Like the Westside and Pleasure Point, Midtown is one of Santa Cruz’s many distinct, charming neighborhoods. Follow Soquel Avenue across the San Lorenzo River from Downtown and discover a bustling, walk-able corridor of boutiques, eateries and some of the city’s most beloved mainstays.
Wikipedia will tell you that Midtown spans a large swath of town between the San Lorenzo River and Pleasure Point, but the heart of Midtown lies on a five block stretch of Soquel Avenue between Branciforte and Seabright Avenues. It’s here that you’ll find a cluster of intriguing storefronts to stroll. Holding down the west end of the strip is The Buttery, a cozy cafe and bakery whose hearty, homemade breakfasts and display case brimming with fresh pastries has drawn a line since 1984. Its big sunny, garden patio is just one of many to enjoy in Midtown.
Other great spots to grab coffee and a bite include Midtown Cafe, a handsome newcomer with a hidden patio and arguably the best kale salad in town, as well as Lulu’s Midtown, a popular java hub that’s a regular at local farmers’ markets.
Come lunch, check out Charlie Hong Kong, a beloved lunch and dinner spot that welcomes all with organic Asian-inspired noodle and rice dishes. Vegan? Check. Gluten-free? Check. Pet and kid-friendly? Yep, bring the whole family. Order at the counter and enjoy your Spicy Dan’s Peanut Delight and Ginger Lemonade in a sheltered courtyard.
To fully revel in the outdoors, head to Solaire Restaurant + Bar at one of Santa Cruz’s premier design destinations, The Hotel Paradox. An expansive pool deck sports cabanas and tables to enjoy sunny dishes like a chicken katsu sandwich and exceptional ahi poke. Inside, a stylish dining room brings the outdoors in with a ceiling photo-mural of a tree-lined sky and squirrel figurines “scampering” along the walls.
Craving something more traditional? Nearby Hindquarter Bar & Grille does what they’ve been doing best for some 40 years: killer steaks, prime rib and burgers.
When it’s time to walk off your meal with some window shopping, check out the local Midtown Surf Shop, an inspiring and laid-back destination for discovering both casual beachwear, bathing suits and custom surfboards! . This surfer’s paradise also doubles as a coffee bar and lounge, serving Verve Coffee and small bites perfect for that afternoon pick-me-up.
At night, crowds gather at Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, a popular neighborhood spot for big bowls of pasta like Braised Short Rib Ragu and their famous “Sunday Gravy” bolognese. A block away, festive diners clink glasses of sake at Akira, a fun boisterous spot for creative sushi rolls and Japanese small plates.
You might also be able to catch some live music while you’re in the neighborhood. The Crepe Place is a venerable Midtown institution with a small front room stage, lively bar with a notable selection of spirits, and a lush, eclectic garden strung with lights. Across the way, you can’t miss the bright neon signage of the Rio Theatre. Opened in 1949 as a local cinema house, the ocean liner inspired venue now hosts live performances from big time artists such as Yo La Tengo and Patti Smith.
Updated December 2019