Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 24th
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So Haute, it’s Cool

dining socialHaute Enchilada’s unique café and gallery has plenty for the palate and the palette

Moss Landing is a quaint historic fishing village that lies about 25 miles south of Santa Cruz. It is a treasure trove of places to explore, including fine antique stores, art galleries, lovely little shops, and is also home to the antique street fair that takes place annually on the last Sunday in July.

Here is where you can go bird watching, whale watching, sailing, fishing, stock up on fresh seafood, or try the food at one of the area’s handful of restaurants. For a small town, Moss Landing certainly has a lot to offer. A friend and I rented a kayak there in the summer, and then went to the Haute Enchilada Café for lunch. 

Most people are more familiar with The Whole Enchilada, which lies in a very visible spot on the corner of Highway 1 and Moss Landing Road, but head down the road a few paces and you can’t miss its little sister café, the decidedly unique Haute Enchilada.

Splashes of color greet you when entering the café and gallery—sexy hot pinks, azure greens and dazzling blues are a feast for the eyes, plus an abundance of wonderful artwork covers every wall. Proprietor Kim Solano has created a restaurant that not only serves fine food, but is also a beautiful gallery displaying local artists’ original work. 
dining hauteenchilada
On a visit there for dinner recently, the restaurant’s vibe put me and my husband in a festive mood. He ordered a Cubano Mojito ($9.50) with Castillo rum, cucumber and lime, served with enough fresh mint to garnish several more mojitos, and he loves its fresh tang and hefty rum kick. For me it was a glass of local Alfaro’s Estate Pinot Noir ($14 a glass or $42 a bottle).  Cocktails are a specialty of the Haute Enchilada, and they carry a good selection of tequilas. A fine array of coffee drinks is offered too, including a Salted Caramel Mocha, which is on my list for next time.

The café’s Soup Taster is a delicious delight of three soups—artichoke bisque, chicken tortilla with a red beet sauce, and poblano bisque with a hot and spicy kick—all imaginatively presented.

My Pescado Cubano (pistachio-encrusted snapper at $21), was fresh and tender with a nice crunchiness from the tasty nuts, served on a bed of black beans with tomatillo and avocado sauce, and a mound of quinoa and plantains stuffed with cotija cheese. A squeeze of fresh lime over the fish brought out even more flavor in this delicious entree. Before my husband’s Trucha Barcelona arrived, he ordered a local draft porter beer—a meaty brew made by English Ales Brewery in Marina. The imaginative Trucha dish ($21) is a whole trout stuffed with flavorful prosciutto and served on a pile of roasted artichoke with fresh fava beans, Bermuda onion, and cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
dining haute
The Haute Enchilada Café’s eclectic menu boasts sustainable seafood and local organic produce, and some of their entree choices include Peruvian Causa with garlic prawns; Relleno Del Mar with crab, fresh buffalo mozzarella, and black beans; and Crab and Huitlacoche Enchiladas. Huitlacoche is a black corn truffle (a kind of fungus also called corn smut) which is healthy to eat and also delicious. 

Never able to resist dessert, I ordered a Ginger Sticky Pudding ($7.50). Served warm with a dollop of whipped cream and toasted pecans, it reminds me of the hearty puds I devoured when I was growing up in England. Other desserts,  from a list of more than a dozen, include Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Tocin Del Cielo (Spanish flan).

Before you enter this splendidly colorful restaurant, take a tour of the front garden. The lovely little fountain, exotic plants and cacti are all there for your eyes to feast on. Frida Kahlo would have loved this place.  


Haute Enchilada Café & Gallery, 7902 Moss Landing Road, Moss Landing, 633-5843, Open daily from 10 a.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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