I have been to this establishment for the tacos several times and have not been disappointed. This is a great little hole in the wall located right across from the beach. Cool, divey atmosphere, with excellent,authentic food. You can sit outdoors as well, which in beautiful Santa Cruz is an added bonus. The staff is friendly and quick. Waiting is never a problem, even though it can be crowded at times.
Cafe Brasil is a SC institution, I'd take anyone who visits here. Great food, good vibes; two fires but still going strong. The world cup parties here are supposedly insane.
Favorite Dish: I generally get the avocado a cavalho, chop it all up and mix in feijoada and the potatoes, but it's all good.
We stopped at the Santa Cruz Diner one morning while driving from Monterey to San Francisco. This busy and rather large restaurant had some good service and above average food. We had omelets with hasbrowns and toast along with coffee, and our three meals ran about $27 together.
The Santa Cruz diner is open 24/7 and seems to have a big late night following, especially among the local university students. Their unique menu includes a variety of seafood, sandwiches, appetizers, and non-diner food such as Vietnamese dishes. Probably their most unique feature is the variety of unique antique signs around the dining room.
Metroactive.com named this diner one of Santa Cruz's best places for late night dining.
Costa Brava has great service, but recently when I ate dinner with my wife and niece, I came to understand how friendly service can turn into a joke at the customer's expense. The wine list is average--nothing special--and the food too imaginatively described. For example, a large plate described as a Venezuelan prawn pasta, turns out to be nothing more than a modest bowl of rigatoni with a few shrimp sprinkled with parmesan cheeze. The dish was priced at $16-, but really such a meal could be had anywhere else in the country for about half that price. My Ahi with Pengang salsa, turned out to be basically overly cooked tuna (it might as well have been albacore from a can) on a few leaves of lettuce and some kind of red tinted salad dressing. For this I paid the outrageous sum of $16.50, for a very modest portion of tuna and lettuce. So all told, we ended up paying double what the meal was worth even in the high rent district of Santa Cruz. I can't complain about the service at Costa Brava, but the management needs to find a fairer deal for the customer in terms of food value.
Update--I've been informed that this restaurant has closed down. No doubt another trendy restaurant will fill this void on the main drag of Santa Cruz.
Favorite Dish: I can't knock the basically good wine list, a glass from which I manage to drown my sorrows for having been conned by fancy language and small portions. I realize that this review counters what other's have said here, but really there are a lot of better deals in town. For one, the trendy downtown district overprices itself relative to the long established and tradition bound restaurants on the pier, but if Costa Brava represents downtown, I'd definitely head for the pier.
Who would believe in Hippy central there would be a good ole fashioned steakhouse, and this is it!!! Great NY strips, ribs and chicken in a very friendly atmosphere. I always sit at the bar, where if you did not come in knowing anybody, you will when you leave. Great pub atmosphere.
Santa Cruz is a town with many good restaurants. Aquarius is newer, and may be the best. First, the food is top quality and creative. This is a big step up from the several seafood restaurants located nearby on the wharf. Here you won't find the typical meat/fish, veggie and potato sides. The menu here is fresh and inspiring, with thoughtful items well presented.
Aquarius may have the best view in Santa Cruz too. Located on a corner that directly overlooks the ocean, wharf and beach on two sides, every table has a view. The interior is contemporary and tastefully decorated.
From 3 - 6 pm they have happy hour, with drink and appetizers at reduced rates. Considering the fantastic view from the bar, there is no better place to have a drink at sunset.
If you like Thai food, you must stop at Sabieng. The food is absolutely delicious. The savory ethnic flavors are present in every one of their dishes. I recommend the coconut milk soup and a curry. The service is great, fast and friendly. They also have great lunch specials.
Favorite Dish: The coconut milk soup is definitely the best dish. Its a great way to start the meal. Its light, but tasty with a good amount of chicken too.
Aldo's is an institution in Santa Cruz, going of 50 years now. The restaurant is located right on the harbor with views from its outside deck facing the ocean. On a sunny day you can't do much better. Just steps away is Seabright Beach, one of the best in Santa Cruz.
The atmosphere is completely informal and casual. The food is good, but for me the main appeal is the location and authenticity. It is a locals' hangout, and not a tourist trap.
The Crow's Nest is one of those places that could be a tourist rip-off, but it isn't. It has an excellent location right where the harbor meets the beach, but doesn't just rely on this. It's been in business for almost 40 years and continues to be a locals' favorite because of the good food and evening entertainment. The waterfront views of the beach and Monterey Bay are a bonus.
They serve lunches and dinners in a dining room downstairs, and upstairs there's the Breakwater Bar and Grill that is a good place to hang our for drinks, appetizers and lunches. It is also quite popular at night when there is music - know as somewhat of a pick up place.
This restaurant is very cozy and is decorated with a lot of Japanese stuffs on it. It is very welcoming. We were shopping across the street and looking at the pottery shop when we saw this restaurant.
The ambience of the restaurant is more of a student-type, kind of restaurant and caters both to the local students. The food prices are very affordable.
My husband and I went to have lunch here and ordered Teriyaki.
Favorite Dish: Chicken Teriyaki
This is a great place to stop for a sandwich, a light meal or to pick up some tasty items for a picnic. An Italian Zoccoli family started a grocery store here in the 1940s, and although it has evolved into a deli, it is still a local, family run institution. There is seating inside as well as on the sidewalk area in front, on Pacific Avenue.
If you are in the area and are hungry and looking for a sandwich, there is no reason to go to a chain store or fast food restaurant. Avoid them and try this local favorite spot. A few steps up the street is Jamba Juice, if you want a good smoothie, and across the street is a coffee shop, one of several on Pacific Avenue.
For years this was one of the best restaurants on the west side...a locals place to eat often. Since new ownership, we have tried unsuccessfully to like it . NEVER again! The food is tasteless, the meat is dry and overprocessed. The mole sauce is so sweet, like red honey sloshed over tiny cubes of what might have once been chicken. The chile relleno had the consistency of overcooked spinach...all slimy but covered in tasteless cheese-appearing sauce. There are so many fabulous restaurants in Santa Cruz... this is not one of them! On a 1-10 scale....it gets a zero.
Santa Cruz has a Bad Ass Coffee location downtown on Pacific Street. This is one of just 45 locations in this small but expanding coffee franchise. While their headquarters is in Salt Lake City, they embrace the Hawaiian culture and its Kona coffee in their stores.
The Santa Cruz store is a interesting mix of fun and island culture. At the Pacific Street entrance there is a big children's play area with huge stuffed blocks and other toys. Enter the store and you will see their palm tree and tiki hut motif. The counter is in the center of the store along the wall, and it is surrounded by perhaps 10 small tables. Towards the back of the store you will see about four computer kiosks, then at the back entrance the restrooms with combination locks to prevent bums and hoodlums from making use of them. Unique to Bad Ass Coffee is their custom art adorning the walls of the stores. In Santa Cruz several local artists ran with the Hawaii theme and created a great interior.
Their menu includes 100 percent pure Kona cofee and Kona blends, espressos, and a variety of cold drinks. They also have a small selection of food items such as ice cream and pastries. A small iced coffee was reasonably priced at around $2.15.
Located at the entrance of the Santa Cruz Wharf, this is one of the bars/restaurants that has caught my eye each visit to Santa Cruz. It has a great location at the entrance to the touristy wharf, yet far enough off the wharf to maintain a bit of dignity. The dining areas of this restaurant overlook the Monterey Bay, West Cliff and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
We stopped in one HOT May Thursday afternoon and were lucky and grateful to get one of the last remaining outdoor seats in the shade. Did I mention the back deck overlooks the beach and the wharf? After wandering the Wharf and finding not much open at 11am, and the places that we opened had little if any outdoor seating, we decided to have an early lunch at the Ideal Bar and Grill. Why is it ideal? Well, the location is fantastic, it's 50-60 outdoor seats beats about anything in Santa Cruz, and the food wasn't bad either!
I had a great salmon club sandwich while Laura enjoyed a tuna melt that was also very tasty. My salmon club included a great slab of juicy grilled salmon on a flavorful croissant with plenty of onions, lettuce and tomatoes with a taste of mayonnaise and french fries. Laura's sandwich was also good with a crispy fried tuna salad. Our final bill was around $30 including our drinks of Diet Coke and a fruity banana-strawberry slushy-freezy-melty thingy.
Their menu also includes seafood, pastas, steaks and chicken as well as a large selection of salads and appetizers.
Espresso bar opens at 7 a.m. Lunches from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Dinner nightly from 5:00-10:30 p.m.
We've enjoyed going to Hula's Grill in Monterey and were pleased to see them open a place in Santa Cruz. The food, atmosphere and service are all just as good here. The menu is creative and everything we had was very good quality. This is not low end food like you get at some Hawaiian BBQ places. They have good seafood, vegetarian entrees, meat dishes ... something that should please everybody.
The atmosphere is retro Hawaiian, sort of kitchy but cool. Very comfortable. Check out the collection of tiki glasses in the cases in the back.
Good drinks too.