Tag Archives: Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant

Santa Cruz hosts family-friendly Mole & Mariachi festival

Mole ingredients from a competitor's table at the 2014 Mole & Mariachi Festival. Photo credit: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

Mole ingredients from a competitor’s table at the 2014 Mole & Mariachi Festival. Photo credit: Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks

The 3rd annual Mole & Mariachi Festival is Saturday, Sept. 19, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park. The food and music festival has free admission. If you want to sample moles, there is a $10 tasting kit for sale. A list of mole competitors and other vendors is below.

In addition to sampling mole, attendees can purchase local food, beer from Discretion Brewing, and other beverages including chavelas (a drink made from beer, tomato juice, and spices). Food vendors include The Penny Ice Creamery and Garcia Fish Tacos.  There will be music and dance performances, kids’ crafts, piñatas every hour, and a raffle.

This year, six local restaurants and chefs—including first-time participant Jozseph Schultz of India Joze—will prepare moles. Festival attendees and a panel of local judges led by Patricia Santana will select their favorites. Santana and her husband Leonardo own Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant in Aptos. In 2013 the judges’ panel chose Manuel’s as the winner of the inaugural mole cook-off with a recipe Leonardo developed.

Santana is excited and honored to be a judge this year; she is very passionate about mole. “This year, it will be fun to not compete, and actually get to enjoy other moleros’ creations without the stress of bringing our own,” she says. “I salute every mole maker bringing their best entry. In my opinion, mole is the king of sauces in the Mexican kitchen, but one needs to keep in mind there are seven different types of mole – and as many recipes as there are mole makers,” she adds. “This sauce is a labor of love, and every cook has their own secrets.” On mole day at Manuel’s (Sunday), her husband gets up at 2 am to have the restaurant kitchen to himself.

At the festival, free kids’ activities will include face painting, crafts, bubbles, and a mural project coordinated by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

Four folk music bands will perform: Mariachi Gilroy, Mariachi Alma de Mexico, Mariachi Juvenil Alma de Mexico and Trio del Sol. Also performing will be Estrellas de Esperanza, a children’s Mexican folklorico dance group from Watsonville, and Centeotl Grupo de Danza y Baile, a Santa Cruz-based dance group that preserves cultural connections with Mexico.

All event proceeds benefit the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park (including educational programs and restoration and improvement projects) via Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks. The event encourages alternative transportation by providing free trolley rides from downtown and having bike valet service at the park. For more information on the festival, visit the event web site.

Location: Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, 144 School Street

Mole competitors:

  • El Chipotle Restaurant in Soquel (preparing a rojo Oaxaqueño mole)
  • El Jardin Restaurant in Santa Cruz—People’s Choice award winner at the 2013 festival, and a winner at the 2014 festival (preparing “Jorge’s Traditional Mole,” a red mole poblano)
  • My Mom’s Mole from Watsonville (with a 25-ingredient Guanajuato-style sauce that is spicy, not sweet, prepared by chef Cesario Ruiz)
  • Gerald Gonzalez (a home cook from Contra Costa County that will prepare “Mole de Paz,” a mole poblano)
  • Mariquita’s (home cook Emma Pinto Valedez will prepare her grandmother’s mole poblano recipe)
  • India Joze (Schultz will prepare a to-be-announced mole sauce)

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More Santa Cruz restaurant news highlights – March 2015

A couple weeks ago, I shared a few bits of restaurant news about venues in Santa Cruz and Aptos. There were a couple items that I meant to include, and then another item that I just learned, so I thought I’d do another post.

Meanwhile, if you missed the Feb 26 article, it’s here, and if you missed the recent news about ManresaBread (new Los Gatos location plus products available at Verve Coffee!), you can read that here.


La Gioconda opened on February 18. This is the former site of Main Street Garden & Café. In an email regarding the new business, the restaurant said that the new name reflects new Italian ownership, as “la Gioconda” means Mona Lisa. The owners also run pizzeria Tramonti in Santa Cruz’s Seabright neighborhood, and at La Gioconda they promise ‘Northern Italian contemporary cuisine, using 100% fresh and organic ingredients selected carefully from outstanding farmers, wineries, and food distributors.’ Dishes by Chef Luca Viara include zucchini soufflé, artichoke ravioli, and braised short rib ravioli. Learn more and see full menu at giocondarestaurant.com.

Location: 3101 N. Main St., Soquel, 831-477-9265


Thai Noodle House has closed, and At Thai Recipe took its place. The new restaurant opened February 13, and the chef has more than 20 years of experience. Dishes include seafood red curry with artichokes, spicy basil duck, pineapple fried rice, cashew chicken, grilled beef salad, and many vegetarian and vegan options. Flavored milk teas include taro, strawberry, almond/honey, and red bean, with or without boba. Their current web site is facebook.com/pages/At-Thai-Recipe/320456501485273.

Location: 2106A Mission St., Santa Cruz, 831-457-0238



In January, Cutesy Cupcakes expanded to a larger location in Scotts Valley and added frozen yogurt to its menu. The family-run business offers products including traditional, vegan, and gluten-free cupcakes. The original, smaller SV location had opened in December 2012. ALSO: the Cutesy Cupcakes shop in Capitola Mall, which opened in Spring 2014, has shuttered its doors. The family decided not to renew the lease, which ended Feb. 28. The website is cutesycupcakes.com but as of press time, the site hadn’t been updated to reflect that the Capitola Mall location has closed. An interesting bit of trivia: in 2013, Cutesy Cupcakes appeared on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

Location: 245 Mount Herman Road, Scotts Valley, 831-430-9500


Special Promotion

Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant in Aptos is celebrating 50 years of business. The actual anniversary is March 15, 2015; to honor the memory of restaurant founders Manuel and Alice Santana, owners Leonardo and Patricia Santana are giving 50% of proceeds during the week of March 9–15 to local groups dedicated to causes that were close to the founders’ hearts. “We are very excited about achieving this milestone,” said Manuel and Alice’s son Leonardo. “Starting from when I was a young child, I saw how much it meant to my parents to give back to the community that supported them.” Read more at manuelsrestaurant.com. Here are the organizations receiving donations:

  • Monday, March 9: Homeless Services Center of Santa Cruz
  • Tuesday, March 10: Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Wednesday, March 11: Teen Kitchen Project
  • Thursday, March 12: Cabrillo College Visual, Applied and Performing Arts
  • Friday, March 13: Women’s Crisis Support – Defensa de Mujeres
  • Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15:  Proceeds will be divided equally among the 5 groups

Location: 261 Center Ave., Aptos, 831-688-4848

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Two family-friendly & delicious Santa Cruz benefits this weekend: Mole fest & Oktoberfest

Family-friendly, Santa Cruz, Sample mole from eight local restaurants and chefs on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Miller Maxfield Inc.

Sample mole from eight local restaurants and chefs on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Miller Maxfield Inc.

There are many fun food-related activities this weekend in Santa Cruz, including two benefits that are family-friendly: the first annual Mole & Mariachi Festival Sat Oct 5, and Oktoberfest on Sunday, Oct 6. Below you’ll find details on both events.

Mole & Mariachi Festival Saturday Oct 5, 2013
The event is from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park, and it’s full of fabulous food—and not just mole! In addition to lots of local food, wine, beer, and other beverages, guests can enjoy music and dance performances, kids’ activities (such as tortilla making, giant bubble making, a piñata, and paper flowers) and a silent auction. Eight local restaurants and chefs will prepare 10 different moles. Mole dishes will be judged by festival attendees and by a panel of local celebrity judges. If you want to participate in the judging, you’ll pay a $10 fee to enter a separate, roped-off area, taste samples of the competing moles, and then vote. For non-mole-competition food/drink items, tickets will be sold for $1 each and different vendors will decide how many tickets their respective items cost. A list of mole competitors and other vendors is below. If you’re not familiar with mole, it’s a wonderful and hearty traditional Mexican sauce, sometimes made using chocolate.

Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Executive Director Bonny Hawley is very excited about the festival. “The Mole & Mariachi Festival marks the first time in many years that the Mission has hosted a heritage-themed event,” Hawley shared. “It is especially important to us since this downtown Santa Cruz State Park was slated for closure in 2012, but Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks was determined to save it and that’s what we did. The festival is a celebration of what our community has been able to accomplish saving this wonderful park and making it into a vibrant cultural event venue.”

There are 75 silent auction items including a week at a beachfront vacation home in Mexico, 3 nights in the beautiful artisan-rich city of Guanajuato, Mexico, multiple “staycations” (Costanoa and Hotel Paradox, for example), Disneyland and Boardwalk tickets, and certificates for all kinds of activities (such as golf, pilates, climbing, surfing, sailing, kayaking) plus restaurants and salons.

Event proceeds benefit Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks in support of Mission restoration projects, educational programming for school children and community cultural events at the park.

For more information visit the event Facebook page.

Location: Santa Cruz Mission Adobe State Historic Park, 144 School Street near downtown Santa Cruz

Mole competitors:
Cafe Carlos Mexican Restaurant (Scotts Valley)
El Chipotle Restaurant (Soquel)
El Jardin Restaurant (Santa Cruz)
El Palomar (Santa Cruz)
La Cabana Taqueria (Soquel)
Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant (Aptos)
My Mom’s Mole (Watsonville)
Tortilla Flats (Soquel)

Food & drink for sale:
Ceviche tostadas from H&H Fresh Fish
Garbanzo beans & roasted peanuts from R. Magdalena Produce
Mexican dishes from Café Carlos
Mexican dishes from El Chipotle
Hot dogs from Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks’ Snack Shack
Churros from Jesus Lopez (he usually sells churros at places such as “…the Corralitos town center, and Watsonville fruit stands/busy corner markets”)
Fruit cups from Antojitos Pepitos
Pumpkin bread & apple pie from Beckmann’s Old World Bakery
Cookies from Pacific Cookie Company
Ice cream from Mission Hill Creamery
Icy fruit drinks from Tejuinos Guadalajara
Wine from Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
Beer from Discretion Brewing
30th Annual Oktoberfest Sunday Oct 6, 2013
Family-friendly event raises funds for local hospice programs
This event is Oct. 6 from 12-4 p.m. Proceeds benefit Hospice of Santa Cruz County. Admission is free. Lunch is available for purchase from 12-2:30 p.m. Items include kielbasa, sauerkraut, potato salad, and apple strudel prepared by Five Star Catering. Beverages available will include soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails.

The program includes live accordion music and both silent and live auctions; the silent one is from 12-3:30 p.m. and the live one begins at 2:45 p.m. Also, tickets will be sold for a drawing with cash prizes (and you don’t need to be present to win). Auction items include vacations and weekend getaways to places such as Hawaii, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Palm Desert; a fantastic TiVo package; fine wines, tickets to sports events and area shows; jewelry; artwork; and restaurant and business gift certificates. “This is a wonderful event,” said Lorraine Margon, Friends of Hospice member and volunteer. “The food is really tasty and there are plenty of great items to bid on, many of which are fantastic bargains, and all for a worthy cause.”

If bidding for prizes isn’t your cup of tea, you can peruse the “cash and carry” tables and purchase products including holiday items as well as vintage and re-purposed items, and browse the large assortment of garden items such as flowering plants and ornamentals. For more info call (831) 430-3000.

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