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CA Road Trip: Santa Cruz stop report

  • pane Apr 21, 2013 04:00 PM
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We're on a road trip from Riverside to Bodega Bay with stops in the Inland Empire, Coalinga, Santa Cruz, Olema and Bodega Bay. This post covers just the Santa Cruz portion.

Coffee: Verve is served at Cafe Sophie, one of my favorite shops for laptop work in San Francisco, so I wanted to check out their homebase. We liked the coffee and atmosphere so much we hit all 3 Verve locations in our 24 hours in Santa Cruz. First up, the shop on Pacific Ave, which was still frenzied in the late afternoon on this busy shopping strip. I walked to the roastery on Bronson Street, which was just my speed early on a Sunday morning. The roastery is in an industrial building that also houses a rock climbing gym and building supply warehouse, and it had a pleasant out-of-the-way feel, like Ritual's Flora Grubb outpost or the Blue Bottle in the Heath Ceramics building (both in SF). The third original location is in a little strip on 41st. I had an iced Americano at Pacific Ave, a cappuccino at the roastery, and macchiato at the original location--I like the espresso based drinks here much better than straight coffee, and wished I had more time to explore the rest of the menu, like the Bowl of Soul with chamomile tea steeped in soy milk with honey and cinnamon.

We had just driven up from Coalinga on Saturday and wanted the opposite of that, which we found at The Picnic Basket. If I were a tourist in Santa Cruz only for an afternoon, this would be my pick, because in addition to great casual lunch food, they serve products from some of the other places that made our visit special, like Penny Ice Creamery and Verve. Tried a sample spoon of all the ice creams and sorbets (beet in the something-beet sorbet was so overpowering I can't even remember the other flavor; really liked the ice cream texture), then got a fantastic Market salad of butter lettuce, avocado, asparagus and kumquats. Really friendly people (slash everywhere in SC). Also got a house-made kumquat soda. Link: http://www.thepicnicbasketsc.com/

I did a bit of research on dinner before coming to SC, made a reservation at one place, but we switched our plans twice and ended up at Oswald. Very glad we did, especially after I remembered that the cook used to work at Oliveto, a restaurant in Oakland that I like. We were packing up after our pre-dinner drink when a diner at the counter told us that we'd have better food if we stayed instead, so I canceled our original reservation. I am dining with a pescatarian and we split a bunch of dishes; my only regret is that I didn't get to try the burger that everyone crowed about and most people ordered at the bar. Bartender made the best whiskey sour I've had in years. Dungeness crab with avocado app was simple, perfect, and ample--probably sized right as a main dish for a single diner with a light appetite. Lovely endive salad, another generous portion on the seafood stew of mussels and shrimp. A+ experience; look forward to coming back for that burger.

Sunday farmer's market on the Eastside. We went for The Truck Stop food truck, stayed for all the fresh berries. I gathered this wasn't the main SC market, but it was a great turnout and mix of produce vendors and prepared foods, maybe 20 vendors in all. We had chilaquiles, pork breakfast tacos, and a strawberry donut at The Truck Stop and grazed at the produce vendors. The freshly fried strawberry donut (really, two little donuts) dusted with granulated sugar was a marvel. I liked the breakfast tacos with pork and a bit of scrambled egg, but using a warm corn tortilla would have knocked it out of the park. Same prob with the chilaquiles--the egg and salsa were great, tortilla didn't impress. I know they have a fryer in the truck because our donuts were fresh; I'm not sure if the fried tortillas in the chilaquiles were packaged or had just been fried a long time ago, but they were undersalted and didn't have a lot of flavor. I will dream about that donut.

What I'd repeat if/when I return: salad at The Picnic Basket, cocktail and burger at Oswald, donut at The Truck Stop, Verve.

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  1. Pix of taco + donut

     
     
    1. We enjoyed the Picnic Basket on our last visit as well, close to the Dream Inn for some early morning bites.

      Curious as to what your original choice was before choosing Oswald. Good to hear they're on their game.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PolarBear

        Thanks for the tip! We'll be at the Dream Inn this weekend.

      2. You missed gayle's bakery! Its in capitola, prob 10min south of downtown santa cruz- great pastries, sandwiches, quiche. Glad you made it to the farmers market, grazing thru the samples is always delicious

        3 Replies
        1. re: Ttrockwood

          I actually much prefer the Buttery in SC to Gayles. I think they have superior baked goods, sandwiches, service and prices. YMMV

          1. re: karenfinan

            We felt the same about The Buttery relative to Gayle's. I felt Gayle's was trying to do too much. I wasn't impressed with what we tried there. Also, the customer base in general was not our crowd. We did like the quality of produce at that little stand across the street though. We also liked Kelly's as well. It's been a couple of years since our last visit to SC - wondering what's changed, new, etc...

          2. re: Ttrockwood

            For details on the Gayle's vs. Buttery debate:

            Buttery
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3065...

            Gayle's
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6806...

            Gayle's was an epic fail for me, but it's very popular.