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Travel BLOG
October 17, 2012

A Santa Cruz Restaurant Week Dining Experience

As this was the fourth year that I took advantage of the wildly popular Santa Cruz Restaurant Week (SCRW), I’m delighted to share what I experienced on my culinary journey. For those from outside of the Santa Cruz area, during this one special week, 33 local restaurants offered mouth-watering three-course gourmet dinners for $25. Special menus included three options for each course: appetizer, entrée and dessert. Customers chose one selection from each course. Being adventurous with menu items When hesitant to try a new entree, I went out-on-a-limb with the appetizer or dessert. I normally dislike Brussel sprouts, but tried the Crispy Brussel Sprouts appetizer at Casablanca Bistro, which is also on their regular menu. At Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort, I felt compelled to taste Grilled Castroville Artichoke with balsamic-fennel aioli, and in both cases, I was delighted! At Aquarius, Banana Bread Pudding with caramel gelato and chocolate sauce was a choice that sent me into orbit! I was glad that I consulted with wait staff when unsure of a menu term, after discovering that a sauce with a strange sounding name meant that it was fiery-hot! I was anxious to return to Casablanca Inn and Bistro, after enjoying the seaside restaurant several months ago. Friend Karen Kefauver, who hadn’t eaten there for years, jumped at the opportunity to try out offerings from the new chef. “I especially enjoyed the fresh trout (with bones) as my entrée and was also smitten with the (Crème Caramel) dessert! I also appreciated the restaurant's quiet and calm atmosphere. It was refreshing to not have loud music or a noisy bar close by and I would return to enjoy dessert and the spectacular ocean view,” she said. Ali, our waitress, possessed warmth, charm and efficiency, all of the qualities one would hope for in a server. Having just recently joined the management team, restaurant manager T. Patrick Sargent shared these thoughts: “Restaurant Week was such a great opportunity for us to introduce our city's residents and visitors to some uniquely delicious foods, and every item sampled by our guests was very well received.  Many commented that they were locals but had never come in, or hadn't been in for years, and were pleasantly surprised with our fare. I am most gratified to contribute to the Casablanca, and strive to make each visit with us as a visit to a friend.” Taking in the ocean view All of my friends agreed that we should dine out early, making it easier to secure a window table at ocean-view restaurants like Casablanca, Aquarius, and Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. Not only did we view spectacular sunsets but my party enjoyed a wedding taking place on the bluff at Sanderlings. According to Sanderlings restaurant manager Donita Branson, “Some people don’t know that they can dine here without being a hotel guest. We staff more servers during SCRW, allowing for more time with customers, which makes for a more personalized experience. We try to offer a variety of menu choices while showcasing regular menu items.” Event coordinator Lily Stoicheff said, “Meeting owners and chefs of these wonderful establishments has been a treat. Everyone was a pleasure to work with, and their excitement was palpable. Our Facebook page exploded with hundreds of Restaurant Week-ers sharing their experiences. It's been a joy to see the community come together to support local businesses and Santa Cruz's culinary excellence.”


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  • Karen Kefauver 5 years 306 days ago
    Restaurant Week was a pleasure and I aim to dine out at more restaurants in 2013 when it rolls around again. A pleasure dining with you, June Smith.

  • Caryn Simon 5 years 307 days ago
    I dined at Laili's and enjoyed the Pumpkin appetizer immensely. The Scallops at Aquarius were cooked to perfection and for $27.00 for the entree should have served a more generous portion. I enjoyed Suda on Portola and found the staff very accommodating. My meal at Michaels' on Main was delicious and most of my dining companions had issues around portion sizes being very unequal for the same dish (salad and dessert) and un-geled Creme Brulee. One person got a generous serving of cheese cake and two others were given servings sizes about the size of one's thumb. I'd like to try more restaurants next year and I've already been back to Laili's my new fave rave in Santa Cruz.