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Aug 4, 2003 03:50 AM

Trip to Northern California--Santa Cruz/San me get some good food

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Damn...Its been over 5 years since I was last in northern california. Im finally taking a road trip from LA to Santa Cruz and then on to San Francisco this coming Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday. In Santa Cruz I plan to visit:

-- the Front St. Pub for its beer bread and calamri basket--Zachary's for breakfast--Rosa's Rosticeria for the spit-roasted pollo sinaloense--tacos moreno--omei for chinese--Are there suggestions for other places or am I just crazy with the places above....give me a heads up as to where the great chow is.

--San Francisco--I am clueless. Where should I go for some great comida? Looking for seafood since I hear that there are some good places for oysters/crab...and also chinese...and anything else. Im staying in Union Square. Thanks in advance to all.

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    Ann Vuletich

    We just returned from Santa Cruz and I used recommendations from this board to scout out some good food. I just did a general search from the home page on Santa Cruz restaurants and came up with a wealth of information.

    Tacos Morenos was fabulous, though I have to warn you that the day we were there (a Sunday around the noon hour) there was a line out the door. There are a few tables inside but you have to act quickly if you want to nab one of them. Burritos were huge, filled with smoky beans and meat, and very reasonably priced at something like $3.50. I had the BBQ pork. Quesadillas were more like a mini meal, I think there were two of them and they were like tacos filled with cheese, tomatoes, salsa, maybe some lettuce.

    For breakfast, why don't you try the Walnut Street Cafe or Cafe Brazil. Zachary's has been there for ages and is probably ok, but apparently gets mobbed for breakfast. Walnut Street Cafe is just off the mall on, you guessed it, Walnut Street. I had a wonderful scrambled egg dish with basil and tomatoes and feta cheese. Heard good things about Cafe Brazil too.

    I wanted to try the O'Mei but time didn't allow it. It too gets great recommendations, so I would give it a try.

    1. I'm sure you'll get some more answers, but you might want to start by checking out the SF visitor tip sheet linked below.


      1. Just to point out the unfortunate truth, but it is neither oyster nor crab season locally. Tamales Bay oysters will be okay barbecued, but if you want good raw oysters (from a place like Swan Oyster Depot or Zuni), the best will come from far away--Hood Canal or maybe Japan.

        Local crab season is roughly Thanksgiving through the end of April. You can get dungeness crab in the summer but it's either frozen (as many places at the wharf are happy to serve) or from elsewhere. Vietnamese restaurants like Thanh Long, Crustacean, or PPQ do a good job with crab, but I'm not sure where it comes from. Asian restaurants often have the best deals on seafood, although a lot of it is imported, especially the catfish.

        There is delicious fish available though if you order right. It's a great wild salmon season, and I just cooked my first local halibut yesterday and it was fantastic. You should also order sand dabs anywhere you see them on the menu.

        A few places for reasonably priced local fish that are described in other posts: Duarte's, 45 minutes south along highway 1 in Pescadero; Pacific Cafe in SF near the Cliff House; Hayes Street Grill by Civic Center; the Fishwife on Monterey Peninsula.

        1. I can tell you that the Front St Pub closed a couple of years ago so you can cross this off your list. I don't think Santa Cruz compares with the qulity of choices you will find in SF or the rest of the bay area but I will gladly share what I like.

          Boardwalk/Wharf Area- I would do my best to avoid eating here- I have yet to find a place that disproves the inverse relationship between food quality and view quality. However, I am a huge fan of El Paisano Tamales which is on Beach St across from the carousel at the Boardwalk. They have great house made tamales that must be packed with lard to be this good. Also a fantastic chile verde burrito: just tender pork, fairly hot verde sauce and a tortilla.

          *Taquerilla Vallarta- a good standard taqueria with the usual suspects. The more gentrified interior does not seem to affect the food which is the same at their other two more 'funky' locations.
          *El Palomar- OK mexican but nothing special
          *Soif WIne bar- a new place with an interesting (for SC) small plate menu and good wine.
          *Oswalds- most people seem to judge Oswalds as the best food in town- pricey of course.
          *Pearl Alley- Decent food but quality seems to vary greatly between visits and dishes.

          *Omei- Hmmmm.... this seems to be a favorite of posters here. I have never been impressed and very rarely go there (even though I am 3 blocks away) It might just be my taste, but I would wait until SF where there are much better options.
          *Almar Grill- I believe this is owned (chef'd??) by the same guy that owns Omei. It is a Spanish Tapas place that is new and can be very good. It has a large selection of Spanish reds in the $18-$25 range which is great. Unfortunately, the quality between dishes and visits is variable. When they are on it is excellent (roast pork with skin, piquillos stuffed with rice and morcilla) but sometimes there is significant seasoning problems both over and under. Still, if you like this type of food it is worth a try. Location is in a shopping center on Mission St. (w/ Safeway) near Omei.
          *Bella Napoli- On water st can always be counted on for good italian (fairly authentic feeling). They usualy have a few good fish specials using local wild salmon , sand dabs, cod, etc..

          Have fun in SC. If you have any specific questions on SC, I would be glad to share what info I have.


          PS If you happen to be getting here in the early evening you might consider a dinner stop in Watsonville a few miles south of SC. It is a mostly hispanic community with a fair amount of resturaunts. I have been trying a little family place called Fiesta Tepa Suahayo recently. Buckets of beer and an iteresting menu with a number of different (to me) choices. (Shrimp in Rose Sauce, a variety of regional marninades, multiple homemade salsas) I believe they have corn fungus if that kind of thing interests you.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Nathan P.

            Fiesta Tepa Suahayo sounds interesting.

            Where in Watsonville is it?

            Thanks in advance,

            1. re: harrydom

              Tepa Sahuayo is at 15 1st St. This is just off of main st. next/behind the post office. The rest. is in a small shopping center next to a small grocery store.


            2. re: Nathan P.
              Ann Vuletich

              I'm thrilled to hear that El Paisano is still delicious. I remember the first burrito I ever had there when I was a lowly freshman at UCSC. Actually it was the first real burrito I think I had ever had anywhere. Throughout my college career and the year or two I spent in Santa Cruz after that we would make the trek down there as often as we could. The vegetarian burritos were good too as I recall. I did notice on our last trip that the place was still there, but next time we're down there I will definitely stop in.

              Yes, it's too bad about Front Street. I remember that place with a great deal of fondness too, especially their juicy burgers and fries, which were unique in some way that escapes me now.

              1. re: Ann Vuletich

                My understanding is that Manuel (the patriarch of the family that owns El Paisano) purchased the building they are in many years ago. If not for that shrewd business move this great spot would probably be an office for the Seaside Co. now. I believe my first exposure to El Paisano was when they were in just the small space at the right of their building in '77 or so.

                I don't seem to have many fond memories of the food at Front Street Pub. There house-brewed beers were decent though and that can can cover up a food issue or 2!


                1. re: Nathan P.
                  Ann Vuletich

                  That's funny, 1977 was the year that I would have first had their burritos too. And the place I saw recently didn't seem like the same building they were in then. I'm sure you're right, purchasing the building many years ago is no doubt the key to their longeivity. I can actually still picture Manuel.

              2. re: Nathan P.

                Are there any decent Japanese restaurants in Watsonville? I think there is a Japanese American community there. We drove around the main downtown area once and couldn't find anything.

                1. re: Wendy-san

                  I don't know. I am in Santa Cruz so I don't get down to Watsonville very often. It took me a long time to get the recomendation for Tepa even though there are a ton of mexican restaurants down there. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any even semi-serious food journalism in the local media so it is tough to find new places.


                  1. re: Wendy-san

                    From what I could tell, when I was at UCSC, there are a few Japanese Americans in Watsonville, I would assume mostly in the farming business, but not a significant community. As you probably know, the largest nearby Japanese community is in the San Jose area.

                    1. re: Wendy-san

                      Has always been a very large active Japanese community in Watsonville who recently staged re-enactment of internment to national recoginition Still recall annual Buddhist Temple Chicken Teriyaki Dinner fundraiser [scheduled for September 20,2003 and not to be missed if in the area! mu buy tickets in advance, it sells out every year] also, two Japanese restaurants I found listed on[have ever eaten there)are:
                      ( 831 ) 761 - 8799
                      1994 MAIN ST,WATSONVILLE,CA,95076
                      MIYUKI RESTAURANT
                      ( 831 ) 728 - 1620
                      452 E LAKE AVE,WATSONVILLE,CA,95076.

                      Old time favorites in Watsonville include chili-dog from Taylors Hot Dog Stand, Dream Cake (like Oakland's Neldam version) at Bake-rite Bakery; wonderful old time steaks, hot turkey and roast beef sandwiches and sublime garlic bread at Miramar on Main Street (very diner/steak house like---back dining room/past bar is where everyone in town would dine); steakhouse called the Waterfront; Golden Rickshaw on Freedom Blvd. for very inexpensive old style American/cantonese. Let me know if you stop in any of these---plan to spend some time there later in month and will also report back.
                      Hometown girl

                  2. m

                    had lunch at the King and I in santa cruz downtown this saturday...good food and friendly service.