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Oct 17, 2007 06:42 AM

lunch in santa cruz suggestions

I am taking my daughter and family (2 small kids) and college age son, all with pretty sophisticated tastes to lunch in or near santa cruz this Saturday. Something very good and not over the top expense-wise. Any suggestions?

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  1. Ristorante Avanti, 1711 Mission St., Santa Cruz, open for lunch 11:30-2:00. It's in a strip mall on a busy street, but sophisticated it is... most lunch entrees in the $9-$15 range. California-Med cuisine with local produce and wines.I think it'll work for you. Google it for details.

    A lot of the dinner houses in Santa Cruz proper don't serve lunch on Saturday, so that cuts your options down a bit.

    1. And, if it's a nice day....try Aldo's at the Harbor. Great ambience and wonderful calamari. But, you can't go wrong with Avanti. It's wonderful, great pasta and quiche specials.

      1. I am back from Santa Cruz and for lunch we went to a small downtown restaurant that was close to where we were when we got hungry (not memorable) but for dinner we went to O'Mei Chinese food, a very old time Chinese restauant on Mission Street in a small strip mall.
        The food was not cheap, but it was supurb! Everything we had was terrific. Twice cooked pork was a tad too salty, but everthing else was great. The most memorable dish was tofu with dates. Sounds weird but was first rate. The service was very nice. They greeted us out by bringing 8 small plates of starters that if we liked, we could just put on the tabel (for $3 each) and send the rest back. Wonderful edemame, green beans that were like the green bean and pork dish you see in some Hong Kong places, but it was actually vegetarian, and other wonderful looking dishes. We had a 3 year old and 5 year old with us, a vegetarian and 2 meat/seafood eaters. So we had a variety of dishes, all good.
        The service was good - and they had a 15% service charge that they expalined on the back of the menu, went 2/3 to the chefs and 1/3 to the servers. It was a long explanation about not raising their prices, but doing this because in most restaurants the cooks are not able to be paid well enough to stick around after they reach high levels. Apparently it's illegal for servers to pool their tips with cooks. So they encourage patrons to tip 5-10% on top of the service charge if they liked the service. We did and we did, hapily, and I really enjoyed the lengthy explanation. I know Santa Cruz is a politically active place, but this place has apparently been there forever, and was not the kind of place one would expect to be this politically forward. It was very nice!

        2 Replies
        1. re: abacal

          I was going to recommend them in my post, but you specified lunch, and they don't do lunch on Saturdays. O'mei is one of the premiere restaurants of Santa Cruz, and congratulations for finding it.

          It's a unique place. The owner travels to Asia often, gets ideas, comes back and creates dishes "inspired" by what he had with his own twists and variations, often incorporating local produce. The most spectacular thing I ever had there was the berry sorbet (made from fresh local berries), not Asian at all; it practically sent me through the roof. Amazing flavor!

          1. re: abacal

            Thanks for your report back! We might have been at O'mei at the same time if it was Sat. night. I hadn't been in a long time but the food was very good and satisfying. Two of us stuck w/ the spicier Sichuan dishes and ordered: red oil dumplings; ma la beef w/ potatoes; and sha cha fish w/ green beans; white rice. Fish of the day was ono. We also got a pot of pu-erh tea and a little bowl of the seaweed starter they brought out on the tray. You can tell they use quality ingredients. The beef was particularly delicious, and the numbing peppercorns were fun. This is one of the better places in town for food, service, and consistency. They do well w/ groups too.

            I was surprised to learn about their automatic service charge, but I certainly have no problem w/ it as long as it's transparent. I didn't notice it on the menu, but there's a brief explanation on the bill. What I find puzzling is that Chilean sea bass is their house fish when it remains on the Seafood Watch "avoid" list...

            Sorry to hear your lunch downtown wasn't as good. I don't have any favorite lunch spots downtown, but Hoffman's on Pacific Ave. is solid. I've also read positive reports for Chocolate (next door to Bookshop SC) and Cafe Limelight (kind of hidden on Cedar St).

          2. I would suggest Gabriella Café (910 Cedar St. downtown Santa Cruz). The food is a Mediterranean style and in keeping in line with that they always use fresh ingredients from the local farmers market. The atmosphere is very casual but the food is sophisticated and fabulous. I stop there every time I drive up north from LA.