1116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-7588 A perfect pitstop. Great authentic Mexican, seafood and American offerings come in a variety of dishes here: Try the chicken mole, chile verde, sizzling fajitas, crab and shrimp enchiladas, garlic portabella fajitas, grilled chicken fettuccini with artichoke hearts, or the glazed chicken teriyaki.
AJ’s Market & Natural Foods
5955 SOQUEL DR., SOQUEL, 831-479-0399,
AJ’s Market is a unique grocery store that features a full line of produce, fresh locally baked bread, dry goods and a great dairy selection. The butcher shop features only fresh meats, and fish is locally caught and delivered by Stagnaro’s. The restaurant’s offerings include juicy burgers, Mediterranean gyros and chicken shawarma wraps.
Aldo’s Harbor Restaurant
616 Atlantic Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-3736 Aldo’s has been delivering some form of great flavors around these parts for more than 50 years. Take note of the great breakfast menu but lunch or dinner on the harborside deck is a plus. It’s been heralded for its amazing eggs Benedict, calamari and fresh salmon, but don’t stop there. Everything here is fresh, and the atmosphere is a winner, too.
Aloha Island Grille
1700 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-479-3299,
alohaislandgrille.com Just one block from the beach and 3,000 miles away from Hawaii, right here in Santa Cruz is Aloha Island Grille, known for its large portions, incredible prices and ono (good) food. Aloha has an ambiance true to Hawaii. Take note of some of these amazing local classics: Kahlua pork with cabbage, grilled mahi mahi, loco moco, kal-bi ribs, teriyaki portabello and even SPAM musubi! True taste of Hawaii.
1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-6999 Upscale and upbeat. Look for amazing sushi, sashimi and Balinese dishes. And even specialty burgers—superbly cooked and presented. One of the most charming spots in Downtown Santa Cruz.
Aptos Burger Company
106 Rancho Del Mar, Aptos, 831-688-1282 Fans of this spot, conveniently located near Cabrillo College, may appreciate the ’50s vibe, but the food is certainly memorable. Veggie burgers with avocado anyone? Salads and free refills on fountain drinks are a plus. But the burgers definitely stand out.
Aquarius at the Dream Inn
175 West Cliff DRIVE, Santa Cruz, 831-460-5012, dreaminnsantacruz.com Can’t beat the view here. Aquarius offers a nice take on the American bistro and it features sustainable seafood, local, organic produce and an impressive selection of local wines, as well as those from Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties. This stunning portal features wrap-around windows, a canopy of handmade surfboards and many teardrop-shaped lamps. Meanwhile, smooth, pebbled flooring fills the lounge area. Enjoy the great service.
100 41st Ave., Capitola, 475-5901, 505 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-423-8190 The new eatery in Capitola is the second Betty Burgers to open in the Santa Cruz area. The first Betty Burgers on Seabright Avenue took off like a rocket, so a second one was bound to happen. Serving up delicious burgers (made from Black Angus beef), plus fries, onion rings and all that other good stuff, Betty Burgers is one of the most popular places around.
Betty’s Eat Inn
1222 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-600-7056 Relatively new but already generating buzz, this sister eatery to the popular Betty Burgers adds some zest to the Downtown strip. Nice bar service and a creative menu to choose from make Betty’s bop.
Boulder Creek Brewery
13040 Highway 9, Boulder Creek, 831-338-7882, bouldercreekbrewery.net The old-time setting in the heart of Boulder Creek boasts homemade desserts, great salads, garlic fries, pizza, Mexican, barbecue and expected pub favorites. Possibly the best suds of local brewpubs.
Brown Ranch Market Place
3555 Clares St., next to Capitola Mall,
BROWNRANCH.COM International Foods include: August Moon Sushi Café, Crown Café Deli & Catering, Domino’s Pizza, Fresh Choice, Jamba Juice, Mayflower Chinese, Taqueria Tepeque, Trader Joe’s,
Yogurt Express, Zizzo’s Coffee.
1410 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-429-1855 Expect great service and great vibes here—CB poaches both your idea of a traditional morning meal, and your eggs. Specializing in South American cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else in Santa Cruz, here’s a place to dine at if you want a healthy and exotic meal (lunch is on the menu, too), for a price that’s under $10. The options are too extensive to list, so just know that most anything is scrumptious here. A renowned favorite is the açai bowl—açai blended up with apple juice, bananas, strawberries, guarana syrup and granola on top. Honestly, you’ll get addicted.
2621 41st Ave., Soquel, 831-476-3801, cafecruz.com A hit with locals and travelers, Cafe Cruz stands out for its commitment to serving some of most creative continental cuisine you could imagine. That, coupled with a superior wine list, make this culinary haven, well, a haven. Perfectly located on 41st Avenue, right near Hwy 1.
Café El Palomar
2222 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-477-0371 Specializing in taqueria Mexican food and premium margaritas, this breezy location is beloved by the locals. Try the chicken mole, or just find any excuse to order up the homemade corn tortillas. Inexpensive beachside dining.
740 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-458-1212, cafemare.com A Downtown Santa Cruz treasure and a hotbed of uniquely presented Italian cuisine. The recipes here seem to come from the heart—and they’re all hearty. Great wine list and friendly staff.
8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-688-6238 The best infusion of “country French” comes alive here in this charming Aptos Village restaurant. Café Sparrow is also the ideal spot for a romantic dinner, but the establishment is perfect for family get-togethers or special parties. If your idea of comfort food runs to gourmet, this is your kind of place.
381 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-0164, caffelucio.com It’s an unforgettable experience, and the owner is a kick in the pants. Good news: beyond the entertaining banter, the Italian food rocks and the bar has a wide variety of wine and well drinks. Unforgettable and, most of all, fun, fun, fun!
418 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-1775, the perg.com One of Santa Cruz’s oldest coffeehouses and a great student hangout. Plus: stellar art shows and live entertainment. You can’t beat the Perg.
Casablanca Inn and Bistro
101 Main Street Santa Cruz, 831-423-1570,
casablanca-santacruz.com Enjoy Northern Mediterranean cuisine as you dine in style. With breathtaking beach and Boardwalk views from every table, this historic Santa Cruz restaurant has new owners who have brightened up the dining room and freshened up the menu. Now serving lunch and the bar is open daily at 11 a.m.
Caruso’s Tuscan Cuisine
115 San Jose Ave., Capitola, 831-465-9040,
carusoscuisine.com Authentic Italian cuisine fueled by the passion of a Tuscan maestro—David Caruso. Every dish has its own distinct style. There’s no shortage of variety here either: lamb shanks, sea bass, pizza and, of course, some of the best pasta dishes around.
328 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz, 831-425-6771,
bonnydoonvineyard.com David Kinch of Manresa Restaurant in Los Gatos teamed with local wine titan Randall Grahm to launch this dynamic spot, so wonderfully located on the Westside of
Center Street Grill
1001 Center St., Santa Cruz, 831-423-4745,
thecenterstreetgrill.com Wonderfully perched just a block from Pacific Avenue, Center Street Grill continues to win points for its inventive menu. Not that long ago, it received a great mention in Travel & Leisure magazine. Try some of the unique fish dishes and appetizers here.
Charlie Hong Kong, organic veggies and savory meats, vegan, gluten-free in Santa Cruz >
1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-5664 Charlie—we dig you. Continually nabbing Best Meal For A Deal wins in GT’s annual readers’ poll, Charlie Hong Kong wins points for its “organic Asian street food.” Plus: you get quite a bit for your buck—organic veggies and savory meats. Take note: all noodle and rice bowls are vegan-based.
Chill Out Cafe
860 41st Ave. Capitola, 831-477-0543 It has the best breakfast burritos—20 to choose from—and sandwiches, salads and smoothies. The name just about says it all.
1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-9900,
chocolatesantacruz.com It’s become one of the brightest spots downtown—and right next to the iconic Bookshop Santa Cruz. Part of Chocolate’s charm is how well it manages to implement fresh, healthy foods into its diverse menu. Beyond the standout choices, take note of wonderful desserts—truffles, yum!—and the must-have hot chocolate. Bravo to this amazing culinary bright spot.
Cilantro’s Mexican Restaurant
1934 Main St., Watsonville, 831-761-2161 Here, a festive atmosphere accompanies some terrific Mexican fare—and the entrees are abundant. Great list of appetizers and a nice selection of beverages. Consistently considered one of Watsonville’s best restaurants.
110 Church St., Santa Cruz, 831-429-2000, cloudsdowntown.com
Clouds is known for its amazing selection of specialty martinis and fresh California cuisine with a Pacific Rim influence. You’ll be dazzled by the drink menu but the crowd here is really festive, too. Try the espresso martini for a real kick. Great selection of
after-dinner drinks. This place is chic, modern, upscale and friendly.
1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz., 831-429-6994 Quite possibly the most beloved dining establishment in Santa Cruz, the Crepe Place has been serving up—you guessed it—delectable crepes since 1973. Over the last few years, the menu has expanded to include more mainstream items, but the giant selection of crepes is still the main attraction. Outlandish décor imbues the Crepe Place with instant character, and the outdoor garden is the perfect backdrop for live music—in fact, it’s become quite the music haven. An extensive selection of single malts and an Absinthe Night every Tuesday makes the bar a popular destination for those who appreciate fine spirits.
2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. Call 831-476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com Celebrating 40 amazing years, this noteworthy venue is perched in the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and offers stunning ocean views. It’s popular, lively and just the type of Santa Cruz experience visitors relish. Comedy and entertainment is on hand, too. The restaurant delivers with its variety—fresh seafood, steaks, chicken and stellar appetizers. It also boasts an in-house rotisserie and a large salad bar, plus homemade desserts. The outdoor deck and bar area on the upper level offer the best views. One of the hottest dining spots on the coast!
71 Municipal Wharf, 831-426-5830 Dolphin is a great place to grab just-from-the-ocean food to go. The dining room is also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And there’s a special menu for kids. A nice casual environment to enjoy with the family, with beautiful views of the Monterey Bay. Don’t worry. Dolphin is not on the menu.
Engfer Pizza Works
537 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-429-1856, engferpizzaworks.com You have to love a place that offers built-to-suit toppings, where the traditional mushroom and sausage compete with more avant-garde arrangements like broccoli and pesto. Engfer’s brightens up the Seabright district of Santa Cruz with variety and what seems to be a perfect combination of styles and flavors. You’ll feel at home here.
1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-425-7575 Mango margaritas, grilled snapper tacos, handmade corn tortillas, pozole, fresh local seafood and other gourmet, regional, Michoacan recipes. Try the taco bar for a quick bite, or dine in style in the historic El Palomar hotel dining room. Get there early to put your name on the list. This remains one of the hottest cantinas in town.
25 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 831-423-5300,
FIREFISHGRILL.NET Oh, you can’t go wrong here. FireFish Grill is downright memorable. It specializes in fresh, traditional seafood, steaks and homemade pasta dishes served California-cuisine style at reasonable prices. Best of all: you’ll experience fabulous ocean views from every seat in the house.
515 Kitchen & Cocktails
515 Cedar St. 425-5051, 515santacruz.com In some ways, 515 Kitchen & Cocktails takes visitors on a trip back to the Prohibition days, when speakeasies were all the craze. With subdued lighting, plush chairs, and curtain-covered alcoves, aficionados of specialty drinks and tasty Mediterranean snacks will feel at home here. Fun bartenders plus a wildly inviting drink menu—many concoctions are created right on site—make this Downtown portal memorable. Take note: 515 has nabbed numerous readers’ choice awards in GT for Best Cocktails. Dive in.
910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 831-457-1677 Hands down—Gabriella Café is not to be missed. The
delectable menu here continues to impress and is based around locally grown produce and sustainable meats and dairy. The fare changes daily in an attempt to encapsulate the newest, freshest ingredients. Combine the fairy lights draped delicately against the stuccoed walls of the entryway, the tiny tables adorned with carafes of lemon-kissed water, the incredibly seductive menu, and voila! Gabriella is the quintessential Santa Cruz date restaurant. Bon appétit.
435 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-466-9990, Open for lunch and dinner. Note: Cash only Vasili Karagiannopoulos recently opened up his latest enterprise—The Greek. And he takes his authentic Greek food to a whole new level—cooking up unusual Greek dishes that you wouldn’t find in most Greek restaurants, as well as Greek staples such as moussaka and spanakopita. Karagiannopoulos’ ebullient personality spreads throughout the restaurant. It’s guaranteed you will enjoy the whole experience, especially if you’re drinking some good Greek wine.
Green Valley Grill
40 Penny Lane, no. 5, Watsonville,
831-728-0644 Ray Rodriguez opened the Green Valley Grill in 1991. A local man with a strong background in the produce business, Rodriguez strives to incorporate as much locally grown fare as possible in its eclectic menu. The Green Valley Grill looks to local artists to perform in the bar on Friday and Saturday nights. All shows are free. And the food—memorable.
Hindquarter Bar & Grille
303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-7770,
thehindquarter.com Hindquarter’s Smokey Platter has a bit of everything, including Chicago baby back ribs. Aged Angus top sirloin steaks, catch-of-the-day fish, live Maine lobster, pastas, burgers and huge steak-cut french fries are the restaurant’s specialties. Meats are house smoked.
Hoffman’s Bakery & Café
1102 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-420-0135 Family operated café on the mall in Downtown Santa Cruz. Great variety, from tomato-tofu sauté with eggs, to meat loaf sandwiches. European-style baked goods are their specialty and terrific desserts round out their amazing menu.
Hoffman’s Bistro and Patisserrie hoffmanssantacruz.com.
Hula’s Bar & Grill and Tiki Lounge
221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz, 831-426-4852, hulastiki.com Hula’s has secured its niche in the bevy of restaurants in Downtown Santa Cruz. It has become a favorite dinner place among locals. With tasty plates to choose from like Duke’s Luau Pork Plate, Island Style Cioppino, Sweet Potato Fries and much more. With organic ingredients and reasonable prices, it’s not particularly surprising that Hula’s remains one of the downtown favorites.
Ideal Bar & Grill
106 Beach St., Santa Cruz, 831-423-5271, idealbarandgrill.com You can’t beat the location. Ideal is situated of the entrance to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, so expect some of the best views around. As for the food, think fun and hearty. Ideal creates a wide variety of fish, steak and pasta dishes, along with an impressive appetizer and drink menu. Downright fun—and tasty.
418 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-325-3633, indiajoze.com Chef Jozseph Schultz, famous for his creative culinary capers, showcases his fabulous food once more in his very own space. His Wok on the Wild Side catering business and cookbooks he’s written make him one of the best-known chefs around, and that’s a bit of fame he’s definitely earned. His ethnic cuisine—Persian, Turkish, Greek, Balinese, you name it—is guaranteed to be packed with flavor.
I Love Sushi
516 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-421-0706 Fun and wild and just delicious. Ample portions of food and great Japanese beers, combined with great karaoke make for a night of passion. A must for visitors.
Joe’s Pizza & Subs
1207 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 841 Branciforte Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-5955 Here’s where you’ll get a sandwich with a difference. Joe’s is famous for Middle Eastern fare—falafel, hummus, shawarma, tahini, tabouli and baba ghanoush are all served up with delicious pita bread. If you’re looking for flavor, then this is the place. They make a darned good pizza, too.
493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-479-3430, johnnysharborside.com Perfectly located near the harbor, great views and winning menu items work together well here. The drunken clams steamed in beer and garlic turned our heads on the appetizer list. But take note of the variety. You’ve got wildly entertaining specialty drinks—from the mango mojito to the mandarin cosmo—and a fine offering of hearty seafood fixings. The crab and shrimp melt, fried sand dab sandwich or skirt steak sandwich, are hearty and wholesome.
Kianti’s Pizza and Pasta Bar
1100 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-469-4400, kiantis.com A fun, wild time indeed. The staff dances, the cooks create wonderes. What’s not to like? Kianti’s remains one of downtown Santa Cruz’s hotspots. The patio features a fireplace and heaters for cool nights. On the plus-side: It’s kid-friendly. Check out the unique brands of pizza, pasta and salads along with great wines, cocktails and beer.
A (Slice of) Kianti’s
46 Front Street, Santa Cruz, 831-469-4421, kiantis.com Spinning off of the success of its larger, full-service location, A Slice of Kianti’s is a quick fix for those looking for a quality slice of pizza in a jiffy. Customers won’t find pasta here. However, patrons may enjoy pizza by the slice, calzones, sandwiches and a few items not found at the Pacific Avenue Kianti’s, all in a casual bistro setting.
538 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-457-2782, lapostarestaurant.com This cozy neighborhood spot boasts a stellar wine bar and a passionate mix of Italian food. La Posta’s ambiance and memorable service stand out—makes you feel as if you’re dining in Italy. Take note of the impressive nightly specials and the attention to detail the chef uses on all of the dishes.
Linda’s Seabreeze Cafe
542 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-9713, seabreezecafe.com This longtime favorite continues to wow. How about a fresh roasted turkey breast, avocado and cheese omelet? You can get a Greek scramble or the famous Seabreeze Spuds—homefries sautéed with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and covered with melted cheese and topped with sour cream. We’ll see you there. You can’t go wrong at Linda’s.
Lillian’s Italian Kitchen
1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-425-2288 Lillian’s is friendly and affordable, and all the food comes from recipes handed down to the owner from his Italian family. Customers get a wild taste of old-fashioned favorites—and in bounty. Take note of the many Italian specialties here. Mangia! Mangia!
Linwood’s Bar & Grill at Chaminade
1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, 831-475-5600,
800-283-6569, chaminade.com A buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner awaits in this beautiful resort and conference center. Linwood’s Bar & Grill has a selection of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, light fare and entrees. Live music some weekends. It’s where the locals go when they want to really treat themselves to something special.
514 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-458-3023 Malabar Café in downtown Santa Cruz has perfected the art of vegetarian Sri Lankan cooking. The space exudes a mellow Eastern vibe, but once you taste the naan bread and garlic oil (and pretty much anything else on the menu for that matter) your entire focus will shift solely to your food.
231 Esplanade no.101, Capitola, 831-476-2263,
margaritavillecapitola.com Located in a prime spot right on the Monterey Bay in Capitola Village, Margaritaville’s got it all: delicious food, fabulous atmosphere, live music and great drinks.
Mayflower Chinese Restaurant
3555 Clares St., Capitola, 831-476-4688 Some may think that one of the best things about Mayflower is that it does not use MSG. That’s good, but here’s something better. Truly authentic Chinese cuisine.
1800 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-0201 From its ample cuts of sashimi to generous rolls, May’s stands out. This is a great local spot that continues to win raves. The menu is diverse.
Michael’s on Main
2591 Main St., Soquel, 831-479-9777, michaelsonmain.net Cutting-edge comfort food prepared by gourmet chef Michael Clark. Old-fashioned foods such as mashed potatoes and cauliflower are served, along with dishes such as blackened ahi tuna, grilled artichoke with tomato aioli. Excellent wine list and “small plates” offered in bar and dining area.
Miramar Fish Grotto
45 Municipal Wharf, 831-423-4441 In the mood for a hearty steak or some tender lobster? It’s all here at Miramar. This culinary haven on the Wharf offers a nice variety of food as well as daily lunch and dinner specials. Great prices. Good service.
105 South River St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-1700, mobosushirestaurant.com One of the best sushi spots in the area delivers a huge variety of selections, all made by the masters. A great local portal with friendly service. Beyond sushi, you can nosh on the impressive Japanese food found here.
231 Esplanade, Capitola, 831-475-3679, tootscoffee.com A local favorite, this village coffeehouse is situated upstairs, above Margaritaville, with acoustic music and great coffees, desserts and a wonderful view. For a place to talk and relax, make sure to stop by and enjoy this special one-of-a-kind coffee haven.
Oak Tree Ristorante
5447 Highway 9, Felton, 831-335-5551, Santa Cruz, oaktreeristorAnte.com A real find in Felton. Actually, it’s a jewel in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Harmonious gardens and outstanding Italian cuisine. That, coupled with an impressive wine list, make for an unforgettable experience. (Monday is often Spaghetti Night.)
Olitas Cantina & Grille
49B Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 831-458-9393,
olitassantacruz.com Olitas is a spiffy Mexican restaurant. South of the border food with Yucatan and Veracruz influence and seafood specialties served in this upbeat, lively spot. Happy hour weekdays 3-6pm, with a perfect view of the Monterey Bay.
2316 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-8458 Specializing in Chinese cuisine from Szechuan, O’mei has a knack for creating wonders with vegetable, meat and fish dishes, and all the sauces and flavors used here make for a memorable dining experience. The desserts are lovely. Everything about O’mei is impressive.
Pacific Thai Santa Cruz
1319 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA. 95060, (831) 420-1700
Centrally located in Downtown Santa Cruz, Pacific Thai offers authentic Thai Cuisine and a delicious variety of Milk Teas, Juice Teas, Milkshakes and Smoothies served with tapioca pearls, or Boba. Great for a sit-down meal or placing an order to-go. Popular items include Pad Thai, Fresh Spring Rolls and the MachaChaCha milkshake. Good for kids. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available; just ask!
Paradise Beach Grille
215 Esplanade, Capitola, paradisebrachgrille.com, 831-476-4900 Considered one of the best restaurants in Capitola, this culinary overlooks the striking Monterey Bay. You’ll find infused flavors of the Hawaiian Islands here as well as authenthic California cuisine. Some delicacies include an amazing array of fish entrees and meat dishes as well. The extensive local wine list is a plus—
so are the great martinis. You really cannot go wrong here. The staff is terrific and the vibe is very welcoming.
Pizza My Heart
1116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-2511; 209 Esplanade,, Capitola, 831-475-5714; 2180 41st Ave., Capitola, 831-475-6000 A fantastic hotspot. Great decor—it’s all surf-related—and a striking variety of pizza options are impressive here. A multiple winner for Best Pizza in GT’s Best of Santa Cruz Readers’ Poll, Pizza My Heart has mastered the art of creating the finest slices—and whole
The Point Chop House & Lounge
3326 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-476-2733
This popular and affordable steak house offers seafood, chicken and pasta. Soups and salads are included with entrées. Full bar with big-screen TV. Better still, is that The Point features the finest California wines and boasts nightly dinner specials. Casual atmosphere. Reservations are not required but accepted. Great place for an easy meal. You’ll be impressed.
Real Colima Restaurant
1101 East Lake Ave. (Hwy 152), Watsonville,
831-728-2971 Incredible, authentic Mexican food without a trace of California-Mexican influence. Mind-bending giant bowls of fish stew, made-from-scratch tortillas, huevos rancheros and even menudo. Absolutely worth it. As Mexican as Mexican gets outside of Mexico.
200 Locust St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-1913,
redsantacruz.com Fun and festive! The restaurant serves satisfying comfort food, sandwiches, steaks, pizzas, etc. Home to what’s currently the liveliest late-night bar scene, but the earlier hours of the evening are still mellow and romantic.
1171 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-427-0135,
ristoranteavanti.com Bold, delicious, memorable. One of the best restaurants in Santa Cruz continues to get better with age. Avanti wins high marks for its stellar Italian cuisine and the remarkable way it’s able to create a winning meal. Lunch specials are a plus, too, but the dinners here truly stand out.
555 Soquel Ave. Suite 150, Santa Cruz, 831-458-2321, ristoranteitaliano.biz Since 1980, Ristorante Italiano has been a dining favorite in the community of Santa Cruz and has been voted Best Italian Restaurant for many years as proof. Offering fine Italian cuisine, full bar, catering and take-out. Enjoy eating under the oaks on their beautiful outdoor patio.
Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-9930,
rosiemccanns.com You’ll find more than a touch of the Irish at Rosie McCann’s downtown pub. Along with the warm welcome and traditional Irish fare, you’ll find some great California cuisine. Sit at Rosie’s full bar and try one of the 22 draft beers, including the famous hearty Guinness. The pub has two plasma wide screens, and DJ’s rev up the action on Friday and Saturday nights. Best Irish pub in town.
Sabieng Thai Cuisine
1218 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-425-1020 A great Westside spot for authentic Thai. Often the winner of GT’s readers poll for best Thai food, Sabieng’s extensive menu has everything from curries to tofu specialties to striking salads and unique entrees with pork, chicken, fish and more. Convenient locale near the university.
Samba Rock Açai Café
291 Water St, Santa Cruz, 831-458-2224 For a chill spot to refresh and relax, cruise on over to Samba Rock—bicycle parking is free inside the cafe. All menu items are original recipes of the owner and include açai bowls and smoothies. Samba Rock also provides coffee, espresso drinks and even cold yerba maté blends. On Sundays, customers can witness an element of true Brazilian culture with a demonstration of Capoeira Angola.
11 Camp Evers Lane, Scotts Valley, 831-430-0657, sandabs.com Greg Young, co-owner of Sandabs in Scotts Valley, used to own a commercial fishing boat that operated out of Monterey Bay, and the constantly modulating menu at his restaurant reflects this. Young buys the fish directly from the fishermen who catch them. Young and his wife, Edyta, match their passion for fresh seafood with a good selection and outstanding service.
Sawasdee Thai Cuisine
5050 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 831-462-5051 A local favorite for satisfying, rich Thai cuisine, Sawasdee has a colorful interior and a surprising wine list dominated by local vineyards. Husband-and-wife owners Bill and Dee Hongmanee have drawn from every region of Thailand to build their menu, including some unusual additions like pumpkin red curry. A must-visit for people who think they’ve sampled everything Thai food has to offer.
Seabright Brewery Pub and Restaurant
519 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-426-2739, seabrightbrewery.com Sometimes pub food is merely a token gesture to keep patrons from falling off their stools. Not so at the Seabright Brewery, where both the home-brewed beer and the grub are excellent. The house salad dressing, a thick, herby balsamic vinaigrette, is good enough to eat with a spoon. Try the portabello mushroom sandwich, cheese fries, burgers, jerk chicken sandwich, soups and appetizers. Huge outdoor seating area with heat lamps, live music and happy hour weekdays. Jam-packed with locals.
Severino’s Bar & Grill
7500 Old Dominion Court, Aptos, 831-688-8987 Acclaimed for its appealing atmosphere, this spot is a favorite with the locals and travelers alike. The refined yet comfortable setting complements the award-winning menu, featuring seafood, pastas and a variety of meat dishes. Severino’s is open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and happy hour. Creative offerings.
1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 831-475-1511,
shadowbrook-capitola.com This well-known “elegant and comfortably casual” restaurant sits in a romantic setting and is reached by a cable car, or by walking through an exotic garden. Spacious bar area with cozy fireplace is the perfect setting for drinks and small bites such as gourmet pizza, steak sandwich or pasta. Full menu in restaurant offers upscale dining and interesting desserts. Extensive list of imported and California wines. Great place to pop the question.
Shogun Japanese Restaurant
1123 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-479-1234 Perfectly situated in downtown Santa Cruz and fully loaded with a vast selection of rolls, and lunch and dinner boxes. One of the brightest spots on Pacific Avenue.
Stagnaro Bros. Seafood, Inc.
59 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 831-423-2180 At the outer end of the Santa Cruz Wharf, with a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay and the Boardwalk, they have the largest selection of fresh seafood, steaks and pasta dishes—appetizers, cocktails and sandwiches. “Caught today, cooked today.”
21245 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 831-479-4307,
star-bene.com You’ll find some of the best authentic Italian food here, so get ready to dig in. Dinner menus offer a lovely mix of fresh salads, pastas and even finer choices of fish, pork and veal specialties. At-home feeling and generous helpings in a great cozy dining room.
820 Bay Ave., Capitola, 831-464-9192; 1441 Main St., Watsonville, 831-728-9180, sushi-garden.com Sushi is even more enjoyable in this restaurant’s beautiful setting of bamboo and bonsai surrounding a tranquil koi pond. Traditional nigiri is served in plentiful portions, and there is a large sake list for enthusiasts to peruse. In fact, Sushi Garden is known for its occasional sake-tasting parties. Birthday diners eat free! Open for dinner every night, and lunch on weekdays. For that above-and-beyond atmosphere experience.
429 Front St., Santa Cruz, 831-713-5258 You can’t get more “Santa Cruz” than this. It’s the perfect surf cafe for the perfect surf town. You can find a bevy of traditional American sandwiches here. There’s beer and wine, too. Friendly atmosphere and downright cozy, and all in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz.
Sweet Pea’s Cafe
2121 41st Ave., Capitola, 831-476-2737 It’s the perfect pitstop when you’re shopping at Capitola Mall, sure, but there’s a bit of heart and soul in this charming little cafe. The combination of a great service and some of Capitola’s tastier treats, make this venue stand out.
1053 Water St., Santa Cruz, 831-429-6095; 1601 41st Ave., Capitola, tacosmoreno.com Great prices. This favorite hot spot for locals delivers a great variety of burritos, tacos and more. Worth the stop.
1101 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz, 831-471-2655 . Huge selection of Mexican meats for burritos, tacos, enchiladas and everything.
Takara Japanese Restaurant b Sushi Bar & Grill
3775 Capitola Road, Capitola, 831-464-1818,
takarasushi.com Authentic Japanese cuisine with sushi bar and grill. Takara has a full bar.
4616 soquel drive, soquel, 831-476-1754,
tortillaflatsdining.com From its Original Margarita—you’ll taste the orange liqueur—to its impressive house specials, you can’t go wrong.
9600 Hwy. 9, Ben Lomond, 831-336-5188 The only German restaurant and beer garden in the county. Expect classic Bavarian and continental cuisine.
Vasili’s Greek Restaurant
1501 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-458-9808 One of the best places to experience really fantastic Greek food. Small, cozy, but fully loaded. Try moussaka (with eggplant), spanakopita (spinach pie) and souvlaki. Greek wine and beer specialties.
25 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 831-421-9410 Inspired by Woodies on the Wharf, Woodies Café is a fun, casual and affordable place to eat. Order up anything from their ‘Killer Burgers’, ‘Righteous Ribs’, ‘Screamin’ Starters’ and ‘Epic Entrees’. Grab an oceanview table or take it to go.
710 Front Street, Santa Cruz, 831-427-4444 Beyond amazing pizza concoctions, there’s a hearty appetizer list, salads, drink specials, desserts and delicious sandwiches.
819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-427-0646 The omelets may be impressive, but actually, everything on the menu here is pretty dynamic—and bountiful. Salads, too.
Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine
7528 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 831-688-4465, Try Zameen’s falafel, kebabs (including vegetarian) and spicy lamb dishes. Entrees come in three sizes and the price is right. Beer and wine are served—and don’t miss dessert.
Mediterranean restaurant serving lamb and more in Moroccan décor at zameencuisine.com.
203 Esplanade, Capitola, 831-475-4900, zeldasonthebeach.com Happy hour delights—plus comedy nights, prime rib nights and more. Stellar menu. You can nab anything from appetizers to fish and meats.
1534 PAcific Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 831-423-1711, zoccolis.com 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.
See also Good Times readers votes for the Best of Santa Cruz.
Restaurant dining and wine reviews >
Eating out dining, restaurants, cafes list directory in Santa Cruz, Aptos, Capitola, Watsonville
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