.The 14th Annual Santa Cruz Restaurant Week: A Guide

Owners, chefs and staff talk menu offerings and the state of the dining scene

Just like the changing colors of the leaves, that faint winter’s whisper of cold air and pumpkin flavor being recklessly crammed into anything and everything edible or potable, fall also brings with it a new Santa Cruz Restaurant Week.

Now in its 14th year, SCRW allows diners to try a special prix fixe menu—with options for every course—at participating restaurants from Oct. 19-26. This year, we’ve added a fourth dining tier; you can find meals for $25, $35, $45 and $55 among the array of culinary options. Check out the menus in this issue, and go to santacruzrestaurantweek.com for more info.

GT reached out to chefs, owners and staff at each of this year’s participants to ask them about their upcoming SCRW menus and their views on the state of the local dining in general.

Their answers, and the passion and enthusiasm behind them, make it obvious just how excited the people behind our culinary scene are to be back to work and doing their thing after everything they’ve been through over the last few years. Here’s what they said.

What are you most excited about for Santa Cruz Restaurant Week this year?

“The opportunity to serve new guests and showcase what we do well, and feature our unique housemade items such as the artichoke souffle.”

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Ben Kralj, chef/general manager, Back Nine Grill and Bar

“To present the dishes that are representative of our Southern Italian roots with respect to locally grown ingredients on this year’s menu. Moreover, we happily anticipate serving our Restaurant Week comers with the utmost care.”

— Alma Iuliano, general manager, Cafe Mare

“I’m really excited about the duck confit with roasted Brussels sprouts. It’s the perfect fall dish and a unique treat on our menu.”

— Alisha Dodds, manager, Crow’s Nest

“People learning about the flavors we have to offer. Our smoked white fish and ribeye steak are on different ends of the spectrum, but both offer amazing layers of flavor.”

— Mia Thorn, co-owner, Cruz Kitchen and Taps

“To see new and old faces enjoy a good representation of our cuisine.”

— Manny Rangel, owner, El Jardin

“Just that it’s still happening, and that the price options are more flexible. And I’m happy to see how many restaurants are participating this year.”

— Paul Cocking, owner, Gabriella Café

“Definitely bringing all my regulars back in to enjoy our delicious food that we couldn’t offer during the Covid shutdowns, such as our Hawaiian Fish Soup.”

— Luis Martinez, manager, Hula’s Island Grill

Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge’s fresh-caught seafood meets the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch sustainability standards, and their seasonal produce is sourced from various area farmers.

“That we can showcase some of our new fall dishes like our Gracie [their personal fisherman]-caught halibut and our cauliflower al pastor.”

— Dan Smart, director of sales and marketing, Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge

“Getting our food out there to new customers that may not have come in unless it was Restaurant Week.”

— Will Stout, general manager, Kianti’s Pizza and Pasta Bar

“To see people excited about dining out. I’m really happy to see people supporting the restaurant scene.”

— Patrice Boyle, owner, La Posta

“To have a chance to see more new customers and also old customers coming back to enjoy the experience of the restaurant.”

— Giovanbauttista Spanu, chef/owner, Lago di Como

“We are getting much more inventive with our food and cocktail specials, and Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try some of these out.”

— Whitney Ayers, manager, Makai Island Kitchen and Groggery

“To have locals come enjoy Capitola Village, rediscover restaurants they love and try new spots.”

— Eleanor Savage, general manager, Margaritaville

“We’re serving a new dish, a Mahi Mahi brochette chargrilled like a kebab and served with rice and a roasted bell pepper cream sauce.”

— Margaux Keiser, manager, Paradise Beach Grille

“Getting a different crowd in. Restaurant Week really accentuates that, and it’s a chance for us to showcase our menu and some new items as well.”

— Vincent Lee, manager, Riva Fish House

A Philly cheese steak with fries at Riva Fish House. PHOTO: Tarmo Hannula

“I’m excited to offer the different options we have like our blackened Mahi Mahi and Guinness bone-in pork chop.”

Chris Jones, general manager, Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

“To feature some of our already best-selling items like our spicy chicken sandwich and mushroom pinsa [a Roman-style flatbread].”

— Scott Meyer, general manager, Seabright Social

“To showcase some fall dishes and get people in again during the week. It was a busy summer, but now that kids are back in school, it has slowed down during midweek.”

— Ken Drew, executive chef, Sevy’s Bar and Kitchen

“We see Restaurant Week as an opportunity to keep improving, and to get different people coming in to try us and enjoy our authentic Italian cuisine.”

— Andrea Loporcaro, co-owner, Sugo Italian Pasta Bar

“To have them come in and check us out, and experience what our flavors are all about.”

— Erasmo Garcia, executive chef, The Point Kitchen and Bar

“Personally, I’m excited to experience some new restaurants, and for customers to experience our restaurant, maybe for the first time.”

Connie Hagston, director of sales and marketing, The View at Chaminade

“To offer our organic menu choices, and bring back some items that guests have wanted back on the menu—really listening to our clients.”

— Eric Taillan, owner, Tramonti

How have you seen the Santa Cruz dining scene change over the last few years?

“With Covid and everything else, I’ve seen many restaurants struggle. Between labor shortages, food costs and new government regulations, it has been challenging.”

— Ben Kralj, chef/general manager, Back Nine Grill and Bar

“We all know Covid was an extreme obstacle to overcome. We endured and thank our loyal and new customers, our hard-working staff, and look forward to the continuation of serving our great community for years to come.”

— Alma Iuliano, general manager, Cafe Mare

Cafe Mare owner Jean Pierre Iuliano uses fresh, local organic ingredients to share “the simple goodness that is Italian cooking.”

“After being limited in the way that the community could celebrate over the last few years, people are extra excited to celebrate good company and good food in larger groups.”

— Alisha Dodds, manager, Crow’s Nest

“After all the industry has been through, everyone in town seems ready to participate in dining out again. And as a newer restaurant, we are excited to be a part of that.”

— Mia Thorn, co-owner, Cruz Kitchen and Taps

“Covid definitely affected the industry by making it stronger, and it also made us enjoy the dining out experience even more.”

— Manny Rangel, owner, El Jardin

“There seems to be more interest in fine dining. This was our busiest year ever, and I know some other fine dining places in town seem to be very busy also.”

— Paul Cocking, owner, Gabriella Café

“Honestly, it’s been a ride for restaurants all over town. Now that we’re almost over Covid, we’re going back to our old days of being a top restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz.”

— Luis Martinez, manager, Hula’s Island Grill

“One thing I’m seeing a lot of is that restaurantgoers are seeking an authentic Santa Cruz dining experience, as well as focusing on locally sourced ingredients.”

— Dan Smart, director of sales and marketing, Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge

“There’s a lot more respect now for those working in our industry, and it’s a more relaxed vibe with regulars and new customers alike.”

— Will Stout, general manager, Kianti’s Pizza and Pasta Bar

“Decimated by Covid, but reviving with a lot of great new energy, ideas and actors. There is great potential right now.”

— Patrice Boyle, owner, La Posta

“After Covid, I’ve seen that people really want to go out more. And also, the Santa Cruz community was really helpful to the restaurant industry during the pandemic.”

— Giovanbauttista Spanu, chef/owner, Lago di Como

“I would say comfort-style dining is coming back, with an emphasis on making guests feel like they are walking into their own home.”

— Whitney Ayers, manager, Makai Island Kitchen and Groggery

La Posta’s Salccicia pizza features housemade sausage, tomato sauce, kale, red onion, mozzarella di bufala and calabrian. PHOTO: Tarmo Hannula

“We’re all very grateful to see a return to normalcy over the last year in the local dining scene. It’s exciting to see tourists return to the beach, and to be able to offer everyone a safe, enjoyable dining experience.”

— Eleanor Savage, general manager, Margaritaville

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs stemming from Covid. We’ve had to get creative and I’ve seen an emphasis on outdoor dining with a focus on aesthetic and making it more inviting.”

— Margaux Keiser, manager, Paradise Beach Grille

“Similar to other places, after Covid we lost a lot of our experienced staff. I feel like the local dining scene is making a comeback and people are feeling safe going out again.”

— Vincent Lee, manager, Riva Fish House

“I’ve only been in Santa Cruz for two months. I’m from Brooklyn, New York, and am happy to be on the West Coast and in a new dining scene and new dining world.”

Chris Jones, general manager, Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

 “I’ve seen a lot of new concepts coming into town in certain areas, but here in Midtown it has been the long-standing businesses that are still around.”

— Scott Meyer, general manager, Seabright Social

“It’s pretty much getting back to normal; people feel more comfortable going out to dinner again.”

— Ken Drew, executive chef, Sevy’s Bar and Kitchen

“We opened in July 2020 in the middle of the pandemic. We’ve been growing and have gone from two employees to 15 employees, so we’ve only noticed positive changes.”

— Andrea Loporcaro, co-owner, Sugo Italian Pasta Bar

“It has been pretty rough the last couple years, with lots of up and downs. Especially because you can’t expect what we went through, and nobody was prepared.”

— Erasmo Garcia, executive chef, The Point Kitchen and Bar

“The change I’ve seen overall is an increased desire for outdoor dining options as a result of the pandemic.”

— Connie Hagston, director of sales and marketing, The View at Chaminade

“I only invested in the restaurant three months ago, but from what I’ve seen there are more restaurant choices now, and a lot more affluence.”

— Eric Taillan, owner, Tramonti


Where to Go

Back Nine Grill and Bar

555 Hwy 17, Santa Cruz; 831-226-2350

Cafe Mare

740 Front St., Santa Cruz; 831-458-1212

Crow’s Nest

2218 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz; 831-476-4560

Cruz Kitchen and Taps

145 Laurel St., Santa Cruz; 831-713-5173

El Jardin

655 Capitola Road, Santa Cruz; 831-477-9384

Gabriella Cafe

910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831-457-1677

Hula’s Island Grill

221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz; 831-426-4852

Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge

175 W. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz; 831-740-8138

Kianti’s Pizza and Pasta Bar 

1100 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-469-4400

La Posta

538 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-457-2782

Lago di Como Ristorante

21490 E. Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz; 831-454-8257

Makai Island Kitchen and Groggery

49A Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz; 831-466-9766

Margaritaville

231 Esplanade, Capitola; 831-476-2273

Margaritaville Santa Cruz Restaurant Week 2017
Margaritaville GM Eleanor Savage says it’s been great to see diners rediscover old favorites.

Paradise Beach Grill

215 Esplanade, Capitola; 831-476-4900

Riva Fish House

31 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz; 831-429-1223

Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub and Restaurant

1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-426-9930

Seabright Social

519 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-426-2739

Sevy’s Bar & Grill

7400 Old Dominion Court, Aptos; 831-688-8987

Sugo Italian Pasta Bar

1116 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-431-6965

The Point Kitchen and Bar

3326 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz; 831-476-2233

The View at Chaminade Resort

1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz; 831-475-5600

Tramonti 

528 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz; 831-426-7248


View Santa Cruz Restaurant Week menus.

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