.A Year of Yum

A sizzling look at 10 eateries that opened in greater Santa Cruz across 2023

The best Indian fusion spot going. Arguably the best place for a breakfast sandwich. One of my favorite taquerias—in a land filthy with them. The top Brazilian spot in town. Two superb pizza joints.

All of these additions—each excellent on at least one frequency—launched in 2023.

And that doesn’t include one of the best (see below), or the pioneering natural-foods hub that is Honey B Market.

So let’s run through them:

Honey B Market creator and lead creative Katie Belanger is so into plant-forward and life-affirming foods, she dedicated her career to hand making things like tempe dogs, shroomy hot cocoa and signature cinnamon snails. An earthy and Earthy fit for Santa Cruz. honeybmarket.com

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Namaste Bar & Grill is the sly subcontinent-fusion spot, and a spunky sister to the Namaste family of Indian outposts. Tucked into a beachside spot next to the Boardwalk, it glows with warm colors, youthful energy, tasty biryani, designer drinks and “curry pizzas” like the lamb boti kabab pie. namasteindiabistro.com

Far East + Kitchen’s Hank and Young Kim know how to fashion a stylish sushi spot, and have all around the area. This might be their most inspired yet, with all sorts of inventive special rolls, bento boxes and Korean and Chinese options too. fareastkitchen.menu11.com

Mad Yolks, as the name suggests, makes eggs the canvas for indulgent messes like the Mad Chick with crispy chicken, over-easy egg, pickled cabbage, baby arugula and garlic aioli. One key for twin foodie entrepreneurs Peter and Henry Wong: the brioche bun they worked a year to perfect. madyolks.com

• Sampa Brazilian got a remodeled home after an extended run in the limited confines of Woodhouse Brewing. That allows their interpretations of São Paolo street fare like Portuguesa pizzas and carne louca sandwiches shine. sampabrazilianfood.com

Tacos Al Fuego represents the aforementioned superb taco spot. It benefits from clean decor, a deep salsa bar, sharp local art, draft craft beer and a menu built on girth and homemade creations like the al pastor burger and Surf n Turf burrito with Angus top round beef, dry-rubbed prawns and fresh chipotle guacamole. tacos-al-fuego-llc.square.site

ScoopDog also opened in Watsonville’s food mall The Hangar this year, right across from Al Fuego. The m.o. here: burly hot dogs with atypical toppings —like the Elote Dog with chopped corn, cotija cheese, mayo, cilantro and tajin—and Marianne’s ice cream, in shakes, sundaes and straight up. instagram.com/scoopdog831/

The Pizza Series, outstanding pizza spot #1, is where chef/head pie thrower Matt Driscoll now has his own brick and mortar (in Scotts Valley), after decades in the game. Pizza styles go both from Detroit and New York. Hard to go wrong, harder to pick which. thepizzaseries.com

La Marea Café arrives from the woman who brought you farmers market hit Jayne Dough, and who now builds off the signature sourdough pizza with loaded bagels, sexy salads and more in Capitola’s former Reef Dog Deli. jaynedoughpizza.com

Trout Farm Inn qualifies as one of the biggest debuts, even among all these all-stars. The airy restaurant-bar by the pool deck in the redwoods leans hard in a local, fresh, comfort food direction. Plates to prioritize include whole rainbow trout, brown-sugar glazed meatballs and wine-steamed Manilla clams. A year-end party is in order. thetroutfarm.com


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