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Late Night Bites

Crepe Place
Crepe Expectations: A patiently awaiting crepe calls out to hungry customers of Soquel Avenue's the Crepe Place.

Photo by Robert Scheer



The best spots around to get post-movie and pre-club-hopping grub

By Christina Waters

LATE NIGHT DINING creates a time-honored interlude between the official part of the date--the movie, the show--and the unofficial part (use your imagination). A meal long after most people eat dinner is a way of establishing that kind of sexy connection that all those European movie stars do in subtitled films. They eat--long and late. They also seem to laugh and flirt a lot while they're chewing--you could try that, too.

A little late-night dining is a way of extending an evening you want to never end. But, pay attention here, it is also a great diversion when you're getting bored with your date. If you sense that full-on political warfare is about to turn your conversation into a shouting match, or if you just can't figure out what to do until you can dump off your date, try getting a bite to eat. Eating is a omni-cultural way of sharing something without making a federal case out of it. Here are some ideas that could just save your relationship--or at least fuel you up for the next party stop.

The times listed are when the kitchen stops taking orders for the night.


Balzac Bistro
112 Capitola Ave, Capitola, 476-5035.
Bistro fare, both light and hearty, rules this highly regarded late-night dining spot. There's more than a touch of European jazz club tone at this well-appointed bistro, adorned with a well-stocked wine bar. Myriad vintages, both domestic and imported, are available by the glass, and the wine list has been designed to complement an eclectic cafe menu of elegant appetizers and hearty dinners. Most evenings there's some sophisticated live music to accompany the vintage sipping, especially on weekends when Capitola Village regulars like to linger long over their pâté and osso bucco.
Open Sun-Thu until 10:30pm, Fri-Sat till 12:30am.

Boulder Creek Brewing Company
13040 Hwy 9, Boulder Creek, 338-7882.
Welcoming and laid-back, this mountain brewing oasis offers all kinds of late-night aid and comfort in a seriously redwood setting. Fine fries, pizzas, salads and humungous platters of pasta will keep you company as the band lays down some dancing grooves, or if you've worked up a midnight appetite after a few rounds of pool. The rustic bar and dining and entertainment rooms all seem to wander into each other in no particular order. Award-winning brews are the accompanying hoist of choice.
Sun-Thu until 11pm, Fri-Sat till midnight (1:30am if there's a band).

Cooper St. Cafe
725 Front St, SC, 423-4925.
Sitting out under the stars and the twinkling lights of the resident jacaranda trees, many downtowners have given thanks for such a civilized post-movie or pre-club cafe stop. Enjoy lovely salads and light dinners with those fragrant focaccia rolls, or a stellar homemade dessert. The terrace offers a strategic spot for stolen kisses or after-hours people watching.
Fri-Sat until 11pm.

Costa Brava
1222 Pacific Ave, SC, 425-7871.
Latin American glamour glimmers in this sunset-toned restaurant, graced with an intimate little cocktail alcove where everybody looks beautiful. You can nibble on chips and exotic salsas while perched on pretty stools at the black marble bar. Or you can feast on grilled seafoods and steaks, served with tropical blends of veggies and fruit. You also can graze on Cuban-grilled bananas and garlic bread, quesadillas, Caesar salad with prawns, or earthier fare like black beans and rice, and tri-tip steak salad. Provocative music and lively dancing tend to help extend that dinner hour on the weekends much later than is absolutely necessary.
Fri-Sat until 11pm.

Crepe Place
1134 Soquel Ave, SC, 429-6994.
Few landmarks have the kind of staying power that this terrific spot has enjoyed. Must have something to do with the burnished Victorian interior, the old-fashioned back garden and the accessible line-up of freshly made entree crepes. As healthy as it is tasty and filling, the spinach and cheese variation has provided aid and comfort to many culture vultures after the movie or theater. And a special offering (from 10pm) of 1/2 crepe and 1/2 salad or cup of soup is a tempting late supper. In addition to warm ambiance, this appealing eatery can feed your late-night face with major dinner salads, a fine house chowder and sensuous crepes filled with shrimp Creole, or breast of chicken with verde sauce,
Sun-Thu until midnight, Fri-Sat till 1am.

Emi
1001 Cedar St, SC, 423-7502.
Tucked inside an authentic Korean restaurant that moonlights as a hot dance floor and blues club is a sushi bar whose knives whir and chop until midnight. So when you need to take a break from gettin' down, you can swill some tobiko with quail egg and a few choice maki rolls.
Nightly till midnight, depending on how busy.

Front Street Pub
516 Front St, SC, 429-8838.
It's 10:30pm and you suddenly develop a need to chew something that tastes great. Instead of your boyfriend's arm, why not wrap your mouth around a grilled spiedie with mustard? The non-carnivore will be able to work out on the enormous bounty of fresh crudités and dip served with the shrimp platter. Or you could think of the classics--like French fries, which help make that pint of Lighthouse Amber taste even better. This pub menu is long on user-friendliness. Service involves a smiling face and you'll invariably run into eight of your best friends who are also experiencing late-night hunger attacks.
Sun-Thu until 11pm, Fri-Sat till midnight .

Ideal Bar and Grill
106 Beach St, SC, 423-5271.
Still occupying the same location--okay, it's oozed over more toward the beach a little--for umpteen years, the Ideal gives great crab Louies, grilled salmon, tasty chowder and shrimp done every way imaginable. The spot keeps doing this into an extended dinner hour for those cruising around the boardwalk and wharf area, and thereby working up a hunger. The fun here is that you can still enjoy a dinner after a long romantic walk on the beach. There's no doubt, this welcoming seafood landmark is very centrally located.
Sun-Thu until 10:30pm, Fri-Sat till 11:30pm.

Manuel's Mexican Restaurant
261 Center St, Aptos, 688-4848.
Thank God for this oasis of lively civilization that speaks sensuous food with a late-night Mexican accent. You can pretend you're a sensitive artist from Mexico City, and don't even think about dining until after visiting a few galleries, seeing a play or movie, and then meeting a few friends at around 10pm to sip aged tequila. The food part of all this absolutely requires that you sample the greatest refritos on the planet. The rest is up to you--grilled snapper maybe, or perhaps garlicky prawns. Perfect food for around 11pm is the creamy, luxurious chile relleno. The ambiance is a feast all by itself. The only danger here is that you'll come for an early dinner, and find yourself still surrounded by decorated tile work six hours later. Manuel's has considerable charm.
Mon-Sat until midnight, Sun till 11pm.

Margaritaville
221 Esplanade, Capitola, 476-2263.
It's past 10pm on a Friday night. You've done the Esplanade, waded in the surf, talked your brains out and now you need sustenance. Do what so many attractive, tanned, buffed men and women do--head for the throbbing heart of this low-slung saloon/restaurant and prepare to inhale a round of righteous tacos, gooey nachos, killer guacamole and endless mountains of chips and salsa. Margaritas are available here, too, and it's okay to talk really loud if you want. Everybody does. The watery views reflect the very active refreshment scene, where the clientele tends to provide most of the colorful visuals. Not for those who require solitude and quiet meditation space.
Fri-Sat until 11pm.

Mobo Sushi
105 S. River St, SC; 425-1700.
A sushi amphitheater on one side, an evening cabaret club on the other, Mobo is a mighty Mecca for pre-partiers in need of an expert ebi and the tide roll, or some maguro accessorized with macadamias and garlic. Expect the unexpected, both in terms of the crowd--Goths and grandmas hoist their sake side by side--and the sassy sushi presentation. Tiered seating allows maximum viewing of all the action. For that last spicy tuna roll right before bedtime, Mobo has mojo.
Fri-Sat until midnight.

Pink Godzilla
Monster Mash: Pink Godzilla owner Mitsu Maemura shows a beautiful platter of his fresh fish, made up of both local best catches and specialties flown in from Japan.

Photo by Robert Scheer



Pink Godzilla
830 41st Ave, SC, 464-2586.
Revved-up gonzo surfer sushi ambiance--only in Santa Cruz--joins laid-back tatami seating at this colorful beach community hole-in-the-wall that started off as a weird name and ended up a local institution. If you feel that powerful craving for sushi filled with Santa Cruz essentials like avocado, mayonnaise and macadamia nuts, hurry on over.
Nightly until 10:30pm.

Pizza My Heart
1116-B Pacific Ave, SC, 426-2511.
A local favorite and spiritual home of the pizza-by-the-slice concept, this indoor/outdoor pizza palace feels a whole lot more like a Tuscan trattoria with its golden walls and wooden booths. Even better, there's not just pizza on this generous, late-night menu. There are plump calzones, fresh pastas, green and pasta salads, all kinds of huge and sinful desserts. Actually, you could do worse than to sample the deep-dish pizza here, one bite of which can solve any subconscious pizza problem you've been hanging onto since childhood. Bold flavors, fresh execution, long, long hours--no wonder we carry such a well-lit torch for this place.
Sun-Thu until 11pm, Fri till 2am, Sat till 1:30am.

Poet and Patriot Club
320 E. Cedar St, SC, 426-8620.
Suggesting urban Belfast with a colonial California twist, this working man and woman's oasis provides a late-night showcase for outrageous conversation, tales of exaggerated exploits and some sensible dining to beguile the soul.
Nightly until at least midnight, sometimes till 2am.

Pontiac Grill
429 Front St, SC, 427-2290. The theme is wittily automotive, the atmosphere is classic American diner. From its deep red booths to its retro menu, Pontiac Grill has earned a spot in local late-night appetites. After a set at the Catalyst, nothing quite does it like a turkey sundae, involving layers of roast turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry relish. You can induce some unforgettable dreams by piling into a French dip sandwich, Philly cheese steak, even your basic tuna melt or grilled cheese sandwich. All the comfort food from a baby boomer's wayward youth--it's here, it's hot and it's ready when you are. And that goes for the politically correct Hummus Burger, too.
Sun-Thu until 11pm, Fri-Sat till midnight.

Positively Front Street
44 Front St, SC, 426-1994. One of the top spots for fine flavors after just about anything, anytime. The recently re-opened landmark roams the contemporary dining globe to provide just what you want when most other places have stopped serving. You cannot improve on the never-better Thurber Burger, but on the other hand, we've had grilled prawns on baby lettuces that also hit the after-hours spot. From designer to old-fashioned direct culinary hits, this kitchen is nothing if not friendly and flexible.
Fri-Sat until 11pm.

Seabright Brewery
519 Seabright Ave, Harbor Station, SC, 426-2739.
Yes it does look a whole lot like a very happening surfer pub. It is exactly that, with copious lashings of award-winning suds and gargantuan fries to prove it. But this great alfresco party disguised as a brewpub is also the place to savor sensitive salads and expertly prepared fresh seafoods. Even the soups here are memorable. You also can assuage those perky food desires with roasted garlic, baked brie and sliced baguettes, no less. And the wine list ain't bad either, for a place that specializes in fine beer, especially the ambers.
Nightly until 11:30pm.

So Say We
Robert Scheer

Say Anything: So Say We owner David Jackman listens for the rush of the late-night crowds craving tiramisu and other cafe specialties.

So Say We
418 Front St., SC, 454-9547.
An artistic attitude, little round bistro tables and a spun copper espresso bar punctuate this neo-Bohemian evening dining arena that fronts the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery. So devoted to after-hours rendezvous are these children of the night, that the place doesn't even open until 5pm. Named after local groups and performance stars, So Say We's special broiled sandwiches are compiled of creative pastiches like roasted garlic and spinach with marinated organic mushrooms and Gorgonzola cheese. Another special named the "Del Rey" features golden sun-dried tomato and hazelnut pesto. Mmmmm. There are also platters of vegetables, spreads, olives and cheeses, plus salads and soup of the day. BYOB (no corkage fee), or sip elegant espressos, Italian hot chocolates and exotic herbal teas until the wee hours.
Mon-Sat until 2am.

Storti's Pizzeria
920 Pacific Ave, SC, 425-8888.
Storti's does a sensitive pizza, a pizza with that extra kick of garlic that separates the paisans from the mere auslanders. Storti's makes its pizzas right in front of you, while you wait and while your mouth waters. It's truly way better than you'd expect it to be, given its no-nonsense, unglamorous location next to all those buses coming and going. But Storti's knows pizza. You bet. And if you beg--call first and beg over the phone if possible--you might be able to order one of the incomparable, highly addictive fresh clam pizzas. Then you will smile a lot as you wander out into the night, feeling like an extra in a Fellini film. A well-fed extra in a Fellini film.
Sun-Thu until 11pm, Fri-Sat till midnight.

Swagat
1723 Soquel Ave, SC, 423-2929.
Spicy--okay, red hot--cooking from the southern climes of India fills this unassuming Eastside eatery with the perfume of mango powder and curry. Even after most other places have stopped serving dinner, Swagat offers wonderful small dishes involving curried vegetables that can be scooped up with garlicky nan bread--fun food encounters for after the movie or to show off with out-of-town guests. Definitely worlds away from the midnight Burger King scenario, this place is for adventurous night-owl gourmets.
Nightly until 11:30pm.

Taqueria Santa Cruz
2215-A Mission St, SC, 423-0606;
1002 Soquel Ave, SC, 429-5193.
From menudo to lengua and back again, what you get at this gleaming white-tiled taqueria (ditto the second new location where Pon's used to be) is authentic Mexican food. Condiments of fiery chiles and hot radishes wait on each table in case that burrito or tostada al pastor isn't quite hot enough for you. Straightforward, freshly cooked and--if you like--hotter than hell.
Nightly until midnight.

Taqueria Vallarta
608 Soquel Dr, Soquel, 457-8226
893 41st Ave, SC, 464-7022.
A terrific young crew with charm and attitude runs these popular taquerias like a rollicking soccer team. Inexpensive, intensely flavored tacos are the strong suit, though the salsa fresca and refried beans aren't to be sniffed at. There's just something about that last carnitas of the day that gives you enough energy to last till dawn. If you're bored with your last scene, this place provides one-stop shopping. It's got scene to spare and you eat while you watch (and I don't mean the TV that always shows soccer matches from around the world).
Fri-Sat until midnight.

Tony's Cafe des Arts
316 Capitola Ave, Capitola, 479-4393.
Serious home cooking with continental execution fills this tiny restaurant wrapped around a long bar with terrific aromas. It's a great place to wander into after the music gets boring and what you need is a place for one-on-one conversation. When you need more than just a salad or a brownie, Tony's will oblige with pasta or some sensuous chicken entree, even after 10pm. It feels a lot like one of those homey Italian places in a New York neighborhood.
Nightly until 11pm.

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From the October 17-23, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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