The ever-expanding Santa Cruz dining scene always has something new to offer, from debuting restaurants to the hottest seasonal dish. The latest buzz is all about new kitchen talent. With a bounty of fresh produce and seafood at their disposal, skillful new chefs are reinvigorating menus across the county. Here’s the scoop on a recent chef shuffle that’s perking up the local food scene.
CHEF PETE PAGE AT CHAMINADE RESORT & SPA
Newly arrived from New Orleans, chef Pete Page brings a passion for the history and culture of cuisines to Chaminade Resort & Spa. “Every time I move to a new place, I’m eager to learn the local food and cultural traditions,” says Page who enjoyed immersing himself in Louisiana’s vibrant food culture. At Chaminade, he’s exploring creative takes on California cuisine that incorporate the state’s varied cultural mix and its well-known zest for health and sustainability. The new menu at the property’s signature restaurant Linwood’s, at Chaminade’s features bright, bold flavors in dishes such as a deconstructed diver scallop “BLT,” smoked pork tenderloin with fig demi-glace, and a killer, Santa Fe-style chile verde stew. He’s also re-energizing the property’s legendary Sunday brunch with a local artisan cheese selection, upgraded prime rib station, and a deluxe bloody Mary bar. Page even hints at a gumbo sometime in the future. As they say in New Orleans, laissez bon temps rouler—let the good times roll!
CHEF TOM MCNARY AT SOIF RESTAURANT & WINE BAR
Soif has been a mecca for high-quality wine and food since it uncorked its first bottle in 2002. Now, chef Tom McNary is opening a new chapter for the sleek downtown eatery. Before coming on board in August 2018, McNary was known for the seasonal, Cal-Med plates he dished up at Carried Away, the Aptos-based take-out restaurant he owned for 28 years. Fastidious about seeking out the freshest possible ingredients, you’ll find the Berkeley-born, Chez Panisse alum shopping weekly farmers markets for produce to pair with seafood he sources from local fishermen. “For me, it’s all about the ingredient and the flavor of the food,” says McNary, adding that he has his pick of farms in Santa Cruz. With a continually-shifting menu, he starts the week with casual, comforting meals—you’ll find Soif’s beloved burger offered on Mondays—then heads into the weekend with premium ingredients such as scallops with uni butter and caviar, and grilled quail with roasted vegetables and salsa verde. For those that haven’t stopped by in a while, Soif recently added a stellar cocktail program and curated selection of spirits to compliment its far-reaching wine selection, giving us even more reason to cheer.
MARK LAVERTY DAVENPORT ROADHOUSE
There’s change afoot at the Davenport Roadhouse. The Highway 1 eatery perched across the Pacific is introducing its first big shift since owner Helmut “John” Fritz acquired it in 2011. New chef Mark Laverty—whose background includes Rosewood luxury resorts and his own East Coast bistro—is ushering in a revamped menu that offers new dishes such as a hand-carved turkey sandwich on artisanal bread, and smoke-tinged pizzas and slow-cooked meats from a reinvigorated wood-fire oven. “It’s simple ingredients done properly,” says Laverty who continues the Roadhouse’s tradition of sourcing local seafood and produce. Regulars will be pleased that faves such as the artichoke leek lasagna, caramelized Brussels sprouts, and fisherman’s stew aren’t going anywhere. “People would kill us if we took off the sprouts,” says Fritz of the popular dish glazed with an apple-ponzu sauce. Pair the restaurant’s new offerings with a selection of local craft beers and wines, and live music on Tuesday and Saturday for a lively evening on the coast. “There’s no unhappiness here!” exclaims Laverty.