Neighborhood Stroll: Midtown Santa Cruz

With a prime location right in the heart of Santa Cruz, just minutes from both downtown and Seabright Beach, Midtown is a neighborhood gem that’s hidden in plain sight. Lined with a plethora of local restaurants, breweries, and shops to discover, the quaint main street that runs through Midtown – Soquel Avenue – is the perfect spot to take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood! Grab a coffee along the way, stop for a bite, and peruse the local goods as you discover the stroll-worthy, beach-town charm of Santa Cruz’s Midtown neighborhood!  

Gilman Brewing

DINING + DRINKS  

Meander into one of the delicious Midtown eateries that serve up everything from crêpes to sushi, and curry to calzones. A classic establishment in the community is The Crêpe Place, where delicious food and live music go hand-in-hand. Their lush backyard patio feels like a true German Biergarten, so settle in amidst the trellises and greenery to enjoy a cocktail and indulge in a crêpe alfresco. For something appetizing, affordable, and vegetarian/vegan-friendly, head to local street food favorite Charlie Hong Kong for some Asian-fusion fare. Nearby, Akira Sushi is dishing up some of the freshest cuts in town. Their rolls’ bold flavor combinations are sure to delight, and for spice lovers, a must-have are the famous Akira Tempura Jalapeño Poppers! 

Bay Area favorite Gilman Brewing has made its way down to the Monterey Bay in style! With an ever-changing variety of handcrafted beers on tap, from farmhouse ales to IPAs and sours, there’s something for every beer lover’s palate. Gilman Brewing is also home to a farm-to-table eatery, which sources local and fresh ingredients for its menu. Grab a classic beer pairing, like the Soft Bavarian Pretzel, or a fresh take, like the not-to-be-missed Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich! Its cayenne-forward secret spice blend brings the heat and flavor in each finger-licking bite. Gilman’s sunny patio is a great spot to spend an afternoon, brew in hand – friends, kids, and pooches are welcome!   

A piece about Midtown wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Santa Cruz classic, Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, which serves up hearty Italian dishes made using recipes that have been passed down through generations – and for good reason! Everything on the menu is delectable, and the wine list is impeccable. The must-try item at Lillian’s is an appetizer that’s rarely seen outside of Italy – arancini: deep-fried risotto balls, filled with cheese and served with a side of marinara. Delicious!  

The Buttery

COFFEE + TEA 

Put some pep in your step by sipping on some java during your Midtown stroll! There are plenty of options: walk right up to Lulu Carpenter’s, a micro-coffee shop whose roasts are a Midtown staple, or spot the vibrant tones of Midtown Surf Shop + Coffee Bar, which are appealing for a wake-me-up cup. Head inside to a serene space that truly embraces the Santa Cruz lifestyle. Sip on a Bowl of Soul or a Two Six – that’s an iced sea salt caramel latte topped with whipped cream and almonds – while you peruse the collection of wet suits and boards. You’ll be ready for a surf sesh in no time!  

For something a bit more substantial, stop in for a bite at The Buttery. This aptly-named bakery has perfected its buttery treats, like the must-try chocolate croissant and equally delectable bear claw, which pair perfectly with any item from the espresso bar. Their patio seating makes a great spot to soak in the Santa Cruz sunshine while you luxuriate over your buttery goods and morning joe!  

HOME/WORK

SHOP 

Whether you prefer to window shop until you drop or stock up on all the local goods, there is something for everyone at the varying boutiques and storefronts that dot Midtown’s main street. Head to neighborhood favorite HOME/WORK, a laid-back destination brimming with a selection of wares that have been carefully curated by owner Sonia McMoran. Each item in the shop was chosen to pair style and function while also considering sustainability, affordability, and fair labor practices. This thoughtful curation makes it hard to leave HOME/WORK without a little something extra in your bag!  

Just across the road, a wildflower mural by local artist McKella Jo welcomes you to Amber Moon, a women’s clothing boutique filled with boho-inspired styles that embrace Santa Cruz living. Next door is Childish, a toy shop that will kindle a wave of childhood nostalgia as you walk through its doors. The toys and goods lining the walls are ethically sourced and environmentally friendly while still being kind to your wallet.  

Don’t miss a chance to shop at a Santa Cruz landmark: Shopper’s Corner. Locals have been shopping here since 1938, and they continue to come back for the array of options at Shopper’s Corner: local produce, freshly baked bread, fine wines, over 150 different types of cheeses, and one of the last old-time meat markets around which is staffed with highly skilled and entertaining butchers! There are all sorts of goods to fill your cart and your belly!

PLAY  

Santa Cruz knows how to balance the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle, and that’s apparent in Midtown! Check out the lineup at the Rio Theatre, a historic movie-theater-meets-concert-venue that serves as a much-needed entertainment destination in the center of it all.  

When the weather warms up, start the weekend off with a bang at Midtown Fridays! Part-jamboree, part-market, this lively series of neighborhood block parties are a celebration of the thriving Midtown community. You won’t want to miss out on the fun!  

With its central Santa Cruz location and laid-back vibe, Midtown offers so much to discover as you meander along its main street: from coffee shops to breweries, local shops, and restaurants. Midtown’s beach-town charm makes for a fantastic destination to take a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood!