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Santa Cruz to Monterey.... what's not to miss?

We'll be spending lunch and dinner in this area on Saturday, and then breakfast on Monday before heading down for the coastal drive.... hopefully in time to get to Jocko's in Nipomo for dinner.

We're trying to keep our budget in check, but I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from talking about a more expensive place-- but only if it's an absolute across-the-board winner. We can't afford to drop $75-$100 unless the meal is going to be spectacular. (2 people, without drinks). Otherwise, we'd like to keep the bill down to $30-40 for 2 people.

But let's try to keep the discussion focused on high food quality to low to moderate cost... preferably with a nod to the local foods of these towns.

Thanks hounds!

Mr Taster

P.S. For reference, we live in Los Angeles and are coming from San Francisco

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  1. If you're coming from SF, on your way to Santa Cruz, you might consider lunch at Sandabs in Scotts Valley (10 minutes inland from Santa Cruz). You asked where to find sand dabs on the SFBay Board but I didn't reply there since Scotts Valley is in the CA Board.

    Anyway, the restaurant Sandabs serves sand dabs as a regular entree on their dinner menu, but not as an entree in the lunch menu, so if you're set on dabs at lunch you should call ahead to ask if they're available. Having said that, I haven't had the dabs here (the chance to eat MSC-certified chiliean sea bass has been too good to pass up), but I've heard they are very good, and their seafood is consistently ultra-fresh. My husband & I, and those we've brought here, have had mixed experiences in the taste department - either out of this world-excellent, or just ok. So it's a gamble. It's the kind of place for decently priced, very fresh seafood, prepared simply but skillfully. And if you use the restaurant.com certificate, it can be $30 for 2 people.

    I think others on the CA Board are better at suggesting places in Santa Cruz & south to Monterey, but it might help to clarify your question: You need lunch & dinner in Santa Cruz on Saturday, then breakfast in Monterey on Monday? Or you're looking for any suggestions from Santa Cruz to Monterey & in between, for both Saturday & Monday morning?

    1. Forgot to add Places link:

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      Sandabs
      11 Camp Evers Ln, Scotts Valley, CA 95066

      1. There's Phil's, in Moss Landing -- off Hwy. 1, a bit north of Monterey. Combo fish market and order-at-the-counter restaurant, with paper plates & plastic cutlery (last I was there anyway, a few years back). Great restaurant-style fish preps though -- sauces matched to each dish, although all come with the same pilaf and salad. Not as cheap as it used to be, but still fairly reasonable. Excellent fish quality.

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        Phil's Fish Market & Eatery
        7600 Sandholdt Rd, Moss Landing, CA 95039

        4 Replies
        1. re: Steve Green

          WE love to stop at the Sea Harvest in Moss Landing- which is on HWY 1, right at the harbor. Great views, we love the oysters and all the fried fish combos. Have never had a bad meal at any Sea Harvest- but this is my favorite just for the view. We love to cut over to HWY 101 from this location- takes you to Prunedale in a quick minute....

          Enjoy your drive!

          1. re: JalamaMama

            I've been to Sea Harvest at least six times, and there's always something not quite right with my food there. But it is a lovely spot for the view and not that expensive. Best bets are the fish and chips or variations thereof, otherwise the execution falls off dramatically. I used to order the oysters as a reliable starter, but the last ones were so bad, I've crossed those off the list too.

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            Sea Harvest Fish Market
            2420 Highway 1, Moss Landing, CA 95039

          2. re: Steve Green

            Like you, Steve, loved Phil's some years back, but recall a downhill slide and haven't seen any recent reports. Would love to hear otherwise. My memory and last visit however brings up the old quote from Yogi Berra, "No one goes there anymore. It is too crowded."

            1. re: PolarBear

              We're not in that area much any more -- I think we've been there twice since their big expansion, but not for a few years. On our last visits, we thought the quality was the same, but there had been a definite uphill slide to the prices.

          3. (reporting from nipomo, home of jocko's)

            Too late now, but Sushi On The Run across the street from the Safeway Center on Soquel Dr. in Aptos is a great spot to grab freshly made sushi in a fast-food type spot.

            Located in an old service station (dining is in the old service bay). The owners at one time had a very popular sit down restautant, retired, and eventually opened up Sushi On The Run. Great freshness, quality, and reasonable price.

            Haven't been in a couple of years, I hope this place is still open. It's very busy weekdays at lunch, but the wait isn't long.

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            Sushi On the Run
            7957 Soquel Dr, Aptos, CA

            1. Hi! Just curious to see what you thought of Jocko's. We'll be doing a trip similar to yours next month, am trying to get a sense of how good Jocko's is. We are already dining at Ventana in Big Sur, so like you I only want to spend a ton if it's worth it. What other restaurants did you go to? Thx!

              2 Replies
              1. re: needletoofar

                Just a heads-up...I read recently that Cielo (Ventana dining room) is closed for revamping. They did say the Bistro is open though. They were vague as to when it would reopen. You might want to check if you haven't done so.

                1. re: Gail

                  Gail, thanks for the heads up! Saves me some embarrassment when i would have called to make a reservation a couple weeks from now. I guess I'll check out the restaurant at Post Ranch Inn...(and maybe Jocko's).