Photograph by Pete Shea
Shella Good: Soif's seared dayboat scallops are a cult favorite among Santa Cruz foodies.
Gourmet Stimulus Plan
More than two dozen restaurants are offering $25 prix fixe menus as part of the inaugural Santa Cruz Restaurant Week, Oct. 1-8. Full menus are posted at www.santacruzrestaurantweek.com.
Our advice: make reservations.
Ocean views, white linen and contemporary California décor provide the setting at Seascape Resort's classic dining establishment, where the main event is a menu of fresh seafood and creative pasta dishes complemented by an array of fine local wines. 1 Seascape Resort Dr., Aptos. 831.662.7120. www.seascaperesort.com.
One of the best sites in the county for beachgazing specializes in all things grilled--ribeyes, burgers, shrimp satays, artichokes--and a fun atmosphere where locals gather during the happiest of hours to watch the surf and sunset. The prix fixe menu highlights lighter fare like sausage penne pasta along with robust salads (think iceberg wedge with blue cheese) and classic desserts like New York cheesecake. 110 Monterey Ave., Capitola. 831.464.2583. www.bwsteakhouse.com.
Paradise Beach Grille
The cozy fireplace and ocean view are irresistible on an autumn evening, and the beach-town take on comfort food seals the deal. This week's special menu includes flavor-intensive soups and salads, a New York steak, Hawaiian-style baby back ribs and rich desserts. 215 Esplanade, Capitola. 831.476.4900. www.paradisebeachgrille.com.
Santa Cruz--Downtown and Westside
The newly renovated Dream Inn's oceanside restaurant is a sleek, light-filled tribute to California culture, and chef Philippe Breneman's menu follows in kind, delivering sustainably harvested seafood and local produce long on clean, bright flavors. This week's menu features a shamelessly garlicky Caesar with anchovies, grilled natural chicken with candied lemon, an elegant potato-crusted mahi and a beyond-decadent nod to Boardwalk sweets in the form of a dessert called How 'bout a Candy Bar. 175 West Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz. 831.426.4330. www.aquariussantacruz.com.
Bonny Doon Vineyard's Cellar Door Cafe
A wholehearted commitment to biodynamic produce and sustainability paired with the genius of David Kinch protégé Charlie Parker is helping the Cellar Door Cafe make a name for itself. This week's special menu changes daily. Among the offerings: eggplant soup with saba and mint, braised lamb with kale and smoked fingerlings and fig galette with pine nuts and lavender. 328 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.4518.
Elegant date-night ambience and classic dishes turned out with a delicate touch make this scenic restaurant across from Main Beach a natural romantic destination. The prix fixe menu features fine salads, light dishes like chicken tarragon and pan-fried snapper and simple, can't-miss desserts such as crème brûlée and chocolate mousse. 101 Main St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.9063. www.casablanca-santacruz.com.
Center Street Grille
Classic California lunches and dinners prepared with a Mediterranean accent are the stock in trade of this charming and comfortable downtown spot. A luxurious seafood pasta in garlic cream sauce and chicken saltimbocca anchor this week's tasting menu, along with fresh salads and tempting desserts in the key of comfort. 1001 Center St, Santa Cruz. 831.423.4745. www.thecenterstreetgrill.com.
Clouds' menu of California cuisine and Asian fusion long ago earned it pride of place on the Santa Cruz hospitality scene. This week, the downtown stalwart mixes it up, offering many choices of apps, entrees and desserts, including: squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta, parmesan and mint or avocado, cucumber and wasabi crème fraîche; herb-crusted lamb loin and poached pear, fig and quince shortcake with zinfandel reduction. 110 Church St, Santa Cruz. 831.429.2000. www.cloudsdowntown.com.
Cypress Dine & Lounge
This downtown music and pre-dinner drinks venue serves up hearty, homemade specialties such as authentic "backyard barbecue" burgers, sweet potato fries and other distinctive accompaniments to the fabled $2 happy hour pints. This week Cypress gets back to its New Orleans roots with a four-course special menu featuring crawfish étouffée, jambalaya, alligator nuggets and beignets, to name just a few of the options. 120 Union St., Santa Cruz. 831.459.9876.
A 10-minute drive up the coast is a warm, inviting eatery with rustic décor serving exuberantly flavorful dishes. The coastal California menu doesn't mess around, offering truffle fries, crab cake and avocado BLTs and wood-fired salmon dishes to satisfy just about every culinary mood. Plenty of healthy, satisfying vegetarian options are available too. 1 Davenport Ave., Davenport. 831.426.8801. www.davenportroadhouse.com.
515 Kitchen & Cocktails
From blood orange mimosas to definitive daiquiris, the mixed drinks at this chic downtown lounge are generous, stylish and custom-made, often from artisanal ingredients, while the menu excels at tapas and light finger food from exotic locales. 515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.5051. www.515kitchenandcocktails.com
Wunderkind chef Brad Briske is all about locally sourced organic and free-range ingredients composed in beautiful dishes accented with seasoned oils, herbs and brilliantly flavored aiolis, which add up to intense flavors. For Santa Cruz Restaurant Week, that means, among other things, a salad of raspberries, fennel, almonds and ricotta on a bed of Everett Family Farms lettuces, followed by house-made gnocchi with Pt. Reyes goat-cheese ragout. 910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.457.1677. www.gabriellacafe.com.
Hoffman's Bistro & Patisserie
As comfy as a diner but with a distinctly upscale obsession with quality, Hoffman's specializes in a California take on continental standards. The special menu features goat cheese tart, steak frites, roasted free-range chicken, grilled portabella with quinoa and comfort food desserts from the legendary pastry case: brownie sundaes, bread pudding and pie. 1102 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.420.0135. www.hoffmansbakery.net.
Miramar Fish Grotto
Graced with superb views of Lighthouse Point and the longboard surfing of Steamers Lane, the Miramar plays its role of classic seafood house with style. From cioppino and Castroville artichokes to local halibut, calamari and plenty of Harris Ranch beef, the menu caters to every taste. Poki, fried artichoke hearts, blackened tilapia and a shameless turtle cheesecake are some of the highlights of this week's special menu. 45 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz. 831.423.4441. www.miramarfishgrotto.com.
Red Restaurant and Bar
Red's menu is deep: pizzetas and pastas, tapas and interesting versions of traditional appetizers, plus nicely done bar food (including awesome sliders). And of course, the chic lounge's comfy sofas are perfect for the enjoyment of fancy cocktails, fine wines and a huge list of imported beers--including Chimay on tap. 1003 Locust St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.1913. www.redsantacruz.com.
Authentic pub ambience filtered through California coastal attitudes is the specialty of this upstairs gathering spot, which also has the requisite deep bench of whiskeys and brews on tap. This week's special menu includes coriander wild salmon, bacon-wrapped prawns and Bailey's cheese cake--hardly your daddy's pub grub. 1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.426.9930. www.rosiemccanns.com.
Soif's innovative seasonal delicacies are always a match for its big list of intriguing wines. This week, the sophisto/casual downtown wine bar offers three courses with lots of choices, including a tomato soup with Dungeness crab, gnocchi a la Parisienne, seared local albacore or a pan-seared flat iron steak with Chimichurri sauce. 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.2020. www.soifwine.com.
Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Steak A Claim: Hindquarter does beef the way you want beef to be done.
Santa Cruz--Eastside, Harbor and Midtown
Hindquarter Bar & Grille
The name of the game at this long-time Santa Cruz favorite is meat--steaks, ribs, chops and burgers--prepared to order with two-fisted flair and all the trimmings. Look for French onion soup, buffalo wings, a 10-ounce Bistro steak with mushrooms and bourbon vanilla crème brûlée on the prix fixe menu. 303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.426.7770. www.thehindquarter.com.
A casual dining room with a wraparound view of the atmospheric Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, Johnny's Harborside specializes in fresh fish, friendly service and lots of user-friendly choices. The three-course menu plays up big flavors--think bacon-wrapped prawns and sesame salmon--and classic pasta dishes like a seafood linguine in white wine sauce. 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.479.3430. www.johnnysharborside.com.
Pizzas and antipasti soak up the seasonal produce from local markets and handmade pastas arrive adorned with rich Bolognese, Dungeness crab or house-made pancetta at this neighborhood hangout with the epic Italian wine list. Rustic preparations of young chicken and veal, market-fresh salads and traditional Italian desserts fill this week's special menu. 538 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.457.2782. www.lapostarestaurant.com.
Linwood's Bar & Grill at Chaminade Resort
The fireplace seating in this scenic restaurant at Chaminade is elegant and cozy, but in warm weather the spacious terrace is the prime alfresco attraction. This week chef Beverlie Terra plays with the seasonal offerings on a menu featuring a beet-and-watermelon salad, local black cod with cioppino sauce and Gizdich apple tart, among other tempting dishes. 1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz. 831.475.5600. www.chaminade.com
Hickory-smoked ribs, burgers, steaks and chicken call the barbecue faithful to this casual, family-friendly Scotts Valley eatery, where no one ever leaves hungry. Slaw, baked beans and potato wedges complete the proposition. 245 Mount Hermon Road #H. Scotts Valley. 831.438.2227. www.brunosbbq.com.
Hollins House at Pasatiempo
High atop the fairways of the historic Pasatiempo Golf Club, this landmark dining room offers new American culinary ideas in a setting graced with jaw-dropping views of the entire Monterey Bay. This week chef Michael Alonzo shows off formidable range with a three-course menu that includes tastes of Thailand, Cuba, France and American comfort food. 20 Clubhouse Road, Santa Cruz. 831.459.9177. www.pasatiempo.com.
Michael's on Main
This friendly neighborhood eatery has won a devoted following for its warrenlike layout and inventive but casual approach to food. Chef Michael Clark has prepared a menu long on fresh greens and apples, with offerings of flatiron steak and pistachio-crusted salmon and truly decadent desserts. 2591 S. Main St., Soquel. 831.479.9777. www.michaelsonmain.net.
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