Eating out in Santa Cruz County is about so much more than fueling up for the next adventure. The nation’s organic food movement took root here in our county’s fertile soil and we banned plastic bags, straws, cutlery and styrofoam take-out containers long before green-living and zero-waste lifestyles came into vogue.
With this history and the acres of agricultural land right in our backyard, you could say that an abundance of farm-to-table restaurants comes with the territory. There are a few local eateries, however, that go above and beyond the required biodegradable take-out containers and expected organic produce. These restaurants plan their menus around the local harvest and are always looking for ways to further shrink their environmental footprint. The innovative culinary creations that result will elevate your dining experience from passive diner to passionate foodie with a taste for local cuisine and eco-conscious dining experiences.
GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH, WALLET, AND THE PLANET
Charlie Hong Kong serves healthy Asian-Californian street food out of a 1950’s ice cream stand. A covered outdoor seating area sports an appropriately green awning to match their impressive list of green business practices. To start, there’s the vegan-friendly menu (although you can always add sustainable, hormone and antibiotic-free meat to any dish) featuring all-organic produce from local farms like Lakeside Organics. Popular dishes like the vegan Spicy Dan feature a medley of seasonal, and always organic vegetables. And if you’re at all worried about the coconut milk, owners Rudy and Carolyn Rudolph traveled all the way to Thailand to ensure the company met their environmental standards.
A Green Certified Business, Charlie Hong Kong was the first business in Santa Cruz to stop using plastic takeout bags before the city or state’s plastic bag ban went into effect. Owner Carolyn Rudolph even partnered with local nonprofit Save Our Shores to help pass plastic bag ban ordinances in neighboring cities. It should come as no surprise then that you won’t find plastic water bottles in their cooler. Instead, choose from a variety of beers and non-alcoholic beverages in glass bottles and aluminum cans. Takeout orders include compostable cutlery, and for those who eat in, all dishes are served in reusable dishware—a rarity for a small, counter-service restaurant.
OTHER GREEN RESTAURANTS WORTH A MENTION
Many other restaurants in Santa Cruz County take sustainability seriously. Shadowbrook turned the roof of its kitchen into an organic herb garden and is part of the Monterey Bay Green Business Program. Discretion Brewing is the county’s first solar-powered and green-certified brewery and is also home to The Kitchen led by Chef Santos Majano. Humble Sea on the Westside frequently hosts events and brews beers that give back to environmental causes. They also feature locally grown produce from the Homeless Garden Project and other nearby farms in a rotating menu of mouthwatering sandwiches and salads.
Your hotel may offer earth-friendly dining as well. The Solaire Restaurant at Hotel Paradox is also committed to local ingredients and a small carbon footprint. They even source hyper-local honey for their innovative cocktails from local hives.