Will be visiting in August and would like to know of places to "not miss"!
cafe cruz is amazing, expecially their calamari salad... if you want something really funky (like crazy dancing and neon lights in a family atmosphere that is breathe taking if you ask to sit outside in the grove of redwoods) and good italian is Ciao Bella in Ben Lomond... Tad the owner is quite the character and is quite the happening spot on the weekend...
but i agree that o mei is fantastic as well
I think both Avanti and Omei can be missed. But if your into large wine selection along with the completely organic meals I guess you can go see whats up about Avanti. but, I wasn't impressed the first time I went. Omei, is the closest thing we have to chinese and Omei is americanized as you can get with a santa cruz twist.
If your coming with a family the following may be more appropriate recs:
are you interested in a nice harbor side meal in the morning or for lunch? try Aldo's at the santa cruz harbor. its american/italian food.
Try Gayle's in capitola for a refreshing snack, or pick something up for dessert or breakfast in the morning.
Tacos and buritos ect. scene is decent here:
La Cabana on Mission st. next to Omei has a great mole, and tacos ect. try the tacos crispy and try them with desembrada.
Taqueria Vallarta, has the best salsa fresca in SC in my opinion.
Avoid sushi in SC, I'm almost positive where your coming from has better sushi.
Go up the 1 alittle bit, and look for Swanton berry farms its about 12 miles up. after you pass Omei and La cabana. At the farm you can pick your own strawberries or if your in a rush, you can pick up a couple baskets. they also have homemade goodies which include pies, jams, and ice cream. The scenic route up to the farm and around it is just worth it alone. Warning: strawberry picking is a dirty job, (unless its done with extreme grace) and it gets uncomfortable especially in this hot weather and they only have portable potties there for guests. swantonberryfarm.com for more info.
Sushi On the Run in Aptos, in an old gas station office/bay across Soquel Ave from Safeway. Japanese owners "retired" from their very popular trad. place to open this grab 'n go venue. Very fresh and very good.
I haven't eaten at Avanti in a few years, but in my monthly visits over one year (2002) their food was consistantly delicious, well-presented and reasonable. I mourn the closure of the breakfast service. Creamy/crispy french toast was the ultimate. Great Italian coffee.