Actually, an excellent full meal can be eaten here on the outside patio, even at night. We chose however, to visit after dinner, hoping to get a taste of the world's best chocolate drinks. Authentic Venezuelan chocolate--clearly the world's best source of beans--is featured for several concoctions, but Italian and Belgian chocolate drinks are also popularly presented. For an extra 50 cents, one can add a shot of espresso to their chocolate drink, although espresso is also served separately. The list of chocolate and cheeze cakes are exceptional as is the list of wines and ports. The youthful service was excellent at the time we were there.
Favorite Dish: I'm a fan of the dark Venezuelan chocolate drink, although my wife finds that too rich. White chocolate is also available. This is truly a unique place, but don't expect to loose any weight here.
Stagnaro's operates an outdoor fresh seafood market, and will make a great crab on soughdough sandwich on the stop for you. This is typically what I do if the weather is comfortably warm as I'll walk my wrapped sandwich down to the place where the sea lions hang out. Inside, the restaurant has plenty of window tables and the staff are generally friendly and professional. For lunch, I recomend the crab sandwich with a cup of the clam chowder (either New England or Manhattan, depending on the mood). There's a full bar with wild drinks are really what are reasonable prices--about $4-. And, the wine list has been updated and is quite adequate. Moreover, for the kids, cranberry and hot apple cider are among the drinks listed. Needless to say, the variety of grilled and deep fried fish are quite extensive at this restaurant, and the prices won't kill you. There are also a few non-fish items, like a grilled hamburger, to satisfy children or adults who don't like fish. While eating in the restaurant is good on a cool day, a great way to go is to buy from the market outside and enjoy watching the water from the pier benches.
Favorite Dish: In my world, a pile of fresh crab on authentic quality sour dough is about as good as it gets. I might squeeze a little lemon, but I don't put butter or tartar sauce on my crab. You do as you like though, and there are plenty of other fish items on the menu.
I couldn't get into this restaurant on an October night we happened to stop by. The waiting list was long, and I had a bit of a cold, so wine tasting before dinner didn't seem wise at the time. Nevertheless, I had heard great things about this restaurant, and indeed the wine shop itself is quite a place. The wine choices are not simply domestic, although California is well represented, but European, Australian, and South American wines are there in great abundance. While waiting for food, one can taste, but I noticed that the price of the "wine flight" is a little steep--$3-$5. So that's the catch, the restaurant puts you on the waiting list, hoping that you will hang around and buy up some bottles or at least taste several wines. The only thing that I didn't like was the rather snobbish attitude of the waiters as people waited outside in the cold for up to an hour for a table. As I said, we couldn't do that so we walked down to Costa Brava for good friendly service but without the quality in food. Then, this summer, we stopped there at about 5:30, and found plenty of empty tables. The menu came to use in three pages--wine list, wine shop specials list, and food menu. The menu is divided into "small plates", "appetizers", and "entrees". All menu items are matched with a recommended wine from the shop, but if one wants to buy a wine from the shop and bring it to the restaurant, there's a $10- corkage fee. I found it difficult to distinguish the purpose between the "small plates" and "appetizers", and waitress wasn't much help with either the menu or the wines, but apparently this is sort of like Spanish Tapas and American appetizers. Both are indeed quite small in terms of quantity of food, and unfortunately, the "entrees" are also small, so I left the restaurant both confused and hungry.
Favorite Dish: I've read that the mole made with authentic chocolate is heavenly, but I'm certain that this creative restaurant changes its menu constantly. This place obviously specializes in pairing wine and food, so if you aren't a wine lover, I wouldn't bother going here. The food is extraordinary in quality to be sure, but portions are tiny. My wife's $10- appetizer of smelt was three tiny smelt, each on it's own cracker. A friend's order of merinated mahi, which was something like cheviche, was about 8 pieces of thinnly sliced meat, each about the size of a nickel. My entree of duck was about 10 thin slices of meat, each about the size of a quarter--that was a $19- plate. The food was artistically prepared and well presented on the plate, but the portions were something of a joke on the patron. It would have helped to have a waitress more familiar with the menu, able to suggest a way to get a full meal, and familiar with the basics of wine appreciation. Telling the customer that "that wine is really nice and spicy" isn't enough.
The Saturn Cafe is a funky little place that caters to vegetarians. The friend I was visting was a vegetarian at the time (she eats steak now, go figure!) So it was her pick. It has cute, interesting decor.
It's open Sunday-Thursday 11:30am-3:00am and Friday-Saturday 11:30am-4:00am
Favorite Dish: I think I had the grilled cheese,( terribly adventurous I know)
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.
Shadowbrook was the location of our annivesary dinner. It is quite an event eating there. First, you walk down several flights of stairs through a beautiful garden (or you can wait for the very short gondola, if you are not inclined to walk). You then enter a lodge-style entry way into a bar and after a few minutes, you are escorted to your table, which is in any one of several rooms on several different levels. The service is very professional, if a bit stuffy. Despite the fact that this is one of the nicer restaurants in the area, dress is still casual. This is the California beach, after all.
Favorite Dish: Plenty of food is served here. I started with a baked brie appetizer, then had a creme of artichoke soup. My entree was a vegetarian and cheese canneloni with a side of mixed vegetables steamed to perfection. I ended with a mud pie, that was absolutely delicious with its toffee crunch crust.
Located in downtown Santa Cruz, Hoffman's Bakery Cafe is a real find. We went there for breakfast on our first morning, and liked it so much, we went back the next morning. They are open 7 days a week, and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. By 9:00 am both morning, the place was packed.
Favorite Dish: Instead of toast, the cafe serves the most delicious scones. Perfectly made. One morning I had a plate of fresh fruit - very healthy, but I missed trying out one of their creative breakfasts. On the second morning, I ordered chilaquiles. It was so delicious! Also on the breakfast menu are fluffy omelets, frittata, waffles and several other dishes. Take a pass on the latte and cappucino - Hoffman's doesn't measure up to Peet's on the espresso drink front. However, the plain coffee was good enough, and their mimosas are excellent - made with fresh squeezed OJ!
We did not eat dinner here, but the dinner menu looks quite good, and they also serve German specialties!
Established in 1995, Rosie McCann's is kind of an upscale Irish Pub, in a huge second-floor location along Pacific Street in the heart of Santa Cruz. We visited one Sunday afternoon for a late lunch. I had an unbelievably tasty pesto chicken breast sandwich on panini bread with fries ($9) with a tiny little half pint of a local brown ale called Downtown Brown ($2.50). My friend Laura had the corned beef sandwich ($8) and a Coke ($2).
Their menu includes a mix of traditional Irish pub fare, plus a unique mix of neo-Irish foods and local treats like avocados. It seemed like a very good spot in Santa Cruz, and it's close to the beaches and the old mission.
Local pizza place that does a great service by offering pizza by the slice. Whether it's the sausage, pesto or the vegetarian delight, Pizza My Heart serves pizza with fresh ingredients to the masses.
Favorite Dish: I love the basic cheese pizza - great sauce, crust is thin or thick you choose.
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.
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.
This tiny restaurant serves fabulous French bistro fare - and it could be one of the best in Santa Cruz. It is tucked into a side walkway off Pacific Avenue, near the mural on my intro page. Service was excellent and the wine list had some unusual wines - not the standard Kendall Jackson and Rodney Strong. There were a number of German wines on the list, and the sommelier was very helpful in selecting a good Gewurztraminer.
Favorite Dish: My husband had Coho salmon with a creative sauce ("random stuff" as my 15-year old daughter would call it) that had some unidentified ingredients - I thought they were pumpkin seeds. But whatever it was, it worked. I had a fresh heirloom tomato salad and a scrumptious eggplant and cheese napoleon with a marinara sauce. For dessert I ordered an excellent blackberry, peach and white nectarine cobbler - minus the blackberry seeds (nice touch) - plus a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. All excellent!
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
Vasilis is by far the BEST Greek food in California! I used to drive from Sacramento to Santa Cruz JUST to eat at Vasilis. We usually went there Wednesday and Thursday. I think Thursday nights the owner did the table dance - but call to make sure. The entertainment is half the fun. The food is wonderful and I have never been disappointed.
Favorite Dish: I have two favorite dishes there. One is the Arni Psito, a lamb dish and the other is called Kota Riganati and it is a chicken dish. Both are excellent but the Kota is what we drove out of our way for. The meat is tender, juicy and has a flavor that I have never had at any other place. WOW! They only serve it one day a week so make sure that you are heading there on that day. It is the one dish you should try above all others. Just thinking about it is making me want to catch a flight down there so I can grab a bite. Yummy!
If you like to sit outdoors on a patio with a beer and a fish sandwich and watch the pleasure boats go by, this is a wonderful place. I could easily spend a lot of time here! Dinner features Italian favorites. "Aldo" is something of a local celebrity - this is a much loved Santa Cruz classic.