Tag Archives: Santa Cruz restaurant news

Santa Cruz and nearby restaurant news highlights, Part 1 of 2

Dinner at Santa Cruz's Mozaic Mediterranean Restaurant

Dinner at Santa Cruz’s Mozaic Mediterranean Restaurant

Here is some restaurant news for Santa Cruz and other local areas. I haven’t published a roundup of restaurant news since June, so there’s a lot of information to share. I’ll be publishing part two in the next few days. I also wanted to remind my readers: if you have any food/restaurant/wine/culinary event news to share, please email me at tfatemi@gmail.com.

Openings
Five Guys Burgers and Fries opened a Capitola location in November, in the old Carl’s Jr. spot at Capitola Mall (1855 41st Ave.). Hours are 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and you can reach the restaurant at (831) 475-1948. There are hundreds of Five Guys locations in the U.S., including approximately 100 in California. A Santa Cruz location is opening soon at 1101 Pacific Ave. in the old Taqueria Vallarta spot next to Mission Hill Creamery.

Mozaic Mediterranean Restaurant opened in downtown Santa Cruz in August. I went the second day it opened; read my recap. I’ve been back many times since then and enjoyed more dishes such as the fun and tasty flaming cheese appetizer. Last time I split the grilled octopus appetizer with my sister and it was heavenly (a colleague of mine had recommended it, saying she has extremely high octopus standards and it’s the best she’s had in a long, long time). It’s very rich so I advise splitting it with at least one other person. Mozaic is at 110 Church St. off Pacific in the former Louie’s Cajun Grill location, (831) 454-8663. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun-Thurs and 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri-Sat.

Steel Bonnet Brewing Company opened in Scotts Valley in October. The family-owned-and-operated brewery produces small batches of craft beer in various styles such as stout and IPA. They usually have about seven beers on tap. Steel Bonnet is at 20 Victor Square, (831) 454-8429. They’re open from 4-8 p.m. Mon-Fri and 1-8 p.m. Sat-Sun.

Café Hanna opened in Scotts Valley in June. Husband-and-wife owners Adbeen and Jamie Karam serve what they call Greek fusion; selections include falafel sandwiches and spanakopita. According to the restaurant’s web site, all sauces and dressings are made in-house, including an olive oil-based hot pepper sauce. Falafel fritters are made from scratch with ground garbanzo beans and several dishes use the restaurant’s housemade yogurt. Café Hanna is at 5272 Scotts Valley Dr., (831) 708-8845. It’s open from 11 a.m. -7 p.m. Mon-Fri (closed Sat-Sun).

Sushi Garden opened its third location in Scotts Valley in August. The other restaurants are in Capitola and Watsonville.  The newest location is at 5600 Scotts Valley Dr. where Yamamori used to be. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. daily. You can contact them at (831) 438-9260.

Mandarin Gourmet opened in downtown Santa Cruz in October, in the old Little Shanghai location at 1010 Cedar St., (831) 458-2460. It’s open from 11 a.m. -9:30 p.m. Mon-Sat and 5-9 p.m. Sun.

Starbucks opened a new Santa Cruz location in October. It’s located at 21620 E Cliff Dr. Hours are 5 a.m. -10 p.m. Sun-Thurs and 5 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Fri-Sat.

Opening in the Future
The Bywater, from Santa Cruz resident David Kinch (owner/chef at Michelin-starred Manresa), will open in Los Gatos in January. Read my preview article.

Closings
Taqueria Vallarta at 1101 Pacific Ave. closed in October; the restaurant still has four locations (three in Santa Cruz and one in Felton).

Yamamori Sushi & Grill in Scotts Valley closed during the summer.

Little Shanghai closed at the end of June.

Changes

Lúpulo Craft Beer House expanded in October. Their new space includes a second dining room, which the existing bar wraps into, as well as a “pub” room in the back equipped with two large screen TVs, shuffleboard, and a stand up-piano for “Pianoman” nights. These rooms added extra seating for Lúpulo, plus there are now spaces available for private parties and meetings. Lúpulo’s menu remains the same: the food is a seasonal rotation of tapas and other selections designed for sharing, while the beer is 16 constantly rotating taps.

Santa Cruz Food Lounge: some pop-up tenants have changed schedules, or plan to in the near future. See below.
Ty’s Eatery: although they no longer offer pop-up dinner Wednesdays, they serve pop-up brunch every Sunday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
LionFish SupperClub: they now serve pop-up dinner every Tuesday from 5-9p.m. (they used to only serve it every 2 weeks)
Mortal Dumpling: the Monday night pop-up dinner (5:30-9p.m.) will stop at the end of December

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Food truck, Homeless Garden Project events in Scotts Valley & Santa Cruz

Salad at a previous HGP Sustain dinner. Credit: Crystal Birns

Salad at a previous HGP Sustain dinner. Credit: Crystal Birns

There are many food events occurring this weekend in local cities such as Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley—here are details for a first-time Scotts Valley food truck event Friday and a benefit feast with star chefs at Homeless Garden Project Saturday.

Friday, Sept. 18: Food Trucks a Go Go
Food Trucks A Go Go, a food truck event company, is hosting its first food truck event at Skypark in Scotts Valley Friday night. Attendees can choose from four local trucks, and there are picnic tables at the park. Participating food trucks are Ate3One (Philly cheesesteak, tacos & more), Zameen Mediterranean (falafel, gyros, etc.), The Choke Coach (menu includes artichokes a la carte and as ingredients in other dishes), and Aunt LaLi’s Mobile Café (ice cream and sweets).

Aunt LaLi’s owner, LaLi Kates, has been bringing her treats to the local community for years, and she is the founder of Food Trucks A Go Go.  Kates says that for years, both she and her customers have been wanting food trucks in the area, and that the timing is now right to make this happen. Save the date for the next Go Go Gathering: Friday, Oct. 23, same time and place.

Date/Hours: Friday, Sept. 18, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Location: Skypark, 361 Kings Village Road, Scotts Valley

Saturday, Sept. 19: Homeless Garden Project benefit dinner
Santa Cruz’s Homeless Garden Project (HGP) is holding an organic benefit dinner at its farm, the latest in its Sustain Farm Dinner series. Sustain is a seasonal gourmet dinner series featuring organic produce from the farm, wine pairings, and guest speakers discussing sustainable topics. The admission fee, $125, benefits HGP; the prices are higher this season because HGP is celebrating its 25th anniversary so the dinners are more extensive and the speakers are nationally known. The dinner held in August featured Greens Restaurant founder Deborah Madison, and Catherine Sneed is Saturday’s keynote speaker. Sneed began the horticulture program at the SF County Jail in 1982. Read more and purchase tickets online.

A different chef will prepare each of the four courses. David Morgan, chef for David Kinch’s soon-to-open The Bywater in Los Gatos (read more in my recent article) will prepare a first course duo: fried green tomatoes, bagna cauda and ricotta cheese; and smoked pork boudin with mustard and pickles. The Food Lounge’s Andrea Mollenauer will prepare a salad for the second course, while Soif’s Mark Denham will create an entrée of tea smoked quail, quinoa & kale “fried rice,” spiced eggplant, blistered padrons, and chimichurri  (vegetarian and vegan options are available if ordered ahead). Renowned Aubergine pastry chef Ron Mendoza is providing dessert: Japanese cheesecake with carrot and cilantro. There will also be live classical music performed by a quartet comprised of musicians from the Santa Cruz Symphony.

Date/Hours: Saturday, Sept. 19, 4-7:30 p.m.
Location: HGP Farm, Shaffer Road at Delaware Avenue, Santa Cruz

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Ocean2table hosts Santa Cruz Pescetarian PopUp Dinner

Charlie & Ian grilling up miso sablefish at the first Pescetarian PopUp. Photo courtesy of Ocean2table

Charlie & Ian grilling up miso sablefish at the first Pescetarian PopUp.
Photo courtesy of Ocean2table

Santa Cruz-based Ocean2table is partnering with several other local businesses to host their third Pescetarian PopUp Dinner on Thursday, July 16, at the Food Lounge in downtown Santa Cruz.

Tickets are $50 for the multi-course dinner and there will be a cash bar. Buy tickets online.

Sustainable seafood company Ocean2table is Charlie Lambert and Ian Cole. They started this dinner series with the hope of encouraging community support for local, sustainable food. So far, they have had two successful events, one in April and one in May. Their collaborators for the July 16 dinner are Crescent Farm, Mutari Chocolate, Companion Bakeshop, Squash & Blossom, Creative Cultures, and Ty’s Eatery. The final menu will be set a couple days before the event, but there will be a salad from Crescent, hot chocolate from Mutari, bread from Companion, beet kvass from Creative, and appetizers from Ty’s.

“We see our pop-ups as a chance to meet and bring together people who care about where their food comes from,” says Cole. “There are a lot of great businesses here in Santa Cruz working to bring delicious environmentally conscious food to the table, and I think it makes sense to get us all under one roof to share. We learn a lot from working with other businesses and it’s quite a rush pulling it off!”

Normally, Ocean2table offers very fresh seafood to customers via pick-up or delivery. Those who are email subscribers get notified the day before local fish is available—it depends on what they or other local fishermen catch—and customers must place their orders by a certain deadline, choosing a half share or full share. If you’re on the email list, there is no obligation to purchase anything. I’m an email subscriber and bought a half share of rockfish earlier this year, and it was very succulent and fresh. I even used the recipe they recommended, which was simple and delicious. They always include a link to a recipe with their emails.

For more information visit getocean2table.com.

Details: Thursday, July 16, 2015, 5:30-8:30 p.m., $50

Location: Food Lounge, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Santa Cruz County food & wine events this week

Chaminade’s “Happy Yappy Hour” is July 6 from 5-7pm. Photo Credit: Chaminade

Chaminade’s “Happy Yappy Hour” is July 6 from 5-7pm.
Photo Credit: Chaminade

There are many food and wine events occurring this week in Santa Cruz County. Below are details for a few of them–including one tonight, July 6.

Monday, July 6: Chaminade’s “Happy Yappy Hour”
From 5-7 p.m., Chaminade Resort & Spa is hosting “Happy Yappy Hour” on the Sunset Patio. They’re offering drink, appetizer, and “yappetizer” specials, and invite dogs and their owners to attend. Chaminade is donating a portion of the proceeds from this event to the Santa Cruz Animal Shelter. They will also be serving Chateau La Paws wine; this company contributes funds to no-kill shelters and animal rescue organizations.
One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, chaminade.com

Wednesday, July 8: Soif’s “Re-Opening Celebration”
Soif invites the community to a re-opening celebration from 4-6:30 p.m. July 8. They’ll be serving appetizers and drinks. As you may recall, Soif reopened two weeks ago after extensive renovations. Learn about their new food menu, new wine bar, and upgraded wine shop in my June 19 article.
105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, soifwine.com

Thursday, July 9: Lionfish SupperClub’s “A Taste of Ancient Grace”
From 6-10 p.m., Lionfish SupperClub is holding a special outdoor dinner event at the downtown Food Lounge. Attendees must purchase tickets in advance for $75. Last week’s preview event at the Lounge, where Lionfish sold a la carte Greece-inspired items, was very well received. Highlights included spiced ground lamb souvlaki skewered on freshly picked rosemary stems—a very succulent, flavorful dish—and a wonderful, chilled lemon-herb zucchini soup.
1001 Center St., Santa Cruz, lionfishsc.com

Friday, July 10: Food Lounge’s “Artisan Food Market”
From 2-7 p.m., the Food Lounge is the site of the Artisan Food Market, described as ‘farmers market meets cocktail hour.’ There will be more than 20 local food artisans and pop-up vendors, plus local wine and beer available for purchase. The first of these monthly events was held in June; read details.
1001 Center St., Santa Cruz, scfoodlounge.com

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Mortal Dumpling returns to POPUP & Assembly now open Mondays

Mortal Dumpling’s chicken curry bao Photo credit: Mortal Dumpling Facebook page

Mortal Dumpling’s chicken curry bao
Photo credit: Mortal Dumpling Facebook page

There are a couple bits of news related to downtown Santa Cruz’s Assembly and its neighbor, POPUP.

First: Chef Noah Kopito’s Mortal Dumpling is returning to POPUP on Thursdays beginning tomorrow, June 11! As you may recall, these delights were first available for Thursday lunch at POPUP in May 2014, but they took a hiatus earlier this year when they moved their production from Front St. Kitchen to Food Lounge. Along with past favorites (garlic green beans, pork or tofu bao, etc.), you can expect to see new bao flavors such as chicken curry, and accompaniments such as sticky rice in lotus leaves and fried taro puffs.

Lunch is 11:30am-2pm Thursdays. POPUP is located at 1108 Pacific Ave. (next door to Assembly) in Downtown Santa Cruz. Learn more at heypopup.com. Zach Davis and Kendra Baker, who run Assembly, launched POPUP in April 2014.

Next, Assembly is opening its doors on Mondays beginning June 15. They will be serving lunch and dinner on Mondays, so they will now be open six days a week (closed Tuesdays).   Discussing the decision to be open on Mondays, Davis shared “The goal is to get a little playful, make it the day to break the mold a bit and do some fun specials.”

Visit assembleforfood.com for more details. They are located at 1108 Pacific Ave., 831-824-6100.

Davis and Baker opened Assembly in March 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Santa Cruz restaurant news highlights including Sabieng opening Marina location

Noni's Frittata from Surf City Sandwich.  Photo credit: Surf City Sandwich Facebook page

Noni’s Frittata from Surf City Sandwich.
Photo credit: Surf City Sandwich Facebook page

Here is some restaurant news for Santa Cruz and other local areas. Have some food/restaurant/wine/culinary event news to share with me? Please write me at tfatemi@gmail.com.

Openings
Surf City Sandwich opened in late April. All their sandwiches are served with housemade potato chips. Sandwiches include Napa Grilled Chicken with grilled chicken salad, candied walnuts, dried cranberries, melted brie, and organic spring mix on grilled Francese; Surf City Banh Mi with Vietnamese style skirt steak, pickled cucumber, carrots, cilantro, jalapeno, mayo, and Sriracha on sweet baguette; and Noni’s Frittata (a special featured last month) with zucchini, spinach and marinated artichoke hearts, baked with eggs, cream, cheddar, Parmesan and fresh thyme, served with mayo, pickle, tomato and spring mix on ciabatta roll. Other selections include Caesar salad with organic romaine, housemade croutons, shredded Parmesan, and creamy Caesar dressing (option to add grilled chicken or grilled shrimp brochette), and a kids’ menu that includes PB&J, grilled cheese, and tater tots. There is a rotating wine and beer menu. Current beer on tap includes Corralitos Brewing’s Belgian Wheat and Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA from Discretion Brewing.
Visit surfcitysandwich.com
Location: 4101 Soquel Drive (in the new Soquel Tower plaza at the north end of 41st Ave.), Santa Cruz
(831) 346-6952

Santa Cruz Food Lounge got a few new tenants, and some of its existing tenants began regular or semi-regular service. Details:

  • Ty’s Eatery: pop-up brunch every Sunday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. (dishes include chilaquiles, pancakes, and omelettes) AND pop-up dinner every Wednesday 5-9 p.m. (dishes include Moroccan chicken, broccolini with lemon/toasted garlic/chili flakes, and Live Earth Farm beet salad with citrus)
  • Kickin Chicken: pop-up dinner selected Sundays 5-9p.m. Dishes include fried chicken and cornbread waffles.
  • Mortal Dumpling: pop-up dinner every Monday 5:30-9p.m. Dishes include steamed or fried dumplings (fillings like chicken/cilantro), garlic green beans, and pork bao.

See my February restaurant news article if you missed original details on the new Food Lounge and the first tenant that was opening there, the Chocolate House operated by Mutari Hot Chocolate.
Visit facebook.com/scfoodlounge for details on the Food Lounge AND the individual businesses
Location: 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz

New Bohemia Brewing Company (or Nubo for short) opened in late March. As their web site says, they make many different kinds of beer but “specialize in brewing European-style craft lagers.” They usually have eight beers on tap. Customers can select from a few snacks that are designed to complement the beer, and these all feature local products including bread from Companion Bakeshop (Rustic Bread Board, which also has churned butter and Hawaiian lava sea salt) and Friend in Cheeses Jam Company (Three Blind Mice Board, which has four cheeses and other items like seasonal Friend in Cheeses spreads).  In May, Nubo started weekly event nights: Monday has happy hour prices all night long, Tuesday is trivia & growler night, and Wednesday offers live acoustic music.
Visit nubobrew.com
Location: 1030 41st Ave., Santa Cruz
(831) 350-0253

Main Street Burgers and Brews opened in Watsonville in April, after a postponement from their projected Fall 2014 opening. They offer several burger varieties, hot dogs, and sandwiches like BLTs and grilled cheese. They also feature about a dozen beers on tap.
Visit watsonvilleburgers.com
Location: 1116 Main St., Watsonville
(831) 536-4632

Opening in the Future
Although it’s not in Santa Cruz, it has a Santa Cruz connection: Anna (Nicharat) Sawadpeera used to operate Thai restaurant D’Anna Thai in Marina. She closed that restaurant to open Ginger Thai Kitchen in Salinas at the end of May. Owners of Santa Cruz’s Sabieng Thai and Scotts Valley’s Kao Sook, including Thailand native Wanlop Kachinthorn, are opening a new restaurant in the former D’Anna Thai location at 210 Reindollar Ave. Their new venture will be called Coconut Thai Kitchen and they hope to be open by July.

Perfectly Pressed Juice Bar ‘n’ Eatery is opening a Pleasure Point location at 3617B Portola Drive. The company already has locations in Salinas, Seaside, Marina and Prunedale (the latter just opened in May). They will soon have a second Salinas express location (juice only). At traditional locations, there are many cold-pressed organic juices made with fruits and/or vegetables for sale, plus a small selection of food. Visit perfectlypressedjuice.com.

Soif Wine Bar & Restaurant has been closed for several weeks for renovations. They are re-opening this Thursday, June 4.
Location: 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
soifwine.com
(831) 423-2020

Closings
Two venues in Capitola recently closed:
Tony & Alba’s on 41st closed May 30 after losing their lease. The rumor is that a new brewery is taking over the spot.
Carl’s Jr. at the Capitola Mall has closed.

Changes
Zizzo’s Coffee
in Capitola—at Brown Ranch Marketplace adjacent to Trader Joe’s and Bed, Bath and Beyond—added a wine bar and became Zizzo’s Coffee, Wine & Piano Bar
Learn details at zizzoscoffee.com

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

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.

Openings

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

 

Changes

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

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Santa Cruz area restaurant news highlights through February 2015

Hideout Burger served with housemade chips (note: it's usually served with fries)

Hideout Burger served with housemade chips (note: it’s usually served with fries)

Some of this is more recent restaurant news for the Santa Cruz area, and some is much older. I recently discovered that quite a few people I know weren’t aware of certain closings, so I am distributing information that might seem out of date to those who keep on top of local restaurant news.

Openings
The Hideout opened in Aptos in January. I haven’t made it there yet, but I’ve been hearing positive comments. It’s open every day from 11:30 a.m. to 9p.m. except Tuesdays, when it doesn’t open until 5 p.m. Sandwich/burger selections include Reuben, roasted vegetables with goat cheese, grilled chicken club, and a signature burger with a ground beef/bacon patty and crumbled bleu cheese (see photo above). Dinner entrees served after 5 include Merlot-braised short ribs, pistachio-crusted chicken, New York strip, and Petrale sole piccata. Several pasta dishes, soup, salads, sides, and starters round out the menu.
Location: 9051 Soquel Drive, Aptos (most recently the site of restaurant Ma Maison)
Contact Info: 688-5566, thehideoutaptos.com

Opening Soon
Mutari Chocolate House
is opening in early March; co-owner Adam Armstrong says they’re aiming for March 5th. He and his brother Matt will be the first tenants to officially open in the Food Lounge, the new venue from Andrea Mollenauer of Lifestyle Culinary Arts. They create their product Mutari Hot Chocolate on site. This chocolate is “Stone Ground Bean to Bottle” made from cacao that is “always certified organic and ethically traded (and mostly Rainforest Alliance Certified).”  You can enjoy hot chocolate at the Chocolate House or buy your own bottled mix to take home — it’s also sold at retailers like Artisans Gallery so you may have noticed it in the last few months. Learn more at mutarichocolate.com and facebook.com/mutarichocolate. I got to experience a hot chocolate tasting at Mutari last fall when they had their factory at Front St. Kitchen and I really liked the varieties I sampled. The new Chocolate House will serve coffee, hot chocolate, sipping chocolate, mini cupcakes (from Buttercup), and more.

More on the Food Lounge: Mollenauer and partners Cat Hernandez and Sally Kane are launching this unique space that has lots of options including: you can throw a party there, have an event for your business, or attend a pop-up. Other tenants at the Lounge include Fogline Farms, Ocean2table, and Mortal Dumpling. Officially the Food Lounge will be an “innovative community-minded event venue, commercial incubator kitchen, and full-service food hub aimed at fueling, educating, and inspiring Santa Cruz.” Visit scfoodlounge.com to sign up for the email list.
Location: 1001 Center Street, Santa Cruz

Verve Coffee is opening a new location at 1010 Fair in Westside Santa Cruz at some point in the future, in the former spot of Chimera Tattoo. This is the same plaza where Bantam Restaurant is located.

Closings
Two venues in downtown Santa Cruz on Pacific shuttered their doors:
Sushi restaurant Benten closed Jan. 31.
Noah’s Bagels closed on Feb. 24.

Santa Cruz restaurant The Greek closed at the end of November. A permit taped to one of the restaurant windows indicates a Korean eatery will be opening in the future. A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page mentioned that owner Vasili was retiring (yes, this is the same Vasili that formerly owned Vasili’s in Westside Santa Cruz).

Changes
Downtown Santa Cruz restaurant Assembly is now closed on both Mondays and Tuesdays. They used to be closed on Mondays, and beginning January 6 they are only open Wednesday through Sunday. This is continuing “at least through the winter months.”
Location: 1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
Contact Info: 824-6100, assembleforfood.com

Soif is closing in late March for a few weeks, to do some remodeling.
Location: 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
Contact Info: 423-2020, soifwine.com

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

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.

Follow me on Twitter @santacruzfoodie.

Upcoming Santa Cruz restaurant Assembly hires veteran San Francisco chef

Carlo Espina will be Executive Chef at Santa Cruz restaurant Assembly (photo credit: Nader Khouri)

Carlo Espinas will be Executive Chef at Santa Cruz restaurant Assembly (photo credit: Nader Khouri)

The team behind Santa Cruz’s The Penny Ice Creamery and The Picnic Basket are opening their first full-service restaurant – Assembly – in a few weeks. They just hired Carlo Espinas as Executive Chef, and this is great news for the local dining community!

California Culinary Academy alumnus Espinas is moving to Santa Cruz next week, leaving his current chef position at San Francisco’s Comstock Saloon. After Espinas’ 2005 CCA graduation he worked at Incanto under chef Chris Cosentino, where he learned a lot including the importance of seasonally changing menus (you may recognize Cosentino’s name from TV’s Top Chef Masters and Chefs vs. City). Espinas also worked at SF restaurants such as Piccino Café, where he served as opening chef, and Camino, where he worked under Russell Moore who spent 20 years at Chez Panisse.

Assembly, opening in the next couple months at 1108 Pacific Ave.,  is slated to be a 100-seat restaurant with “rustic California Cuisine.” Speaking of his culinary styles and passions, Espinas says, “…My food tends to skew towards Mediterranean and regional American cuisine. California is the intersection of all of this: amazing produce and growing seasons that are coupled with rich cultural traditions from all over the country and world.”

Espinas is excited to cook for the Santa Cruz community and to make Assembly visitors feel like family. His own family is a big influence on his vision. “I am one of six in my family and I have 46 cousins, just on my mom’s side. Coming from a large, extended Filipino family, I grew up in a culture that centers around the table; chatting, laughing, and eating,” he explains. “I like food that brings people to the table, that facilitates conversation and cheer; and food that excites and satiates. I often think about my family when I cook…it keeps me grounded and focused on food that is tasty, tantalizing, but approachable.”

Assembly co-owners Kendra Baker and Zach Davis couldn’t be happier that Espinas said yes to their job offer. Baker first met Espinas when she was pastry chef at SF’s Bar Tartine, and has been keeping tabs on him ever since. “I knew Carlo was one to watch,” Baker says. “When Zach and I started talking about people we would want to work with, he immediately came to mind.”

Pastry Chef Anna St. John will also be part of the Assembly team. An experienced Penny staff member, St. John will work with Baker to create a range of tantalizing desserts.

It seems there is nothing Baker and Davis can’t accomplish in the culinary world. They started The Penny Ice Creamery with a Cedar Street location in August 2010 and expanded with a Pacific Ave. kiosk in November 2011 and a Pleasure Point location in February 2013. They also run beachfront café The Picnic Basket. What’s next? Hard to imagine, but in the meantime I can’t wait to try Assembly!

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