Eat & Drink Like a Local in Santa Cruz: Your Guide to the Best Deals
by Rachel Endsley
We’ve shared some of our favorite places to grab a drink at Happy Hour in Santa Cruz – but let’s face it, there’s so much more! And this time around, we’re not going to stop at those discounted beers and margaritas. Take a look at these great food and drink specials happening all around town that will have you in the know and feeling like a local.
Nestled in Rio del Mar, the Cafe Rio on the beach is known for its fresh seafood, salads, and steaks, all while being just steps from the sand. And when it comes to weekly specials, Cafe Rio is on point offering unique $10 deals throughout the week. One of our favorites is the Sunday Night Pulled Pork Sliders with house-made Coleslaw and a glass of wine.
Other specials include: Tuesday Night Linguini and Clams with a glass of house wine for $10; Thursday Night Boneless Short Ribs over gorgonzola polenta with a glass of house wine also for just $10. See a complete list of nightly specials featured from 4pm - 7pm in the bar lounge and patio on their website.
Santa Cruz Wharf
This local favorite goes back – way back. Owned and operated by the original Stagnaro Family, Gilda’s, located on the Santa Cruz Wharf, has been a landmark for visitors and locals since 1972. This bustling diner-style restaurant is known for its tasty and expansive menu, friendly service, gorgeous Monterey Bay views, and awesome daily specials. So how special are these specials? How about a Prime Rib Dinner complete with a cup of soup, baked potato, fresh vegetables and bread and butter for $10.95! And that’s just Wednesday’s special!
Other specials include: Monday Night Roast Turkey with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, fresh vegetable, and bread and butter for $10.95 or the Tuesday Night Marinated Tri-Tip with soup, au gratin potatoes, fresh vegetable, bread and butter for $11.95. Keep up with Gilda’s specials available throughout the week.
IDEAL BAR & GRILL
Santa Cruz Wharf & Main Beach
Ideally located and loaded with specials, Ideal Bar & Grill is another local favorite that knows how to keep you coming back. Start with their weekday Happy Hour from 3pm – 6pm and order a Cuervo Gold Margarita or Mai Tai for $4. Rough week? Make it a double for just 2 extra bucks. Another favorite is the Tuesday “Local’s Favorites after 5pm” where you can choose from six entrees all priced at $13.95.
Other specials include: Every day breakfast deal of two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, toast and home fries for $5.95 from 8am – 10am; Sunday & Monday Baby Back Ribs & french fries for $11.95 after 5pm. For more weekly specials and their live music and karaoke schedule, check their website.
Santa Cruz Harbor
We already shared our love for the Crow’s Nest Happy Hour, but we haven’t quite sang their praises for some great dinner specials. Monday thru Friday after 6pm, go upstairs for a ‘Deal with a View’ where they offer $9.95 menu of complete dinners including Tuscan Chicken Sandwich, Fish Tacos or an Aloha Burger – and each entree comes with choice of soup, salad or fries! You won’t be disappointed by these delicious deals or the panoramic beach and harbor views.
Other specials include: Upstairs Happy Hour, Monday thru Friday, 3:30pm – 6pm, with select appetizers half-priced and well drinks, house wines and pints for only $4.75. Happy Hour all night long on Wednesdays. More lunch and dinner specials can be found on their website along with live entertainment schedules.
ZELDA’S ON THE BEACH
You can probably guess you’re going to be requesting the patio or window seats at Zelda’s. Right on the beach, this Capitola Village restaurant keeps the specials coming, just like their cocktails. Thursday’s Whole Maine Lobster Dinner and Friday’s Slow Roasted Prime Rib, both for $15.95 (with purchase) are some great local favorites. Couple these deals with their weekly happy hour and live music every Friday and Saturday, and you know you’re in for a good time.
Other specials include: Monday thru Friday Breakfast Special with two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, home fries and toast for $6.95 from 7:30am – 12pm. Check the Zelda’s website for live music schedule, happy hour details and even more daily specials.
Photos by Garrick Ramirez