Santa Cruz cuisine is all over the map – literally.
Far from being pigeonholed into standard Cali fare, chefs across the area seem to abide by an unwritten code: Think differently.
Organic/vegetarian restaurants are moving light years beyond salads. It’s not uncommon to see sustainable seafood, free range meat and organic wine on the menu. Likewise, ethnic restaurants are maturing by leaps and bounds, welcoming French, German and Oaxacan eateries into the fold. With the growing popularity of ethnic dishes comes the boldness of chefs to experiment in fusion cuisine, resulting in distinctive flavors that set restaurants in categories by themselves.
Right in line with Santa Cruz’s aversion to all things processed, all things chain, farmers’ markets are experiencing fantastic popularity. Three operate in Santa Cruz through the summer and fall: at the East Cliff Shopping Center Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Cedar and Lincoln Streets Wednesdays from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (this one’s year round) and at Bay and High Streets Tuesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Similar to farmers’ markets, food and wine festivals play an important role in the community’s collective kitchen. September means the Greek Culture and Food Festival, featuring traditional Mediterranean food and pastries, live Greek music and dancing. In July comes the Bonny Doon Art and Wine Festival, which includes more than 20 wine tasting tables, live music, an auction, demonstrations and collector exhibits.
Other popular Santa Cruz restaurants include The Buttery, an always-crowded bakery with soups, sandwiches and salads, and Sestri, an upscale dinner spot with creative dishes and immaculate presentation.
Whether you feel like saving the world, traveling the world or just going on a good date, Santa Cruz’s dining scene will have just what you’re craving.