Santa Cruz in the News: Our Favorite Santa Cruz Restaurants (to date)

36 Hours in Santa Cruz – from the NYTimes

Lots of Santa Cruz folks wrote-in comments on this article with their picks for their favorite restaurants in Santa Cruz.  One person said the NY Times list of restaurants was a bit outdated.  This got us thinking about our favorite restaurants in Santa Cruz and has also inspired us to try a couple of reader recommended spots that we haven’t been to yet.

Our Favorite Breakfast Spots in Santa Cruz:

  • Cafe Brasil – Banana Pancakes, Acai Bowl, & Feijoada (long waits on weekends).
  • Zachary’s – Best Burger in SC (Gourmet Burger w/ Avocado & Bacon), Mike’s Mess, Sourdough Pancakes, & Fresh Baked Goods.
  • Silver Spur – South of the Border Scramble (get their homemade salsa on the side) & Daily Special Baked Muffins (not Open Sundays).

Best Splurge in Santa Cruz:

  • Cellar Door Cafe – Awesome small plates (Smoked Fingerling Potatoes & Brussel Sprouts with smoked Chevre and Cider) & nightly Prix-Fixe Dinner – all local and daily changing seasonal menu.
  • Ristorante Avanti Great California-Mediterranean inspired local and seasonal menu (such as Dungeness Crab Cakes OR Manchego Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms & Homemade Pappardelle and Baked Marin Sun Farms Meatballs).
  • Soif – Nice Wine Bar downtown with tasty small plates (Piquillo peppers stuffed w/ Manchego cheese).

Casual Spots:

  • Dynasty – Mandarin/Szechuan Cuisine in Capitola (not the village).  We order the Mushu Pork and Beef with Zilan and the complimentary peanut celery appetizer is good too.
  • El Palomar Taco Bar – Freshly cooked meat for tacos in Downtown. Check out Taco Tuesday.
  • Tortilla Flats Located in Soquel, is inspired by French and Mexican Cuisines, and has been a local favorite for over 25 years.
  • SmoqeA BBQ and Wood Fired Pizza restaurant just off the freeway, south of Santa Cruz in Aptos.
  • I will add more spots onto this as I think of them!

Best Coffee:

  • Verve – Superb light roast coffee made by an award-winning Barista. Also try the Bowl of Soul Tea (Tea steeped in steamed soy milk and honey). Great vibe too.
  • Casalegno’s Coffee Bar w/ Ugly Mug Coffee – If Chris is working ask him to make you his coffee specialty!

Favorite Desserts & Bakeries:

  • Chocolate – Downtown Santa Cruz – LOVE their dark chocolate gelato hot fudge sundae – for Chocolate Lovers, you will LOVE it!
  • Penny Ice Creamery – Organic Ice Cream Shop with very unique flavors that change almost daily.  Many of the flavors are often reflective of Santa Cruz (Verve Coffee Flavor, SC Brewery, Organic/Local Fruits).
  • Marianne’s Ice Cream – This is a nostalgic, classic ice cream shop with lots of flavors on your way to or from the beach in Santa Cruz. I like the Macapuno, Creamy baby coconut ice cream which is not an ice cream I would have ever thought I would like (it’s not chocolate).
  • Gayle’s Bakery – Located in Capitola – Love their Princess Cake for Birthdays (Three layers of vanilla genoise cake ~ layers of pastry cream, raspberry jam & whipped cream inside ~ pastel marzipan shell outside ~ sprinkled with powdered sugar ~ topped with a fresh rose)!
  • Kelly’s French Bakery – Love their Macaroons.  Great area to hang out in over in Swift Street Courtyard.  There are wine tasting rooms, the Santa Cruz Brew Pub, Bonny Doon/Cellar Door Cafe, a Clothing Shop, Knitting Shop etc…)
  • The Buttery – Can’t forget the Buttery. They are packed with orders around every single holiday!

Favorite Spot for Cocktails:

  • 515 Kitchen & Cocktails – Love their Signature 515 Pomegranate Margarita (cazadores tequila, la pinta tequila, lime, pama liqueur, patron citronge liqueur, sugar rim)! 515 is kind of loungy and a great spot to enjoy cocktails with friends or lovers.

These are favorite restaurants mentioned in the Comments about the NY Times Article:

A new place was mentioned in the NY Times Article in downtown that we have not tried yet:

  • Laila – A stylish Afghan Restaurant – 101B Cooper Street; 831-423-4545

Lots of people mentioned:

  • Tortilla Flats in Soquel, is inspired by French and Mexican Cuisines, and has been a local favorite for over 25 years.

A Blogger in the comments recommends:

AtlasCo, who recently moved from NY to SC, Recommended These:

  • The Cellar Door at Bonny Doon Tasting Room. A Michelin-starred chef, small plates, local, fresh, delicious, in a cool space. Must reserve.
  • Soif downtown is a good choice for a wide range of local wines and bites.
  • Oswald downtown is great.
  • Ristorante Avanti on the west side is good.
  • Penny Ice is the best ice cream shop in the lower 48!
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