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Sep 30, 2001 08:20 PM

santa cruz

  • t

We'll be in Santa Cruz from 10/4 thru 10/7. Any suggestions for Seafood and/or Italian that are not tourist traps but where the locals go. Thanks much.

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  1. "are not tourist traps"???

    To me, the whole town except UC Santa Cruz is for/of tourists. If you want good seafood, in my opinion, you should drive to Montrey.

    Italian food? I do not know not-for-tourists Italian food restaurants on the coast of Central California.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hiko Ikeda

      I don't know if this place is "not for touists" but I can attest to its quality and authenticity.

      *Star Bene Ristorante Italiano*

      2-1245 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

      Open nightly from 5pm to 10pm

      (831) 479-4307


    2. Try using the search engine typing "Santa Cruz" and you'll get several good threads. Although this ain't seafood or Italian, my picks are Pearl Alley Bistro and Tacos Moreno. Ristorante Avanti gets good reviews, so that's probably a good place to try. Unlike Hiko Ikeda, I've always thought of Monterey as a tourist trap and Santa Cruz as a college town.

      1. c
        Caitlin McGrath

        I agree that the tourist/local ration seems much higher in Monterey than Santa Cruz, something that might not be clear if you've only been to the touristy parts of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, most of the seafood-specific places are on the tourist-oriented wharf. Ristorante Avanti on Mission near Bay is a good local Italian spot for lunch or dinner, definitely not on the tourist path.

        1. Well I live in Santa Cruz and am neither a student or (obviously) a tourist. I definately second the Avanti suggestion. Great homey feel, wonderful owners, great wine list and delicious seasonal cuisine. Oswald is neither a seafood or Italian place, but does make the best food in town and often features several seafood specials. The pastry chef was just written up in the Merc last Wed. Pearl Alley is a great place for a glass of wine (huge list, every bottle just $8 over retail) The bouilabaisse is the best bet in my opinion. El Palomar taco bar makes it's own tortillas, has great salsa and carne asada. La Cabana in Davenport (10 miles north) has best tacos overall (al pastor and nopales to die for). Speaking of fish, Shogun serves huge sushi portions of immaculate fish. Get the Nigiri rather than the Maki. There's a few, feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Detlef Chef
            Caitlin McGrath

            Thanks for posting. Eric Eto and I both used to live in Santa Cruz, and I for one get so sick of hearing people say "Santa Cruz is just a tourist town, there is no good food/upscale restaurant/Shadowbrook is the best in the area" and so on, when they clearly have no idea about Santa cruz food.

            1. re: Detlef Chef

              mr D Chef,

              Thank you for your recommendations. My partner and I will be heading down to beautiful Santa Cruz on thursday...ON BUSINESS! You wouldn't believe it.

              Anyhoo, El Palomar sounds grand, as does Pearl Alley. I have one wine-related question that I hope you can answer. Is the Bonny Doon vineyard/winery worth a visit? We love wines from the DOONominazione controllata and have always wanted to hit the winery for a tasting, but as it would add several hours to our journey I thought I would take advantage of the vast knowledge available to me here on chowhound and ask you what you thought of it.



              1. re: patrick

                As it turns out, Randall is a friend of mine, and I always enjoy stopping by to see what they are pouring. Cigar Volant, Old Telegram, the Pinot Menuier, the Malvasia, and the desert wines being my favorites. That being said, in truth I'm not a fan of the entire selection. In particular, his lower priced wines are unremarkable at best and are often, well, overpriced for what they are. If you're lucky enough to go there when they've just had some VIPs taste, they might have some of the better stuff open. If you go back to an early september posting I made for someone else coming this way, you'll find some other winery recommendations. One must stop is right downtown; Storrs Winery. I actually work there from time to time because I like their wine so much. It's one of those all-to-uncommon wineries where everything is great. They make a large selction of small lot, single vineyard bottlings. They are open Thurs-Mon from 12-5 and I'll actually be there this weekend (both Sat and Sun). I should also ammend my taco suggestion. I still like El Palomar especially if you're looking for the full restaurant experience. They do the typically fun "California full-bar Mexican" deal with good food to boot. However, since I posted the first time, I had a taco there and at Taqueria Santa Cruz and enjoyed Santa Cruz better. JUST FOR THE TACOS, the burritos have too much rice and beans and come off rather dry, but the tacos are just meat, salsa, and chopped onion. The Lengua was extry good. Keep in mind that Pearl Alley can get a bit carried away with culinary whimsy and turn out some down right strange food, so tread lightly. That's why I often end up at Oswald for it's clean, pure food. All three (Palomar, Oswald, and Pearl Alley) are within walking distance and you should be able to walk-in this time of year (The hundreds of thousands of tourists have left and there's only like 10 or so of us remaining in town).

                1. re: Detlef Chef

                  Detlef Chef, I love that handle. I have to dissent about El Palomar, however. It's fine for what it is, but not a destination spot IMO. Frankly, I used to love El Palomar when it was just a restaurant in that great old ballroom. The sopes were exceptional. How did they get the masa that light? I found it went downhill on my last two visits, my last visit being this past May. It was quite a disappointment. Have you been to Tacos Moreno? That is usually my first destination when I arrive in town, but I haven't heard anyone else comment on this place. They make the best salsa picante.

                  1. re: Eric Eto

                    Dude, I hear you on Tacos Morenos. I guess I just still resent them for dropping Lengua from their menu. None the less, their salsa is great (quesadillas too) and I still enjoy the place alot. What I like about the Palomar, is that they're good at what they do. I love the light shining through the roof, they make a good drink, I do think the food is tasty, and my wife and I ALWAYS have a good time when we go there. BTW If you're a Morenos fan, check out the one on Beach St., they have a larger menu. The moniker was given to me by an old friend. I was a Sonics fan (I still am to the extent that I can tolerate the NBA in general(not much)) when Detlef Schrempf was playing for them and he started calling me that. Eric Eto, why do I remember that name? did you go to Harbor High?

                    1. re: Detlef Chef

                      After recovering from the initial shock from discovering that Morenos dropped lengua from the menu, I felt much better after biting into a quesadilla. Since I'm a New Yorker now, I don't get much of a chance to cuise over to SC, except when I'm on vacation. For something like 5 years, I was deprived of my Tacos Moreno because the only time I was in the SC area was during the winter holidays and Estaban Moreno always closes shop for a month to take the entire extended family down to Mexico. That was pure torture. I guess I'll give El Palomar another chance, when I get the opportunity.

                      Never went to Harbor High. I'm from LA: University High, class of '84, and UCSC, Stevenson College, class of '89.

                    2. re: Eric Eto

                      I agree - Palomar is faded at best, while Moreno is a bit of "hole in the wall" (ie, ain't fancy!) the food is truly fab.

                      They have these "quesadillas" which are a taco w some melted cheese and a bit of crisp-ness, some cabbage, salsa... OMG I want to go eat some now!!

              2. Cafe Campesino! This place is my favorite chow palace in Santa Cruz... there's no question that this is the best mexican food in SC. It's "Mexican Farmouse" food, and it's a little bit different than the usual cali-mexico faire.

                Don't let its looks decieve you, the little Kiosk in front of New Leaf on Pacific (the main drag) is consitently serving up some of the finest dishes you could ever hope for. There's plenty of patio seating and great people watching to be had while you wait for your order.

                Burritos and tacos are forgone for Patcharellas... basically tortillas stuffed with the ingredients of your choice. My usual patcharella consists of organic chicken, beans, mexican cheese, tomatoes, guacomole (very spicy watch out), and lettuce.

                They have plenty of dishes which are quite large portions. I highly recommend the Enchiladas Verdes which is a deal a $7.95.

                Also, their iced drinks are positively delicious! Try the lemon iced tea on a hot day. It's a potent flavor.

                Trust me, this place is the all time Chow Hound discovery of Santa Cruz.