Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 20th
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Good Morning Maui

dining ponoPono Hawaiian Grill rolls out Hawaiian-style weekend brunch

Goodness, righteousness, virtuousness and fairness are some of the four-score English words that attempt to describe the Hawaiian essence of pono, whose use in the state motto translates to “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

There is very much right about brunch on Pono’s patio on a sunny morning. Alas, there are no waffles for building houses, alluding to 50 First Dates, but there are numerous unusual entrées.

We ordered our plates from the window, which by noon had a line outside the door. We then bellied up to the Reef Bar to order freshly brewed coffee and house-made iced tea,

First up was the Pono Brunch Combo ($11.95). A pair of over-easy eggs lay in a perfect circle on the plate with colorful Hawaiian fried rice laced with still-crisp broccoli and carrots and pale green soybeans. Instead of bacon or sausage I chose Spam. I had eaten it occasionally as a child, crisply fried with battered eggplant coated with crushed saltine crackers. At Pono, three thick slices were grilled and brushed with teriyaki glaze. It was as salty as I remembered, but much more homogenous. As if this plate wasn’t enough, a second held two pieces of French toast buried beneath bananas and strawberries with a sweet island syrup.

The Loco Moco Burrito ($7.95) was stuffed with brown rice, rich ground sirloin, scrambled eggs and onions, and served with a side of Indonesian sriracha-spiked brown gravy.

The Loco Moco ($8.95) is also served naked as two fat ground sirloin patties on a bed of white rice with spiced gravy.
Unique is Pono’s Hawaiian-style Chilaquiles ($8.95). Tortilla chips were sauced and cooked with cheese and topped with avocado slices, rather like nachos, and served with black beans and choice of meat.

The Hawaiian Fried Rice ($6.95) too comes as an entrée with choice of meats. We chose grilled, sliced disks of Portuguese sausage over the vegetarian fried rice.

I learned that beginning in the late 1870s, perhaps 20,000 Portuguese immigrant families traveled around Cape Horn to work the sugar plantations and eventually start their own farms. They are credited with introducing the ukulele, which was based on their own string instruments.


Pono Hawaiian Grill in the Reef Bar, 120 Union St., Santa Cruz, 426-7666. Full bar owned separately. Serving brunch 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays,



Annie Get your Dishes
Annieglass is celebrating 30 years of creating art for the table with Platemaker Dinners. The meals, prepared by exceptional local chefs and paired with local wines, will be served on a collection of Annieglass’ dinnerware in the Watsonville warehouse.
July 25 features Chef Steve Wilson of Café Cruz with Randall Grahm and Bonny Doon Vineyards. On August 29, meet Chef Wendy Brodie of the Art of Food and Denis Hoey of Odonata Wines.

Platemaker Dinner, May 23, 6 p.m., Annieglass warehouse, 310 Harvest Drive, Watsonville, 761-2041. Visit


New Grill in Town
When the new owners of Café Violette unveiled a new logo and renamed the restaurant, I was wringing my hands over the potential demise of my favorite wrap, one that inspired a nifty grilled chicken marinade at my house. Fortunately, it is not only still to be found at Village Grill and Creamery, but much improved as well.

Situated on the corner of Stockton Street and the Esplanade, the tiny eatery serves a short list of breakfast items all day, along with 1/3 pound sirloin and turkey burgers, sandwiches, salads, and corn dogs plus some Middle Eastern specialties.
The filling Breakfast Burrito ($6.75) included good-sized pieces of salty pork sausage, scrambled eggs, crisp hash browns and melted cheddar. It was served with a side of nondescript purchased salsa.

The Lemon Mustard Chicken Wrap ($7.25) was even tastier than before. Cradled in a thick pita, which was drizzled with lemon-mustard sauce, were lettuces, red onions, slivered cucumber and generous chunks of seasoned chicken breast.

My daughter asked if you could be a creamery if you didn’t make ice cream. An appropriate question, but who cares when there are almost 50 locally-made flavors from Polar Bear and Marianne’s?
I appreciate the numerous serving sizes, and you don’t even have to be a child to order a kids’ cone. We took our mother-daughter treats to a bench overlooking the beach, just like we did years ago. Except now, her face and hands don’t get all sticky and become magnets to the surrounding sand. Just like Village Grill; similar, but better.

Village Grill and Creamery, 104 Stockton Ave., Capitola, 479-8888. Open daily at 8 a.m., until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Visit

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