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Feb 8, 2007 07:52 PM

Updated Santa Cruz restaurant reviews/opinions, please!

It seems most of the reviews of restaurants in Santa Cruz on this site are rather out of date.

Mobo Sushi used to be consistent, but I have been there a couple times in the last year or so when they've been seriously off their game. Cold tempura in the tempura rolls. Rolls on which the rice is so cold, they taste like they've been sitting in a refridgerator. The only thing they still seem to get right all the time is the Hamachi Kama.

Planet Fresh . . . yeah, still good fresh ingredients, combined with care to create . . . remarkably bland burritos and wraps. Unless you drench them in the provided salsa and limes.

Pink Godzilla -- pretty darn good last time I went! The maki were fresh, a nice temperature, and contained well-balanced combinations of ingredients.

Sabieng Thai is always reliable for a good curry. And the appetizer they have of lettuce cups filled with chopped lime, ginger, shallots, peanuts, and coconut flakes is simple, uncooked, but awesome.

Please, let me know what restaurants you currently enjoy in Santa Cruz! Only opinions based on recent visits, please!

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  1. You're right, I guess we could use a SC update around here...

    For sushi, my favorites remain Miyuki in Watsonville and Sushi on the Run in Aptos. If we lived closer to Miyuki, I could see myself going weekly...

    For taqueria, I've been frequenting Taqueria Santa Cruz on Soquel the most lately. Al pastor tacos (get them for lunch only, not at night), carne en su jugo (rich and meaty soup), and agua frescas hit the spot. Went back to Tacos Moreno for my old favorite carnitas burrito supreme and it was the worst it's ever been...probably won't return for a long, long time.

    For Thai, Sawasdee in Soquel is our standby. I don't like all of their dishes but I do like the spicy catfish w/ veggies. I tried their duck leg soup one cold day for lunch and didn't care for it at all--broth tasted like it was made w/ bouillon.

    A newish place that I've been excited about is La Posta which opened on Seabright across from Engfer's Pizza. It's associated w/ Soif in downtown, which we also enjoy. We've been twice to LP recently and have enjoyed the food thoroughly. Favorites have been the cavolo nero pizza w/ goat cheese, beet salad w/ ricotta salata and pistachios, and whole roasted bronzino w/ lemon relish and cipolline onions. Nice wine list.

    We've been to Zachary's a couple of times recently, and while the food isn't great overall, I like the vibe and the burger was pretty darn tasty.

    We recently tried Falafel of SC next to Vasili's and also the falafel place downtown (Falafel House??). While the downtown shop was more comfy and seemed to have more variety, we liked the food from Falafel of SC a little better based on one visit. The chicken shawerma was pretty good.

    Any reports on Hula's Grill where China Schezuan used to be, Aqua Blue, Vida, or that new place that took over Barossa Grill opened by the Red people?? Speaking of Red, the food's been pretty bad the last couple of times we've been, but the beer list is very enticing w/ all kinds of delicious imports!

    11 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover

      We went to La Posta last night. YUM. The roasted fish was excellent, the wine recommended (uh oh, I don't remember names well) was great, they have 2 oz pours like at SOIF, enough reason to go just for that.

      the chantrelle pizza was my favorite, the roasted octopus was one of my companions favorite, the mussel soup was flavorful and something I only wish I could/would whip up in my own kitchen. The oxtail gnocchi was a great meal without all the other great dishes we had. Go to La Posta soon!

      (ps to moderators, I have no business relationship with them at all.)

      1. re: Chardgirl

        Glad to hear you enjoyed La Posta, chardgirl! I need to get back there soon...

        1. re: Carb Lover

          We had another very nice meal at La Posta recently. Pork testa (head cheese) w/ pickled ramps; pizza w/ squash blossom, anchovies, and fresh mozzarella; flatiron steak w/ salsa verde and braised endive. Wines were very good w/ generous pours.

          They are now doing Sun. family-style meals featuring a different region of Italy each week. Something like a 4-course meal for $30, which seems like a very good deal. I believe the hours are 5-8pm. I'll check it out soon and report back.

          Has anyone tried the tapas place on Almar that used to be Xin?

          1. re: Carb Lover

            We went to La Posta's Sun. 7/1 family dinner. Prix fixe menu focusing on Sicily included albacore crudo, spaghetti w/ eggplant and tomatoes, roasted kid goat w/ green salad, and vanilla gelato w/ roasted figs. All this for $30pp. The menu read really well and we were excited about this family-style concept, but execution was pretty uneven.

            Chilled albacore appetizer was not sliced well and delicate flavor was overwhelmed by too much salt crystals and fruity olive oil. Spaghetti was the best dish of the night in our opinion. Sauce was well-balanced and bursting in summer flavors, although I thought the pasta was a tad overcooked and oversauced. Goat was sliced into rough pieces and not very flavorful; I thought it needed a good dose more salt. Some pieces were tender but a number were chewy and tough. Salad on side was simple and fresh but didn't really go, IMO. Housemade vanilla gelato was very good and velvety, and roasted figs in sweet red wine sauce were lusty.

            I appreciate what La Posta is doing and will go back to try another Sunday dinner if the menu is especially appealing, but it can be uneven since they change the menu every week and don't have time to hone execution. I've had more enjoyable experiences ordering from their regular menu. I do adore their housemade olive bread! They were pretty crowded, so it seems that this concept is catching on. Anyone else been?

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Update on La Posta:

              We had an impromptu dinner there on Fri. night. Walking in around 7:30pm, the place was hopping and a few parties were lingering around the bar waiting for an open table. We were the only couple waiting and fortunately there was a two-top available.

              We ordered: steamed mussels w/ chorizo and peppers; pizza margherita; gnocchi w/ duck ragu; and a contorno of gigande beans w/ herbs and lemon juice. Overall, the food was so-so as execution and ingredient quality were very uneven across courses. For instance the mussels were very small and overcooked, and the broth was too concentrated and thick and very salty (and we love salt!). The pizza, however, was undersalted w/ a lifeless crust and too much basil. The gnocchi w/ ragu was ok but not remarkable. I did like the ragu w/ lots of shredded duck, but it was kinda one dimensional and could have used more nutmeg or skillful seasoning.

              The best dish of the night was the simply prepared gigande beans which were perfectly cooked and creamy, although I wish the menu would have warned us that it was served chilled. The other best item was their housemade bread--the dark (whole wheat?) one studded w/ golden raisins. I could eat that everyday. Their butter is addictive too.

              We ordered one glass of chianti, a glass of falanghina, and a taste of an Italian white blend that I can't recall. The wine was fine but overpriced and underpoured IMHO. My taste (a half pour for $4.25) was so skimpy (like two full sips) that I almost said something but let it go. They definitely get you on the wine prices.

              We decided to order dessert (ie, the food portions aren't huge) and went w/ the housemade torrone gelato w/ chocolate sauce and hazelnuts. The waiter described it as fluffy and airy, but on the contrary, it was pretty dense and rich. I would describe it as more of a mocha ice cream, and it was good w/ a cascade of toasted hazelnuts and not-too-sweet ice cream or chocolate sauce. Americano coffee was very good, as always.

              Overall, we left pretty disappointed w/ what is a neighborhood restaurant for us. We haven't been in a long time and this didn't spark any momentum for returning soon. I really, really want to like this place because the staff are nice and well-intentioned and unlike many SC establishments, this feels like a real, full-blown restaurant; however, I'm getting more and more picky now that I'm getting Two Small Farms produce and creating better food and pizza at home for much cheaper. For those sensitive to noisy restaurants, this place can be deafening. At one point, my ears were ringing from the echo of voices and the music.

              They nicely comped us for dessert since we had agreed to move mid-meal to accommodate a four-top. Our bill minus dessert came to around $70 pre-tip which wasn't worth it to us. We will eventually come back to try one of their Sun. dinners again, but we much prefer Soif (their sister restaurant) for both food and wine.

              La Posta
              538 Seabright Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

            2. re: Carb Lover

              We ate at Al Mar last weekend. The food was tasty and attractive. The service was abysmal.

          2. re: Chardgirl

            I have also enjoyed La Posta meals. They had a crab ravioli that was simply divine. Each bite made me melt a little inside. The restaurant is a little on the pricey side, but when you have excellent service, incredible food and a wonderful atmosphere, the extra $ is worth it to me. I have yet to be disappointed with their food/service. They are currently #1 on my Italian list.

          3. re: Carb Lover

            I really like Sawasdee and prefer it to the other Thai places in the area, but the food wasn't as good the last time I went. We always order the same (or similar) things, so it was easy to compare. I hope it's better the next time I'm in the mood for Thai.

            I like Miyako for sushi. It's on 41st by the Train Place Deli and is really good. The only thing I don't like is that they put garlic in their miso shiru, but that's what you get when you go to a Japanese restaurant owned by Koreans. ;) I wish some of the Koreans who own Japanese restaurants would serve Korean food.

            1. re: mixmastermidori

              Sorry to hear you experienced a slip at Sawasdee; hopefully that was just a one time event. We haven't eaten there in a while. What are your usually reliable standards?

              We've been to Miyako once, during their first year anniversary period several months ago. I thought they'd been there much longer. I thought the sushi was better than most places in Santa Cruz, but something was missing for me that would make me want to return. The balance of flavors was just a little "off" for me. The service, however, was totally gracious and welcoming. The female proprietress and waitresses were very sweet. In Capitola, I prefer the food at Sushi Garden or Naka.

            2. re: Carb Lover

              I was hungry today, and this post inspired me to try Sawasdee, which is nearby. I was glad I did. I ordered green curry with chicken—fresh vegetables cooked beautifully in the sauce, and enough to bring home half for my husband. The Tom Kah tofu-veggie soup was also really good: bright and light coconut broth with just the right amount of tang. They were so friendly, helpful, and appreciative. (Best of all, the cutest baby was sitting across from me, and I got to photograph and play with her.)

              I will be going back for dinner: the menu is like six pages long! (Catfish sounds good. Anything else where they put the lime in the coconut? I love that kind of stuff.) Also, nice to hear that they've been open for three years and four months: that spot has held a LOT of different places.

              I have not found a better Thai place in the county, though Bangkok Palace used to be where we often went. We just don't go out as much with a little boy in the house.

              Ate at Hula's twice, and definitely would return.

              Surprised to see no mention of the River Cafe & Cheese Shop across from Cost Plus in Santa Cruz, especially in response to the person recently seeking the best place for organic fare—not necessarily vegetarian.

              1. re: soquelcalifornia

                Thanks for the update and pretty photo! The owners of Sawasdee are super friendly and sweet. I'm glad you enjoyed the food. They seem to have a steady flow of business (including take-out) every time I'm there, so I hope they continue to thrive.

                We had a late dinner at Soif last night and enjoyed everything, especially the boquerones crostini w/ aioli and the squid salad. Beautifully balanced and minimalistic. The cheese plate had a few very good cheeses, especially the goat's milk blue from France. Enjoyed the wines as usual.

                Had lunch at Vasili's last Sat. since La Cabana taqueria was closed. I really like that lunch combo! Y had the pita sandwich w/ Greek meatballs and I had the one w/ sliced lamb. Meat was tender and flavorful, and the pita was fresh and pillowy. I really like their tzatziki (sp?) sauce. The fries were hot and crispy. Small-town service w/ a smile.

            3. For Japanese, I'll second Miyuki (went for the first time in years a few weeks ago and had a great meal) and add Rumblefish in Scotts Valley at the other end of the geographical spectrum. And for falafels, Falafel of Scotts Valley has been consistently good on multiple visits (great baba ganouj!).

              Had lunch at Center Street Grill (in the old India Joze location) for the first time yesterday and while it's still too early to call, it looks really promising. Nice environment and eclectic menu (including an appealing breakfast menu).

              7 Replies
              1. re: ahclem

                Thanks for sharing your initial leanings on Center Street Grill. What did you have?

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  Just to weigh in here... I went to the Center Street Grill a few weeks ago, and the dinner was enough to make me never want to go back. I ordered a dish that was something like pasta with large shrimp in a garlic cream sauce... and while the shrimp tasted fine, the sauce was bland and reminded me of the first time i tried to make a cream sauce (when i really didn't know anything about cooking and essentially just poured some cream into a stirfry). My partner had the corned beef sandwich, which was also lackluster- a whole lotta dry corned beef on wheat bread -- with nothing else. no mayonnaise, no lettuce, no tomatoes... nada. the atmosphere also sorta made me fee like i was eating in a hotel lobby.

                  i have eaten a couple of times at 515 (formerly barossa grill), and i found that the food is a lot like the red room's (same owner?): inconsistent. While I remember enjoying a salmon and lentil dish, my partner ordered a vegetable soup that was bland - like vegetables sitting in water- and a grilled vegetable plate where the veggies were mushy. but i've heard mixed reviews even on those 2 dishes- it seems hit or miss. i liked the atmosphere though, and it's nice to sit out on that deck on a warm evening. i've also dined at the red room a couple times recently- their burgers are a pretty good bet and the fries are always good. i like that mini burger platter they do as well. i've had grilled sandwiches there and have found they are always really greasy. I've also had the pizzas- they are fine but nothing special. They do have a great selection of beers.

                  I've also been to Hula's and enjoyed it- partner liked the hawaiian style burger- i think it was a special bbq type o' sauce and sauteed onions?? and I once had the ahi tuna burger- it was a patty made with tuna and breadcrumbs and spices- i thought it was good and nicely spiced. burgers come with really yummy sweet potato fries too, which i love. i haven't had any of their drinks, but they seem to have 'fun' cocktails and it seems like it could be a good place to go with a group.

                  I'm interested in checking out La Posta... looks good.

                  hope this helps..

                  1. re: blaekwon

                    Thanks for weighing in on those places; I'll have to give Hula's a try when I'm in a cocktail mood. You should def. check out La Posta and let us know what you think...

                    1. re: blaekwon

                      We tried Hula's for dinner on Sat. night. The place was jam packed and VERY loud. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of drinks (me a blood orange martini, husband a hefeweizen beer) while waiting for our table. Our table was ready the moment the bartender slid over our drinks, so the wait was very short. Tables seem to turn quickly here.

                      We had the special sea bass ceviche appetizer w/ fried wonton chips to start. The wonton chips were very large, light, and airy--more like a rice cracker which I liked. Ceviche tasted fresh and bright, although it was a little heavy on the lime and salt. They seem to salt the food very well here perhaps w/ the intention of selling more drinks.

                      For our meal, we ordered the ahi tuna burger w/ sweet potato fries and the fish soup. The burger was wide, and the ahi was ground to a fine texture. It was moist and seasoned nicely, although it had a machine-made (instead of handmade) quality to it. The sweet potato fries were tasty dipped into the house aioli accented w/ sesame oil.

                      The fish soup was kinda odd; I was a little hesitant when I ordered it but was craving something warming on a cold night. Udon noodles in a creamy coconut milk broth accented w/ lemongrass and a touch of heat didn't really work, but it wasn't horrible. The abundant chunks of white fish (I think it was mahi mahi) and shrimp were tender and sweet though.

                      The service was friendly and casual but definitely a step above the usual service in Santa Cruz. Our waitress was well-trained and anticipated our needs well. The crowd was fairly mixed and there were a number of families w/ young kids in tow, although I'm sure the bar scene picks up later into the night. The total bill, excluding the drinks, was around $34 pre-tip, so it's pretty affordable. I don't feel the need to return that quickly, but we'll eventually go back to try the poke and luau pork.


                      Has anyone tried Sitar, the new Indian place on Pacific where Baja Fresh used to be? It was packed for such a new place...

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        I went to Sitar the other day- i thought it was ok, but i am definitely not eager to go back. I would describe it as "fast food" indian food... you order at the counter and you get a number and they bring your food to your table... we had an order of samosas and they were not good- they were cold and chewy, not crispy at all- tasted like they had been sitting out for a while. i tried the chicken curry (i forget the indian name) and it was not great- the large chunks of chicken breast were hard and dry. the sauce was unremarkable. partner has the saag paneer (spinach with cheese) which was pretty good. The naan was good- hot and fresh. but the rice that came with the dishes was kind of dry and cold. i also got one of the rice puddings and there was something really funky about it... i took just one bite and called it quits. maybe it was just a bad night? it was really busy there. they also have indian wrap sandwiches which maybe are a better bet? not sure. anyway, to me it was not great, but it definitely smells a lot better than the royal taj...

                        1. re: blaekwon

                          Thanks for the report on Sitar. You pretty much confirmed what I suspected but I'm sure I'll give it a try when I'm hankering for Indian, which isn't very often. Hehe, and I've never made it inside the Royal Taj...

                          More info on Sitar published in the Good Times:

                          1. re: Carb Lover

                            If you have a craving for Indian and have a little time, drive up to santa clara to Kabab & Currys. Its very authentic and tasty. Im not that crazy for the buffet which they have every day but you can order separately. They have great Biriyani at night.

                2. the best italian rest. i have enjoyed in santa cruz co is scopazzis ib Boulder Creek. good raviolis and pastas. good calamari and meat dishes. nice atmosphere and good service.prices are moderate to expensive. wine list pretty goood with 75 dollar bottles.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: buck mac

                    there table side caesar is one of the best that i have had.

                  2. i like to go to scopazzis for happy hour and enjoy the complimentary food and hospitality.the giant prawn cocktail is very good and compliments the excellent marguaritas.

                    1. Chiming in quickly before I start dinner: it bears repeating that Tucson Taqueria in SV is my go-to location for excellent, Baja-style fish tacos (other menu items equally as good). Oh, and I second La Posta as a newer place that promises to be a favorite.

                      Where in SV is the falafel place? Can't believe I've missed finding it!!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Xanthippe

                        Here's Alice's report on Falafel of Scotts Valley:

                        Let us know if you try it!

                        1. re: Carb Lover

                          Someone suggested the Sparrow Cafe. (I will be in SC visiting my son in about 2 weeks)
                          any feedback?
                          What would be a nice "califonia cuisine" place to take him and his girlfriend?

                          And what's considered to be the best?
                          We will be staying at Seascape Resort. Is the restaurant there worth it, at all?



                          1. re: jangita

                            I've heard both good and bad things about Cafe Sparrow, so I wouldn't say it's a "must avoid" in the area. It's very popular for the Aptos set, so at least the food will be relatively fresh and the ambience upbeat.

                            On the other hand, I've heard nothing but bad things about Seascape Resort's restaurant (Sanderlings?). If you want to stay in that immediate area, then Palapas, a seafood-centric Mexican restaurant, would be a better choice.

                            While I haven't been, the place that I'd like to throw some $ at next time I have an occasion is Theo's in Soquel. I've heard consistently good things about the chef and food.

                            If you want to venture into Santa Cruz, then I'd recommend Soif, La Posta, Gabriella Cafe, or Avanti. All have some local/seasonal/organic influence on the menu.



                            Enjoy your visit and please report back on your dining experiences.

                            1. re: Carb Lover

                              Thanks so much for the quick reply.

                              Soif (how do you say that?) looks most interesting to me but they all look like they would fit.


                              1. re: jangita

                                Soif (pronounced like "swoff") means "thirst" in French. The focus of the food is around the wine, so it's great for wine enthusiasts. Keep in mind that their portions tend to be on the small side, which can be a good thing if you like to try alot of items or not so good if you like more traditional servings. Also note that their web menu is not updated at all, although some of those items are on the current menu.