All Photos by Garrick Ramirez
The latest buzz in Santa Cruz is Abbott Square, a dynamic plaza and marketplace that’s enlivened already buzzing downtown with six new restaurants, two bars, plenty of al fresco courtyard seating, and a lineup of free performances and public art. The $5 million endeavor is five years in the making, and a joint project of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) and developer John McEnery IV who created a similar community marketplace in San Jose.
Standing at the corner of Front and Cooper Streets, immediately adjacent to the MAH, Abbott Square was until recently, a spacious but underutilized plaza situated out of sight of bustling Pacific Avenue. Today, the revitalized plaza shines with a European flavor thanks to a diverse mix of couples, friends, and families conversing over food and drinks. The plaza is a public space, and all are welcome to drop by and soak up the sunshine and conviviality. No purchase is necessary to enjoy the Square.
Because Abbott Square is managed by the MAH, a spirited cultural hub helmed by the visionary Nina Simon who lends her expertise to museums nationwide, compelling art and public performances in the plaza is a given. The most prominent artwork is a sprawling new mural by Bonny Doon artist Thomas Campbell that wraps both the plaza and the MAH with a virtual quilt of colors, patterns, and Santa Cruz references hung together via painted stitching. Then there’s “Beacon,” an environmental sculpture comprised of giant red marine buoys hung above the marketplace entrance in a quarter circle that appears to be a full circle thanks to mirrored paneling. In a quiet nook of the plaza, a Secret Garden invites children to play, stare into an lighted “infinity mirror,” and tug at ropes that cause wood cut-outs of various creatures to spring up from behind a wooden fence. The Secret Garden and plaza are also the sites of numerous public events and family-friendly workshops. For a full list of upcoming events, check the Abbott Square site. Plus, the MAH with all of its varied programming and exhibits is literally a few steps away.
FOOD & DRINK
The soul of the plaza is Abbott Square Market, an airy food hall that’s filled with a dizzying array of local food and drink vendors, and spills out onto a light-strung plaza set with comfortable seating. Fun fact: the market is housed in what was once the Santa Cruz County jail. We promise: the food is much better today. Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll find inside:
Cat. Cloud. Companion
This all-day cafe is the superstar project of two beloved Santa Cruz businesses: third-wave coffee roaster Cat & Cloud and Companion Bakeshop. Now fans of both can pair expert espresso drinks with delectable baked goods in one, sleek spot.
Front & Cooper
Bar superstar Kate Gerwin—a Bay Area native who has consulted and opened bars throughout the U.S.—designed the two bars with an industrial, steampunk-influenced design and named for the cross streets bordering Abbott Square Market. One space pours both local and international beer and wine, while the other shakes up creative cocktails including the breakfast inspired Cereal Killer and Gin and Tonics adorned with vibrant edible flowers.
Pizzeria la Bufala
Crowds flock to this lively pizzeria for picture-perfect Neapolitan pies with an irresistible blistered crust. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana and a selection of Italian cured meats such as prosciutto, salame and mortadella allow guest to assemble an enviable meat and cheese board to pair with wine from Front & Cooper.
Milk and Wood
Next-gen popsicles drizzled in chocolate and dressed with fun toppings? Yes, please! The frozen treats are handmade each day and come in a variety of flavors from Green Tea Kit Kat to Strawberry Cheesecake. Plus, you can customize your pop with a variety of chocolate drizzles and toppings such as Fruity Pebbles. And don’t the let the clever name fool you. Milk and Wood has plenty of vegan pops too including sorbet-based fruit flavors.
Veg on the Edge
Enjoy a globe-trotting selection of vegetarian dishes made with locally sourced, organic produce at this inventive market stand.
This seafood vendor brings a taste of New England to the market with fresh and baked oysters, lobster rolls, and clam chowder.
Assemble your dream poke bowl at this colorful Hawaiian influenced spot. Start with a base of rice, lettuce, or chips and customize it with your choice of fresh fish and a seemingly endless list of toppings.
The Kitchen at the Octagon
Chef Santos Majano who dazzled diners with his creative dishes at Discretion Brewing will soon have a second location at the iconic Octagon Building, built in 1882 as the County Hall of Records.
Food, art, and community are three important aspects of Santa Cruz culture, and the new Abbott Square encompasses them all. We encourage you explore the space and experience an authentic taste of Santa Cruz. See you at the Square!