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It seems most of the reviews of restaurants in Santa Cruz on this site are rather out of date.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

                      Website: http://www.hulastiki.com/about/

                      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:
                          http://www.gtweekly.com/03-08-07/sitar-2

                          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:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/34276...

                        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?

                          Thanks,

                          jan

                          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.
                            http://www.cafesparrow.com/

                            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.
                            http://www.palapasrestaurant.com/

                            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.
                            http://theosrestaurant.com/

                            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.

                            http://www.soifwine.com/

                            http://gabriellacafe.com/

                            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.

                              jan

                              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.

                      2. I went to a Greek restaurant last year when visiting UC Santa Cruz. I don't remember the name but it was on a main street not far from the campus. Probably the best Greek food I have had.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: pantani

                          You must be thinking of Vasili's on Mission street. Although I have never been there, it is highly regarded in SC and supposedly has some of the best greek food in the area. I think I need to head over today, lol.

                          1. re: camarokyle

                            Kepp the updates comin'
                            I will be there in just a week.

                            Thanks,
                            jan

                            1. re: camarokyle

                              I had a seriously sub-par Greek meal at Vasili's this summer. Tasteless and gluey vegetarian moussaka, rice that looked like Uncle Ben's . . . all in all a real disappointment.

                          2. Our favorite for Japanese is Shogun. I think the best taqueria in town is Tacos Moreno on Water St. Also El Palomar and La Mission (same owner I think) - I love their pozole! I've only had wonderful meals at Cafe Sparrow and Bleu Spoon, but others have told me they didn't. My biggest problem lately is with how noisy everything is! I tried the new iteration of the Davenport Cash Store - now the Davenport Roadhouse - and the food was great, the service really lovely, but it was so loud in there I couldn't stand it, and I won't go back. Ditto Hula's, ditto La Posta, Vasili's, Kianti, ditto and so many others. Il Trullo is a calmer quieter atmosphere, and the food is just like what I ate at modest local cafes in Italy - "not glamour" food, but simple food well prepared. We used to like Avanti a lot, and it's still good, but lately the food has been very very oily - everything is sitting in a pool of oil. I enjoy Soif but YIKES you go in there for a glass of wine and before you know it you've spent $200 - I'll never do THAT again. However, the retail wine shop is very good if you are planning a meal and need suggestions about wine pairing. Gabriella is ok but the tables are small and close together, and you can't have a private conversation, although if you're interested you can hear everyone else's. They have a thing for lunch called the Tre, which is a salad, a little pizza, and something else, soup maybe, anyway, it's pretty good. I agree with the person who felt the Center St. Grill was unremarkable. I ate at the one with the address_ 518? 413? Anyway, on Cedar Street, won't go back. What we need in this town is a good pho house. You have to go to San Jose.

                            1. My personal overview of dining in Santa Cruz (Westside, at least):
                              Cafe Gabriella is by FAR the best restaurant I have been to in SC, and one of my favs overall. As much fresh house-baked foccacia as your heart desires, and excelent balsalmic and oil at the table. Comparable to Chez Pannise in Berkeley, and that is saying something!

                              My biggest complaint about SC is the lack of even a DECENT indian place, heard way too many horror stories of Taj Mahal to even try. The new place Sitar is sub-par at best, and crazy overpriced. Coming from Berkeley where there are three amazing places within three blocks of my house, all without a dish over five bucks on the menu, I guess I have kind of high standards.

                              Chinese: also havn't found my place yet. Tam's on mission is OK. Golden Palace on Mission is OK. Omei is better than OK, but you can't get out of there for under $50 for you and a date.

                              Mexican: My favorite by far is Taqueria Las Palmas on Beach and Second, near the boardwalk. You either love this place, or hate it. This is greasy, fried, dirty(in a good way), sit-in-your-stomach-for-hours style mexican food, yum! The whole menu is an excellent value, with my favorites being the crispy chicken tacos, and the chile colorado (pork with red sauce). The chile verde is not my favorite there, however.
                              Tacos morenos on mission, Taqueria SC on mission, and jalepeno just off of pacific are decent choices as well. If you are a student or if you go up to campus, the Taco Truck by Baskin Engineering is BOMB, highly recomend the asada and the fish(talapia) tacos(mmm... lime-y). Planet Fresh is garbage.

                              Midd-Eastern/Greek:
                              Falafal and Vaisellis are both decent on Mission, but for Middle Eastern food in SC, there is only one place that I go... but damn, I can't remember the name. it's easy to find though: on Beach(the street that runs along the Boardwalk), across the street from the Boardwalk, inbetween the bowling ally and the mexican seafood restraunt(you'll find it). Owned by a super-nice/friendly Lebanese family, they serve amazing kebab and kufte (Mediterranean meatballs) comparable to what I have had in Turkey and Syria.

                              Japanese: everywhere is overpriced. The best value (considering price and deliciousness) I would have to go with Pink Godzilla: kind of a party scene type place, not too authentic of a setting, but the sushi chefs obviously know what they're doing, and the fish is always fresh.

                              Thai: Also all overpriced, but there are some really good places. Thai Orchid is my fav for seafood dishes, thai noodle house best for chicken curries, and Sabieng best for Pad Thai and soups. (all three on mission).

                              Sorry to be so negative about so many places, just my honest opinion!!!
                              Any one have a recomendation for Chinese or indian???? please!!!

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ucscslug

                                Guang Zho on Portola next to 7-11 at 30th Ave. is the Chinese place I like. It's a good neighborhood restaurant, but the food is also really good. It's not as greasy as other places. For instance, I don't think they batter their sweet and sour pork. (I don't ever order that, but my husband ordered a combo plate one day for some reason.) The thing I get more often than not is the Pork Noodle soup, which has pork won tons, noodles, chicken, veggies and char siu. I love that on a cold summer night! :) It's really filling for one person. Other dishes are tasty, but when I'm in the mood for noodles, that's where I go.

                                Scotts Valley Chinese is also decent Chinese. I always go at lunch when I go, and they have good specials. Better food than Mei Garden. But I might be biased because the wait staff knows us. :) They also have really good noodle soup.

                                Also, I didn't see any mentions of Sri. Went there in February for my birthday, and the food was great. I think it was $13 for a full dinner (including mango lassi), and I couldn't move after I was done. But I couldn't help myself from eating. The guys at work frequent this place for lunch. It's not Indian, but it's a good alternative to greasy Royal Taj when you want something to eat with your naan. :)

                                1. re: mixmastermidori

                                  Thanks for mentioning Guang Zho on Portola. We are rarely in that area but drove by the other day and I wondered if it was new. I thought there was a Chinese rest. of a different name there before?

                                  That night, we ended up trying Rock of the Sea. We were interested in trying it after we saw that they specialize in Mexican seafood. Huge place w/ a very neighborhood feel. They seemed pretty full for a late Tues. night. We had to order one order of fajitas (mixed chicken and beef) after we saw it come sizzling to another table. We also tried the siete mares soup. The fajita meat was pretty tasty, but they don't give you much for $14+ and use too many peppers and onions as filler. It was average. The soup, OTOH, was very good. Nice hearty broth w/ good depth of flavor. Loaded w/ seafood, it was reasonably priced at $14+. Tasted better than the Ligurian seafood stew we had at Sestri the night before for $19.50. Reheated corn tortillas were very rubbery though. Anything else good here?

                                  Has anyone eaten at Malabar/Asian Rose since they relocated to Front St. in downtown?

                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                    Guang Zho used to be called Little China House. I could be wrong, but the food seems to taste the same.

                                    I went to Rock of the Sea a few months ago and thought the food wasn't anything special. We had two toddlers in our party and the service was sloooooow. The kids got bored, even with the snacks we brought, and we had to ask the server more than once when we could expect our food. I haven't been back since.

                                    Another place in the area that I like is Hank's at the Hook. Their service is fast (you order at the counter), and their sandwiches are yummy. I like the tri-tip sandwich and garlic fries. It's a little expensive for sandwiches, but the food is good, and it's a good choice for after the beach. They have a patio with umbrellas for warm days.

                                    1. re: Carb Lover

                                      Yeah, I went to Asian Rose for lunch just last week! For $6.50, I had enough food to fill me up for lunch and dinner . . . and it was delicious. I had an eggplant dish and sweet potato curry.

                                2. Also any soul-food. (chicken n waffles/ hotlinks/ tritip/ collard greens)???

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ucscslug

                                    Hi,
                                    Back from our trip and I wanted to report--

                                    LOVED Soif. The only thing that wasn't wonderful was the chairs. The food was uniformly tasty and fresh and the wine selection fun. The best dish (besides the stuffed pacquillo peppers) was Duck with ginger and rhubarb gastrique and escarole.

                                    Had a beautiful lunch at Wickets at the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley. They serve the prettiest cheese tasting plate I've seen. Nice wine flights, too.

                                    A good, homey California style dinner at Cafe Sparrow. Big portions. Great waitress--Celia.

                                    Good lunch at the Walnut Cafe, downtown--eggs and yummy potatoes.

                                    Great take-out pizza from Pizza my Heart.

                                    thanks for your help.

                                    jan

                                    1. re: jangita

                                      Thanks for reporting back; glad to hear you enjoyed your eating experiences. The duck dish at Soif sounds great, and I concur that the seats are not very comfy there.

                                  2. Hey, I literally just got back from a nice three days in Santa Cruz. Brief opinions in somewhat consecutive order:

                                    Gelatomania - This downtown gelato place has truly delicious ice cream. I've been to Italy and this measures up to the "real thing." I especially liked the intense strawberry and the spicy chai. However, you WILL pay out the nose for the deliciousness. Such is life.

                                    Taqueria La Cabana - Yummy and extensive selection of tacos and seafood dishes. We had a pretty good (but not amazing) cabeza taco with fresh pico de gallo for starters, then moved on to seafood. My broiled red snapper was fresh and delicious with a tangy salsa verde on top, and the camarones picado were smoky and tasty. The rice and beans were pretty average, although admittedly I'm not exactly a carbohydrate person. The table salsa needed some more kick. I want to come back for the al pastor and chicharrones, which seem to go highly reccomended around here.

                                    Santa Cruz Diner - A weird and kitschy place with an equally weird (and way too long) menu. My dad said his omlette was okay. My avocado sandwich was extremely pedestrian and the coffee way too muddy to drink black, like I prefer it. And who the heck puts canned beans on a side salad? I wouldn't venture here for anything other then a very basic breakfast.

                                    Falafel House - Pretty basic Mediterrean fast food. The falafel on my salad was delicious but the salad itself was pretty pathetic - shredded iceberg and some cucumber with a tasteless tahini sauce. And they need to heat up the pita bread. The french-fries were thick cut with skins on and excellent. I want to come back to try the turkey burger.

                                    Ristorante Avanti - Delicious and simple Cal-Italian, featuring fresh and organic ingredients. The restaurant space is cozy and a little cramped but very welcoming, and our waitress was very friendly and down to earth. We began with some wonderful grilled sardines on crostini with a tangy celery slaw. The fresh garden salad was tasty as well, featuring a light dressing and a nice crostini spread with aioli. I had the roasted halibut with salsa verde, chantrelles, and fingerling potatoes for my entree. Verdict: delicious, especially the oh-so-good and meaty chantrelles. The chicken cacciatore was delicious as well - tender and falling apart in it's red wine sauce. We didn't order dessert, but the ice cream sandwich sounded very good. I definitely reccomend this one for a pleasant and simple meal in a friendly enviroment.

                                    Chocolate - We only stopped in for tea and blackberry pie ala mode, but both were satisfactory. Service is a little slow but the non-dessert food looked good. The blackberry pie slice was tremendous and juicy and the vanilla bean gelato on top delicious as well. I hope to return.

                                    The Bagelery - Tasty bagels, open early, excellent place to enjoy coffee and a newspaper - what not to like? I had a wonderful fruit salad with a variety of fresh fruits and an equally delicious and spicy chai tea. The blueberry bagel was flavorful and good, and there's a huge variety of bagel sandwich options for you to choose from. A very nice place to begin a foggy morning.

                                    Finally, I know this is for Half Moon Bay, but Pasta Moon = NOT TO BE MISSED. We had a lunch there day before yesterday that absolutely knocked it out of the park.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: CheBeret

                                      Wow, thanks for taking the time to summarize your eating adventures. I was on a Gelatomania kick last year but curbed my visits when the gelato stopped tasting as good to me...too sweet and not as velvety texture. I'll have to go back to resample...

                                      Santa Cruz Diner is pretty bad. I would only go if it were 3am and I was starving w/ no food in the house. They might have some gems among that extensive menu, but I'm not interested in wading through.

                                      I'd be curious to hear more about your excellent lunch at Pasta Moon on the SF board. Did you perchance check out the Roadhouse restaurant in Davenport?

                                    2. Update on Sawasdee: We went here when, as we were returning home from Moss Landing, my visiting sis really wanted thai for lunch. I chose it with a vague memory that it was recommended on this board, and we were somewhat bewildered by the choices in the menu. We shared the beef salad, fried fish patties, something called crispy chicken that turned out to be sweet & sour but not crispy chicken, and claypot seafood & bean thread noodles (4 dishes pictured below). Also my sis had a small tom ka ga soup that I got to taste (not pictured). Except the chicken we loved everything. My favorite was the fish patties, I loved the fine julienne of lime leaf in the mix, though I wish they had been fried to order (they were hot but not crispy on the outside). Not fishy tasting at all. The beef salad & claypot were also repeat order-worthy, and the claypot very comforting though I suspect it wasn't cooked in a claypot, just served in one. The chicken wasn't bad, just not great - dry stringy & noncrispy breast meat, canned pineapple.

                                      We'd return to this place again if in the area or if someone wanted thai, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it. My sis is from DC and she says there's no thai there as good as thai in CA, and she's including Sawasdee.

                                      Aaargh. Having hell of a time uploading photos to anywhwere, chowhound.com or 3rd party hosting site. Photos coming soon.

                                      1. I tried Bangkok West in Aptos. It was delicious. The Pad Thai was excellent as was the Beef Panang. The setting there is really pretty. I want to try Thai Basil next which is near or in Capitola. I tried Pink God for the first time and the fish was kind of chewy. Mobo is too crowded. I would love to know of a great Sushi option in SC.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: chaidude36

                                          I went to Masako (at Bay and Mission) a couple days ago, and everything was fresh and delicious! Seems like they've smoothed out a lot of kinks since opening a few months back. Anyone else tried it lately?

                                          1. re: operagirl

                                            I haven't tried Masako, but the Metro reviewer gave a positive review in this week's edition: http://www.metrosantacruz.com/metro-s...

                                            We had breakfast at Walnut Ave. Cafe in downtown for the first time this weekend. Can't believe we've lived in SC for almost 3 yrs. now and have never been. I got the eggs benedict and husband got huevos rancheros con carnitas. Drinks were coffee and iced tea. We thought the food was decent, but nothing outstanding. Good portions for a good price and good service. The hollandaise was bright yellow and had a slightly gummy texture, and the side potatoes were just ok. The carnitas on the HR dish weren't really like true carnitas w/ that crispy exterior...more like a pulled pork. The coffee was very good though, and the service and bustling ambiance were wonderful!! For breakfast/brunch downtown, I prefer Hoffman's. Next time, we will try 515 for brunch.

                                            Two new Italian restaurants opening: Caffe Lucio on the corner of Soquel/Ocean next to Thai House and Lillian's in the old Malabar space. Sign in the window says Lillian's will open in August. There's also a new gourmet burger place, Betty's Burgers, opening up at the old Costa Brava taqueria on corner of Seabright/Murray in May. Hormone-free meat and open late night.

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              Did Costa Brava close completely, or did they move? They had the best chimichanga...not greasy. :(

                                              1. re: mixmastermidori

                                                Costa Brava Taqueria is no longer. The owners (who also own Vida downtown) decided to close it and open up Betty Burgers instead. I've been inside BB but haven't eaten there yet. They've been closed by 8pm, so I think their hours are limited right now. Anyone tried BB yet?

                                                I'm not a big chimichanga fan, but I've seen a pretty good looking one at Palomar Cafe down at the yacht harbor.

                                                We tried 515 for the first time for dinner recently and thought it was ok. We were bummed that they don't serve the lamb burger for dinner; we asked if they could bend the rules but waitress said no (which I understand). Had the lambjoun and meze platter. Like Red, big portions and good intentions but slightly off in execution. My cocktail was off balance too. Will come back for lunch/brunch when I'm craving lamb burger...

                                        2. My recent discovery—what took me two years?!—is Cafe Limelight, next to the parking garage on Cedar Street downtown. The turkey-brie panini and the one with red bell pepper pesto and artichokes are both stellar, as is the ham-cheddar. Great, great values on the menu—sandwiches include a nice garden salad with homemade vinaigrette. I haven't tried cheese platters or other specialities: I'm addicted to the paninis—gooey, cheesy, finger-licking sandwiches. Try the $22/bottle of Bargetto Lodi Tempranillo (red): what a deal. And unbeatable hospitality, thanks to a Southern owner. I'm glad they are prospering...go there! Go now. Go twice.

                                          We went to La Posta in March, and it's too rich for my blood. We had serious sticker shock: one salumi platter ($15--and it's not housemade, I don't think, so probably from Fra' Mani, is my guess) and one order of intensely good black mushroom pasta ($12), both of which we shared, with two 5-ounce (very small pours) glasses of wine each (there were two of us) was over $70 (!!!) before tip. I can't support an all-Italian wine list, either, environmentally it's a nightmare—all the gas to transport it around the world. Also, with all the great wine available locally, it's unthinkable to me not to support local growers. So I'll leave it to the BMW crowd: there are other better options (like Soif, which is fabulous). It just isn't a good value, monetarily or emotionally, for me.

                                          We took a friend to Hula's in March, and enjoyed that a lot. Killer Mai Tais (with requisite paper umbrella, if you like), and the blood orange martini was delicious. (I think the best bargain is a double Mai Tai.) We loved the coconut shrimp rolls and sweet potato fries. I know we ordered three kinds of fish specials, and cannot remember which, which is sad because I loved what I'd ordered and would want it again.

                                          The ambiance was buzzing and pleasant: even late on a cold and rainy weekday evening, the place was jam-packed. Décor is clever: the transformation from tired Chinese booth-style dining is magical.

                                          We did try Sitar, for take-out. While ANYTHING is better than Royal Taj (say, licking a muddy boot), it's still fast-food-ish, despite the presence of cloth napkins (rolled in wine glasses, and they have no liquor license—a non sequitur). Chicken tikka masala was moist and tasty, as was the eggplant. But the samosas were so-so, and the bhel puri was awful. It was like stale Rice Krispies buried in raw onions. Mouth-searingly bad. I'm sure I'll go back, but it's not like the food you can get at real Indian places over the hill. (I just won't order the bhel puri.)

                                          Also went (and will not return) to Hank's at the Hook. Yes, with all the pictures of farms on the wall, they get their meat from Ledyard. Lots of buzz from ignorant people, I think: it was cafeteria food, as far as I'm concerned. My teenager liked it, but that's what teenagers do.

                                          And yes, Theo's is sublime. It's one of the best bargains for upscale dining I can think of—the chef makes his own cheeses from Claravale organic milk, and is a devoted to obtaining the best fruits and vegetables from nearby farms. Their "Brown Bag" night on the first Thursday of each month allows you to bring in the suggested wine (pinot noir, zinfandel, etc.), and the chef will have a menu prepared especially to match that wine. With no corkage. Theo's is one of my favorites anywhere: it's a gem in this county.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: soquelcalifornia

                                            Hmmm...a bit of clarification about your La Posta bill. If the salumi was $15 and the pasta was $12, then that would be $27 for food. That means the 4 glasses of wine between the two of you were $43? I hope the wine was good.

                                            FWIW, I think focusing more on the food is a better value. I usually have gotten out of there for $40-50pp including tax and tip which includes an app, entree/pizza/or pasta, glass of wine, and coffee. I think of Soif as more about the wine whereas La Posta is more about the food. I do like the food at Soif too but I view it more as intense tastes to complement wine as opposed to rustic food that you sink your teeth into. And yes, I was told their salumi is from Fra'mani.

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              Has anyone tried the new pizza/wine bar in the Safeway shopping center off Mission?

                                              1. re: Rockc8

                                                I've seen a couple of newspaper reviews - not good - it doesn't sound like a real wine bar

                                                1. re: Rockc8

                                                  No, but like harryd, I haven't read or heard good things. I wouldn't rule it out though until I personally try it, so please report back if you go.

                                                  Here's their website: http://www.mangiamopizza.com/

                                                  1. re: Rockc8

                                                    I've been there and it's not particularly exciting. Only worth a try if you live on the west side; certainly a step down from Engfers which is its closest competition. Perhaps closer to Chianti's in quality though I have not returned to that place after one meal.

                                                    And the wine selection was horrible for my tastes but that may be related to my extremely strong anti-CA wine bias. (though even for CA only wines I thought it was a staggeringly boring wine list for a place claiming to be a wine bar)

                                                    I have also tried the Spanish place next door which is a return to the concept from a few years ago before Xin noodle bar but I think I need a second visit before I post a report. Except for the wine list that was as boring as the Pizza place without a single Spanish wine available. (though they did at least have an unremarkable domestic Albarino to fill in)

                                                  2. re: Carb Lover

                                                    You are correct, and next time (to quote Dr. John, "There'll be no next time!") I would inquire about the prices of the wine. The $43 includes the tax, but the wines were way spendy.

                                                    Having worked years in restaurants, I think it should be mandatory to declare the price of any dish or any kind of suggestion that is not on the printed menu. Our waiter made a couple of recommendations about pairing with what we'd ordered, but neglected to mention that they were close to $10 glass. I like full disclosure.

                                                    But I will go back to Soif again and again. I like the big room, I like sitting at the bar—usually find really good conversation there.

                                                  3. re: soquelcalifornia

                                                    I agree that La Posta is expensive, and I too would rather have Calif wines. However, I think La Posta is a better deal than Soif, where it seems to me that they measure out food portions using an eye-dropper.

                                                  4. I also wanted to recommend Caruso's on the Esplanade. They're tucked away on one of those side streets and are next to (I think it's called) Cava Wine Bar. Everything I've had there is great. I love their wood-fired oven pizza. My favorite is proscuitto/marscapone pizza. Their fried calamari is light and not greasy. You can wait for your table (the place is really tiny) at the wine bar next door, have a flight of wines, then have a great dinner. Another place owned by real Italians. I hear their gnocchi is fabulous, but I've never tried it, and I didn't see it on the menu.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: mixmastermidori

                                                      Just wondering if anyone has tried Betty Burgers yet. I drove by there yesterday, was stopped at the light, and someone was eating the biggest, juiciest looking burger I have seen in a long time at one of the outdoor table. *licking chops*

                                                      1. re: SCFoodLvr

                                                        I haven't been to Betty Burgers myself, but I've head several (say 4 or 5) people raving about the burgers and the fries. I'll have to load up on anti-fat pills and try it.

                                                        1. re: SCFoodLvr

                                                          I'm not the biggest burger fan, and I usually only love my mom's burgers, but after venturing over to Betty's Burgers and trying their Basic Betty Cheeseburger... OMG!!!! Best burger I've ever had. It has a mesquite flavor to it and all the toppings are great. I had the Basic Betty with I believe is a 1/3 lb burger and it was huge... I can't imagine how big the 1/2lb burger is! They also have sweet potato fries, which I can never find anywhere.

                                                          During one of my visits, a little girl bought an ice cream cone there and WOW, it was HUGE! It looked like the ice cream cones that you see in cartoons. Where the ice cream is 3 times as big as the cone itself. I'm looking forward to trying the ice cream and the chili-fries.

                                                          Another nicety about Betty's Burgers is you can call in an order ahead of time. I just wish they had their menu online.

                                                      2. A few things not mentioned:

                                                        Cafe Brazil on mission, great for breakfast or lunch
                                                        the afghani place near the rio, delicious and interesting.
                                                        hoffmans, quite tasty/with a delicious princess cake
                                                        the new mexican place at water and river - awesome, the new best in town.
                                                        oswalds is the best for fanciness.

                                                        1. I'm from the east coast, but my family spent a couple of days in SC. La Posta was closed, because we were there on a Monday, but Kianti had a serviceable pizza. It is noisy, but we went with kids, so we were happy for the cover the noise provided. Service was friendly, pizza was acceptable (I grew up in NYC, so pizza has to be pretty spectacular for me to get excited.) The dough was nice and fresh tasting, sauce good, and lots of cheese. Wish I could have gotten into La Posta, but we had a good time anyway. I also liked the Bad Ass Coffee bar for its free internet, and acceptable coffee, and nice fresh donuts, which I would never eat except when on vacation. Also liked going to Westside Coffee for its underground counterculture vibe.

                                                          1. is there still a janapese restaraunt on scotts valley drive called Aoi? and hbout cafe carlos?

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: captpinchcard

                                                              Aoi has become Rumblefish, another sushi/Japanese restaurant. Cafe Carlos is the Scotts Valley Diner now, not related to the Santa Cruz Diner.

                                                              1. re: mixmastermidori

                                                                Actually, Cafe Carlos is still Cafe Carlos. Scotts Valley Diner is what used to be Denny's.

                                                                1. re: ahclem

                                                                  Interesting to read all the comments about these reataurants. As a SC area local, its fun to read opinions. We eat out a couple of nights a week locally and enjoy Paradise Sushi in Capitola, Miyuki in Watsonville, or Sushi on the run for our sushi options. We also enjoy eating at the bar in Sanderlings at the Resort and have had some great meals there while enjoying the sunset on the bay. We never eat at Palapas. We Eat at Cafe Cruz alot and are never disappointed.
                                                                  Hula's has been a great addition to the downtown options and has great energy as well as drinks, food and service. IF you want fast and good pizza slices or whole pizzas there is a great little hole in the wall in Seacliff next to Manuels ...i think called Highway 1 pizza. La Posta is good as well and hope it is around for awhile.

                                                                    1. re: cindyinaptos

                                                                      What do you like at Sanderlings? I only ever hear bad things about them. Is the bar menu different than the one in the main dinning room?

                                                                      1. re: Matt of Aptos

                                                                        well - since they just got in trouble for poor hygiene practices I am taking back some of my postive recommendations. However, in the past couple of months I have ordered their specials and have not been disappointed.

                                                              2. Tampico Kitchen on Pacific Avenue-anyone been lately? Is it worth a visit? I started another thread asking for info for Tampico Kitchen with no responses so hoping to get some feedback here. Thanks so much.

                                                                1. Some thoughts:

                                                                  Zachary's: a Mike's Mess is good as always, but execution on a lot of the other dishes -- even an omelette sometimes -- is uneven. Cook will just douse something in oil, throw on 'way too much cheese (rarely is the problem "too little" at Zach's), etc. The wife and I often stop on weekdays on the way to work, and sometimes they just goof up. I like Zach's, and I like the owners, but a breakfast/lunch place requires absolute consistency to be top flight, and lately they haven't had it.

                                                                  O'Mei -- Gourmet Chinese Food "revision-ed" has always been the idea here. It's as good as it ever was. And there's always something great for dessert. Their house-made sorbets (from fresh local berries, etc.) are to die for.

                                                                  Engfer's Pizza. Fine pizza of the gourmet, less-is-more style. Wonderful flavors. Once the owners were away and the employees in charge lost control of the oven -- started scorching the crust. I dropped an email to the owners, and received a long reply about how they were attempting to find out what happened and keep it from happening again. So I feel good about the place.

                                                                  Taqueria Apatzingan -- just found this place on Barson at Lower Ocean from a Yelp review -- not a great neighborhood at all, fairly stark establishment (though clean), not particularly friendly owners (nor good at English) -- BUT BOY CAN THEY COOK! Few taquerias do pozole or steak milanesa, let alone well. Real authentic cooking here -- which makes sense, 'cause nobody speaks English well. More a food adventure than a great place to bring your date, though.

                                                                  Sabieng Thai -- okay, but nothing special.

                                                                  Tam's Chinese -- on the West Side. Forgettable but competent cheap Chinese food.

                                                                  Cafe Avanti -- good California-style Mediterranean-Italian with fresh ingredients. As good as it's even been this last ten years or so.

                                                                  Linda's Seabreeze -- our new, more reliable breakfast place of choice. Good breakfast food, totally reliable. Lunch menu's a bit start, but people really go for the breakfast.

                                                                  Theo's -- You won't get away for much under 100 unless you're not very hungry, or not a drinker. Maybe not even then. We went at Thanksgiving; hadn't been there for ten years, and liked it a lot better than ten years ago. Impeccable service, all the courses nicely timed, wonderful flavors, inventive dishes.

                                                                  Kianti's Pizza and Pasta, on Pacific. Relatively new place, went once for the calzone, because there's not a lot of that around here. There was very little flavor to it -- about as bland as a pizza-oid object can be. If that sauce doesn't come out of a can, they should _start_ buying it in cans, because the canned stuff has got to be better.

                                                                  Los Pinos. Cheap Mexican dining on the north side of downtown. Very casual and low-key, with decent country-style Mexican food. Also my favorite too-much-is-not-enough overstuffed plusharama burrito in town. Almost too rich for my digestion, but sure is tasty!

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: jimnshay

                                                                    Thank you for the updates also thanks to CarbLover too who keeps up on Santa Cruz area. Family and I have begun to spend time in Santa Cruz on weekends and holidays and it is not an easy area to get to know. I will be using this thread as a resource, thanks again.

                                                                    1. re: foodseek

                                                                      I hope you continue to report back on your SC dining adventures, foodseek. I look forward to trying Taqueria Apatzingan on jimnshay's list.

                                                                      I don't have too much to report on since I've been mostly cooking at home these days, but a few brief updates:

                                                                      El Palomar in downtown SC
                                                                      http://elpalomarcilantros.com/palomar...
                                                                      I've been here twice now for dinner, and I gotta say that I like this place! Nothing earth-shattering, but good, fresh Cal-Mex food in a nice atmosphere w/ good service. Portions are generous, margaritas are balanced, and they serve till relatively late for SC. We've stuck w/ the nightly specials each time and weren't disappointed. The seafood is very fresh and not overcooked, and the salsas have just the right amount of smolder. Handmade tortillas. Have heard their adjoining taco bar is pretty tasty. Happy hour 4-6pm pitchers for $11.

                                                                      O'Mei
                                                                      http://www.omeifood.com/
                                                                      This place is growing on me. The ingredients are good, and some of the dishes are very interesting and nuanced in spicing. We had a beef and sweet potato dish that was very good w/ nuggets of numbing peppercorns throughout. Quality of beef stood out. Some other dishes weren't as much to our liking or didn't seem to match our expectation from the description on the menu, but I'm motivated to wade through the menu. I find the atmosphere to be a little sterile, and the waitstaff kind of stiff and serious.

                                                                      Sawasdee in Soquel
                                                                      We ate there for dinner about a month ago. The food wasn't as good as we remembered, and the prices seem to have crept up while the portions seem to have shrunk. Perhaps it was just those dishes we ordered, but given that it's out of our way, we won't be rushing to return.

                                                                    2. re: jimnshay

                                                                      Have you tried any of the daily specials that are posted on the sign in the window at Apatzingan?

                                                                      I'll have to try some of the other offerings here as I have only used this place to fill the occasional pupusa craving.

                                                                    3. Some great food in SC area:
                                                                      Asada tacos at farmers market from the tamale stand. Greasy and great. I get them at the felton farmers market on Tuesdays in summer.

                                                                      La Cabana Taqueria: the fish tacos are fantastic. Good at both the westside mission and soquel drive locations. Not fried and often good and spicy.

                                                                      redwood pizzeria in Felton: this is a great and sincere pizza. really flavorful sauce and crust from nice people.

                                                                      Thai Noodle house: duck soup is hearty and great.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. We had pizza last night from Tonys and Albas in Scotts Valley. The Bianca was a mixture of white cheeses with fresh ricotta and the pesto pizza was also great. We picked up and the pizza was warm and service attentive. What I liked most of all was the crust was crisp and pizza not greasy.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: foodseek

                                                                          I've never had pizza from T&A's but live down the street from the one in SC, so will have to check it out sometime. I'm getting tired of always ordering from Pizza My Heart. I really want to like Engfer in Seabright, but just haven't been won over by their style of pizza. I find their crust kind of flavorless and the execution inconsistent.

                                                                          Now that we're on the pizza track, has anyone tried the new Woodstock Pizza next to Trader Joe's in Santa Cruz? I believe they opened last Fri.

                                                                          http://www.woodstockscruz.com/

                                                                          1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                            It's a solid place - "original" type of pizza (aka. not new york or chicago style). Tried wild bread with cheese and this takes the cake...dipping in ranch sauch, craving it right now! On pizzas...tons of toppings.

                                                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                                                              "Solid" is a good description of Woodstock's. Good, but not mind-blowing. Definitely better than PMH on an "off day." The distinctive thing about Woodstock's is the crust. Thin, but with a softer, more bread-like texture than NY style or NorCal pizza parlor style. At $2.50 a slice, it's a good deal for a quick lunch. Plus, they have plenty of seating and a parking lot. Give it a try.

                                                                              I tried Engfer once. I thought the sauce overwhelmed the flavor of everything else on the pizza. And, it was expensive for what I got.

                                                                              It's been a long time since I got a whole pie from T&A's. I loved them in the 90's. I get a slice for lunch once in awhile from the SC location, but they don't seem to be as good as I remember.

                                                                              1. re: Matt of Aptos

                                                                                I can't find my original post asking for SC restaurants, but we just got back and I have a short report.
                                                                                Our first night there, we were wandering downtown and happened upon a restaurant tasting event where downtown restaurants had tables in the middle of the street. There were 2 fantastic items. A green papaya salad made by a caterer whose name I didn't get (sorry!) and a truffle ,made by a new restauranteur, 515. It was fantastic. So we went there for dinner the next night and it was very good. Not killer fantastic. We have a carmalized onion soup that was the best thing we had! I had a steak that I would not have again. Game hen was swimming in sauce, and a lamb shank that was excellent! We shared a dessert - an upside down pear cake that was also great! They were very crowded, which was nice to see. Not inexpensive, but our dinner did not break the bank, either. Their address is 515 Cedar. The owner was once vegan, so her vegetarian stuff is her focus, though she has a co-chef whose focus is meats. The owner also is the pastry chef.
                                                                                Cafe Brazil breakfast did not disappoint, but the treat was the fallafel joint on Mission. Next door to that is a chocolate place so I bought a bunch of small packages of different flavored dark chocolates to bring back as gifts and they were wonderful!
                                                                                We came back thinking that Santa Cruz restaurants really focus on healthy, vegan, organic (that's was the majority of what we tasted Thurday night at the downtown event), not so much on high end gourmet. The ethnic foods were really wonderful!

                                                                          2. here are some links. Click on the map pins for a map and further discussion.

                                                                            Posters to this thread--can you fill in any details on the linked pages?

                                                                            -----
                                                                            Betty Burgers
                                                                            505 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

                                                                            Ristorante Avanti
                                                                            1711 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

                                                                            Soif Wine Bar & Retail
                                                                            105 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

                                                                            Cafe Brazil - duplicate
                                                                            Santa Cruz CA, Santa Cruz, CA

                                                                            Gabriella Cafe
                                                                            910 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

                                                                            La Posta
                                                                            538 Seabright Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

                                                                            Hula's Island Grill
                                                                            221 Cathcart St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

                                                                            Falafel of Scotts Valley
                                                                            3105 Scotts Valley Dr, Scotts Valley, CA 95066

                                                                            Theo's Restaurant
                                                                            3101 N Main St, Soquel, CA

                                                                            Il Trullo
                                                                            503 Water St, Santa Cruz, CA

                                                                            Cafe Limelight
                                                                            1016 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA

                                                                            Caruso's Tuscan Cuisine
                                                                            115 San Jose Ave, Capitola, CA 95010

                                                                            1. I wanted to add a link to the ongoing thread for Ambrosia India Bistro which is now open in Aptos where Bleu Spoon used to be:
                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/547107

                                                                              The food is very good (see my report on the thread) and I hope to see this place thrive. I've heard their lunch buffet is quite good, so I'm looking forward to trying it one of these weekends.

                                                                              -----
                                                                              Ambrosia India Bistro
                                                                              207 Sea Ridge Rd, Aptos, CA

                                                                              1. Veal, anyone?
                                                                                For his birthday, my husband wants veal, good veal. If we're honest we all know that Santa Cruz is the home of ostentatious prices and mediocre food. Does anyone know of a restaurant in the Monterey area that can prepare this tender morsel with the respect it deserves, not smothered in marinara and a1/2lb of cheese? Please don't make me cook...that would be an even worse experience for him and he's really a great guy. Help!

                                                                                Permalink | Report | Reply
                                                                                By fotophunc on Feb 14, 2011 02:07PM

                                                                                1. Go to Main Street Garden in Soquel. I lived here 55 yrs. ,A nice menu with young chefs. And the property is spectacular with it's terraced garden .

                                                                                  1. West End Tap & Kitchen between Swift and Fair is a new favorite, as is Bantam, just a block away. Keeping fingers crossed that Assembly will be a success, as well.

                                                                                    http://westendtap.com

                                                                                    http://www.bantam1010.com

                                                                                    http://assembleforfood.com

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: spiltinky

                                                                                      I'll have to try these places, because in my not-so-humble opinion, food in Santa Cruz is pretty bad.

                                                                                      1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                        Then you're not trying hard enough. ; >P

                                                                                        1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                          That's a pretty nasty blanket statement unless you've really tried a representative cross-section of places in town.

                                                                                          There are few places that I'd make a special trip for if I was living in Bay Area proper, but that doesn't mean the whole town deserves to be put-down. To me, Santa Cruz certainly lacks diversity of good restaurants. For example, there are few Asian restaurants that I'd go to bat for in the area.

                                                                                          But Soif is a world-class wine bar with excellent food. La Posta is not Cotogna, but I enjoy it more than Incanto, and as much as Barbacco. Bantam makes pizza that would proudly serve most SF neighborhoods. There are plenty of other good-to-very-good places within their genre, at least in my opinion.

                                                                                          1. re: bouncepass

                                                                                            Well, I liked Bonny Doon Cellar when it was open...but it's gone. I tried La Posta; it was good but not memorable.

                                                                                            Haven't been back at Au Midi in years, but enjoyed it when we were there.

                                                                                            Honestly, my favorite place to eat in Santa Cruz is from the Roli Roti truck at the Farmer's Market. The pork knuckles are very flavorful and the chicken is good.

                                                                                            Haven't been to Bantam yet and will try it. But I was let down by the Picnic Basket. The porchetti sandwich was serviceable, but we were looking for bold and daring.

                                                                                            Laili's is another one that I find good, but not great.

                                                                                            Not trying to make "nasty blanket statements," but Santa Cruz seems to be too insular to sustain outstanding cuisine.

                                                                                            It continues to amaze me that excellent Vietnamese food lies over the hill, but hasn't migrated to Santa Cruz. Nor has good Middle Eastern made its way from San Jose.

                                                                                            And we live in a paradise of locally grown produce, fish and seafood, and pasture-raised meat. Why is it not translating into outstanding local cuisine?

                                                                                            Produce grown in the Santa Cruz mountains fuels Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos. Will Santa Cruz not support a restaurant of that caliber?

                                                                                            1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                              >>> Will Santa Cruz not support a restaurant of that caliber?<<<

                                                                                              Perhaps, the answer is...it's a college town.

                                                                                              1. re: Gail

                                                                                                So is Berkeley. But our dinner last night at Assembly was a hopeful sign.

                                                                                                1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                                  please insert "small" in front of college town... but glad to know about Assembly.

                                                                                                  Berkeley is a whole different restaurant arena.

                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                            To my taste, Bantam has the best pizza in the Santa Cruz area. The style is modern Cal-Napolitano and leans chewy and slightly crispy. Slightly wet center. Good char, and nice balance of flavors. No reservations but the wait is generally at most 20-30 mins even on the busiest nights.

                                                                                            Other good pizza in town now:

                                                                                            Pizzeria Avanti - in the old Ristorante Avanti location. More of a NY style pizza. A nice contrast to Bantam.

                                                                                            La Posta - I generally get pasta when I'm here since it's the best in town, but their pizza is also very good.

                                                                                        2. We ate at Assembly tonight and it was terrific. Sophisticated, attractive, flavorful, excellent ingredients, beautifully plated. The servers were attentive and helpful.

                                                                                          The dinner started with slices of an outstanding levain-type bread. For mains we had the slow-cooked chicken with house made chorizo, white beans, artichokes and green olive relish. And we had the braised pasture-raised beef with roasted turnips, celery root puree, caramelized onion broth and fresh horseradish.

                                                                                          The chicken was a knock-out and the chorizo added good flavor. The beef and accompaniments were also tasty. I like to braise at home, and ordering braised foods in a restaurant is my test of the cooking chops of the place. Both of these dishes passed with flying colors.

                                                                                          There is a good wine and beer list, but a highlight for me was the presence of Navarro varietal pinot noir grape juice, an excellent non-alcoholic option.

                                                                                          For dessert, we had the milk bread with caramelized bananas, house made yogurt, candy cap mushroom ice cream and hazelnut praline. And we had the Bearss lime tart with jasmine meringue, lime confit, white chocolate ice cream and lime gelée.

                                                                                          Both desserts were extraordinary. Each component was perfect and set off the other components beautifully.

                                                                                          The desserts reflect the talent of co-owner Kendra Baker, former pastry chef at Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos. Zach Davis and Baker own Penny Ice Cream too.

                                                                                          The portions are moderate, so we probably would share a starter next time and share one dessert as well.

                                                                                          Everything was well-executed. The only quibble was that the roasted turnip was a little tough on the outside.

                                                                                          It feels like Santa Cruz has arrived.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                            Tried out Assembly this weekend for dinner. The place has the very trendy décor of hard surfaces everywhere, which makes the place pretty loud. It was possible to have a conversation, but I bet when there are larger parties, etc. it must be a challenge.

                                                                                            The service was competent, if slightly unprofessional for the price point (server didn't know wine list, busser took dirty dishes from one table to another, they reuse utensils for courses, etc.).

                                                                                            Overall I thought the food was pretty good, with a quibble or two. We started with the corn chowder and that was the weakest dish. It wasn't particularly hot when served and it was pretty thin in terms of both the amount of goodies in it and thickness of the liquid. It was just kind of there with a faint smokiness and sweetness.

                                                                                            Our other starter was a fabulous peach, mozzarella, and zucchini salad. Seasonal, simple, well seasoned and on point.

                                                                                            We shared an entrée of halibut with spaetzel, corn, lobster mushrooms, and hazel nuts. The fish was just barely overcooked, making it a touch dry in the thinner parts but largely ok. The mushrooms were treated with a deft hand and were the star of the dish. Overall I thought this was a well conceived dish featuring wonderful seasonal items.

                                                                                            Dessert was an almond cake with peaches and basil ice cream. The cake was the kind of course; rustic cake I love. The combination of the peaches with the basil ice cream stole the show though. Very good.

                                                                                            The wine list is compact and reasonable. Quite a few beer choices.

                                                                                            The place has been open about five months.

                                                                                          2. Should we start a new thread? This one is old.

                                                                                            My latest SC fave restaurant is Bantam. Wish I lived closer so I could go more frequently.

                                                                                            Hidden---no sign---in the developing hip West Side of Santa Cruz, Bantam is a wonderful place for a satisfying, delicious meal. The space is open and airy and good for a summer dinner.

                                                                                            The menu is small and changes daily, which guarantees fresh ingredients used creatively. One day it's a pork belly main course; the following day there's a crisp pork belly starter. Many people gravitate to the boneless fried chicken, whose accompaniments change with the season, maybe even daily. I've seen nettles, sunchokes, chard, almonds and other items on the fried chicken plate. Crisp and moist, the chicken is good.

                                                                                            I recently had a great stew of confit albacore, fresh cranberry beans, tomatoes and sweet peppers. The beans were still firm, which made for a satisfying dish. The side of tiny cabbages (just bigger than Brussels sprouts) and small potatoes with hazelnuts and basil was a good addition to our meal.

                                                                                            There is a small and interesting pizza menu which I haven't even started to explore because the mains are so good.

                                                                                            I also like the fresh non-alcohol seasonal drink options. Last night it was a crushed strawberry soda...sparkling, fresh, not sweet. After a couple of months of overly precious plating in France, it was good to come home to creative, attractive, delicious, fresh cuisine.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Discerning1

                                                                                              There are a few great spots in Santa Cruz I have not seen on this thread yet - Lillians Kitchen is great for Italian in the Seabright area.
                                                                                              Also, in that same neighborhood - my favorite sushi spot Akira