Your question gives me a perfect opportunity to thank all the Santa Cruz hounds who steered me to Fiesta Tepa Sahuayo on 1st St in Watsonville. Although we have a little bit of trouble finding 1st St and the restaurant, once we got there we were amazed. We were greeted by the owner (I presume) who welcomed us and explained that the menu had both standard dishes and very unusual Mexican food. I had the special tamales, one of which was stuffed with corn smut, one stuffed with shrimp, and one stuffed with ground turkey. Compared with standard tamales, these were most extraordinary. They were wrapped inside green chilies and had more filling than masa. They were accompanied - or rather were lying on top of - four sauces, one brown , one green, and two in different shades of red. One of my friends had the chile rellenos, large chilies stuffed with ground turkey and covered with a walnut sauce. The other friend had rose petal sauce with shrimp; it was an amazing pinkish purple in color. All the dishes were served on huge plates and were very filling. Two of the dishes came with cheese filled quesidillas. I am very used to standard norteno Mexican food. All three dishes that we had were unlike anything I had ever eaten with complex and interesting flavors, oftentimes a bit sweeter than what I think of a standard Mexican food. This is an amazing restaurant, and I believe anyone interested in food, particularly food that does not taste like what we usually eat, will love this place.
Thanks for reporting back, ed. Glad you and your pals liked FTS. After our first time, I remember feeling like I had tasted flavors and spices I had never been exposed to before. I need to get back there soon.
To Matt: Here's my list for Watsonville broken down into categories...
Consistently very good based on actual experience:
Fiesta Tepa-Sahuayo (of course!)
El Alteno (owned by bro of FTS owner): more Mex-Am menu but tasty and comfy. Good place for margaritas and festive atmos. Patio out back. On Main St. near downtown square.
Miyuki: we primarily go for sushi, but the cooked dishes look very good too. On E. Lake west of E. Lake Shopping Center.
Places to try:
Las Islitas Mariscos: I think that's the name. On Main St. east of Target, next to La Esperanza market. Supposed to have good shrimp dishes.
Hungerford's BBQ: E. Lake Shopping Center. Heard about wide body ribs, cole slaw, beans.
Green Valley Grill: On N. Green Valley more towards town of Freedom. Steaks, roasted and grilled meats, etc. A little pricier than other places on my list.
Imura: corner of Main and Green Valley. Japanese place w/ small Korean menu. I wouldn't order Japanese food, but Korean menu sounds interesting.
El Molcajete: Oaxacan hole in wall around Riverside and Union.
Farmer's market: On Fri. from 3-7pm on Main St. around OSH. I think there may be some good Mex. food stalls, maybe BBQ? Maybe just wishful thinking but I love farmer's markets.
Lucy's Tamale Factory: on Main St. going towards downtown.
For Asian/Japanese groceries:
Yamashita Grocery: On Union just north of Riverside. Nice folks, good basic inventory.
Place I wasn't crazy about:
Lil India: No. Indian food in E. Lake Shopping. Only been once for lunch buffet but food didn't taste distinctive enough to warrant the drive out.
I think Watsonville has tons of chowish places awaiting your discovery! As you can see, my to try list grows more quickly than I get down there. In particular, there are many taquerias and diners that I wonder about. Have fun sniffing around and let us know what you discover!
re: Carb Lover
I live in Watsonville, and I don't get out as much as I'd like, but here's some additions to Carb Lover's list:
-Taqueria Mi Tierra on Freedom Blvd: #1 only, I think it's across from Wendys' and a mini storage place, not #2 at the KMART shopping center. #1 is classic northern food, my favorite is the shrimp cocktail, my husband loves the various meat tacos. (#2 is owned by the son I believe and isn't up to the same standards at all.)
-D'la Colmena is a thriving market with a bustling taco counter downtown (I can't remember what street! sorry about that): a great cheap place to get a delicious lunch or dinner to go.
-of course: Corralitos Market for sausage sandwiches on Corralitos Blvd
-Hector's Panaderia on Airport Blvd. for great tortillas and more meat tacos and burritos: a must try
I'll post again if I think if more.
re: Green Valley Grill: I think I like Bittersweet Bistro just up the road a piece in southern Aptos just off the freeway better, but I admit I've not been to either in a while.
As a native of Watsonville, now in SF, NEVER thought I'd see the day when a long list of entrys would appear on Chowhound!
Some of my favs include Taylor's Chili Dogs; Yamashita's Market for all the wonderful goods (and rice paper candy of my youth); old style (owned by same family for years) Golden Rickshaw on 1115 Freedom Blvd (upper/north of Main Street. Americanized-Cantonese- Chinese food at low prices,especially at lunch. The home made barbque pork outstanding, as is chowmein with PAN FRIED NOODLES! and fried rice. Open all day.Call for schedule at 831- 724 - 4045, believe they are closed Tuesdays; Corralitos Market (kielbasa is local favorite); Come Fall--check out local apple stands, like Lena Kesovia's 57 Riverside Dr (just over the bridge, past High School, Buddhist Temple on Bridge)--Lena is fun oldtime local character and farms the entire orchards herself.
Buy tickets early for the not to be missed (and always sold out) 44th Annual annual Watsonville Buddhist Temple Teriyaki Dinner SEPTEMBER 24, 2005. Temple is located at 423 Bridge St. 831-7247860.
Can't wait to try FTS and Hungerford's on next trip. Thanks Chowhounds for featuring these hometown spots to others! After years of Watsonville being passed on the road to Carmel, Monterey --there is again a reason for everyone to stop by for a small town/restaurant experience!
re: Matt of Aptos
Italian food and Watsonville don't go together as far as I know. Cassidy's is a great place for many reasons: but food isn't the top. They are locally owned, community minded, the pizza is better than the disgusting cheap chains that line Freedom Blvd. Cassidy's does school fundraisers, they invited my son's preschool into their kitchen for a field trip where the 4 year olds got to make their own pizzas. For all these reasons, my family does (rarely) buy pizza there. But anyone traveling to Watsonville or living here looking for a great chowish meal is going to be better off with Mexican or Japanese cuisine in our fair town. FYI: we make our living growing Italian heirloom vegetables and selling to the best SF Italian restaurants so are my standards set a bit high? you bet. :-)
Our favorite Santa Cruz county pizza place is definitely Engfer Pizza Works on Seabright in Santa Cruz. We don't sell them anything, we're just happy customers. There's another pizza joint mid county we sell to so I won't mention them.