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Carblover et al: SCruz south to Carmel

We're coming from Boston for our annual March Cal. vaca. I'm catching up on the cal.CH board, but also want to ask you directly for advice.We'll be in Carmel for a week with 2 nights in SCruz going to concerts at Don Quixote's.
For SCruz: Any reports on DQ's for Mex. dinner? Is Cafe Brazil still the best spot for brkfst?
If we have dinner elsewhere before the 2 shows at DQ, where should we go- Soif? and...?

Any current suggestions for Salinas, Watsonville, Monterey Peninsula?Delicious food
is the goal, but not plain american food or fried seafood. boston is overloaded with italian food, so we tend to not seek it out in cal, but if an italian place is the best option, we're game.For brkfst we like katy's and for dinner we usually have luck at flying fish, il fornaio, rio grill, grazing's, montrio; all bistro type places.we've had mixed luck in recent yrs. at roys, highlands,pebble beach ,manresa, and the 2 same-owner french places in carmel whose names elude me-so we tend to stay away from those exp. places. the mex. place that we really liked- alto plena or something like that- in watsonville- changed hands and was really a let down last march when we ate there.Any and all suggestions are really appreciated.
Thanks much.

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  1. Here's my Santa Cruz breakfast review of a few months ago including Cafe Brazil:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/394749

    3 Replies
    1. re: Ian F

      thank you ian. extremely helpful. an important question: we will be there for bkfst on a MONDAY morning; will that affect our restnt choice either because of menu or closed times? thank you again.

      1. re: opinionatedchef

        Good question. I believe all but 515 Kitchen and Cocktails, where I believe it is a weekend only brunch, should be OK on a Monday morning. I think most open around 8:00 A.M.

        1. re: Ian F

          thanks so much Ian. all your work on this is sooo helpful.

    2. Hi opinionatedchef! Here's my 2 cents:

      Based on the linked report from '06, I think it would be wise to avoid eating at Don Quixote's. Sounds like the music is their focus. I've never eaten anywhere else in Felton, but if I were in that area, I would go to Taqueria Vallarta, a local chain that is solid but not great IMO.

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/88673...

      If you are wine lovers and feel more like sipping and "snacking", then Soif is a good choice. I'm happiest when I order some wine tastes and small plates, but my husband usually leaves a little hungry and unsated. They do have regular entrees, but portions run on the small side. For similar quality of food w/ larger portions, I'd recommend Ristorante Avanti on the westside. Gabriella Cafe has a new chef doing some interesting things w/ local ingredients, but reports on their food and service have always been mixed, the place is small, and word is that it's up for sale.

      http://www.soifwine.com/

      http://www.gabriellacafe.com/

      You might consider exploring food in Scotts Valley since you can head to Felton from there. Some places that I've heard positive reports on are Falafel of Scotts Valley (casual Middle Eastern), In Vino Veritas (Italian), and Rumblefish (sushi). There is a Cambodian restaurant, Jia Tellas, that opened up a while back but I don't know if it's any good.

      Alice's Falafel report: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/342769

      Alice's Rumblefish report: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/312818

      Jia Tellas' website: http://www.jiatellas.com/

      Actually, Scotts Valley is supposed to have some good, down-home breakfast places like Heavenly Cafe and Auntie Mame's. I've never been because I don't eat big breakfasts and prefer to go down to Aldo's at the yacht harbor which is close to our house. I've heard Heavenly is better than AM's for items like eggs benedict. AM's is supposed to have biscuits and gravy. Cafe Brasil is still very popular, but the waits during the UC school year are so awful that I never go.

      http://aldos-cruz.com/

      http://www.cafebrasil.us/

      Unfortunately, I'm completely out of touch w/ places in the Peninsula area. I also haven't been exploring Watsonville Mexican lately. There have been mixed reports on Fiesta Tepa Sahuayo (where we met up), and I wasn't that wowed my last meal there. I think your "alto plena" is El Alteno? If so, that was owned by the brother of the FTS owner. Has it changed over to someone else?

      Actually, my favorite restaurant in the county is Miyuki in Watsonville on E. Lake. Everything there is delicious from the sushi to the cooked dishes, and the "chief" makes an uncommonly found battera sushi. The chicken and udon in claypot as well as the yosenabe soups are both excellent. Chawan mushi is always a favorite of mine but you must order at least two.

      For the Carmel area, I have Stokes, Corkscrew Cafe & Marinus at Bernardus Lodge on my to-try list. Seaside is supposed to have some good ethnic options, but I haven't really explored that area much. For Salinas, search for Melanie Wong's taco truck reports.

      And finally, in case you haven't seen it, this ongoing thread has a bunch of updates and suggestions for the SC area: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/369233

      Have a great visit, and I'll add more if I think of anything else. Look forward to your report back.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        CL, thanks so much for taking the time to write all this. i'll be reading it all!
        yes, el alteno IS the place. don't bother going. changed owners sometime between 3/ 06 and 3/07 and not good, per our visit of 3/07. phooey! and of course, i will provide detailed report upon our return or before!

        so glad you are still such an active poster. your CH community is VERY lucky to have you out there.

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          Sorry to hear about El Alteno--such a shame. I like that plaza area of Watsonville and hope that they develop it into more an attraction area for tourists and locals alike. On our drive to Miyuki a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a few new Mexican places, including a nieves/ice cream vendor. I should really spend the spring/summer exploring more of Watsonville's eateries...

          Glad to be of service, OC. Have a great time, and I hope you have good weather when you come out!

        2. re: Carb Lover

          Scotts Valley does have some great places to eat and I did a chowhound review http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38402... of the Cambodian restaurant Jia Tellas when it first opened. I posted an update http://mahtin.wordpress.com/2007/12/2... a month ago. As you can guess, I really like this place and yes, I still think the chicken curry stew is my favorite dish!

          That's all well and good for lunch or dinner; however breakfast is the most important meal of the day and for that it's always Auntie Mame's in Scotts Valley for me. They have a wide assortment of choices and a specials menu every day. Newspapers are outside and sometimes there is a wait - always a good sign! There's a classic old-world feel to Auntie Mame's and that's a good thing.

          Falafel of Scotts Valley is next to Auntie Mame’s and it’s also consistently good.

          Bottom line, if you’re driving on Highway-17 to or from Santa Cruz, why not stops in Scotts Valley to eat - we don’t have parking meters!

          1. re: mahtin

            Thanks for your follow up on Scotts Valley eats! I missed the Jia Tella reports after it opened, so thanks for linking. I will have to check it out sometime. The Mercury News blurb said the owners are trying to be similar to Chez Sovan in San Jose.

            http://www.mercurynews.com/restaurant...

            What are your favorite items at Auntie Mame's? Have you eaten at Heavenly Cafe or In Vino Veritas recently? Please continue to keep us updated on all the Scotts Valley eateries!

        3. Sorry if this is a bit late, I haven't been on the boards for some time. I'm not sure if your 2 nights in Santa Cruz is actually in Santa Cruz, or in Felton, since Don Quixote's is in Felton. I don't have any solid advice for breakfast in Santa Cruz; we like Hoffman's Bakery (been there 3x now), but haven't tried Cafe Brazil, and we didn't like Gigi's, Zachary, or Kelly's.

          I don't have much dinner experience in Santa Cruz but if you want ethnic/unique, a place that blew me away is the Afgahni restaurant on Soquel St. (I did a search and the name might be Parwana but I'm not sure). We went there with a group and tried a lot of things and everything was great with good balance in spicing & flavors. However CL's report of this place is more lukewarm and she might be more experienced in Afgahni food than me.

          However if you are in fact staying in Felton, I echo the sentiment to have bfast in Scotts Valley, either at Heavenly Cafe for their consistently awesome eggs benny, or Auntie Mame's for their scrambles (plus fast service and crispier hashbrowns).

          Re: Jia Tellas, we've now been there 4 or 5 times and tried most things on the menu. We really like it but I suspect some aspects of the recipes have been "californianized" - not dumbed down, just maybe not wholly authentic. Still, the flavors are great and the ingredients very good and the owners & young adults working there are super nice. Plus they have the best (the only?) gelato in Scotts Valley. For the other Scotts V places, I continue to like the Falafel place but it's more a lunch place. A somewhat hidden gem is the Cal-italian fare at Scotts Valley Grill, tucked in a tiny building behind the Auntie Mame's/Falafel of SV strip.

          I'm sorry I haven't tried any places in Felton for dinner, but have heard some crazy things about Ciao Bella, a very crazy kooky kind of place in Ben Lomond a few miles north of Felton. I have to say it's not famous for the chow but for the vibe and "spectacle" of eating there. I'm not recommending it, I'm just saying it might be fun if you're into that kind of thing. Pictures on their website to give you a feel:
          http://www.ciaobellabenlomond.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: Alice Patis

            Nice to hear from you, Alice! Parwana is no more and closed in the fall of last year. There was a note on their window saying that they may eventually do some catering and open a retail market of sorts, but it sounded very tentative.

            Batik Cafe is the restaurant that has taken their place. It's an Indonesian place actually owned by a family from Central Java, I believe. We went for dinner once soon after they opened and thought the food was just ok. I would definitely try them again if I were in the mood for that type of cuisine. The family seems very nice, and it would be great to get an update on the place now that they've been open for a while. Any recent reports?

            We've been back to Hoffman's since our breakfast w/ you and it didn't seem quite as good as our first time. I had the huevos rancheros, and it tasted kinda bland for that kind of dish. They are definitely light on the seasoning, grease, and salt, so it feels healthier than most breakfast places. Their basket of scones rocks though, and the eggs benedict is good.

            http://www.hoffmansbakery.net/

            We've been to Walnut Ave. Cafe once for breakfast and found it enjoyable, even if the food was not that special. I liked the boisterous yet relaxed vibe, and the service was good even though they were slammed (as usual). The eggs benedict at Hoffman's is superior though...

            http://www.walnutavenuecafe.com/id17.htm

          2. I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned here, but a few years ago I was taken by business associates to a place in Felton called The Cowboy Diner (6155 Hwy 9, Felton, CA 95018 Phone: 831-335-2330. No web site that I can find).

            It looks exactly like you'd imagine a place called the Cowboy Diner would look, but the menu was a lot more imaginative than I would have expected. Unfortunately I can't remember much of it, but I do remember having a really good meal and seeing a bunch of other dishes I would have liked to try. Way above anything else I've found in Felton.

            I can also give a thumbs up to Jia Tella's. My favorites there are the Amok with catfish and the Lemon Grass Stir-Fry. No idea how authentic, but really tasty.

            And for breakfast in Scotts Valley, I'd add a recommendation for Mollies Country Cafe (219 Mount Hermon Rd Ste F, Scotts Valley, Phone: (831) 438-8313). Nothing fancy, straight-ahead local hangout breakfast stuff.

            And Rumblefish remains as good as ever.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ahclem

              Glad to hear that Rumblefish is still good - I've been wanting to go back for the longest time... Will have to make more of an effort! And I've got to try Jia Tella's too - maybe I can even remember what the Amok tasted like in November when I was actually in Cambodia!