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Amazing Dinner Options in Santa Cruz, CA?

kbengler Mar 15, 2012 06:48 PM

Anyone have any suggestions? A friend of mine and I are celebrating our birthdays with a day in Santa Cruz and so far, none of the restaurants look promising for an amazing dinner.

We'd travel within 20 minutes or so of Santa Cruz from something (anything) great. Doesn't have to be completely upscale (though that's okay). Inspired and yummy. Anyone?

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  1. g
    Grape Nut RE: kbengler Mar 16, 2012 10:21 AM

    As an occasional visitor to Santa Cruz, I haven't tried many restaurants, but being a foodie, did some research before going. We thoroughly enjoyed Ristorante Avanti. The wild mushroom pasta special last fall was outstanding. Oswald was good. Next time I go back, I'm going to make a special effort to go to Manresa in Los Gatos. It's a bit more than 20 minutes away, a bit over the top, but sounds like a special experience worth the effort and expense. For lunch, I'd highly recommend Cafe Campesino which serves terrific authentic Mexican food. We returned day after day and loved everything we tried. It's located in a kiosk on Pacific Avenue.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Grape Nut
      kbengler RE: Grape Nut Mar 16, 2012 10:32 AM

      Thanks! Will look into these.

    2. b
      budnball RE: kbengler Mar 16, 2012 10:26 AM

      Look up 515 Kitchen and cocktails. The menu may not seem upscale but the the food is great and cocktails are inspired! Also the BoonyDoon cafe can be up or down but they have a new chef which can only be good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: budnball
        kbengler RE: budnball Mar 16, 2012 10:32 AM

        Oh great. Will check it out. Thank you!

      2. r
        randej RE: kbengler Mar 16, 2012 11:17 AM

        Definitely Avanti on Mission.

        LaiLi (not sure about the spelling) just off of Pacific is unique & good, great atmosphere & great outside dining.

        Cafe Cruz is always high energy and a great place for celebration.

        Scopazzi's in Boulder Creek is surprisingly & consistently good .. great caesar made at the table and nice size glasses for your cocktails!

        1 Reply
        1. re: randej
          syrahgirl RE: randej Mar 16, 2012 11:40 AM

          This past Valentine's Day we dined at Hoffman's Bistro. It was recently featured on Restaurant Impossible. The food was fantastic and the decor is beautiful! We also really enjoyed our meal at Aquarius @ The Dream Inn. Very contemporary ambiance, beautiful views and great food and service. In nearby Capitola there is The Shadowbrook Inn which has a trolley car that takes you down to the dining room. We dined at Caruso in Capitola this past Wed. night. It is a small Italian venue with good food tho the dining room was drafty the night we dined there. Paradise Beach Grill in Capitola is also very good. :)

        2. r
          randej RE: kbengler Mar 18, 2012 10:26 PM

          Adding 2 more exceptional go-to restaurants:
          Gabriella's & La Posta.
          Hands down two of the best in Santa Cruz.

          4 Replies
          1. re: randej
            bulavinaka RE: randej Mar 25, 2012 04:20 PM

            La Posta was great...

            1. re: bulavinaka
              randej RE: bulavinaka Mar 25, 2012 05:16 PM

              So, what did you have?!?

              1. re: randej
                kbengler RE: randej Mar 25, 2012 05:48 PM

                We went to Oswald. Food was great, but we were starving by the time we got there and portions were pretty small. We were both still hungry by the time our entrees were gone.

                That's my only complaint thought. The food was really great.

                1. re: randej
                  bulavinaka RE: randej Mar 25, 2012 06:28 PM


                  Scroll down to my last full day in SC. REALLY love this town...

            2. Jimonthebeach RE: kbengler Mar 25, 2012 05:57 PM

              I suggest the Cellar Door at Bonny Doon Vineyard or Manresa in Los Gatos.

              1. c
                cindy jewell RE: kbengler Apr 10, 2012 12:59 PM

                If you have not tried Lillian's you should consider it. Also, If you go to Cafe Cruz and it is just two of you - request seats at the cooks counter .

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