May 13, 2021

Canadiannpizza

Cooking Is My World

Best of Santa Cruz County 2021: Food and Drink

10 min read

Find out what readers voted as the best among food and drink.

Best Bread

Companion Bakeshop

  1. Companion Bakery is 15 years old, and was born out of the love for one specific kind of bread: sourdough.
  2. Its founder, Erin Lampel, is a self-taught baker with an agriculture degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and completed an agro-ecology and sustainable food program at UCSC.
  3. Erin met her husband Jeremy at a farmers market in 2008 over bread and avocados. He loves both her and coffee. Jeremy co-manages the bakeshop, runs the coffee bar, works full-time as a registered dietitian and helps her raise their two children, Annie and Quinn.
  4. Companion was founded on a deep passion for the community and local food ecosystem, and they pride themselves on being a business with heart and soul.
  5. The bakeshop offers not only many different kinds of bread, but also pastries, pies, coffee, and cookie dough—with gluten-free options. ANDREW STEINGRUBE

Best Brunch

Harbor Café

  1. Harbor Café has been in business for over 50 years, and prides itself on being a longtime social hot spot in the Santa Cruz community.
  2. It is dog-friendly and happily welcomes fur babies; there’s even a menu just for dogs complete with pig ears, lamb jerky and peanut butter cookies.
  3. Serves not only classic Belgian waffles, but also bacon and churro variations.
  4. Offers a drink—really more of an experience—called the “Bacon Bomb,” which is a shot of Jameson Irish whiskey dropped into a glass of champagne and Red Bull, and served with a strip of bacon.
  5. Happily hosts private events such as company parties, birthdays, anniversaries and graduation parties. Has a full bar and partners with several popular local food trucks and food catering services. ANDREW STEINGRUBE

Best New Restaurant

Mentone

  1. The restaurant is named after Menton, a town on the French Riviera close to the Italian border that is known for its French/Italian hybrid culture and Mediterranean climate.
  2. Not only is owner David Kinch a world-renowned, three-Michelin-starred chef, but he’s also been a Santa Cruz resident for more than 20 years.
  3. Known for its world-class artisan pizzas, and offers cuisine that draws on influences from France, Italy and California.
  4. It is family-friendly and kid-friendly, and dogs are not only welcomed, but encouraged.
  5. By the way, it’s pronounced “Men-tawn-eh.” ANDREW STEINGRUBE

Best Hawaiian Food

Pono Hawaiian Kitchen and Tap

  1. Pono has been owned for over 10 years by Timmy Hunt, who grew up on the Hawaiian island of Maui and turned his family recipes into Pono’s delicious and locally renowned menu.
  2. Pono means “righteousness” in Hawaiian, and the restaurant’s goal is to share the aloha spirit with the community in a pono manner.
  3. Known for its poke bowls, the most popular of which is named after the owner (Braddah Timmy bowl) and comes with sashimi grade ahi and other traditional ingredients such as pickled ginger, seaweed salad, alaea sea salt and furikake seasoning.
  4. Has a great selection of craft and microbrew beers on tap as well as kombucha, hard ciders and wine.
  5. Offers super traditional and uniquely Hawaiian items like Spam rolls and poi, as well as desserts like Haupia coconut pudding and chocolate Macadamia nut brownies. ANDREW STEINGRUBE

Best Outdoor Dining During the Pandemic

Crow’s Nest

  1. The name comes from the small perch high on the mast of a ship that is used as a lookout. Like its namesake, the Crow’s Nest offers incredible views.
  2. The Crow’s Nest has been part of the Santa Cruz dining scene for more than 50 years.
  3. There are four different outdoor dining areas—two upstairs in the bar, one enclosed patio downstairs, and a beach tent.
  4. Famous for its award-winning calamari—often copied but never duplicated—that is probably the hardest appetizer to share in the entire county.
  5. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, and has a Beach Market that offers ice cream, pizzas and sandwiches, along with beer and wine. ANDREW STEINGRUBE

Acai Bowl

Samba Rock Acai Café  

291 Water St., Santa Cruz, 458-2224

RUNNERS-UP Amazon Juices, Café Brasil

Appetizers

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com

RUNNERS-UP Hula’s Island Grill, The Crow’s Nest

Bagel

Bagelry 

320 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 429-8049;

1636 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-8550; 

4763 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 462-9888, bagelrysantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Firefly Coffee House, Holey Roller

Bakery

Gayle’s Bakery

504 Bay Ave., Capitola, 462-1200, gaylesbakery.com

RUNNERS-UP The Buttery, Companion Bakeshop

Barbecue

Aptos St. BBQ  

8059 Aptos St., Aptos, 662-1721, aptosstbbq.com

RUNNERS-UP Mission St. BBQ, Cole’s BBQ & Catering

Bar Food

Parish Publick House

841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz, 421-0507;
8017 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 708-2036, 

theparishpublick.com

RUNNERS-UP The Crow’s Nest, Shadowbrook Restaurant

Bread

Companion Bakeshop  

2341 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 252-2253; 

7486 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 612-6655

companionbakeshop.com

RUNNERS-UP Gayle’s Bakery, Beckmann’s Old World Bakery

Breakfast

Walnut Avenue Café

106 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, 457-2307, walnutavenuecafe.com

RUNNERS-UP Zachary’s Restaurant, Harbor Café

Red Apple Café 

783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Aptos, 685-1224, redappleaptos.com

RUNNERS-UP Sunrise Café, Cafe Sparrow

Gayle’s Bakery

504 Bay Ave., Capitola, 462-1200, gaylesbakery.com

RUNNERS-UP Avenue Café, The Cook House

Heavenly Roadside Cafe

1210 Mt Hermon Road, Scotts Valley, 335-1210, heavenlyroadsidecafe.com

RUNNERS-UP Auntie Mame’s, Rocky’s Café

Cowboy’s Corner Café  

946 Main St., Watsonville, 761-8996, cowboycornercafe.com

RUNNERS-UP Red Apple Café, Beach Street Café

Brunch

Harbor Café  

535 7th Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-4948, harborcafesantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP The Crow’s Nest, Chaminade

Burger

Betty Burgers 

505 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8190; 

1222 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-7056,

bettyburgers.com  

RUNNERS-UP Jack’s Hamburgers, burger.

burger.  

7941 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 662-2811, burgerlovesbeer.com

RUNNERS-UP Cafe Cruz, Parish Publick House Aptos  

Betty Burgers

1000 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-5901, bettyburgers.com

RUNNERS-UP East End Gastropub, Shadowbrook Restaurant  

Malone’s Grille

4402 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, 438-2244, malonesgrille.com  

RUNNERS-UP Felton Music Hall, Cowboy Bar & Grill 

Wooden Nickel  

1819 Freedom Blvd., Freedom, 724-2600

RUNNERS-UP Fat Boy Burgers and Grill, Kong’s Burgers & Cafe 

Burrito

Tacos Moreno 

1053 Water St., Santa Cruz, 429-6095

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Vallarta, Taqueria Los Pericos  

Taqueria Los Gordos 

7488 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-0911 

RUNNERS-UP El Chipotle, Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant

Tacos Moreno 

1601 41st Ave., Capitola, 464-8810

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Vallarta, Mijo’s Taqueria

Los Gallos Taqueria

18 Victor Square, Suite. A, Scotts Valley, 439-9803 

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Vallarta, Maya Mexican Restaurant

El Frijolito 

11 Alexander St., Watsonville, 724-8823

RUNNERS-UP Super Taqueria, Ranch Milk

Calamari

The Crow’s Nest 

2218 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com 

RUNNERS-UP Stagnaro Brothers, West End Tap & Kitchen

Caterer

Barbara & Company

2431 Chanticleer Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-6051, barbara-company.com

RUNNERS-UP Five Star, Feast for a King Catering

Cheap Eats

Charlie Hong Kong

1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-5664, charliehongkong.com

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Vallarta, Monster Pot

Cheese Selection

Shopper’s Corner 

622 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-1398, shopperscorner.com

RUNNERS-UP New Leaf Community Market, Cheese Shop 831

Chinese Cuisine

Panda Inn 

783 Rio Del Mar Blvd, Suite 5, Aptos, 688-8620, pandainntogo.com

RUNNERS-UP Panda Inn, Shun Feng

Chocolatier

MacKenzies Chocolates 

1492 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-1492

RUNNERS-UP Donnelly Fine Chocolates, Mutari 

Clam Chowder

Stagnaro Brothers   

59 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 423-2180, stagnarobrothers.com

RUNNERS-UP The Crow’s Nest, Riva Fish House  

Coffeehouse (Independent)

Cat & Cloud

3600 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz; 

Abbott Square, 725 Front St., Santa Cruz, catandcloud.com

RUNNERS-UP Verve, Lulu Carpenter’s

Cookies

Pacific Cookie Company

1203 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 429-6905, pacificcookie.com  

RUNNERS-UP The Buttery, Gayle’s Bakery 

Cupcakes

Buttercup Cakes & Farmhouse Frosting 

1411 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 466-0373, farmhousefrosting.com

RUNNERS-UP The Buttery, Cutesy Cupcakes

Date Night Restaurant

Laili  

101 Cooper St., Santa Cruz, 423-4545, lailirestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP Oswald, The Crow’s Nest  

Cafe Sparrow

8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-6238, cafesparrow.com

RUNNERS-UP Bittersweet Bistro, Home  

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com  

RUNNERS-UP Cafe Cruz, East End Gastropub

Ristorante Casa Nostra

9217 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond, 609-6132, ristorantecasanostra.com

RUNNERS-UP Scopazzi’s, The Cremer House 

California Grill 

40 Penny Lane, Watsonville, 722-8052, californiagrillrestaurant.com

RUNNER-UP Ella’s at the Airport, Cilantros Parrilla y Cantina

Deli

Garden Deli

1815 Soquel Drive, Santa Cruz, 475-9191, scgardendeli.com

RUNNERS-UP Zoccoli’s, Erik’s Deli 

Desserts (Bakery)

Gayle’s Bakery

504 Bay Ave., Capitola, 462-1200, gaylesbakery.com

RUNNERS-UP The Buttery, The Farm Bakery & Gifts

Desserts (Restaurant)

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com

RUNNERS-UP Bittersweet Bistro, Chocolate

Donut Shop

Ferrell’s Donuts  

2227 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 457-2760

RUNNER-UP Dunlap’s Donuts, Donut Station

Falafel

Zameen 

851 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 713-5520, zameencuisine.com

RUNNERS-UP Falafel of Santa Cruz, Falafel House

Food Event

Greek Food Festival

Downtown Santa Cruz

RUNNERS-UP Grazing on the Green, Clam Chowder Cook Off

French Fries

Betty Burgers

1000 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-5901;

505 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8190; 

1222 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-7056, bettyburgers.com

RUNNERS-UP Jack’s Hamburgers, Carpo’s Restaurant

Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

1955 41st Ave Suite A4, Capitola, 462-3100

1487 Main St #102, Watsonville,  761-1500

RUNNERS-UP Juicy Sweet

Greek

Vasili’s Greek Restaurant 

1501A Mission St., Santa Cruz, 458-9808, vasilisgreekrestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine, Nick the Greek 

Hawaiian Cuisine

Pono Hawaiian Grill 

120 Union St., Santa Cruz, 426-7666, ponohawaiiangrill.com

RUNNERS-UP Hula’s Island Grill, Aloha Island Grille

Hot Dog

Gary’s Old Fashioned Snappy Dogs

930 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz;

334 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz

RUNNERS-UP Taylor Bros Hot Dogs, burger.  

Ice Cream

Marianne’s  

1020 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, 458-1447;

218 State Park Drive, Aptos, 713-4746;

104 Stockton Ave., Capitola, 479-8888,

mariannesicecream.com

RUNNERS-UP Penny Ice Creamery, Mission Hill Creamer  

Indian Cuisine

Ambrosia India Bistro

207 Sea Ridge Road, Aptos, 685-0610;

6006 La Madrona Drive, #D, Scotts Valley, 713-5594, ambrosiaib.com

RUNNERS-UP Mumbai Delights, Royal Taj

Italian Cuisine

Lillian’s Italian Kitchen  

1148 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-2288, lilliansitaliankitchen.com

RUNNERS-UP Ristorante Italiano, Tramonti 

Juice Bar / Smoothies

Amazon Juices

1066 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 854-2225, amazonjuices.us

RUNNERS-UP New Leaf Community Markets, Staff of Life 

Kid-Friendly Eatery

Carpo’s 

2400 Porter St., Soquel, 476-6260, carposrestaurant.com 

RUNNERS-UP Eastside Eatery, burger. 

Kombucha/Probiotic (Local)

Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House

2504 S Main St., Soquel, 477-9967, beerthirtysantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP MeloMelo Kava Bar, Pretty Good Advice 

Late-Night Eatery

Saturn Café

145 Laurel St., Santa Cruz, 429-8505, saturncafe.com  

RUNNERS-UP Crepe Place, Charlie Hong Kong 

Mexican Cuisine

El Palomar

1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-7575, elpalomarsantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Los Pericos, El Jardín 

Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant

261 Center Ave., Aptos, 688-4848, manuelsrestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP El Chipotle Taqueria, Tortilla Flats 

El Toro Bravo 

123 Monterey Ave., Capitola, 476-1553, eltorobravorestaurant.com  

RUNNERS-UP Tacos Moreno, Taqueria Vallarta

Maya Mexican Restaurant

3115 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, 438-7004, mayasv.com

RUNNERS-UP Los Gallos, Taqueria Vallarta 

Cilantros Parrilla y Cantina

1934 Main St., Watsonville, 761-2161, elpalomarcilantros.com

RUNNERS-UP Jalisco Restaurant, El Frijolito

Middle Eastern

Laili  

101 Cooper St., Santa Cruz, 423-4545, lailirestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP Zameen, Mozaic

New Restaurant

Mentone

174 Aptos Village Way, Aptos, 708-4000, mentonerestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP Copal, Vim Dining & Desserts

Patio Dining

The Crow’s Nest

2218 E Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Crepe Place, Laili 

Bittersweet Bistro

787 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Aptos, 662-9799, bittersweetbistro.com

RUNNERS-UP Cafe Cruz, Mentone 

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com

RUNNERS-UP Zelda’s on the Beach, Paradise Beach Grille

Ristorante Casa Nostra

9217 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond, 609-6132, ristorantecasanostra.com

RUNNERS-UP  Cowboy Bar & Grill, Malone’s Bar & Grill

Cilantros Parrilla y Cantina

1934 Main St., Watsonville, 761-2161, elpalomarcilantros.com

RUNNERS-UP Ella’s at the Airport, Jalisco Restaurant

Pizza  

Pizza My Heart 

1116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 426-2511, pizzamyheart.com

RUNNERS-UP Woodstock’s Pizza, Upper Crust Pizza & Pasta 

Pizza 1

253 Center Ave., Aptos, 684-1110, pizza-1.com

RUNNERS-UP Mentone, Village Host Pizza & Grill 

Pizza My Heart

2180 41st Ave., Capitola, 475-6000;

209 Esplanade, Capitola, 475-5714,
pizzamyheart.com

RUNNERS-UP Pleasure Pizza, Village Host Pizza & Grill

Redwood Pizzeria

6205 Hwy. 9, Felton, 335-1500, redwoodpizza.com

RUNNERS-UP Boulder Creek Pizza & Pub, Papa Murphy’s

Cassidy’s Pizza

1400 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville, 724-2271

RUNNERS-UP Corralitos Pizza, Slice Project

Restaurant

Oswald

121 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-7427, oswaldrestaurant.com   

RUNNERS-UP Lillian’s Italian Kitchen, The Crow’s Nest 

Café Sparrow 

8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-6238, cafesparrow.com

RUNNERS-UP Cafe Cruz, Bittersweet Bistro

Shadowbrook Restaurant   

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com

RUNNERS-UP East End Gastropub, Paradise Beach Grille 

Ristorante Casa Nostra

9217 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond, 609-6132, ristorantecasanostra.com

RUNNERS-UP Felton Music Hall, Cowboy Bar & Grill 

Ambrosia India Bistro

6006 La Madrona Drive, #D, Scotts Valley, 713-5594, ambrosiaib.com

RUNNERS-UP Bruno’s Bar and Grill, Otoro Sushi 

Home

3101 N. Main St., Soquel, 431-6131, homesoquel.com

RUNNERS-UP Cafe Cruz, Tortilla Flats

Ella’s at the Airport 

100 Aviation Way, Watsonville, 728-3282, ellasinwatsonville.com

RUNNERS-UP California Grill, Cilantros Parrilla y Cantina

Salad

Cafe Cruz

2621 41st Ave., Soquel, 476-3801, cafecruz.com

RUNNERS-UP The Crow’s Nest, Carpo’s

 

Sandwich

Zoccoli’s

1534 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-1711, zoccolis.com

RUNNERS-UP Garden Deli, Surf City Sandwich

Seafood

Stagnaro Brothers   

59 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 423-2180, stagnarobrothers.com

RUNNERS-UP The Crow’s Nest, Riva Fish House

Café Rio

131 Esplanade, Aptos, 688-8917, caferioaptos.com

RUNNERS-UP Cafe Cruz, Scrumptious Fish & Chips

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com 

RUNNERS-UP Paradise Beach Grille, The Fish Lady

Scopazzi’s

13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, 338-6441, scopazzisrestaurant.com

RUNNERS-UP Rumble Fish, Ristorante Casa Nostra

The Fish House

972 Main St., Watsonville, 728-3333

RUNNERS-UP California Grill, Mariscos El Nayarita

Small Plates

Barceloneta

1541 B Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 900-5222, eatbarceloneta.com

RUNNERS-UP Hula’s Island Grill, Shadowbrook Restaurant

Soup

Erik’s Deli

1664 Soquel Drive, Santa Cruz, 462-1919, eriksdelicafe.com

1475 41st Ave., Capitola, 475-4646

RUNNERS-UP Shadowbrook Restaurant, Zameen

Steak

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com

RUNNERS-UP Hindquarter Bar & Grille, Cafe Cruz

Sushi/Japanese

Akira Sushi

1222 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-7093, akirasantacruz.com

RUNNERS-UP Mobo, Shogun  

Akira Sushi

105 D Post Office Drive, Aptos, 708-2154, akiraaptos.com

RUNNERS-UP: Sushi Garden Aptos, Deluxe Foods of Aptos 

Sushi Garden

820 Bay Ave. #148, Capitola, 464-9192, sushi-garden.com

RUNNERS-UP Geisha Japanese Restaurant and Tea House, Naka Sushi

Otoro    

235 Mt. Hermon Road #G, Scotts Valley, 440-9040

RUNNERS-UP Rumble Fish, Sushi Garden Scotts Valley 

Imura

1994 Main St., Watsonville, 761-8799, imurasushi.com

RUNNERS-UP Miyuki, Sushi Garden Watsonville

Takeout

Scrumptious Fish and Chips

scrumptiousfc.com

RUNNERS-UP Charlie Hong Kong, Zameen

Taqueria

Taqueria Vallarta

608 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 457-8226; 

1221 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 426-7240,

taqueriavallartaonline.com

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Santa Cruz, Tacos Moreno

Taqueria Los Gordos

7488 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 688-0911

RUNNERS-UP El Chipotle, Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant 

Tacos Moreno

1601 41st Ave., Capitola, 464-8810

Los Gallos

243 Mt. Hermon Road #A, Scotts Valley, 439-9507

RUNNERS-UP Taqueria Vallarta, Taqueria Los Amigos 

El Frijolito 

11 Alexander St., Watsonville, 724-8823

RUNNERS-UP Super Taqueria, Mi Tierra Carniceria y Supermercado

Tea House

Hidden Peak

1541 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-4200, hiddenpeakteahouse.com

RUNNERS-UP Well Within Spa, Tea House Spa

Thai Cuisine

Sawasdee

101 Main St., Santa Cruz, 466-9009,

sawasdeebythesea.com;
5050 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 462-5051,

sawasdeesoquel.com

RUNNERS-UP Real Thai Kitchen, Sabieng

Vegetarian

Dharma’s

4250 Capitola Road, Capitola, 462-1717, dharmasrestaurant.com 

RUNNERS-UP Café Gratitude, Saturn Café 

Winery

Beauregard

10 Pine Flat Road, Santa Cruz, 425-7777, beauregardvineyards.com

RUNNERS-UP Bargetto Winery, Soquel Vineyards

Wine List

Shadowbrook Restaurant

1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, 475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com

RUNNERS-UP Soif, Bittersweet Bistro

Wine Selection (Retail)

Shopper’s Corner  

622 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-1398, shopperscorner.com

RUNNERS-UP Soif, Deer Park Wine & Spirits