Looking for good/reasonably/cool food in Santa Cruz
Ristorante Avanti (Italian) and O'Mei (upscale Chinese), both on Mission St. wst of Bay St., toward Hwy 1 going north, would fit the bill, though I can't say if they'll be open tonight. Avanti is a cute little place decorated with pottery that serves nices salads, pastas, etc. O'Mei is a tranquil and classy but casual place that serves very nice food and great (non-Chinese) desserts, especially the ice creams and sorbets.
re: Caitlin McGrath
Don't mean to sound "picky," but there are so many different regional varieties of Chinese food that the term "Chinese" alone never tells me enough. Could you be a bit more specific?
BTW, I visit a good friend in Santa Cruz often and have yet to find a single restaurant I would return to or recommend to anyone else. I grant that everything's relative and one gets spoiled by both the quality and variety available in the near-in SFBA, but ....
I did once have one exceptional breakfast in the SC area.
I was a college student in Santa Cruz (currently a New Yorker) and I long for two things in Santa Cruz. One is the quesadillas and burritos from Tacos Moreno (on Water Street between near the end of Seabright) -- the carnitas and al pastor are heavenly here, as is the lengua, and the quesadillas are very basic but something about the combination of cabbage, cheese, their great homemade salsa just does it. Very few places, even in LA are this good and nothing in SF compares (except maybe the cabeza tacos from taqueria San Jose). I haven't been to Tacos Moreno in ages, and they have since opened up near the boardwalk -- I wonder if this is a bad sign. But I'll be there in a couple months. Can't wait.
The other place I long for is Zachary's (at the head of the Pacific Garden Mall) for breakfast. They serve one of the best corn beef hash I've ever had. And the home fries are something to grow nostalgic over.