Soif Wine Bar in Santa Cruz
I've had dinner at Soif many times. In my experience, almost always spot-on. Probably my top pick for a place to eat in Santa Cruz (along with Ristorante Avanti). Some of my favorite small plates: roasted fingerling potatoes, any squid dish, jamon serrano, lamb meatballs, stuffed piquillo peppers and maitake mushroom tempura. The larger plates tend to rotate more often, but I'd say that most things are terrific. I prefer to go with at least one other person so we can share a bunch of dishes. And if such things matter to you, Soif has a terrific wine list including lots of by-the-glass options (see online menu), albeit fairly Euro-centric (a plus in my opinion but YMMV).
Other places to consider besides the above-mentioned Avanti: Gabriella Cafe and Oswald.