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[whitespace] Lee Von Rha
Photograph by George Sakkestad

Sight-geist: Lee Von Rha, head chef at Rosa's restaurant, admires the incredible view of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor.

Coming Up Rosa's

Summer's over, and the tourists are gone--now's the time to enjoy the pleasures of Rosa's at the Yacht Harbor

By Janet Blaser

ARE THEY FINALLY GONE? Ya think? Yes, I'm talking about all the tourists. The beaches are at last a little clear, and maybe, just maybe, you can find some permit-less parking at those restaurants lucky enough to be close to the pretty Pacific.

Rosa's Rosticeria at the Santa Cruz Harbor falls into this category. Most of the year it's a locals haunt, full of waves of regulars who come in groups or alone, families and singles, all day and all night, happily content to stand in line, munch some chips and order from the guy in front of that fantastic spit-roaster. Summertime, though, is another story--and let's be glad that chapter's over.

Owner Lee von Rhau is present more often than not, prowling the upstairs restaurant like some pirate on the high seas, smiling at friends, tasting a salsa here and there, mixing drinks behind the bar. He's the creative genius behind the eclectic Caribbean/Creole/Cuban/Mexican menu and the bordering-on-wild decor that includes a live 3-foot iguana, running water on the stairwell's fiberglass roof and a lighthouselike view of the harbor and ocean.

What's new this year, if you haven't visited recently, is a patio downstairs on the ground level. It's an idea Lee's had for a while, and although the wheels may have turned slowly, turn they did, and now you can sit outside at Rosa's and enjoy not only barbecue specialties, but--sigh--high-end tequila drinks in the lovely Indian summer sun. Lee provides a full bar, of course, and sometimes an ice-cold cerveza is what you really want. And that's fine. But tequila drinkers know that good tequila, really good tequila, is as complex as any fine wine.

You'll also find a barbecue fired up on one side of the new wooden deck, which opens out on both sides of the gangplank-like passage through the center. If I'm not mistaken, there's a mast poking up toward the sky and heavy ropes fencing the perimeter, making the whole effect rather shipshape. You can order upstairs from the regular menu and then carry the whole kit and caboodle outside to a sunset-and-people-watching table. The patio party starts at lunch time, actually, on account of that pesky NoCal fog; it's become the newest place to see and be seen.

Rosa's actual address is 493-B Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, but what you want to do is head to the harbor and go in the first entrance. Look up--and there's Rosa's. Metered parking spaces are labeled for the restaurant, and you'll need a couple of quarters to keep the Harbor Patrol happy. Hours are 11:30am-8pm daily and till 9pm Friday and Saturday. Call 479-3536 for more info. South County folks have their own Rosa's at 1726 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville. It's open from 11am to 9:30pm every day, and the number is 728-4249.

Dogging Straws

Just in case you've been having a hard time figuring out exactly which beverage to use the straws at Starbucks for, the mega-coffee-corp has most helpfully printed clear, concise instructions on each of the millions of straws it passes out annually. Yes indeedy, folks, you'll find "Not Recommended for Use in Hot Beverages" in big, bold, black letters on each paper wrapper. Aren't you glad someone cares?

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From the September 29-October 6, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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