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.
Veg on the Edge
Enjoy a globe-trotting selection of vegetarian dishes made with locally sourced, organic produce at this inventive market stand.
Belly Goat Burger
There is nothing like an excellent hamburger. This beef is born and raised down the road in Half Moon Bay by Markegard Family Ranch. Not only are they outstanding in their field, but their grass-fed beef has been cultivated to make your mouth water.
Chef Chad & his family are thrilled to share their love for the essence of New Orleans by bringing the bold flavors of Cajun food to Abbott Square! Their stews are packed with vegetables and provide a hearty and healthy meal for all to enjoy! Offering vegan, vegetarian and even gluten free options daily, and don’t worry about too much heat or not enough, all our stews start with wonderful seasoning and our hot sauce selection has offerings for you to turn up the heat as high as you like.
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!