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Restaurant Reviews

Photo Aptos Farmers Market
'Shop With the Chef' summer series is wildly popular. Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Saturday year-round, 8am-noon. 831.728.5060 or

Photo Dharma's
A family trip to this vegetarian haven is like Mom's home cooking, only better. 4250 Capitola Road, Capitola. 831.462.1717. 8am-9pm daily. $4-$15.

Photo Sestri
Continues to live up to its reputation. 655 Capitola Road, Santa Cruz. 831.479.0200. Daily 5pm-close. $5-$28.

Photo 7-Eleven
Sushi, peach cobbler lattes and other adventures in fine dining are all waiting at the 7-Eleven. 602 Laurel St., Santa Cruz. Open 24 hours. Rating: 7 out of 11.

Photo The Buttery
Expanding to meet demand. 702 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.458.3020. 7am-6pm daily. $3-$7.

Photo La Perla del Pacifico
The place for south-of-the-border flavors in South County. 458 Main St., Watsonville, 831.724.0993. 10am-9pm Mon-Sat; 9am-9pm Sun. $3-$15.

Photo Central Coast Pie
The quest for the best pie on the Central Coast. Duarte's Tavern, 202 Stage Road, Pescadero; 650.879.0464. Sweet Elena's, 465D Olympia Ave., Sand City, 831.393.2063. Carpo's Restaurant, 2400 Porter St., Soquel, and 2018 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831.476.6260; 831.427.1800.

Photo Vida Lounge & Grill
Certain to become downtown's newest hot spot. 1222 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.7871. Dinner 5-11pm daily. $6.25-$21.95.

A taste of Tuscany in Capitola Village. 115 San Jose Ave., Capitola. 831.465.9040. 5-9pm Tue-Sun. $6-$22.

Naka Sushi
Lovers of flavor will get their money's worth. 851 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.479.9620. 5-9pm Tue-Thu, 5-9:30pm Fri-Sat, 5-8pm Sun. $5-$25.

E3 Playhouse
435 Front St., Santa Cruz. 831.466.9033. 5pm-close Mon, 11am-close Tue-Sun. $2-$8.

Whale City Bakery Bar & Grill
490 Highway 1, Davenport. 831.423.9803. 6:30am-7pm, daily. $4-$10.

Photo The Falafel House
A downtown favorite with a Middle Eastern flair. 113 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.459.9770; 11am-9pm Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm Fri-Sat.

Photo Sash Mill Café
Recent ownership change brings new life to an old Santa Cruz favorite. 303 Portrero, Santa Cruz; 831.457.9222; 7:30am-3pm Mon-Fri, 8am-2pm Sat-Sun.

Photo Soif
Bite-size plates for the gourmet appetite. 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.2020; 5-11pm Mon-Fri, 3-11pm Sat, 4-10pm Sun; $3-$19.

Photo Cafe Limelight
An easy-to-navigate menu with simple yet creative sandwiches. 1016 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tuesday-Friday, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-10pm; Saturday, 12pm-10pm; Sunday, 12pm-5pm. 831.425.7873.

Photo La Hacienda
Boardwalk tourists and locals both flock to this casual restaurant for good Mexican food with an ocean view. 303 Beach St., Santa Cruz. 11am-7pm. 831.427.2200.

Photo Beach Street Cafe
Casual atmosphere and surprisingly good cooking are on the menu at this Watsonville institution.

Photo Cowboy Bar and Grill
Buffalo burgers, yam cakes and the obligatory Sloppy Jed win over the greenhorns in Felton.

Photo Santa Cruz Fisherman's Wharf Restaurants
Free jazz and plentiful provisions bring the municipal wharf to life.

Photo Seascape Foods
Deli fare hits the spot at Aptos market.

Photo Star Bene
Like Santa Cruz itself, this Italian restaurant warms the heart while lightening the wallet.

Photo El Chino
Food writer tricks Santa Cruz dinner club into providing uncompensated help with her research.

Photo The Fresh Princess
Jody Lombardo makes the previously problematic art of meal assembly easy at Fresh Prep Kitchens.

Love, Sweet Love
Valentine's Day may be a memory, but the affair never ends at Chocolate.

A Golden Beginning
The Chinese New Year makes its auspicious debut at the Golden Buddha.

Pirates of the Middle East
The new menu and belly dancing at Il Pirata brings international appeal to Capitola.

To Grandmother's House We Go
Downhome atmosphere is the blue plate special at the Heavenly Cafe.

Fermenting Change
Can a new generation of growers and wineries put southern Santa Cruz County on the map?

Winter Vegetables Are Your Friends
The Brassicaceae family wants to keep your family happy and healthy this season.

Dessert for Dinner
Kelly's French Bakery makes evening dining a treat.

Silver Lining
Clouds casts away those post-holiday doldrums.

Secrets of the South
Handed-down recipes and spices from the old country are the flavorful ingredients at La Flor de Oaxaca.

Back in the Saddle
The New Davenport Cash Store delivers the goods, no matter how you make the trek up the coast.

Breakfast of Champions
Felton's La Bruschetta offers a welcome respite from the bustle of local breakfast spots.

Xin Hits the Spot
As a convenient neighborhood refuge, O'Mei's sibling restaurant Xin gets it right.

Big Fish
Sea Harvest puts Moss Landing on the map as a dining destination.

Season's Greening
Tips on surviving the holiday season for vegetarians and those who host them.

Cultural Synesthesia
The Thursday night 'Cookin' at the Kuumbwa' series takes its patrons into the realm of the senses.

Belle of the Ball
More than just a restaurant, Bocci's Cellar is a joyous celebration with food.

In Praise of Lunch
Whether you're escaping work or bringing it with you, Rebecca's is a treat for daytime dining.

Soba, So Good
Donbo Udon shows promise as downtown's latest entry into the realm of Asian cuisine.

La Dolce Vita
With its friendly ambience and flavorful fare, Mama Mia's offers a taste of the old country.

Diminutive Name, Sizable Flavor
Lil India serves up a bounty of subcontinental specialties in South County.

Raw Power
Our most succulent special dining issue invites you to satisfy your culinary cravings with fresh offerings from the fall harvest.

Organic Orgy
Local chefs, farmers and winemakers get it on.

Sunset Destination
Seafood and sailboats make for a winning combination at the Wharf House.

Pets or Meat?
Santa Cruz takes a leading role in the chicken rescue movement.

Comfort Kitsch
Nestled in the redwoods of Ben Lomond, every day is Oktoberfest at the Tyrolean Inn.

A Name Full of Flavor
Thai Basil is the perfect payoff for a journey into the heart of Capitola Village.

A Vegetarian Oasis
Malabar coaxes the downtown crowd to experience the joys of Soquel Avenue.

Turn on the Red Light
Red's décor may be monochromatic, but its menu has a full-spectrum of enticing options.

Turn on the Red Light
Red's décor may be monochromatic, but its menu has a full-spectrum of enticing options.

A beloved Seabright institution, Café El Palomar, returns from its two-year slumber.

Culinary Crusade
Tepa-Sahuayo's cuisine is a journey through central Mexico and the history of its people.

Do Animals Dream of Electric Sheep?
A critic considers what separates humans from animals beyond our ability to read menus.

Stair Trek
The Attic boasts some of downtown's freshest sounds--and tastes.

Vegging Out at the Wharf
In which things get fishy for our veggie columnist.

Retail Renewal
Black China Bakery celebrates 25 years by opening the colorful Black China Cafe.

Kombucha Krazy
Why an elixir that tastes like cider brewed with your roommate's socks is taking Santa Cruz by storm.

A Sparrow's Song
Classy Cafe Sparrow eases Monday moodiness with its rustic ambience, delicate cuisine and wine specials.

The Cliff Cafe is a cheerful, cozy antidote to chilly morning fog.

The Taste of Fear
Eat, drink and be very afraid. As the psychological fallout from the recent Wendy's debacle proves, being frightened of our food is the American way. Does it really have to be like this?

Fingered by Folklore
Urban legend history points the way toward a healthy skepticism of food scare stories.

Bouquet of Delights
From 'Pug Tod' to the 'FBI,' Thai Orchid delights the palate.

Vegging Out
Some people get a head start on vegetarianism, others aren't so lucky.

Jump On In
The newly opened Jumping Monkey cafe is a gem.

A Tale of Two Takaras, Part 2
In which our restaurant reviewer continues her Takara odyssey by taking it to Capitola.

A Tale of Two Takaras
In which our intrepid food writer compares and contrasts two restaurants in the same local small chain.

Dinner in Brazil
Traditional fare makes dinner at Cafe Brazil as cheerful as its canary walls.

When Good Veggie People/Restaurants/Grocery Stores Go Bad
In which our vegetarian food columnist contemplates the eternal half empty/half full conundrum from a meatless perspective.

Our West Side Gem
Using an imaginative touch, Ristorante Avanti transforms high-quality local ingredients into simple scrumptious elegance.

Veggie Etiquette for the 21st Century
Vegetarians love food. Vegetarians are hungry. With that in mind, here are five gentle suggestions for making restaurants more veggie-appealing.

Surf's Sup
Santa Cruz chef David Kinch has set the international culinary community on fire.

Budding Selections
Pinot Paradise. Herbed fries. Urban wine tastings--everything for the spring palette.

Annie Get Your Dip
In which our intrepid food columnist discovers the dip that rocks the spot.

Vegan Shoes and Animal Sacrifice
In which our vegetarian columnist questions how Carrie Bradshaw paid for all her shoes.

Us vs. Them
Or why baby cows taste better when you call them veal.

Kitchen Throne Rooms
Or as Benjamin Franklin once said, 'Hunger is the Best Pickle.'

Knife Knife Baby
Terry Beech is a know-it-all when it comes to knife-sharpening etiquette.

Are You Vegetarian Enough?
And other ethical head games carnivores love to play with meatless eaters.

Food, Horrible Food
Even food writers hate their jobs when they're sick. Ours isn't afraid to talk about it.

Grate Expectations
The River Cafe and Cheese Shop brings the true cheese experience to Santa Cruz.

Stranger in a Strange Land
Our resident vegetarian boldly takes on the final frontier--steakhouses--and Peachwood's comes out on top.

Lean Cuisine
January looks like ham and beans.

Pour Behavior
A tasting-room veteran offers some no-bull wine-tasting tips for Generation Next. For your own sake, abide.

Waters' Edge
Alice Waters headlines a gathering of the world's top chefs at a world-class event right here in the Monterey Bay.

Meatless Myths
A recent 'San Jose Mercury News' article shows that disinformation about vegetarianism dies hard.

Old World, New World
A traditional Slovak holiday meal--the kind that's been carried over for generations--overwhelms our resident foodie.

Peace and Goodwill to All
Looking back on the holidays, and carving out space for meat-free eating.

Reclaiming Meatloaf
It's not just a scary rocker from the '70s anymore--even for foodies--as post-home-cooking innovators like Hoffman's prove.

'Tis the Sri-son
Latest Sri Lankan addition is a must for vegetarians and a great spot to sample a range of flavor.

The Resistance Diet, Part II
Stocking up on integrity and seasonal vegetables this winter.

Noir Holiday
There's a place called France where they don't celebrate Thanksgiving. But what they do celebrate at this time every year should make American wine lovers take notice.

Cran Prix
A Thanksgiving staple has sunk into a canned, pseudofood existence. Cranberry, what has become of you?

Viva La Resistance Diet
Help this country get rid of the ugliness clogging the White House by wisely choosing what you eat.

Crush Course
Notes from the wine world, from here to... Livermore?

Stockton Bridge Grille 2.0
The Esplanade fixture returns with a revamped look and a new international menu.

Thirst for Knowledge
Soif co-owner Hugh Weiler likes to get under the assumptions about wine to the kind of truths you can taste.

Farm Out the Vote
What happens when the fall campaign season meets the harvest season?

Meet the Press
In our Fall Dining issue, we pop the question to local winemakers.

Don't Fear the Reaper
Local chefs David Wells and Nicci Tripp demonstrate how the seasonal transition of harvest time can yield some unique culinary innovations.

To TVP or Not to TVP
For vegetarians, especially around the Bay Area, fake meat is the question. Here are the answers.

Making Waves
Sustainable seafood could be the most important new trend in environmentally conscious eating.

Kraut in the Act
An impassioned plea for the new dawn of fermented foods.

An Elegy for Little Dishes
Our writer mourns the loss of the tapas experience in Santa Cruz.

Crpo Circles
The Culinary Alliance calls Santa Cruz County to eat and drink with area's leading culinary lights at its Harvest Dinner Series.

Think Globally, Grow Locally
Swanton Berry Farm has a remarkable vision that goes beyond just heavenly, farm-fresh organic berries.

Blessed Are the Cheese Makers
Harley Farms is reviving the near-forgotten glory days of coastal dairy production with its daringly old-school methods of getting the industry's goat.

Bill Oyster Cult
The unparalleled bivalves of Bill the Oyster Man are a Santa Cruz institution.

Bowled Over
Our writer's noodle quest ends at Santa Cruz's unassuming Thai Noodle House.

Preserving the Pasta
Even after its remodeling, Aldo's is all about Italian traditions passed down through the generations.

Using Their Noodles
The owners of the Almar Grill go pan-Asian with the new Xin noodle house.

Currying Favor
At the new Sri, Santa Cruz can share the Sri Lankan curry obsession.

Family Tradition
A local staple for almost 40 years, the family-owned Acapulco is being restored to its former glory.

Merry Planksters
Jim Denevan is literally taking his table on the bus for an anarchic Outstanding in the Field road trip.

A Butter Tomorrow
The Buttery has gone from insider favorite to Santa Cruz institution, one wedding cake at a time.

Fade to Blacks
After 12 years, Blacks Beach Cafe's Robert Morris is calling it quits.

Our Dinners Could Be Your Life
The owners of Al Boccalino bring their almost round-the-clock devotion to cooking and eating to Aptos.

All This, and Your Lost Salt Shaker
A complete remodel and a stylish new menu has locals tasting away in Margaritaville.

Lips Like Sugar
With a big push from candy-making into cosmetics, Donnelly Chocolate may never come down from its sugar high.

Hawaiian Punch
Despite this town's obsession with Hawaii, we haven't had a taste of aloha in two decades. Now, Numa Trepanier and Tim Hunt are feeding our island fever.

How Green Is Their Valley
Santa Cruz corners the market on Irish exports with a new Rosie McCann's on San Jose's Santana Row.

Why Can't We Be Friends?
Another bit of Metro Santa Cruz's 10-year history is its famous former feud with Lulu Carpenter's. But now there's no bad blood, just great coffee.

Big Heart Red
The 'Wine With Heart' benefit is the only event that brings all 60 Santa Cruz Mountain vintners together in one place.

Three Courses and the Truth
Michael's on Main experiments with seasonal courses and a little dinner theater.

Italian by Inspiration
Sestri is dedicated to serving up 'inspired Italian' cooking in its purest form.

The Gelato of Love
Gelatomania owner Robert Clayton and manager Sarah Love bring some lofty ideals to the dessert table.

The Taste of Victory
Goldies medalists cop to their winning recipes.

This Ain't No Bake Sale
Aptos Academy goes Greek for another of its innovative international fundraisers.

The Pizza With No Name
Anonymous slices? Pingpong? Engfer's is making its mark with a touch of the unusual.

From a Land Down Under
Fresh and hot in SC: A new restaurant with an Australian twist from the brilliant minds behind Pearl Alley Bistro.

Rockin' the Esplanade
With signature seafood, drinks, music and unusual events, Zelda's always promises a beach party.

Be My Guest
Chef swapping is all the rage as the 'infusion' trend catches on in SC.

A Europe United
Italian and French cuisine live together in harmony at Cafe Mare.

Better Late Than Never
The name was supposed to mean 'Lucky 8,' not 'Late,' but the owners of the L8 Buffet have found a niche.

Eat of Passion
A look at what local chefs are serving up for Valentine's Day.

Black Noodle Days
The final, uncommercialized frontier of Valentine's Day is a world where the carbs go to the loveless.

Special Thing
Ideal Bar and Grill has been luring locals into tourist territory for years with its siren song of popular specials.

Glimmer of Sope
Hope springs eternal at Front and Cathcart, where the San Pablo Taqueria has risen out of the wreckage of '50s food and Pontiac grilles.

Filling the Void
The new Kianti's has arrived to fill downtown's pizza and pasta-bar needs. Manga!

Pleased to Meat You
The Hindquarter Bar and Grille caters to Santa Cruz's carnivorous cravings.

Tales From the Crypt
Cleaning out the refrigerator is a great way to start the new year--if you survive.

Should Mold Acquaintance Be Forgot
Ring in the New Year with the Fungus Fair and some exquisite special dinners.

Long May It Huevos
With its new West Side cafe, El Palomar adds to its empire of top-notch eateries.

Inside the White House
Casablanca Restaurant has held sway over the main Santa Cruz Beach for several decades, much to the delight of romantic food lovers.

Rosa's in Bloom
Despite big changes, the Yacht Harbor favorite keeps its spit-roasted menu tuned to palates fond of salsa and spice.

Whitewashing The Holidays
A tale of the first Thanksgiving--the way it really was.

Turkeyish Delight
Traditional dinners aren't the only way to thrill your taste buds when the holiday season hits.

Now, That's Italian!
When Bella Napoli Caffe does authentic Italian food, they don't fool around. Capisce?

Frida Eats
An authentic afternoon of Mexican dining at Watsonville's Fiesta Tepa-Sahuayo is like stepping into a Kahlo painting.

Frida Eats
An authentic afternoon of Mexican dining at Watsonville's Fiesta Tepa-Sahuayo is like stepping into a Kahlo painting.

Creative Juices
A UCSC culinary excursion and a tasty twist on jazz are reasons for salivation.

Eat Here Now
Avanti's Brian Curry talks--and walks--the philosophy of keeping food local and dining the seasons.

Open Season
Catching up with Santa Cruz's wine industry at harvest time.

Report From the Field
Our critic finds that the Outstanding in the Field event lives up to its name.

Are You Ready For Some Bocce?
It's all in the family at the upcoming Bargetto 70th anniversary bash.

A Prairie Home-Style Companion
Summer in the bratwurst belt can bring close encounters with friendly folks in the Land of the Fried.

Seasons in the Sun
Continuing its ongoing mission to conquer discerning diners with exquisite lunches, Gabriella delivers the goods.

Who Fields It Knows It
'National Geographic' meets 'Iron Chef' when Jim Denevan takes foodies day-tripping for 'Outstanding in the Field.'

Getting Fresh
The farmers market, a weekly fixture of Old World culture, has become part of the inimitable Santa Cruz way of life.

Downtown Spot of Luck
Pacific Avenue's Costa Brava is fully loaded with hot bar, ambitious menu and location, location, location.

Things Go Better With Rocks
From picnicking to barbecuing, it all tastes better outdoors, and best of all at the beach.

Mixed Messages
In which brunch on the West Side becomes a meditation on the culinary dark side of aspiring eateries that can't find their mark.

Round and Round It Goes
Our lifesaving Bagelry outposts have given hope to the ravenous for over 25 years.

Tour of Beauty
Fine wines, fine food and gorgeous grounds are part of the weekend-getaway appeal of the special dinners at Aptos' Sand Rock Farm Inn.

Coffee Talk
The laid-back caffeine connection continues at Seabright fixture Java Junction.

The Pearly Gates
With chef Danny Abruzzese finessing the flan, downtown's landmark bistro continues its gourmet conquest.

Feel-Good Hut of The Summer
La Cabaña serves up authentic Mexican dishes and Davenport's unique coastal ambience.

Riot Grrrill
Role reversals are only part of the political shape-shifting that occurs when cooking leaves the kitchen on the Fourth.

The Falafel Monty
Santa Cruz ethno-gastronomists are willing to drop everything for those crunchy spheres of spiced garbanzo paste.

Sunny Side Up
Sunny Cove Cafe helps surfers and sun-worshippers starts the day off right.

Beach Blanket Bonanza
The good, the fresh and the organic all get together in delicious ways at Blacks Beach, a quintessential beach colony cafe.

A Real Vine Time
Restaurants and wineries join forces for the Santa Cruz Mountain Vintners' Festival.

Shakin' Bake
Kelly's French Bakery is on the rise on the West Side.

Hola, Las Olas
Zippy Cal-Mex creations and a waterfront setting keep spirits high at the wharf's new over-the-top cantina.

Trees Lounge
Food, music and art take over the languid Arboretum gardens this weekend.

The Big Grill
Scotts Valley grills up a mouth-watering new array of menu options to the delight of grill-crazed residents.

Sustain Yourself
Garden-fresh produce will change your whole approach to summer dining, as the enviro-maestros of UCSC will be happy to prove.

My, O'mei
A local landmark delivers molten flavors and stylish service, to the surprise of absolutely no one in Santa Cruz.

Taco the Town
Handmade tortillas, fresh fillings, low prices and saucy attitude make El Palomar's hallway taco bar a hit.

Rocking the Beat
Armed with a fleet of well-endowed sushi boats, the new Yamamori gives Scotts Valley a reason to say 'Arigato!'

The Champion of Breakfast
Goldies winner Zachary's continues to be Santa Cruz's AM institution, delivering your all-time favorite comfort foods.

You Go, Grill!
With its new Spanish menu, the Almar Grill will change the way you think about eating--and anchovies.

Retro Dining
Shadowbrook knows its customers and knows what they want--reassuring flavors and recognizable menu items.

Awesome Afghan
And now for something completely different: the former Bea's finds delicious new life as the area's first Afghan eatery.

Roman Holiday
A tiny slice of Italy resides in the village of Capitola, bringing a bit of bella Roma to our grateful taste buds.

Down on The Farm
Part country bakery, part crafts bazaar, The Farm is all heaven for followers of the very freshest flavors.

Smart Money
The century-old Davenport Cash Store has a colorful history and a menu to match.

The Phil Phenomenon
Seafood guru Phil DiGirolamo just keeps getting it right, as his expanded Moss Landing Fish Market proves.

The Marvelous Land of Oswald
Dining icon cooks up sweet sorcery from fresh seasonal harvests, expert service and true bistro atmosphere.

Food: Live, Without a Net
The 418 Organic Cafe pushes the limits of eco-friendly food with live and organic options.

Tips From the Top: How do restaurants survive tough times in what is notoriously one of the most fickle of all industries? A few Santa Cruz eatery icons reveal the secrets of their success.

Not Far From Heaven
In fact, it may be a place near Scotts Valley, where huge breakfasts and burgers have developed a devoted clientele.

Italian Landscape
Full-bodied Mediterranean cookery surfs some big waves at Carniglia's on the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Thai Me Up
Providing palate pyrotechnics at its prime corner of Soquel and Ocean, Thai House keeps on spicing it up.

New Arrival From The Old World
With Ristorante Barolo, the venerable Bayview Hotel has a new Old World restaurant packed with Italian accents.

Alive and Cooking
After a recent fire, Henfling's returns to its mountain mix of international music and food.

Hollins Daze
Vintage surroundings and an exceptional chef transform Marion Hollins' hideaway into a tasty landmark.

Bird of Paradise
Aptos treasure Cafe Sparrow remains loyal to its reputation while basting its menu with a treasury of comfort.

Soif's Up
Streamlined for action, downtown Santa Cruz's urbane new wine bar offers comfort and dazzle to grateful bon vivants.

Pleased to Eat You
How Kate Hawley took a nasty little fairy tale and turned it into a musical that eats like a meal with SSC's 'Gretel and Hansel.'

Requiem For a Cork
In which is revealed Randall Grahm's latest performance piece, plus online biscotti and a new gourmet express emporium.

Raising the Red Lantern
New home for Asian cuisine colors diners impressed.


Live Feed
Quick restaurant hits by Metro dining editor Stett Holbrook.

5 Things to Love
Top-5 lists and hot picks.

Silicon Valley Veggie
Vegetarian eateries in the South Bay.