.O.—whether you’re looking for grilled sirloins, Texas T-bones, filet mignon, prime rib, or hickory-smoked Chicago baby back ribs, they have it all. And let’s not forget their delicious half-pound burgers and free-range chicken. Nightly specials at reasonable prices are offered, too. There’s also seafood – delivered fresh every day; and terrific desserts. Try the Fallen Angel Torte with a Double Cappuccino—it’s just terrific. Thing To Know: The newly remodeled bar is one of the best places to socialize over a micro-brew or two. It’s where the ‘Elite Meat.’ 303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-7770. thehindquarter.com. | JC
Runners-up Crow’s Nest, The Point Chophouse, Shadowbrook

Teahouse

Asana Teahouse

Meaning, “to sit and be present with” in Sanskrit, Asana is a hub for just that: a place to come, alone or with company, and sit peacefully over a cup of tea (of which they have more than 85 types). It has a tea for every occasion, and brew and present it in a way that evokes the ancient tradition and sanctity of tea drinking. The menu is wholesome, hearty and healthy. Thing To Know: In order to “clear the air” and reduce exposure to controversial Wi-Fi frequencies, Asana officially went Wi-Fi free in early 2011. (Customers can still plug into the Internet with the café’s Ethernet cables.) 103 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz, 425-8327, asanateas.com. | EL
Runners-up Chaikhana, Bloomsbury Tea Room

Tapas, Wine List, Wine Bar

bo_food_soifSoifSoif

Don’t let the chic European air of the place fool you; there are no wine egos here. With a substantial, rotating wine list (and 350 wines available for sale in the adjacent wine shop), it can be a bit overwhelming (and titillating) for even the biggest of wine connoisseurs, let alone the wine rookie.  Feel free to ask questions or for suggestions if you don’t know where to start or what to pair with what. The staff is extremely knowledgeable about the wines, and the food, and eager to help you pick something perfect. Soif (“thirst” in French) offers wine from all of the best birthplaces of wine, including Spain, Italy, France, and, of course, California. Look for wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains if you’re feeling like a locavore. And, speaking of locavores, Soif sources local, seasonal and organic produce, free-range, natural meats and sustainable seafood. These ingredients come together to make the best appetizers around, nabbing them the title of Best Tapas. Nibble on one of their inexpensive “small plates” (almonds, olives, crostini, lamb meatballs, and much more), share a cheese plate with a wine pal, or indulge in a creative, scrumptious appetizer (the menu rotates often). Monday is “Cold Oysters and Hot Jazz” night, when oysters are one dollar, and Tuesday also features live music. Thing To Know: Soif goes through approximately 100 barrels of wine a year. 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-2020, soifwine.com.  | EL
Runners-up
(Tapas) The Red, Hula’s
(Wine Bar) Cava Wine Bar, Bonny Doon Cellar Door Cafe
(Wine List) Shadowbrook, Cava Wine Bar

Thai Restaurant

Sabieng

Sabieng has long been a favorite of UCSC students, locals and anyone who enjoys authentic Thai cuisine. The waiters are friendly, the food is tasty, and the atmosphere is pleasant. This is the sort of place where everyone has their favorite dish and sticks to it, but we recommend starting with the satay skewers with peanut sauce (is there anything better in this world than peanut sauce? Is there?), moving on to the Pad Se Ew for an entrée (the wide rice noodles are tossed with egg, broccoli, meat or tofu, garlic, black pepper and their delicious black bean sauce), and finishing up with sweet sticky rice with mango for dessert. Oh, and don’t forget a Thai iced tea! Yum. Thing To Know: Sabieng has 27 tasty lunch specials. 1218 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 425-1020, sabiengthai.com. | EL
Runners-up Sawasdee, Star of Siam, Bankok West

Vegetarian Cuisine

Dharma’s

Dharma’s turns 30 in June. Yogi Shapiro, son of the owner, grew up in the restaurant and watched its menu grow bigger and bigger in the last three decades; now, he says, the menu has gotten so vast that “we have a lot more ideas, but there’s no room.” And it’s true: Dharma’s menu is a behemoth of vegetarian options (and almost everything can be made vegan, and many dishes are gluten free), making it every herbivore’s idea of gastronomical heaven, and a good place for omnivores, too. What can’t fit on the menu lands on the specials board, so be sure to check that out before you dive into the mouthwatering menu. If you need a little guidance, some of their most popular dishes include the Portobello-Artichoke Sandwich, Bo Thai and American Sauté. Keeping with the “big is better” theme, the servings are giant—come for breakfast and sit down to pancakes the size of Frisbees. Thing To Know: Dharma’s is a favorite of Santa Cruz’s own John Robbins, renowned environmental and health expert and author of books including “Diet for a New America.” 4250 Capitola Rd.,?Capitola, 462-1717, dharmaland.com | EL
Runners-up Saturn Café, Malabar

Winery (local)

Bonny Doon Vineyard

From the funky Bonny Doon cigar-shaped spaceship that pops up on the winery’s website to the all-out in-your-face wines created by Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon Vineyard captures imagination as well as flavors. The winery has the Full Monty range of reds and whites for you to try in a beautiful setting. One of its most popular wines is Le Cigare Volant, a gorgeous red blend that’s downright irresistible. Thing To Know: Take note of Cellar Door restaurant, serving seasonally inspired food and an impressive range of fresh organic produce. From the winery’s Wednesday nights moderately priced prix fixe dinner to its enormous special events, it’s all right there at Bonny Doon Vineyard.  328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, 425-4518. bonnydoonvineyard.com. Tasting room open daily from noon to 6 p.m. in summer, and noon to 5 p.m. in winter. | JC
Runners-up Beauregard, Storr’s

Best of Best of Santa Cruz Food and Drink 2011 Photo Captions
Smoqe Photo: Kelly Vaillancourt
Harbor Cafe Photo: Keana Parker
El Palomar
Verve Coffee Photo: Kelly Vaillancourt
Mobo Sushi Photo: Kelly Vaillancourt

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Comments (1)Add Comment
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written by a guest, November 26, 2012
I agree with about 50% of these but overall these seem like very mainstream options. Santa Cruz actually has far better to offer and if these are your usual choices I urge you to venture out and try better local spots.

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