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Travel BLOG
August 19, 2014

5 Best Bites

Despite arriving first, appetizers can feel secondary to a meal -- kind of like the Garfunkel and Oates of the dinner table. But who doesn’t love a good appetizer? When you arrive hungry to a restaurant, nothing is more anticipated than the moment an appetizer plate hits the table. Plus, sometimes you just want to pop in to a restaurant for a bite and a drink. Here are five of my favorite appetizing spots in town: ASSEMBLY AssemblyBLOG Photo by Garrick Ramirez Since opening earlier this year, this stylish downtown dining room has proved to be a hugely popular draw. Reservations aren’t always easy to snag, but there’s often room for walk-ins at the community table, 10-seat bar or two standing tables that are perfect for drinks and a snack. In fact, one of the things I love about Assembly is their Snacks Menu which features easy bites like fried olives, “party dips” and an amazingly bountiful cheese plate. Need something more substantial? Their burger is one of the best in town and it’s bliss when paired with one of their 10 craft beers on tap. CAFE CRUZ Photo by Garrick Ramirez Photo by Garrick Ramirez This perennial Soquel favorite fosters a warm atmosphere that’s worlds away from the strip mall stress of 41st Street. I love their garden patio with huge stone hearth but there are lots of other cozy nooks including an airy garden room and lively bar area. I’ll come during happy hour (Monday - Friday, 3-6pm) and pair drink specials with bites off the appetizer menu. On a recent visit, I enjoyed a plate of golden, pan-fried sand dabs with a side of tangy slaw. And I never pass up the chance to order their sumptuous Hearts of Romaine Salad, rich with avocado, roasted beets, blue cheese, and a generous sprinkling of crumbled croutons and fresh ground pepper. I tell the wait person not to stop grinding until I sneeze. LA POSTA Photo courtesy of La Posta Photo courtesy of La Posta La Posta is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant -- regardless of where you live. It’s owned by the same proprietor as Soif, a restaurant that perfected the art of noshing. With an Italian-centric menu, you can start with items off of their Antipasti menu like house marinated olives or a mixed salumi plate. Try their Farm Lettuces with Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette; the greens -- along with other veggies and herbs -- are plucked from their Westside garden. I also love their delicious, ingredient-driven pizzas which are perfectly crisped in a brick oven. And don’t forget: Tuesdays is Locals Night when you can get a glass of wine and a pizza or housemade pasta for $15. RISTORANTE AVANTI Photo by Garrick Ramirez Photo by Garrick Ramirez Since 1987, this cherished Westside eatery has embodied local food culture by sourcing organic produce, pasture-raised meats and sustainable seafood from local food providers. The Cal-Italian menu is divided into Antipasto, Salads, Primi and Secondi lending lots of options to snack and dine. The seasonal menu changes accordingly but regulars return for mainstays like the Chicken Cacciatore, Meatballs & Pappardelle, and Calamari Fritti. Pop in for lunch Monday through Friday and dinner nightly in their handsome new space with full bar. DAVENPORT ROADHOUSE Photo courtesy of Davenport Roadhouse Photo courtesy of Davenport Roadhouse How much of a draw is the setting at this charming Davenport landmark? It proved strong enough to lure owners John and Queenie from Hong Kong when they took over the space in 2012. Hopefully you won’t have to travel quite that far to enjoy the convivial dining room, bar and cafe filled with laid-back locals and friendly travelers. Start your meal with Caramelized Brussels Sprouts or the Truffle Fries and follow it up with the just-caught Fish of the Day or massive, wood-grilled Bistro Burger. On Tuesdays, the Roadhouse stays true to its name with live bands and $4 tacos. And here’s a tip: come in the morning for a breakfast burrito (meat or veggie) that’s so hearty, you’ll be nibbling it well into the afternoon!


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