Santa Cruz Good Times

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Oct 21st
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Best Food and Drink

BestOf2012 starFOOD

Category:Winner
Açai Bowl:Cafe Brasil
Appetizer:Crow’s Nest
Bagel:The Bagelry
Bakery:Gayle’s Bakery
Bar:515 Kitchen & Cocktails
Bloody Mary:Harbor Cafe
Barbecue:Aptos St. BBQ
Burger & Fries:Betty Burgers
Burrito:Tacos Moreno
Bread:Gayle’s Bakery

Breakfast:Zachary’s
Brewery:Seabright Brewery
Brunch:Chaminade
Butcher:Shopper’s Corner
Calamari:Crow’s Nest
California Cuisine:Cafe Cruz
Cheese Selection:Whole Foods
Chinese Restaurant:O’mei 
Chips & Salsa:El Palomar
Clam Chowder:Stagnaro Brothers
Cocktails:515 Kitchen & Cocktails
Coffeehouse:Verve
Comfort Food:Saturn Cafe      
Cookie:Pacific Cookie Company 
Dive Bar:Brady’s Yacht Club
Diner:Santa Cruz Diner
Exotic Drinks:Hula’s Tiki Room
Falafel:Falafel House
Farmer’s Market:Cabrillo (Aptos)
Greek Restaurant:The Greek
Grocery Store:Shopper’s Corner
Happy Hour:Crow’s Nest
Hot Dog:Dawgs
Ice Cream:Penny Ice Creamery
Indian Food:Ambrosia
Italian Restaurant:Lillian’s Kitchen
Japanese Restaurant:Mobo
Kid-Friendly Restaurant:Carpos/Kianti’s (tie)
Late-Night Dining:Saturn Cafe
Martini:Clouds
Margarita:El Palomar
Mexican Restaurant:El Palomar
Meal For A Deal:Charlie Hong Kong
Middle Eastern Restaurant:Laili
Natural Food Store:New Leaf
New Restaurant:Pono Hawaiian Grill
Outdoor Dining:Crow’s Nest
Pizza:Pizza My Heart
Restaurant Ambiance:Shadowbrook
Restaurant (Aptos):Bittersweet Bistro
Restaurant (Capitola):Paradise Beach Grill
Restaurant (Santa Cruz):Oswald
Restaurant (San Lorenzo Valley):Tyrolean Inn
Restaurant (Soquel):Cafe Cruz
Restaurant (Watsonville):Cilanto’s
Restaurant Of The Year:Shadowbrook
Sandwich:Zoccoli’s
Seafood:Johnny’s Harborside
Small Plates:Soif
Smoothie/Juices:New Leaf Markets
Steak:Shadowbrook
Steakhouse:Hindquarter
Sushi:Mobo Sushi
Tacos:El PalomarTaco Bar
Teahouse:Chaikana Tea
Thai Restaurant:Sawasdee
Vegetarian Cuisine:Dharma’s
Wine Bar:Soif
Wine List:Soif
Wine Store:Soif
Winery:Alfaro Family Vineyards

bo food crowsAppetizer / Calamari / Happy Hour / Outdoor Dining:Crow’s Nest
Panoramic ocean views? Check. Steak an seafood? You bet. Sports bar and live entertainment five nights a week? Come on over. Readers love the appetizers, calamari, live comedy, outdoor dining and so much more here. Few restaurants can hold the title of, well, all these titles, but there’s just something about the Crow’s Nest that feels like home.  A good one at that. Take note: Wednesday “Happy Hour” lasts all night. Also, CW’s “Deal With A View” stands out. Upstairs dining at the Breakwater Bar & Grill for $7.95 (dinner). The menu offer is good Monday through Friday. Visit  2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. crowsnest-santacruz.com or call 476-4560. | Charlie Price
Runners-up (Appetizer) Hula’s, Paradise Beach Grille, Oswald (Calamari) Riva’s, Aldo’s
Runners-up (Happy Hour) Hula’s, Shadowbrook (Outdoor Dining) Paradise Beach Grille. (Tie—Third Place): Aldo’s, The Crepe Place


bo food acaiAçai Bowl:Café Brasil
Say it with me: ah-sigh-ee. This Amazonian power fruit is at the heart of Café Brasil’s signature smoothie, the Açai Bowl—a thick, luscious blend of açai, strawberries, bananas, apple juice and guarana syrup, topped with granola and sliced fruit. Try it once, and you will find yourself lining up for more with dozens of other patrons on weekend mornings. VIsit 1410 Mission St., Santa Cruz. Call 429-1855 or cafebrasil.us. | Elizabeth Limbach
Runners-up Samba Rock Acai Café, New Beet Café/New Leaf Markets

Bagel:Bagelry
The Bagelry uses its all about the “boil and bake” technique here. It seems to make the bagels crisp enough on their exterior and tender enough on the inside. Fans dig the options: whole wheat, low-carb and veggie. Try the egg-filled Scrambagels. Visit 320 Cedar St # A, Santa Cruz. Call 429-8049. | CP
Runners-up Noah’s Bagels, Bagel Café (Watsonville)

bo food gaylesBakery / Bread:Gayle’s
From its breathtaking éclairs and cookies to its fresh sandwiches and salads, Gayle’s has evolved into one of the sweetest little hubs around. This year, readers also awarded Gayle’s—which has nabbed Best Bakery honors quite a few times over the years—Best Bread. On that note, our two favorite breads are the Raisin Nut Rye Loaf ($5.25) and the Olive Capitola Sourdough ($5.15). Visit 504 Bay Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 462-1200 or gaylesbakery.com. | CP
Runners-up (Bakery) The Buttery, Heather’s Patisserie,
Runners-up (Bread) Campanion Bakers, Kelly’s French Bakery

Bar / Cocktails:515 Kitchen & Cocktails
The palpable magic and mystery of this speakeasy-style establishment is both literal and figurative: On Wednesday nights, the talents of Doug Hofkins (a.k.a The Surfing Magician) dazzle patrons while Head Mixologist Addison Kester blows fireballs behind the bar and manager/bartender Tristan Peck does mind-boggling card tricks. Then there is the supernatural level of liquid artistry found in the unique and alluring cocktail menu, where the talented bartenders really work their magic. Ryan Haile whips up homemade infusions and bitters on Monday nights that are so exceptional they aren’t found on any menu, and Allen Medley and Ethan Samuels conjure the bar’s wildly popular pisco cocktails, like the Petals and Vine and the Late Harvest. (Psst: Track down the secret password and enjoy all-night happy hour on Tuesdays.) Visit 515 Cedar St.,Santa Cruz. Call 425-5051 or 515santacruz.com. | EL
Runners-up  (Bar) Red, Paradise Beach Grille
Runners-up (Cocktails) Cloud’s, Hula’s

Barbecue:Aptos ST. BBQ
Few restaurants have a delicious enough menu to make you drool at the mere pronunciation of its name—but Aptos St. BBQ fits the bill. The mere thought of its sweet and smoky barbecue sauce slathered on top of their juicy tri-tip or kick-in-the-pants hot link sandwich (made with garlic bread) motivates locals to travel cross-county to this Texas-style hotspot. Located close to the entrance to Nisene Marks State Park, Aptos St. BBQ boasts a large exotic beers list, a smoker out back that engulfs the place in a mouth-watering aroma, and a friendly staff. Newbies take note: these folks don’t lie—menu items do sell out on busy nights, so get there early or call ahead. Visit 8059 Aptos St., Aptos. 662-1721. aptosstbbq.com. | Jenna Brogan
Runners-up  SmoQe (RIP), Cole’s

bo food bloodyharborBloody Mary:Harbor Café
Not only will you sit down to devour one of the best breakfasts in town, but Harbor Café also serves up the best Bloody Mary. Richie Korbly, barman at Harbor Café, says the secret lies not only in the Ketel One vodka he uses, but also because he makes his own Bloody Mary mix from scratch. He takes horseradish, Tapatio hot sauce, Tabasco, celery salt, pepper, A-1 sauce, pepper plant spice and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, mixes it all together with tomato juice, and voila!—it’s voted the best Bloody Mary in town. Harbor Café customers also love the Greyhound—fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and Ketel One vodka. Take note: Mondays Bloody Marys are $3 all day. Fridays are bottomless mimosas for $9.95.  Visit 535 7th Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-4948, harborcafesantacruz.com. | Josie Cowden
Runners-up (Three-way Tie): Brady’s, Crow’s Nest, Paradise Beach Grille

Burger & Fries:Betty Burgers
Are you a vegetarian? Then stop reading right here. There are times in a person’s life when the thought of a juicy burger simply dominates the mind—succulent beef, crisp lettuce, maybe a tomato or onion for flair? Santa Cruz’s very own Betty Burger has won the hearts and stomachs of locals since the first location emerged on Seabright Avenue. Now with additional restaurants on 41st Avenue and Pacific Avenue, there’s even more to love. But what gives Betty Burgers that unbeatable burger joint charisma and has made it a veritable burger staple? Could it be the sweet and salty crunchiness of the sweet potato fries? Or maybe the cute pin-up girl logo? Those things are well and good, but the mouthwatering delectability of the burgers is what makes Betty best.  Find out more at bettyburgers.com. | Leslie Patrick
Runners-up burger., Jack’s

Burrito:Tacos Moreno
Burritos are very personal. Carne asada with black beans, cheese, guac, hold the sour cream, or maybe veggie burrito with brown rice, no cheese and extra salsa. Mathematically speaking, the combinations of ingredients that could potentially top your tortilla are infinite. But at Tacos Moreno, all burritos have one thing in common: they were voted the best in Santa Cruz. Now with two locations in town, and prices even a struggling student can afford, it ensures that folks in Santa Cruz and Capitola will never lack toothsome Mexican food. And if you’re one of those people that likes to try everything on the menu, then you’re in luck—chances are you can enjoy a different burrito at Tacos Moreno every day for at least the next 20 years. Drool over the menu at tacosmoreno.com. | LP
Runners-up Taqueria Vallarta , Planet Fresh

Breakfast:Zachary's
With waits topping an hour most weekends, hearing your name called for a table at Zachary’s is like winning the lottery. This downtown breakfast and lunch restaurant has become an institution of sorts offering diners huge portions, coffee while you wait, and of course, cheap mimosas. Over the years, Zachary’s has served hundreds of thousands of eggs, tons of potatoes and enough coffee to fill a small lake. With the continuous line spilling out the front door, it may be fair to say that Zachary’s is the most popular place in town. Well, maybe not quite?it has the beach to compete with after all, but with dishes like the artichoke frittata and Mike’s Mess selling like, well, hotcakes, Zachary’s has a corner on the market for the breakfast crowd in Santa Cruz. Visit 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 427-0646. | LP
Runners-up Linda's Seabreeze, Harbor Cafe

Brewery:Seabright Brewery
Americans drink 15.7 million gallons of beer each day, and in Santa Cruz, they do it at Seabright Brewery. Since its opening more than 20 years ago, this local hotspot has garnered quite a following. Head there any night of the week and you’ll see scores of locals nursing an after-work brew. In addition to all the usual suspects, Seabright Brewery offers its own label of suds on tap including evergreens Pelican Pale and Seabright Amber. The pub grub, like the calamari and gourmet burgers, can also hold its own, making Seabright Brewery a popular option for lunch or dinner, even if beer isn’t your cup of choice. Visit 529 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. seabrightbrewery.com. | LP
Runners-up Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Boulder Creek Brewery

Brunch:Chaminade
Brunch is one of those meals that tempts and taunts all week as you sit in your cubicle, omelettes and French toast calling to you like a siren song. So when the weekend finally comes, you want your brunch to be absolutely perfect in every way. Enter Chaminade. So close, yet it feels so far away, Chaminade gives you the lovely I’m-on-vacation feeling even though it’s simply on the hill behind Dominican Hospital. Besides the view, what makes Chaminade the winner for best brunch in Santa Cruz is the immense spread of eggs, pancakes, pastries and scores of other brunch items waiting to be devoured. So next time you hear pancakes and sausage calling, answer with the short drive to Chaminade on the weekend. Check out brunch times at chaminade.com. | LP
Runners-up Harbor Cafe, Walnut Avenue Café

Butcher / Grocery Store:Shopper’s Corner
It’s been popular here since 1937. Chalk it up to stellar customer service and its fresh produce. A killer butcher’s section doesn’t hurt, either. As most locals can attest, Shopper’s staff comprises a rare breed of individuals. In a day and age when it seems as if fewer people go out of their way to assist you, it’s refreshing that the folks at Shopper’s actually do—and like it. These folks are pros. See you in the wine aisle. Visit 622 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 423-1398 or shopperscorner.com. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. | CP
Runners-up (Butcher) El Salchichero, Freedom Meat Locker, Corrolitos Meat Market
Runners-up (Grocery Store) New Leaf, Staff of Life

Cheese Selection:Whole Foods
With everything from a raw sheep’s milk cheese called Ossau Iraty, which sells for $50.99 a pound, to a Tartufo, an aged sheep’s milk cheese infused with mushroom truffle at $41.99 a pound, to a tasty but inexpensive cheddar for around $5 a pound, there’s a cheese for everybody at Whole Foods. If you’ve never tasted a French D’Affinois, a double-cream cow’s milk Brie, or a nice bit of British Stilton, then now’s your chance. 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. Visit 911 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-9901; and 1710 41st Ave., Capitola, 464-2900, wholefoodsmarket.com. | JC
Runners-up Shopper’s Corner, Deluxe Foods Aptos

Chinese Restaurant:O’Mei
Rich and delicious cuisine with an authentic flair—that’s what you get at O’Mei, a consistent winner in this category. From its tasty “little plates” to its robust authentic dishes—try any tofu dish; simply dynamite—this portal combines its best culinary expertise with gracious service. We’ll keep coming back. Visit 2316 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 425-8458. | CP
Runners-up Panda Inn, Charlie Hong Kong

Chips & Salsa / Margarita / Mexican Restaurant / Tacos:El Palomar
Like turning an amp to “eleven,” El Palomar has gone above and beyond mere mortal award winners by claiming four titles this year, and their trifecta-plus-one is the perfect representation of why this downtown gem has been a local favorite since 1983. It takes true genius to be all things to all people, and a lot of talent. Looking for a romantic dinner in an intimate, warm and historically engaging room? The El Palomar dining room is all of that and more (if there were a Best Ceiling category, they would have taken that trophy as well). More in the mood for a casual taco (or four) with friends? The Taco Bar is waiting, its simple and affordable menu belying the high quality and thoughtful preparation awaiting you. Headed out for happy hour cocktails, a first date or a martini lunch? The Cantina, bathed in sunlight thanks to skylights that are only a gentle reminder of the hour, has an inviting bar and smattering of tables filled with smiling faces. A stop in one of these seats often leads to a lateral move for more snacks, drinks or conversation. The staff in all three iterations of this Pacific Avenue mainstay are welcoming and always ready with a knowledgeable recommendation, but honestly it’s hard to go wrong anywhere on the premises. Congratulations and thank you to the Espinoza family! Visit 1344 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 425-7575 or elpalomarcilantros.com. | Kim Luke
Runners-up (Chips & Salsa) Manuel’s, Taqueria Vallarta
Runners-up (Margarita) Olitas, Tortilla Flats
Runners-up (Mexican Restaurant) Manuels, Palapas
Runners-up (Tacos) Tacos Moreno, Taqueria Vallarta

Chocolatier:Donnelly Chocolates
Mr. Donnelly is classically trained in the traditional methods of French and Belgian chocolate-making, but has blended his style to include many elements of American-style chocolate making to create the most outrageous of flavors. The Sea-Salt Caramels as well as the Honey Vanilla Chocolates are some of the most popular and bestselling items and a great example of this fusion between American and European traditions. Donnelly’s also serves their version of popular American candy bars such as Snickers bars, Reese’s Cups and now boasts their own Malabar bar. Things to know: For aspiring local chocolatiers, Mr. Donnelly teaches two classes on the first and third Friday of every month: an introductory course on working with chocolates and a course in truffle production. Visit 1509 Mission Street, Santa Cruz. Call 888-685-1871 or donnellychocolates.com. | Coe Holtaway

Clam Chowder:Stagnaro’s
Stagnaro Bros.’ 80 years of Italian-Californian history carries highbrow charm while maintaining its old-timey look, a seafood-diner of sorts complete with a lit-up fish and walk-up counter outside the formal restaurant. Whether in the mood for an elaborate seafood feast or a quick stop at the counter for a bread bowl and a beer, there is no question, locals come here first and foremost for the clam chowder. Beachside professionals, Boardwalk goers, and even our neighbors across the bay (Monterey residents that sneak over, traitors to their own “Central Coast clam chowder capital” title) swear by Stagnaro’s creamy New England style clam chowder and warm sourdough rolls. Can’t get enough of that nostalgia-inducing wharf experience? Bring home the Gallon Clam Chowder, made and packaged fresh for prime at-home re-creation. Thing to Know: Located at the end of the wharf, the counter and window-seats inside have the best views on the stretch. Visit the Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz. Call 423-2180 or stagnarobros.com. | Neha Telreja
Runners-up Riva's, Severino’s

Coffeehouse:Verve
Although this local coffee powerhouse first opened on 41st Avenue in November 2007, it officially became the hippest place for a cup of top-notch joe over the last year, when it hit several important benchmarks, like opening two new locations in fall 2011 (one in Seabright, where they also have a new 7,000-square-foot roasting operation, and one on Pacific Avenue) and hosting the 2012 Southwest Regional U.S. Barista Competition in March (where Verve’s own Jared Truby took home first place). Although the drip coffee, lattes and cappuccinos are among the most popular Verve drinks, customers also enjoy secret off-the-menu specialties like the 1&1 (a split shot of espresso and macchiato) or the 1&Fun (split shot of espresso and cappuccino). Verve is also making waves in the coffee world with its retail operation—selling its perfectly roasted beans all over the place. Next time you buy a bag, co-owner Colby Barr says to think about the fact that, since an average coffee plant’s annual production is one pound of roasted coffee, it’s like you’re walking up to and harvesting a six-foot-tall coffee plant. Visit 816 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-7776; 104 Bronson St., Santa Cruz,
464-8141; 1540 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-7784, vervecoffeeroasters.com. | EL
Runners-up Lulu Carpenter’s, Mr. Toots

Comfort Food/Late-night dining:Santa Cruz Diner
Walk into Santa Cruz Diner at any hour (open all 24) and you’ll see the gamut of regulars—the rambunctious late-night college crowd, early-rising workers reading the paper as the sun comes up, surfies in for that breakfast burrito any time of day, and that curious newbie that wanders in at noon looking for a club sandwich and winds up confused by all the signs. The walls of this local staple are covered in signs top to bottom, with warnings like “Danger Men Cooking” and “Be Nice or Go Away.” That kind of kooky humor complemented by a friendly cast of characters as staff makes this diner fit right in with the “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” movement. Make sure to snag a free bumper sticker on your way out! Thing to Know: Run by a East-coast husband and Vietnamese wife team, the diner was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” for serving everything from coconut curry rice bowls and spring rolls to spaghetti and chicken fried steak. Visit 909 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz. Call 426-7151 | NT
Runners-up (comfort food) Saturn Cafe, Dharma’s
Runners-up (late-night dining) Santa Cruz Diner, Crepe Place

Cookie:Pacific Cookie Company
What’s not to love? Fresh-baked and full of all that culinary loving, variety is a plus here. Now celebrating its 30th year of super deliciousness, we dipped our hands into its creative cookie jar and came up with three cookies we love the most: Dr. Midnight (A triple chocolate threat),  Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chips (I mean, how can you pass this up?), and the Dark Chocolate Cranberry (yum!). Check out the gift boxes and other unique ways to offer up these treats. Good job, PCC. Keep it up.
Visit its Downtown Santa Cruz location or log onto pacificcookie.com. Call 800-969-9709. | CP

bo food starzcupcakeCupcakes:Starz Cupcakes
So good, it’s enough to make you go mad. (In a good way.) So, what do we love about Starz—sugar rush aside? Well, flavors abound here—everything from chocolate chip covered chocolate delights to some impressive, and can we just say, luscious, red velvety treats. And so much more in between—even for those with diabetes, there’s a cupcake. Many of the cupcake recipes here have been handed down from generation to generation and you can tell—there’s a nice artistry in the way owner Lisa Brighton approaches baking. Dig in. There won’t be leftovers. Take note: $3.25 for a standard; $2 for a mini; inquire about specials; consider the Tower of Power for a big event. It’s loaded with a variety of cupcakes to suit your taste buds. Visit 1420 41st Avenue Capitola, 464-8911; 2424 Esplanade Capitola, 462-2911; 1440 – 41st Avenue, Suite "B" Capitola, 464-8911; starzcupcakes.com. | CP
Runners-up The Buttery, Gayle’s Bakery

Deli Sandwich:Zoccoli’s
Going strong now for more than 60 years, it makes sense that Zocs knows what it’s doing. Often packed with locals craving the best sandwich they can find, the family-owned vibe, and attention to detail here, truly stands out. That, and everything from its nice cheese selection to numerous sandwich options. Last year’s fave was The Durbinator (a la James Durbin): Grilled chicken breast and pineapple slices, with mayonnaise instead of honey mustard—$6.35. Yum.1534 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz; 423-1711; zoccolis.com.  | Greg Archer
Runners-up (Deli) Garden Deli, New Leaf Deli
Runners-up (Sandwich) Garden Deli, Eric’s Deli

Dessert:Chocolate
It’s all in the name. This adorable Euro-style café dazzles Cruzans year in and year out with its chocolate concoctions, from the Warm Chocolate Pot (a vessel of liquid chocolate) to the savory chicken mole entrée. So, voters, is it the richness of their chocolate-laden treats that has you so devoted? Or is it the allure of one dessert, in particular—the Triple Layer Chocolate Mousse Cake, perhaps? Or is it the sheer amount of sweet things they have to offer (the hot chocolate menu alone has 10 options)? Our bet is that all three of these reasons together make Chocolate the local go-to destination for dessert. 1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 427-9900, Dinner, chocolate deserts, truffles more chocolatesantacruz.com. | EL
Runners-up The Buttery, Bittersweet Bistro

Diner:Santa Cruz Diner
Owners Gail and Kim—Gail being from the east coast and Kim from Vietnam—put together a menu based on what they know how to cook which includes the house specialty Pho.  Before opening the Santa Cruz Diner, neither of the owners had ever worked in a restaurant but realized that Santa Cruz was devoid of a good, centrally located diner. With this opportunity in mind the two opened the restaurant in 1998 with the goal of being “The best diner within a hundred miles.” Open 24 hours a day, the Santa Cruz Diner experiences a diner rush at normal hours as well as another at 2:30 a.m. after the bars close. The Santa Cruz Diner gained fame after being featured on the Food Network’s popular show, Diners, Dive-ins and Dives when the episode raved about the diverse menu, high quality food, and many other unique qualities that have made the Santa Cruz Diner a culinary cornerstone of the city. Take note: The Vietnamese spring rolls are incredible and will help you balance out the cheese sticks and bacon burger. 909 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 426-7151, santacruzdiner.com. | CH
Runners-up Saturn Cafe, Betty’s Eat Inn

Dive Bar:Brady’s Yacht Club
When asked what she loves about Brady’s, one local who frequents the dive bar said, “It’s like a family in there—not a family you always want to be a part of, but a family.” One big whiskey-guzzling (the bar is Jameson’s No.1 Northern California account), pool-shooting family—new members are welcome. Visit 413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 425-9854. | EL
Runners-up JJ’s Saloon, Castaways

bo food-leadExotic Drinks:Hula’s
There’s no question why Hula’s is taking home the title of “Best Exotic Drinks” for the fourth year in a row—what other local restaurant/bar can boast a 96-ounce cocktail? The concoction in question is, of course, Hula’s infamous Volcano Bowl—silver rum, dark rum, brandy, orgeat, pineapple, lemon and cranberry juice, plus a 151 rum float—which serves four to eight people … or one ambitious lunatic. Those who love their liver tend to lean toward less mind-altering (but still mouth-watering) cocktails like Hula’s Mai Tai or the Blood Orange Martini. But don’t be intimidated by the diverse drink menu—this Hawaiian hotspot offers happy hour seven nights a week, with extended hours on weekends, and all-night on Tuesdays, so there are more than enough opportunities to tickle every taste bud. Visit 221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz. Call 426-4852 or hulastiki.com. | JB
Runners-up 515 Kitchen & Cocktails, Motiv (upstairs)

Falafel:Falafel House
With its unique recipes and, of course, falafel, this local haunt continues to impress. Abundance seems to be the key here as all the dishes—including the sandwiches—are hearty and filling. The basic Falafel Sandwich runs $3.99-$4.99, but no doubt locals have also been taken in by the  Falafel Salad ($5.95), the Lentil Sandwich ($4.99) and  Mediterranean Turkey Burger ($7.99). Big bonus: The large falafel sandwich with fries and soda runs $7.99. Visit 113 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 459-9770 or falafelhousesantacruz.com. | CP
Runners-up Zameen, AJ’s Market

Farmers’ Market:Aptos Farmers’ market @ Cabrillo College
The Aptos Farmers’ Market isn’t just a quick stop for organic, locally grown produce— this 80-plus vendor spearhead of the Monterey Bay Certified Farmers’ Markets serves up the beginning to all your weekend festivities, with lunch options for foodies with gastronomical wanderlust, a section with adoptable animals, and a live Bluegrass band (aptly named the Farmers Market String Band). Much buzzed-about vendors include the Tomales Bay oyster bar and Farmhouse Culture fresh sauerkraut vendor. VIsit Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos, montereybayfarmers.org/aptos.html. | NT
Runners-up Downtown Santa Cruz (Wednesday), Westside

Frozen Yogurt:YogurtLand
With more than a dozen frozen yogurt shops in the county and several about to open,  Yogurtland stands out among its competition. Check out the wide selection of flavors, from the standards—vanilla and chocolate—to some unique, rare offerings: Blood-Orange Tart and Birthday Butter-cake. Take note: Yogurtand’s 41st Ave location has a futuristic atmosphere which, along with the aroma spilling out, makes it an extremely inviting place to visit. VIsit 1955 41st Ave., Capitola. Call 462-3100 or yogurt-land.com. | CH
Runners-up Yogismo, Top-a-lot

Greek Food:The Greek
The bluest building in all of Santa Cruz is also host to the best Greek food this side of the Mediterranean Sea. Locals flock to The Greek for its stuffed gyros, juicy rack of lamb, and addictive pastitsio (to name a few stand-outs), and keep returning for its always-smiling staff, reasonable prices, and Hellenic art. One little-known fact: owner Vasili Karagiannopoulos is the gifted artist who penned each of the pencil and charcoal sketches of Greek gods throughout the downtown restaurant. Visit 435 Front St., Santa Cruz. Call 466-9990. | JB
Runners-up Vasili’s, Zameen

Hot Dog:DAWGS! (Scotts Valley)
Hot dogs may seem like recession fodder, but at Dawgs! the tubular links are treated like an upscale delicacy. Try the classic ball park-style entrée, a spicy Louisiana hot link, Chicago style, or a cheesy chili dog. Dana’s House Fried Potato Chips and Marti’s House Fried Jack & Bleu Cheese Sticks are perfect sides. Visit 5272 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley. Call 438-5800 or dawgs-sv.com. | JB
Runners-up Taylor’s, Lucy’s Hot Dog Stand

Ice Cream:The Penny Ice Creamery
When Kendra Baker and Zach Davis got together to open The Penny Ice Creamery, little did they know that their small beginnings would turn out to be such a huge success. “It has been a long journey,” says Baker. “I really started getting into the sweet side of things working in France at a two-star Michelin restaurant. I learned how to make traditional ice cream there, and it was my first ice cream-making experience. I was wooed by the sweet side of cooking.” The Penny Ice Creamery uses Route 1 Farms for Meyer lemons in its lemon poppyseed flavor, Belle Farms’ olive oil for an incredible olive oil and salt flavor—and many other local fruits and nuts depending what’s in season. When asked what’s coming up for spring, Baker notes that plum blossom white chocolate chip, a green strawberry or a candy cap mushroom may be on hand. Grab a napkin—we’ll see you there. Experience it at 913 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, 204-2523, Fresh organic hand-made ice cream in Santa Cruz thepennyicecreamery.com. | JC
Runners-up Marianne’s, Polar Bear Ice Cream

Indian Food:Ambrosia Indian Bistro
This is Indian food so packed with flavor you will want to come here every week.  Created by chefs who know their onions, you will marvel at the incredible blends of spices in the authentic Indian dishes. Try the Tandoori Mixed Grill (prepared in a real tandoori oven) or one of the many vegetarian delicacies. A favorite is Dal Bukhara, a dish of flavorful black lentils simmered overnight over a slow fire. Ambrosia does parties, catering and takeout. 207 Sea Ridge Road, Aptos, 685-0610, ambrosiaib.com.  | JC
Runners-up (Tie-Second Place): Sitar; Royal Taj. (Third) India Joze

Italian Restaurant:Lilians Italian kitchen
In its no-frills kitchen, Lillian’s serves up really great and authentic Italian food. Lillian’s is always filled to the rafters with folk who know that their pasta, pizza and everything else will be absolutely delicious. Sometimes there’s a line on the sidewalk outside of regulars who are prepared to wait for a table in this cozy spot.  Owned by Joe and Charlotte Moreno, they strive to prepare their food “just like mama used to make.” Take note: The restaurant is named after Joe’s late mother. “Her kitchen was like a restaurant,” Joe Moreno says. “She inspired us. It would bring a smile to her face to see her name over the restaurant.” Visit 1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 425-2288. | JC
Runners-up Ristoranti Avanti, Ristoranti Italiano

Japanese Restaurant / Sushi:Mobo Sushi
Mobo gets another double whammy this year—Best Japanese and Best Sushi restaurant. Mobo says they serve “mind-altering sushi” and everybody agrees. Try some of their famous Mobo Maki Maki dishes such as the Caterpillar with unagi and avocado, or the Flying Tiger with tempura black tiger shrimp. And let’s not forget the Japanese beers or the list of premium sake offered. This is a fun place to go for a delicious sushi experience. Take note:Sake Bomb Dominoes happen at the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Check it out at 105 S. River St., Santa Cruz. Call 425-1700 or mobosushirestaurant.com. | JC
Runners-up (Japanese) Takara , Miyuki (Watsonville)
Runners-up (Sushi) Sushi Garden, I Love Sushi

Kid-friendly Restaurant:Kianti’s and Carpo's
Kid’s love pizza, and that’s no surprise. But vibrant Pacific Avenue restaurant Kianti’s serves up sophisticated, brick- oven pizza and pasta fare family-style with much more than just a meal to keep the kids entertained. Crayons and placemats come with pizza dough to play with—training tools for what’s to come, as World Champion pizza dough spinners come out to show off and “Eye of the Tiger” blasts throughout the restaurant. Taking the top spot with a pizza joint is of course, a hamburger joint. Carpo’s Family Restaurant prides itself on American comforts for American wallets, great deals and fast service for kid-favorites like basic burgers, hot dogs, and fish & chips. Take note: On Wednesdays, kids at Kianti’s eat for free!
Kianti’s, 1100 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, 469-4400; Carpo’s, 2400 Porter St., Soquel, 476-6260, carposrestaurant.com. | NT
Runners-up Santa Cruz Diner. (Tie Third Place): Caffé Lucio’s’ Dharma’s

Martini:Clouds
Given the range of Clouds’ martini menu, it’s no wonder that the restaurant/bar is your hands-down favorite for best martini year after year. From a classic gin martini to more fanciful creations (like the Caramel Apple or Chocolate Martini), Clouds always does martinis right. Visit 110 Church St., Santa Cruz. Call 429-2000 or cloudsdowntown.com.| EL
Runners-up Oswald, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails

Meal for a Deal:Charlie Hong Kong
Charlie Hong Kong, or “Charlie’s” as loving locals refer it to, has perfected the fusion of Asian street food with California freshness, making it the go-to spot for healthy fast food in the Santa Cruz area. Quick, affordable, organic and delicious—you never can go wrong with a trip to Charlie’s. Next time you’re slurping up some of their famous Spicy Dan noodles, consider the fact that the building was formerly a 1950s ice cream stand. Visit 1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 426-5664 or charliehongkong.com. | EL
Runners-up El Palomar Taco Bar, Santa Cruz Diner

Middle Eastern Restaurant:Laili
Voted Best New Restaurant by Good Times readers last year, Laili is now an established eatery in Downtown Santa Cruz. With its Afghan cuisine influence and flavors of the Silk Road, it offers a unique and different dining experience. Delectable dishes are complemented with authentic herbs and spices, and pungent Mediterranean flavors. Try some scrumptious chicken served with saffron basmati rice, roasted okra, cauliflower, tomatoes and yogurt, or a tender lamb dish— prepared Middle East style. A favorite, too, is a plate of vegetarian pomegranate eggplant. Laili’s has a good selection of wines, and some irresistible desserts. Try the cardamom rice pudding or the walnut date tart—with a hot cup of chai tea. Laili has an open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work. You can also sit outside in a charming courtyard with little lights and heaters. Visit 101.B Cooper St., Santa Cruz. Call 423-4545 or visit lailirestaurant.com. | JC
Runners-up Zameen, Khyber Pass

Natural Food Market:New Leaf Community Market
New Leaf is committed to offering the community eclectic choices of fresh and healthy food. Whether it’s organic produce you’re looking for, honey, jam, wine, cheese, bread—much of it from local vendors—New Leaf has it all. Their food bins offer everything from beans and rice to delicious cereals, nuts and dried fruit. Their deli counter stocks high-quality meats without chemical additives, and New Leaf has partnered with FishWise in order to be vigilant about selling sustainable seafood. This is a grocery store par excellence. Something to consider: If you want to do a detox program but don’t know where to start, New Leaf offers classes to show you how. Check out the website for all the fun events coming up. Visit 1134 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,  426-1793; 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-1306, 1210 41st Ave., Capitola, 479-7987, newleaf.com. | JC
Runners-up Staff of Life , Whole Foods

bo food ponoNew Restaurant:Pono Hawaiian Grill
When the news spread that Cypress Lounge was no more, many locals were saddened by the loss of the once-thriving live music hotspot. But with its demise came the arrival of a new haven for Santa Cruz music lovers: The Reef. Offering cover-free tunes seven nights a week, the Hawaiian-inspired hang-out is off to a fresh start. But surprisingly, it’s not the music that keeps locals coming back—rather the savory offerings served up by Pono Hawaiian Grill. Highlights of the restaurant’s diverse menu include Hawaiian luau favorites like Lomi Lo.

Pizza:Pizza My Heart
Award-winning, attention grabber, Pizza My Heart recently topped a Best Pizzas list (see Critics’ Picks for details). But locals already know it rocks. Whether you’re into basic cheese, or some Portobello mushrooms, ricotta cheese, artichokes, and even apples, Pizza My Heart has it all. Vegetarian options are aplenty here. Fun stuff: The pizzas boast the monikers of well known local 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 and feta cheese. Visit 116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 426-2511; 209 Esplanade # A, Capitola, 475-5714, pizzamyheart.com; 2180 41st Ave., Capitola, 475-6000. | CP
Runners-up Pleasure Point, Woodstock’s

Restaurant (Aptos):Bittersweet Bistro
Who doesn’t love Bittersweet Bistro. It’s elegant, fun, vibrant—and the food is fabulous. And this is the go-to place for weddings, birthdays—and celebrations of all kinds. Bittersweet will take care of you. Try Bittersweet’s wood-fired pizzettas in the fun and lively bar area, or dine in a more formal setting in the main area. Here is where you will experience the talented hand of owner and executive chef Thomas Vinolus. Bittersweet has also expanded its outside patio,  complete with heaters, so this is a great place to be in the summer months. A Recession Crushers menu offers tapas-style plates of food for about $6, along with a featured wine for about $5 a glass. What a deal. Visit 787 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Aptos. Call 662-9799 or click bittersweetbistro.com. | JC
Runners-up Café Sparrow, (Tie) Manuels; Zameen

Restaurant (Capitola):Paradise Beach Grille
Paradise Beach Grille is no stranger to Best Of awards from the Good Times. Consistently voted Best Capitola Restaurant by readers, the restaurant gets it right every time. Overlooking the beach in Capitola and with great outdoor dining, Paradise Beach Grille is a great spot for tourists and locals alike. Executive chef Scott Cater serves up mouthwatering food, and service is prompt and courteous. PGB has a full bar – complete with terrific ocean view. Fun tidbit: Rolls-Royce executives chose PBG as the place to stop for lunch on their way from San Francisco to the Concours d Elegance in Pebble Beach last year. They turned up in five brand new Rolls-Royce cars.  VIsit 215 Esplanade, Capitola. Call 476-4900 or click paradisebeachgrille.com. | JC
Runners-up Shadowbrook, Dharma’s

bo food oswaldsRestaurant (Santa Cruz):Oswald
When you are planning on going somewhere special for dinner—think Oswald. Thanks to star chef Damani Thomas, Oswald’s cuisine is consistently voted to be top-notch. His classic roasted rack of lamb is superbly prepared and served with celery root puree, baby carrots and olive tapenade; and the seared dayboat scallops are imaginatively presented with creamy nettles, jasmine rice and Meyer lemon. Or just stop by for an appetizer and cocktail at Oswald’s lovely bar. Oswald is now open for lunch on Fridays. Try the Moscow Mule cocktail with vodka, lime and ginger beer. It’s served on the rocks and comes with a real kick. Visit 121 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 423-7427 or click oswaldrestaurant.com. | JC
Runners-up Crow’s Nest, Ristoranti Avanti, Peachwood’s

Restaurant:(San Lorenzo Valley, Tie) Tyrolean Inn / Oak Tree Ristorante
A big tie for The Tyrolean Inn in Ben Lomond and Oak Tree Ristorante in Felton. Tyrolean Inn is renowned locally for its authentic Bavarian and German food. Locals may appreciate that it is in a quaint chalet, surrounded by towering redwoods. It offers hearty plates of smoked pork, schnitzel, noodles, sausage, and much more. Try the Tyrolean Inn’s famous potatoes, sauerkraut and red cabbage. Lighter food, and fish and vegetarian options are also on the menu. As for Oak Tree, locals nosh on breakfast, lunch and dinner. An impressive variety can be found here. Things that caught our eye in this steak, seafood and pasta portal: The Avocado Ripieno appetizer (stuffed with chicken, peppers and coconut milk), and the Orata alla Griglia (grilled Pacific Rock Fish, salsa verde and eggplant involtino). It’s hard to resist these two. Tyrolean Inn: 9600 Highway 9, Ben Lomond, 336-5188, tyroleaninn.com. Oak Tree: 5447 Hwy 9, Felton, 335-5551, oaktreeristorante.com. | JC
Runners-up Scopazzi’s, Cowboy Diner

Restaurant (Scotts Valley):Jia Tella’s
There comes a time in every American household when staples like Italian and Mexican food become a drab part of our everyday routine. Locals who like to spice up their dinner rotation know that Jia Tella’s is the place to go. Specializing in scrumptious Cambodian cuisine, Jia Tella’s—located within the Scotts Valley Junction Shopping Center next to The Scotts Valley Market—offers a diverse selection of noodles, stir fried dishes, kabobs, seafood, and traditional Cambodian entrees, like Amok, which comes served in banana leaves. With an ever-pleasing aroma wafting through the restaurant and a friendly staff at your service, after one visit to this Scotts Valley gem, you’ll forget all about pizza. 18 Victor Square, Scotts Valley. 438-5005. jiatellas.com. | JB
Runners-up Bruno’s Barbecue, Sandabs

Restaurant (Soquel) California Cuisine:Café Cruz
They say to never judge a book by its cover. And, at least in the case of Café Cruz, the saying should also apply to restaurants. Hidden behind an unassuming front entrance lies the pinnacle of Soquel dining. Serving lunch, happy hour, and dinner—including a vegan menu—this local institution is the perfect venue for a birthday or anniversary celebration, a date, or just a fun night out with family and friends. Serving fresh local produce, fresh fish from sustainable sources, plus natural California-raised poultry, pork and beef, Café Cruz supports county businesses by serving bread by Gayle’s Bakery, organic coffees blended by The Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Co, and wines grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, to name a few. Our advice? Start with the mind-blowing Artichoke Heart Bruschetta, then dive into the open-faced Bistro Steak Sandwich topped with house-made onion rings, for a dinner that will be truly delightful. Visit 2621 41st Ave., Soquel. Call 476-3801 or visit cafecruz.com. | JB
Runners-up (California Cuisine) Oswald, (Tie): Paradise Beach Grille; Shadowbrook
Runners-up (Soquel) Michael’s on Main, Tortilla Flats

Restaurant of the Year / Restaurant Ambiance / Steak:Shadowbrook
Racking up three awards this year, Shadowbrook reigns supreme. Winning in a new category, Best Steak, Shadowbrook impresses with perfectly succulent, expertly prepared New York steaks—so tender, they melt in your mouth. Take note: Shadowbrook serves only the very best meat, and then it is expertly prepared by some of the area’s finest chefs. Another favorite is the Filet Mignon, a truly luscious piece of prime Angus beef that is served char-grilled with smoked Gouda potato gratin, baby carrots and green beans with a bacon béarnaise. Add to all that a nice walk through lush gardens, down a meandering pathway, or the experience of riding its quaint little cable car ride down to its magic haven, and you have a real triple threat. Visit 1750 Wharf Road, Capitola. Call 475-1511 or visit shadowbrook-capitola.com. | JC
Runners-up (Restaurant of the year) Paradise Beach Grille, (Tie): Oswald; Café Cruz
Runners-up (Ambiance) Paradise Beach Grille, Laili
Runners-up (Steak) Hindquarter Bar & Grill, Peachwood’s Steakhouse

Restaurant (Watsonville):Cilantro’s
If Michoacán is "the soul of Mexico," then its food is Mexico's soul food, offering up southern Mexican mainstays made with fresh ingredients and local seafood. While its sister restaurant El Palomar is often flooded with downtown tourists, locals frequent Cilantro’s for its daily lunch specials and weekend brunch. Machaca—scrambled eggs with shredded beef—is a good bet for simple, hearty brunch fair. But experience what Cilantro’s 22 years have really been about by getting the most out of their seafood options with Cilantro’s Special Dinner—charboiled snapper, charboiled prawns, carne asada, and chef’s choice of ceviche. Thing to Know: Go in Tuesday nights for their especially rowdy K-PIG happy hour, $1.75 tacos and $1.75 Tecate. Visit 1934 Main St., Watsonville. Call 761-2161 or click elpalomarcilantros.com. | NT
Runners-up Green Valley Grille, Jalisco’s

Seafood:Johnny’s Harborside
The reason why Johnny’s is so popular is because their seafood is fresh and delicious.  This casual restaurant’s menu includes at least half a dozen choices of fresh fish daily, as well as an abundance of pastas, sandwiches, salads and steaks. With lunch and dinner served daily, and brunch on weekends, Johnny’s is a happening spot. Take note: Happy Hour is from 3-6 p.m. when you can order a plate of appetizers for $3-$6. Margaritas, martinis and wine are only $4 and beer is $3. Stay awhile and become part of Johnny’s “Harborhood.” 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 479-3430, johnnysharborside.com. | JC
Runners-up Riva’s, Crow’s Nest

Smoothies/Juices:New Leaf Community Market
After their latest wave of remodeling, New Leaf has greatly expanded its juice and smoothie bar at a time when these services are in high demand. While some coffee shops have attempted to fill this need, they often lack fresh fruits, vegetables and other items which people prefer in their juices and smoothies. New Leaf now offers many traditional smoothie and juice concoctions along with new items such as goji berries and Acai fruits to create unique blends, remedies and tonics. New Leaf also experiments with its abundant inventory to create new and tantalizing mixtures among their wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. 1134 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-1793. 1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-1306. | CH

Steakhouse:Hindquarter Bar & Grille
If you’re looking for some meaty treats, then look no further than the Hindquarter Bar & Grille. This place is an icon in Santa Cruz, and is the go-to place for Texas T-bone steaks, grilled sirloins, slow-roasted prime rib, hickory-smoked Chicago baby back ribs, and, of course, everybody’s favorite—the almighty hamburger. The Hindquarter also serves an array of fish dishes, pasta, salads, sandwiches, and vegetarian selections. And, as they say, it’s “where the elite meat.” This place is so famous that you can even buy an assortment of merchandise such as clothing, caps, mugs, and shot glasses—all with the Hindquarter logo. Visit 303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Call 426-7770 or click thehindquarter.com. | JC
Runners-up The Point Chophouse, (Tie) Shadowbrook; Peachwood’s

Teahouse:Hidden Peak Teahouse
What was once a small, tucked away Downtown Santa Cruz gem is now a spacious, beckoning hub for all things tea. Formerly called Chaikhana Tea Culture, the reincarnation is named Hidden Peak Teahouse and boasts the same variety of delicious dry teas (black, green, white, Pu-Erh, oolong, herbal—they’ve got it all). But where the new shop excels—and why readers are speaking up to proclaim it the best teahouse in town—is with its sit-down tea service, which allows patrons to partake in the ancient ritual of unwinding over a cup (or pot) of tea. Local tea drinkers are thrilled by the vast tea menu, which has affordable standbys like the Big Bowl Tea for just $.99 (filled with the day’s house Pu-Erh blend) and Tea Glass Tea for $1.99, as well as luxurious rarities like the $550-per-serving Iron Cake Zhengcha (one of several Premium Private Reserve teas on site). The Chinese-inspired décor and tea-savvy staff make it a peaceful place to unplug from your day and plug in to tea culture. 1541-C Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, hiddenpeakteahouse.com. | EL
Runners-up The Tea House, Bloomsbury Tea Room

Thai Restaurant:Sawasdee
Properly recreating the infamously gritty, yet always tasty, delicacies of Bangkok’s street vendors is said to be largely impossible to reproduce, but Sawasdee’s restaurant proves that it can be done, and done with style. Owners of Sawasdee restaurant, Bill and Dee, successfully bring together a fine dining atmosphere with the authentic taste of Bangkok street vendors. What we like: crab fried rice. Visit 5050 Soquel Drive, Soquel. Call 462-5051. l CH
Runners-up Bankok West , Sabieng

Vegetarian Cuisine:Dharma’s
Dharma’s prides itself on saving cows by not serving beef—and that’s no bull! When you step through its doors, you can think completely healthy food. Not only do they serve tasty vegetarian and vegan food, but also it’s nearly all organic. The choices of food at Dharma’s are so varied and delicious that even non-vegetarians will marvel at the choices.  Gluten-free selections are available, too—even gluten-free pizza. Dharma’s serves breakfast lunch and dinner and has a children’s menu with dishes starting at $1.95. Dharma’s is an affordable family restaurant  that has been around since 1981. Visit 4250 Capitola Road, Capitola. Call 462-1717 or dharmaland.com. | JC
Runners-up Saturn Café , Charlie Hong Kong

Wine Bar / Wine List / Wine Store / Small Plates:Soif Wine Bar
Winnng four awards this year, it’s evident that Soif is not just a wine bar and restaurant—it’s a downtown destination. Soif is known for its imaginative food offerings, with everything from small plates of appetizers, to hearty plates of pasta, steak, fish or vegetarian. But locals wanting just a tasty (small) bite with a glass of wine from its extensive wine list often feel right at home here. Soif prides itself on its eclectic variety of wines from California and all over the world. As well as featuring the well-known wine countries of Spain, Italy, France and Germany, there are also wines from Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Portugal. And if wine doesn’t fit the bill, Soif offers a dozen different beers – with brews from Mexico, Bavaria, Belgium, Japan and England. Soif puts on special wine-tasting events regularly, and features music on certain nights. And if it’s an unusual bottle of wine you’re looking for, you are guaranteed to find it in Soif’s wine shop. More than 400 hand-selected wines are carried from around the globe – offering something for all tastes. Visit 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-2020. soifwine.com. | JC
Runners-up (Wine Bar) Wine shop, tasting in Capitola cavacapitola.com Cava Wine Bar, Vino Prima
Runners-up (Wine List) Shadowbrook, Paradise Beach Grille
Runners-up (Wine Store) Shopper’s Corner, Vinocruz
Runners-up (Small Plates) Stockton Bridge Grille, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails

Winery (local): Alfaro Family Vineyards
When you’re making some of the best wine around, and you have a warm and welcoming tasting room in a bucolic setting, it’s not surprising that Good Times readers voted Alfaro’s as Best Winery. Ebullient winemaker Richard Alfaro is always there to greet you and serve you tastings of his fine wines. He and his wife Mary Kay, a certified sommelier, know more than a thing or two about the grape. Alfaro’s tasting room is open on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. so head on over and have a good time. Something to know: Richard Alfaro started out as a baker. The Alfaro’s bread you see on store shelves still bears his name, although he sold the business when he went into making wine. Visit 420 Hames Road, Corralitos, 728-5172, alfarowine.com. | JC
Runners-up Bonny Doon Vineyard, Bargetto Winery

Best of Santa Cruz County Index:
| Critics’ Picks | Shops | Food & Drink | Arts & Entertainment | Health & Fitness | Professionals | The Rest |

Comments (3)Add Comment
Best cupcakes/cake
written by Buttery fan, February 01, 2013
Buttery chocolate cupcakes are the best in the entire county! I've never eaten anything as good!
...
written by Restaurants in Noida, July 16, 2012
Thank You.....

Your blog is very informative and I will keep updated with the

same.

Restaurants in Delhi
...
written by Julia Simpkins, April 26, 2012
Please don't forget to post a Best Salad Bar catagory. Carpos gets my vote.

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