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Santa Cruz for East-Coaster

  • d

I'll be visiting my kiddo - grad student at UCSC - and I would appreciate some recommendations. I have some wildly disparate categories, so please indulge me.

1. Mexican - decidedly lacking here in Boston. Can be simple but something more than a taqueria.
2. Sushi
3. special dinner. I'm thinking La Posta? We have lots of good Italian here but the locavore take would be interesting.

Thanks for any help.

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La Posta
538 Seabright Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

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  1. I enjoy the small plates, made with mostly local ingredients, served at Bonny Doon's Cellar Door.

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    Las Islitas
    45 Brooklyn St, Watsonville, CA 95076

    Cellar Door
    328 Ingalls St, Santa Cruz, CA

    1. Santa Cruz is beautiful, but not a culinary capital. That said, here are a few suggestions:

      There's a small joint called "Jalapeno's" that is a few steps above a taqueria. (they often have a good enchilada special.) But if you like seafood (and from the Sushi query, I assume you do) then drive 10 minutes south of Santa Cruz to Watsonville and go to Las Islitas -- it's in a dodgey looking strip mall. But the food is good especially for brunch/lunch.

      3 Replies
      1. re: escargot3

        "Santa Cruz is beautiful, but not a culinary capital."

        That's the truth!

        However there is an excellent kitchen supply store downtown. Must be everyone who cares about food is home cooking.

        You might grab a cup of coffee out on the end of the pier at the candy store. They make a nice brew and stick a huge ole honking piece of fudge on the rim.

        1. re: rainey

          I always stop in the kitchen supply store when I'm in DT Santa Cruz, which is maybe once a year. I always find something there I can't find (or haven't seen) anywhere else.

          1. re: rainey

            Chefworks is SC's answer to SLT or WS. I've worked there in the past. They offer a 10% discount to food service professionals.

            Pacific Ave. offers 4 coffee companies within 4 blocks!

        2. Cafe Carlos for Mexican in near by Scott's Valley which is more high end residential - Silicon Valley crowd. The little towns around SC might be worth exploring: Aptos, Capitola etc.

          1. 1. Even after many years, I have yet to find a higher-end type Mexican restaurant around Santa Cruz, though my search certainly hasn't been exhaustive. Personally, if I came here from the East Coast I'd probably just go crazy on taquerias since we do those pretty well. Everyone has a different favorite, but mine by far is Taqueria La Cabana on Mission. Another great option is Garcia Family Mexican Kitchen at the farmer's markets (Saturday West Side and Sunday Live Oak for sure, I believe they're also at the Wednesday Downtown market but not 100% sure). They have great homemade tortillas for their gorditas, sopes, etc. I have heard good things about Las Islitas in Watsonville and that's very high on my to-try list - glad to hear another recommendation.

            2. IMO, great sushi requires a large enough community that's willing to spend $$ on top ingredients. That's not really the local demographic. I think Otoro in Scotts Valley is the best place around by some margin, but definitely a tier lower than the best places in Silicon Valley.

            3. La Posta is an excellent choice. I would second Cellar Door as being less Italian and more California cuisine with the same focus on local organic ingredients, etc. Disadvantage of CD is that the wine list is exclusively Bonny Doon, which I'm not a huge fan of. But I think the food is terrific, they have a very nice beer list (all bottles but long and well thought-out) and maybe a style of food less easily found in Boston.

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            La Posta
            538 Seabright Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

            Taqueria La Cabana
            2332 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

            Cellar Door
            328 Ingalls St, Santa Cruz, CA

            1 Reply
            1. re: bouncepass

              just to clarify:
              las islitas is a certified sorta funky hole-in-the-wall that is fairly large. And has lottsa clientele and therefore fresh food.

            2. Not mentioned in previous posts that you might consider:

              El Palomar or Tampico's on Pacific Ave. for Mexican
              Shogun on Pacific Ave. or Pink Godzilla on 41st for Japanese
              Bocci's Cellar on Encinal or Ristorante Avanti on Mission - Italian-esque

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              Ristorante Avanti
              1711 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

              Pink Godzilla
              830 41st Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

              Bocci's Cellar
              140 Encinal St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

              El Palomar Restaurant
              1344 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060