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Photograph by Stephen Laufer

Mystery Spot: Chris Bernardi tries to keep the food from sliding off the plates as he negotiates Scotts Valley Grill's severe angles.

The Big Grill

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

By Christina Waters

Tucked behind the row of shops marking historic Camp Evers--since pioneer days the center of the trail that led between Santa Cruz and the San Lorenzo Valley--a new restaurant is showing its stuff and giving Scotts Valley residents a tasty dining destination.

The cozily no-frills dining rooms at the Scotts Valley Grill are designed to make patrons of all ages feel welcome, from the crayons and tempting white drawing paper covering the tables to generously spaced tables and loads of light. We felt pampered by sunny yellow walls and wraparound wainscoting on our visit last week, and throughout our meal a charming staffer helped make sure we were satisfied with every dinner detail.

Scotts Valley Grill has compiled a dinner menu of New American classics--lots of seafood, chicken and steaks--and a brief, yet surprisingly well-rounded listing of wines, almost all of which are offered by the glass as well as by the bottle. Salads on the current Scotts Valley Grill menu are all dinner-size creations, as yet offering no small, warm-up salad for those who are looking forward to a second course. Appetizers will make fans of breaded calamari, beer-battered prawns and popcorn shrimp very happy. Perfect beer food. And the lunch menu is loaded with grilled meat and fish sandwiches and colossal burgers.

But back to dinner. Winewise, Di chose white and I chose red as we dug into some fine multigrain bread. Hers was a sumptuous Toad Hollow, Sonoma, Chardonnay and mine a ripe, black cherry-toned Ferrero Zinfandel from Amador Foothill Winery (both '00 vintages, $5.75 each). It was a happy group filling the main dining room--a convivial blend of couples as well as several tables of large parties. And great aromas from the kitchen arrived in the form of our beautiful salad of thick, grilled salmon--perfectly cooked, ultramoist--on a bed of mixed greens dotted with pecans, cherry tomatoes and a slightly sweet poppy-seed vinaigrette on the side ($14.75). A civilized touch, bringing the dressing on the side. And the salmon was so wonderful we had to restrain ourselves in order to save room for the main courses. Di doesn't do restraint very well.

Entrees arrived on wide plates vertically stacked with slices of grilled pork (mine) and fresh lobster tail (hers). Scotts Valley Grill definitely lives up to its name--grilling rules the menu here. Both entrees were abundant, though there was a tendency to lean toward the brown side of the visual spectrum. Especially in the case of my juicy slices of medium-rare pork loin napped with spicy apple sauce and lying on a thick bed of brown mashed sweet potatoes. The few bold spears of fresh asparagus were no match for all the brownness of the main ingredients ($16.95). Di's opulent dinner special of pilaf and sautéed mixed veggies topped with two plump grilled lobster tails also appeared to lean toward the mono-color zone, but the flavors were exhilarating ($26.95). "Lobster with backup singers," as Di put it. The rich butteriness of the lobster had been enhanced by a lemon marinade--it was a satisfying way to scratch that shellfish craving.

But my pork was even better. The "sweet mashed potatoes" on the menu turned out to be beige sweet potatoes that had been fortified with cinnamon and mashed--an interesting concept that proved too sweet for my taste. But a dessert of molten chocolate brownie cake ($5) turned out to be exactly the perfect degree of not-too-sweetness, and made an expert partner for a big mug of strong coffee.

The attitude at this appealing new restaurant is so helpful, friendly and genuinely warm that planning a return visit seems obvious. Next time I crave grilled salmon I'll head up to Scotts Valley Grill and get a serious grilling.


Scotts Valley Grill
Address: 11 Camp Evers Lane, Scotts Valley
Phone: 831.430.0467
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2pm Mon-Fri; dinner nightly from 5pm
Ambience: ** Casual and homey. No fuss--very welcoming.
Service: ** Very helpful and friendly
Cuisine: ** Nicely grilled New American classics with fresh ingredients
Overall: Some fine American grilling happens at this cozy new Scotts Valley dining room.

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From the May 7-14, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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