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Good Restaurants in Santa Cruz Area?

  • j

I live in Seattle but will be visiting the South Bay next month. I grew up in San Jose and am familiar with the Boardwalk area (and Shadowbrook) but beyond that, I'm clueless. I'll be in town for a wedding and would like to take a few old friends out to dinner. Any suggestions for good, charming restaurants along the coast in the Santa Cruz-ish area?


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  1. c
    Caitlin McGrath

    With the caveat that it's been a long time since I've been, I had, when I lived in Santa Cruz, several very good meals in nice surroundings at the Veranda and Chez Renee, both in Aptos. There was a place in SC called Cafe Bittersweet that was charming and had very good food; it's no longer there, but the proprieters have moved on to larger digs in Aptos and it's now called Bittersweet Bistro. The chef started out as a pastry chef, and desserts were very impressive. I'm hoping to try it myself in a couple of weeks. www.bittersweetbistro.com. Hope someone can give some updates on these places.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

      I have to second Black's Beach Bistro on 17th and Portola as always-reliable, excellent service and wonderfully fresh and creative. Also informal, and a great wine selection. For Italian, Convivio at Capitola Road and 7th Avenue is excellent, great ambiance, good service; a wood-fired oven adds crackle to meats and pizzas. Bella Roma in Capitola is also authentic Italian, right down to the waiters and rapid-fire chefs in the open kitchen. The ravioli is divine. Last but not least, the relatively new La Bruschetta in Felton prides itself on "organic, authentic Italian"--the veggie antipasto platter with roasted, marinated eggplant, bell peppers and olives is wonderful.

      1. re: Debbie

        i just ate at black's beach cafe last night and it was a very enjoyable meal. i also like thai basil on the edge of capitola village, it's a small place but the area does become swamped w/ tourists in the summer. star bene is good for italian and o'mei is good for untraditional, upscale chinese. C-

    2. j
      Judith Hurley

      Gabriela's gets high marks from Santa Cruzans. It's charming, and right downtown. I was underwhelmed by the food. If you're willing to drive "over the hill" Los Gatos has a great selection of really good restaurants, including Cafe Marcella, I Gatti, Tapestry, Pigalle, Green Papaya.

      1. My favorite "nice" place to go in SC is Pearl Alley Bistro. It's just off of the Pacific Garden Mall in an alley between Pacific and Cedar. No views, but it should pass your charming test. Cheers.

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. I would agree with Eric's rec on Pearl Alley, but must admit I am very partial to Cafe Cruz. It's located on 41st and despite the barn-like exterior, I'd have to say it's the best place in town. I've always received excellent service, and whenever I'm in Santa Cruz, I make a bee line strait to their red bell pepper tortellini in a dijon cream sauce and blackened shrimp. Also, their bacon wrapped fillet mignon accompanied by fluffy mashed potatoes with a hint of galic is not to be missed.
          The decor is stylish and comfortable and would make an excellent place to take some old friends.
          If you're looking for something a little more sheeshee, I'd recommend Casablanca with an extraordinary view of Westcliff to the right and the boardwalk to it's left.
          And, if you find yourself craving sushi, there are two places I recommend: Shogun (loud and fun) & Takra (quite and relaxing).
          Hope you enjoy your stay! Santa Cruz is a town like no other.

          1. Some of the recommendations you have gotten are outstanding. Gabriella Cafe and the Pearl Alley bistro are both outstanding, and as far as Sushi goes Takara is one of my all time favorites although the location is not as nice as the others.

            1. My absolute all-time favorite in Santa Cruz is Ristorante Avanti on Mission St. It's in a somewhat rundown looking little strip mall, but it is very nice inside with absolutely amazing food, with an emphasis on very fresh vegetables. Not cheap, but not unreasonable for what you get, either. Nice cheese and wine selections - in fact, during the week, after 9pm, they close the dining room and just serve cheese, apps, and wine in the bar area. We go there whenever we have foodie friends in town, or a birthday or a promotion or any other time we can think of an excuse to go.
              I like Gabriella's for the atmosphere, but the food can be somewhat uneven. Also, Black's Beach Cafe (on Portola) is another really good restaurant with an emphasis on a seasonal menu.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Sarah

                If you do happen to go to Avanti, I highly recommend the minced lamb lasagna. I tend to not be a big fan of lamb dishes, but after sampling my boyfriends order I almost ended up ignoring my meal all together. When someone brings up lasagna my thoughts always wander back to this dish. Lamb tends to be very potent in my opinion, but although you can definitely taste it in this dish the meat doesn't take over the cheeses and the sauce.

                1. re: Nancy Reyes

                  Thanks, Nancy! I've never tried that (so many choices, you know), but I'm going tonight (I got promoted, yay!) so I'll check it out.