Santa Cruz restaurant news highlights

spinning plates food

Photo caption: Tasty food at the Spinning Plates event, prepared by Chef Carlo Espinas
Photo credit: Farnaz Fatemi

Some of this is newer restaurant news for the Santa Cruz area, and some older, but I thought it was all worth sharing!

The highly anticipated restaurant Assembly opened March 11 on Pacific Ave. — read my article about Executive Chef Carlo Espinas moving here from San Francisco. A couple dishes already being raved about are slow-cooked chicken leg with house-made chorizo, artichokes, white beans, and green olive relish ($15), and root vegetables with cumin, sunflower seeds, and wonderful Garden Variety sheep’s milk cheese from local Monkeyflower Ranch ($8). I haven’t been to the restaurant yet, but I got to sample Chef Espinas’ food at the Spinning Plates event in February. Everything was both delicious and beautiful, including a skewer of pickled quail egg, roasted beet, and brussels sprout, and a dish featuring braised chickpeas, artichoke, green garlic, and pecorino.  Assembly is currently open from 11am-10pm Tues-Thurs and Sun, and until 11pm Fri-Sat.  Starting March 22, it will open at 9am Sat-Sun for brunch.

The downtown location of Pizza My Heart, which coincidentally is on the same block as Assembly, underwent an expansion recently and it looks great. I was downtown last night for the Steve Martin show at the Civic, and lots of people were waiting in line at the popular pizza place for some quick dinner. I look forward to trying out a meal at PMH’s bigger space in the near future.

Santa Cruz harbor restaurant The Crow’s Nest has some great Mon-Thurs specials, valid at both lunch and dinner, and they’re ending Thursday, March 20 — although the “Deal With a View” dinner special, served only in the upstairs bar, is a favorite of mine and valid through May 22. Back to the main downstairs restaurant weekday specials: the Monday special is Filet Mignon, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, all-you-can-eat salad bar, and a glass of wine or martini for only $19.69. The Tuesday special is a lobster tail, vegetable, rice pilaf and all-you-can-eat salad bar for $19.69. For Wed-Thurs specials and other info, see the restaurant’s web site and look for seasonal specials.

Fans of family-run, top-notch Lillian’s Italian Kitchen in mid-town Santa Cruz may remember that the restaurant used to serve lunch Tuesdays-Fridays, and then it stopped this service. Like many others, I was saddened by this change. I recently discovered that the Tuesday-Friday lunch service is back: thank you, Moreno family, for listening to what your customers wanted!

Last November, I ate lunch at the (then-recently-opened) casual restaurant Mission St BBQ, which took over the former Mamma Lucia location. I definitely enjoyed my moist and tender spicy pork sandwich and side of coleslaw, and the restaurant was packed on a weekday. It had been open about a week at that point. When I drove past it at lunchtime during a couple recent weekdays, I notice it’s still drawing many customers. The restaurant now offers a weekly Wed. night Pint Night featuring draft beer specials.

Finally, I tried the new Westside Santa Cruz restaurant Your Place for a weekday brunch last month, and I was quite disappointed. It’s located in the former La Mission spot. My tofu scramble didn’t have enough tofu in it, but the vegetables were pretty good. My daughter’s pancakes were ok, but my husband’s chicken fried steak was terrible. The side of bacon we all shared was the one bright spot; it was flavorful and cooked well.

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