Travel Blog

Your Guide to Romantic Restaurants in Santa Cruz County

They say the way to a loved one’s heart is through their stomach! From dramatic coastal views to hidden havens in the lush Santa Cruz Mountains, we’ve got you covered for wining and dining year-round at some of the most romantic eateries in Santa Cruz County.

Hollins House

Nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains inside of the historic Pasatiempo Golf Club, Hollins House provides spectacular views of Santa Cruz and the surrounding Monterey Bay. Built as the golf course’s original clubhouse in 1931, it is now a full service restaurant that features local, organic food. Chef John Paul Lechtenberg, or “JP” as the staff affectionately refer to him, wows diners with composed plates of transnational inspired, seasonal dishes—think tender Spanish octopus and flavorful Pappardelle Bolognese— sourced from goods grown in the nearby garden and local farmers markets. The eatery is open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, but frequently hosts private events. Check their Instagram page for weekly hours.

Soif Wine Bar & Merchants

Located in the heart of bustling downtown, Soif Wine Bar serves as the perfect place to start (or end) your date night. Choose from dozens of locally grown grapes on their delightful wine list or a libation from their seasonal cocktail menu. Insatiable bar bites pair perfectly with whatever you’re drinking; try the lamb meatballs cooked in a decadent romesco sauce or a cheese board from the heavens. Like what you’re sipping? Take a stroll next door to the wine shop and take a bottle home!

Shadowbrook Restaurant

Since 1947, Shadowbrook Restaurant has been known for “romance in dining” and a crowd pleaser for one reason: a night here always feels special. Overlooking quaint Capitola Village, its waterfront location can be reached via red cable car which descends a hillside garden of ferns and waterfalls—it’s just as pleasing to stroll the meandering garden path—with a stream that flows into a pond inside the restaurant. Inside, find quirky accolades with unique features such as aquariums, a massive stone hearth, and towering trees growing up through the ceiling. Meals are no less remarkable with traditional seafood and steakhouse staples including sauteed local sand dabs and a slow roasted Angus prime rib. This a perfect spot to revel anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and special occasions; and end the celebration by hailing a complimentary ride back home with one of Shadowbrook’s vintage taxicabs.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

Gabriella Café

Housed in a romantic 1920s building on a quiet side street in downtown Santa Cruz, this impossibly charming cafe has grown a devoted following with its farm-to-table dishes and intimate dining room that feels plucked from the French countryside. Owner Paul Cocking spent many years as part of the downtown farmers market, and today his restaurant sources nearly all of its produce from local, organic farmers.

Café Cruz

This hidden gem is an oasis of great food and ambiance off bustling 41st Avenue in Soquel. Hidden behind towering green shrubbery, a quiet garden courtyard is set with tables warmed by an outdoor hearth. Inside, the intimate, low-ceiling dining room with open kitchen is a local favorite for date nights and special occasions. Since opening in 1995, the family-owned restaurant has become known for its warm, rustic fare including a signature garlic herb rotisserie chicken, grilled steak salad, seafood specials, and delicious wines and cocktails by the fire.

Photo by Garrick Ramirez

Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge

Overlooking the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and one of the top surfing beaches on the California coast, the Jack O’Neill Restaurant & Lounge adds an air of flirty fun to romantic eateries. The retro-chic dining rooms, named for Santa Cruz wetsuit pioneer Jack O’Neill, offer visitors world class views of the Monterey Bay underneath stunning light fixtures and live music. The menu features delicious California classics with produce sourced in-county. Their fresh caught seafood meets the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch sustainability standards. Grab a drink in their full service bar and enjoy intimate seating while the surfers catch swells on the nearby waves.

Sanderling’s Restaurant

Stunning views of Monterey Bay, the sound of rolling waves, and miles of sandy stretch are the framework for romance at Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos. Their on-site eatery features California coastal cuisines; delightful happy hours inspired by colorful cocktails and live music on the weekends. Sandlering’s Restaurant is open sunrise to sunset, so whether you’re winding down the day or just starting it, a spectacular view awaits!

Opt-In for Takeout

Take the romance from the redwoods to sea with a picnic on the beach, overlooking West Cliff Drive or in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Check out where to find the best takeout in Santa Cruz County here!

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