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Photograph by Curtis Cartier
With A Smile: Chef Adam Becerra serves up Hawgs' pan-seared sea scallops (right) and paella Valenciana.

Fish 'n' Chicks

Laughter, gossip and true confessions occur when four women go to Hawgs on the Westside of Santa Cruz to dine. Okay, drink.

By Christina Waters

A FEW NIGHTS AGO my three cronies and I got serious about seafood--at Hawgs. First off, we attacked a platter of crab and shrimp quesadilla ($12), which came sliced into in easy-access wedges, along with three dipping sauces of tomatillo salsa, tomato salsa and sour cream. Ripe avocado topped each triangle of toasted flour tortilla. The quesadilla served as a warm-up, along with a glass of Ridge Three Valleys zin blend ($9), a frosty Peroni beer ($5) and a Hibiscus (involving plenty of tequila, $8). Our conversation gained traction just as more food arrived. Great staff at Hawgs, let it be noted.

The smoked salmon plate ($13) is not only a house specialty but a bargain to boot. A slice of succulent salmon fillet arrives lightly smoked and presented with a salad of mixed baby greens, garlicky crostini and a pot of horseradish cream. The salad of fresh mixed lettuces is no mere garnish but substantial enough to turn the salmon into an entire light dinner. Another appetizer of baked oysters Asiago ($13) dotted a landscape of rock salt. Browned and bubbly on top, the oysters were succulent underneath their toppings of cheese and layer of spinach. Along with a large slice of lemon, it made a fine match for a cold beer. A huge bowl of steamed clams and mussels ($19) arrived bathed in a classic broth of garlic, white wine and butter. Another main course salad offered an acreage of baby spinach punctuated with sea scallops. Sautéed golden brown, yet firm and moist, the scallops were heightened by a warm shallot vinaigrette spiked with pancetta--a bargain for $12. Did I mention how nicely all of this was working with my Ridge wine? Kate argued that her hibiscus and tequila cocktail was an even better match, and frankly she might have been right about that.

My dinner special--three plump crabcakes for $14--was a winner. Obviously freshly prepared, it arrived with a spicy aioli tartar sauce and a luscious salad of mixed greens. The crabcakes were ultramoist and showcased the expert handling of ingredients--i.e., a light touch rather than the usual tons of breading and fillers. Even sharing with the group, I still took one crabcake home for lunch the next day.

After much laughing, crying and eating, we all dove into a fat slab of tiramisu ($8). Our glasses were empty and we couldn't manage one more bite of seafood. Topped with a monumental strawberry, the Italian classic practically toppled under the weight of its mascarpone and espresso layers. And while this version might not give any old-time Mediterranean chef a sleepless night, it was the perfect, creamy ending for a visit to Hawgs. No wonder my aerobics buddy Phyllis is so wild about this place. Attractive staff, cozy booths, well-made cocktails and a menu that expands bar food into tasty new territory--Hawgs has all the makings of a new Westside hangout. And I made it to the end of this review without revealing any of the secrets we four shared!


Address: 1917 Mission St., Santa Cruz

Phone: 831.458.FISH (3474)

Hours: Mon-Thu 4-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm; Sun noon-9pm

Happy Hour 6pm daily

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