Travel Blog

Your Guide to Dining in Santa Cruz County

In a world where much has changed, it’s nice knowing you can still enjoy a delicious meal (that you didn’t cook!) while also supporting local small business. Whether you’re looking for a romantic meal, a place to linger while you dine al fresco, some food on the go between exploring the area, or a tasty treat to satisfy that sweet tooth, Santa Cruz County eateries are serving up all your favorites. Peek below for some great options around the county and let the culinary adventure begin!

Please note that dine-in is temporarily closed in Santa Cruz County. And remember to protect others and yourself – take the Safety Pledge to wear a mask and social distance while in Santa Cruz County.

Shadowbrook Restaurant

Romantic Night Out – Or In

Some Santa Cruz restaurants are known for their romance. Shadowbrook Restaurant has been serving up romantic evenings and special occasions for decades – their iconic red cable car is always a favorite. The spectacular hilltop views of The Hollins House make for an unbelievably dreamy backdrop – in fact, it’s so perfectly dreamy and romantic that it’s a popular venue to tie the knot. This list of romantic restaurants combines views and ambience with carefully crafted menus that will satisfy any foodie at heart. Takeaway meals are often offered at these stellar eateries too, so feel free to grab your date night dinner to-go.

BACK NINE GRILL & BAR
555 Hwy. 17
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.423.5000
Tasty Tip: Great California fresh menu. Gift Certificates are available online.

CAFE CRUZ
2621 41st Avenue
Soquel, CA 95073
831.476.3801
Tasty Tip: Request their patio for a cozy garden feel. Gift Certificates are available online.

CAFE MARE
740 Front Street, #100
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.458.1212
Tasty Tip: Enjoy a romantic Italian lunch or dinner al fresco on their patio.

CAPITOLA WINE BAR
115 San Jose Avenue
Capitola, CA 95010
831.476.2282
Tasty Tip: Order some bites and wine – with over one hundred wines to choose from, you may want to stay for a while. Gift Certificates are available online.

GABRIELLA CAFE
910 Cedar Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.457.1677
Tasty Tip: Sunset Magazine named Gabriella Cafe “The town’s most romantic spot…!” And you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu – including their weekend brunch!

LA POSTA
538 Seabright Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
831.457.2782
Tasty Tip: Transport to Italy for a dinner al fresco and bring your own flatware, glassware, and napkins if you prefer not to use compostable and paper products.

LAILI RESTAURANT
101-B Cooper Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.423.4545
Tasty Tip: Rich Mediterranean flavors with a unique Afghan twist in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz. We recommend starting your meal with the Kadoo Boranee and a flatbread of your choice.

PERSEPHONE
7945 Soquel Drive
Aptos, CA 95003
831.612.6511
Tasty Tip: This locally owned fine dining restaurant overlooking Aptos Creek serves a seasonally rotating farm to table menu based off of locally sourced organic ingredients. Follow them on Instagram for menu updates!

SHADOWBROOK RESTAURANT
1750 Wharf Rd.
Capitola, CA 95010
831.475.1511
Tasty Tip: Shadowbrook has won numerous accolades including, “Most Romantic Restaurant,” “Best Service,” “Best Place to Take Visitors,” “Best Place to Kiss,” and more. Gift Certificates are available online.

SOIF WINE BAR & MERCHANTS
105 Walnut Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.423.2020
Tasty Tip: Crafted cocktails, fine wines, and seasonal dishes that will wow any foodie – Soif is an ideal date night locale. They are currently offering patio dining and takeaway.

THE HOLLINS HOUSE
20 Clubhouse Road
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.459.9182
Tasty Tip: First date, date night, anniversary, or wedding day, Hollins House delivers on the romance. Need appetizer advice? Order the Brussel Sprouts!

THE VIEW AT CHAMINADE
One Chaminade Lane
Santa Cruz, CA 95065
831.475.5600
Tasty Tip: Start with the cheeseboard, end with wine by the fire overlooking the Monterey Bay. You’ll love The View! Gift Certificates are available online.

VINOCRUZ WINE BAR + RESTAURANT
4901 Soquel Drive
Soquel, CA 95073
831.426.8466
Tasty Tip: Wines and delicious bites – Gift Certificates are available online.

Post Up on the Patio

Patio dining has been a keystone of culinary experiences over the last few months and the mild Santa Cruz weather has served our restaurants and their customers well through this season. Some Santa Cruz restaurants were perfectly placed and already offering outdoor options, while other eateries were quick to adapt and created a memorable al fresco dining experience. From familiar favorites like the beachfront views of the Crow’s Nest to new patios that have popped up at places like Jack’s Patio and El Palomar, you’re sure to find somewhere you’ll want to linger in the fresh air.

BRUNO’S BAR AND GRILL
230-G Mt. Hermon Road
SCOTTS VALLEY, CA 95066
831.438.2227
Tasty Tip: Eat on one of their four themed patios – Hawaii, Bali, Mexico, or Paris – for some extra fun! Gift certificates are available online.

CAFE RIO ON THE BEACH
131 Esplanade
Aptos, CA 95003
831.688.8917
Tasty Tip: Enjoy their outdoor patio while you listen to the waves crash – and after your meal, take a walk on the beach!

CROW’S NEST RESTAURANT
2218 E. Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
831.476.4560
Tasty Tip: Enjoy ocean and Santa Cruz Harbor views while you eat! Keep your eyes peeled for the Chardonnay or O’Neill Catamaran heading out on the Bay. Gift Certificates are available online.

DELAVEAGA RESTAURANT – THE GRILLE AT DELA
401 Upper Park Road
SANTA CRUZ, CA 95065
831.423.1600
Tasty Tip: A hidden gem for breakfast, but whenever you go, order drinks and food and linger on their large patio overlooking the golf course.

EL PALOMAR RESTAURANT
1336 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.425.7575
Tasty Tip: A well-known Santa Cruz favorite! There are so many options at El Palomar, but we’re loving their newly created patio dining experience! Order a pitcher of margaritas, your favorite El Palomar dishes, and relax al fresco!

HULA’S ISLAND GRILL & TIKI ROOM
221 Cathcart Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.426.4852 (HULA)
Tasty Tip: Hula’s is known for its great Hawaiian-inspired menu, fun cocktails (try the Pain Killer), and lively atmosphere, and with their newly expanded parklet patio, there’s even more Hula’s Island fun!

IDEAL BAR & GRILL
106 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.423.5271
Tasty Tip: Ideal’s patio is an easy sell – it’s at the beach! Starters, cocktails, salads, seafood, prime rib, and more, Ideal is the ideal spot for dining al fresco in Santa Cruz!

JACK’S PATIO
175 West Cliff Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 331-1724
Tasty Tip: Located at the Dream Inn, Jack’s Patio is a fun spot near all the action of beach, wharf and West Cliff, but is a little oasis for some outdoor dining near the coast. Gift Certificates are available online.

KIANTI’S PIZZA & PASTA BAR
1100 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.469.4400
Tasty Tip: This is a great spot for the whole family! Pizzas, pastas, salads and more – and right in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz. Gift Certificates are available online.

LUPULO
233 Cathcart Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.454.8306
Tasty Tip: Lupulo has a constantly rotating selection of 16 small-production beers on tap and over 100 bottles, plus great Mediterranean and Latin-American inspired cuisines that focus on locally sourced product and produce.

MACKENZIE BAR & GRILL
18 Clubhouse Road
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.459.9162
Tasty Tip: Great burgers, salads, sandwiches and more, while overlooking the famous links of Pasatiempo Golf Course.

SANDERLINGS RESTAURANT AT SEASCAPE BEACH RESORT
1 Seascape Resort Drive
Aptos, CA 95003
831.662.7120
Tasty Tip: Sit on the patio and take in the Monterey Bay. This is also a great spot for a romantic dinner out!

SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAIN BREWING
402 Ingalls Street, Suite 27
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.425.4900
Tasty Tip: Everyone loves the beer garden at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing on the Westside. Of course for the 21+, enjoy their organic brews, but everyone has to try their tasty menu items – including their pretzels! Gift Certificates are available online.

SEVERINO’S BAR & GRILL
7500 Old Dominion Court
Aptos, CA 95003
831.688.8987
Tasty Tip: This spot is an Aptos gem! From breakfast to burgers, their menu has something for everyone.

SNAP TACO
1108 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.824.6100
Tasty Tip: Order the guac and definitely mix and match your tacos! We usually order 3 tacos – all different types – so we can sample the creative menu! A few favorites so far: Lost Island (tiki pulled pork, snappy pineapple salsa), Super Tuber (sweet potato, minty goat cheese), and the classic Carne Asada (but of course with a creative twist!)

STAGNARO BROS. RESTAURANT
59 Municipal Wharf
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.423.2180
Tasty Tip: At Stagnaro Bros, you are literally eating over the Monterey Bay so the al fresco experience goes up a few notches over the water! Don’t miss out on their clam chowder.

THE HEAVENLY ROADSIDE CAFE
1210 Mount Hermon Road
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
831.335.1210
Tasty Tip: Breakfast, brunch, or lunch at Heavenly Cafe is always a good time! They don’t skimp on portions so come hungry!

THE OASIS
415-A River Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.621.8040
Tasty Tip: Discover their Sicilian style pizza and local beer offerings and their patio dining will definitely become your friend.

THE SAND BAR & GRILL
211 Esplanade
Capitola, CA 95010
831.462.1881
Tasty Tip: The tip is simple, start with a Bloody Mary and have some fun at this Capitola Village favorite.

VENUS SPIRITS COCKTAILS & KITCHEN
427-A Swift Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.427.9673
Tasty Tip: Of course their cocktails are a must – they are a distillery after all! But follow them on social for current menu offerings and exciting events like “Tuesday Takeover” where they invite food makers like Full Steam Dumpling to take over their kitchen for the evening!

WALNUT AVE CAFE
106 Walnut Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.457.2804
Tasty Tip: There’s no going wrong with Walnut Ave’s menu, but don’t pass up on the French Toast or Belgian Waffle with Grilled Bananas and Walnuts.

Takeout & Adventure

Tasty takeout is perfect for the outdoor adventurer in need of some food on the go. Whether you’re at the beach and want to top off your perfect Santa Cruz day with Las Palmas tacos or you’re craving a wholesome bowl from Charlie Hong Kong, there are plenty of delicious takeout options around the county.

CALIFORNIA GRILL OF THE PAJARO VALLEY
40 Penny Lane
Watsonville, CA 95076
831.722.8052
Tasty Tip: Dine-in or takeout available. Continue your South County exploring at the expansive beaches, u-pick farms, and more.

CHARLIE HONG KONG
1141 Soquel Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
831.426.5664
Tasty Tip: A great choice for some healthy, organic, Asian-inspired street food on the go! CHK is definitely a local favorite! Gift Certificates are available online.

GAYLE’S BAKERY & ROSTICCERIA
504 Bay Avenue
Capitola, CA 95010
831.462.1200
Tasty Tip: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, make time to fit Gayle’s into your Santa Cruz County adventures. Gift certificates are available online.

KAITO
830 41st Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
831.464.2586
Tasty Tip: Pickup some sushi and ramen from Kaito and continue down 41st to head to Pleasure Point for some beach views.

LAS PALMAS TACO BAR
830 41st Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
831.464.2586
Tasty Tip: Widely known for their crispy tacos, Las Palmas is centrally located near the beach, Wharf, West Cliff Drive, the Boardwalk and Downtown Santa Cruz.

PACIFIC THAI
1319 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 420-1700
Tasty Tip: Pad Thai, spring rolls, boba tea, and mango curry – oh my! Pacific Thai is a Santa Cruz favorite in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz.

SANTA CRUZ COFFEE ROASTING COMPANY
1330 Pacific Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.459.0100
Tasty Tip: The perfect stop for some great coffee, specialty drinks, and delicious treats on the go! Gift Certificates are available online.

SURF CITY SANDWICH
4101 Soquel Drive, B1
Soquel, CA 95073
831.346.6952
Tasty Tip: Not your average sandwich shop – these are artisan sandwiches! You’ll love their house-made chips too!

THE PICNIC BASKET
125 Beach Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.427.9946
Tasty Tip: Salads, sandwiches, breakfast burritos – no wrong choice. And their location across from the beach isn’t too bad either!

WHALE CITY BAKERY BAR & GRILL
490 Coast Road
Davenport, CA 95017
831.423.9009
Tasty Tip: Grab something great from Whale City Bakery (which isn’t hard to to) and then carefully cross Highway 1 and enjoy your food with an ocean view. (Almost directly across from Whale City Bakery is the Old Davenport Pier – one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in the county.)

ZACHARY’S RESTAURANT
819 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.427.0646
Tasty Tip: Whatever you order, always add the Sourdough Pancakes to share (or not share).

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

When you’re in the mood for something sweet, Santa Cruz County knows how to deliver the good(ies). The beloved Penny Ice Creamery has expanded from one location to three and serves up made-from-scratch ice cream that locals and visitors have fallen in love with – two words, marshmallow fluff… And who can resist the smell of fresh baked cookies? For over 40 years, Pacific Cookie Company has been baking deliciously addictive cookies in Santa Cruz. See more tasty treats below.

ASHBY CONFECTIONS
16C Victor Square
SCOTTS VALLEY, CA 95066
831.454.8299
Tasty Tip: Ashby Confections crafts exquisite artisan chocolates and confections. Any order is a good one, but don’t miss out on their caramels! Gift Certificates are available online.  

MARTINELLI’S COMPANY STORE
345 Harvest Drive
Watsonville, CA 95076
831.768.3938
Tasty Tip: Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice is a classic and you definitely can’t go wrong with the original, but don’t miss grabbing a bottle of some other favorites! Sparkling Apple-Pomegranate, Sparkling Apple-Peach, Sparkling Apple-Marionberry, and Sparkling Blush are a few new faves!

MUTARI CRAFT CHOCOLATE
504 Front Street, Suite A
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.687.8141
Tasty Tip: Craft Chocolate is next level. Stop in for a variety of tasty treats like chocolate bars, caramels, ice creams, hot cocoa and more. Follow them on Instagram for a “taste” of what they have to offer!

PACIFIC COOKIE COMPANY
1203 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.429.6905
Tasty Tips: Not only are the freshly baked cookies from Pacific Cookie Company an immediate perk to your day, they travel well and taste just as good the next day.

THE PENNY ICE CREAMERY
913 Cedar Street & 820 41st Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831.204.2523
Tasty Tip: Two words: Marshmallow Fluff. You can’t go wrong with Penny’s seasonally rotating ice cream flavors. Just be sure to add the “Torched Marshmallow Fluff” at least once in your life! Gift Certificates are available online.

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