The vibe is both cool and super-charged over at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, and that’s partly due to chef Todd Parker’s blazing menu, making a snug fit with the handcrafted ales of the house. A cozy beer garden out front, and an appealing scene indoors. The buzz at the bar, where fans sit to sample the many house ales and pilsners on tap, is echoed by the buzz of the eclectic kitchen. Buddy Holly and a cascade of choice mid-century pop classics kept us company on our visit last week. Culinary non-sequiturs abound, from curried cashews and a sriracha shrimp roll to red beans and rice to—and you can’t make this up—white borscht.
Parker, former sous chef at the 3-star Michelin Manresa, made a big mark with Santa Cruz diners during his stint as house chef over at Bad Animal before the quarantine. Everything sings with intense flavors, flavors that practically devour the diner’s tastebuds. We ordered at the bar and waited for our food with a refreshing 831 unfiltered West Coast IPA ($4.50/small tap, $20/4-pack). I love ales, and this big righteously bitter brew was as good as it gets. Big and hoppy. A Caesar salad of kale and chicory ($12) was chopped to nano-ribbons, frontloading garlic and parmesan power into every bite. A dish of red beans and rice ($17), laced with ham hock, salt pork and Andouille sausage was a quick trip to the Big Easy. It came with fragrant white rice and a lavish shred of parsley and scallions. Extra rice would have helped to balance the smoky red beans. The big hit for our taste was Chef Parker’s amazing, mile-high Chicken Salad Sandwich ($17) that was like nothing I’ve ever eaten, sandwich-wise. Again, lots of labor-intensive dicing went into the central core of chicken, celery, carrots, a ripe juicy tomato, and preserved lemon (the key to these cascades of flavors.) Inside the micro-chopped chicken salad was the tart, citrusy surprise of sorrel leaves. Astonishing. And everything was generously spread onto toasted sourdough focaccia. Amazing focaccia. This bread elevated the entire idea of focaccia. Chewy, tender and full of flavor, it fully absorbed the tangy lemony interior. Sandwiches are rarely the first thing that jumps out to me on a menu, but this one is a classic—a destination sandwich. It would make sense to offer some of this superb bread as a side with the rich red beans and rice. I’ve got friends who are emotionally involved with Parker’s spaghetti squash Bolognese and that mysterious white borscht. On my next visit. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, 1315 Water St., Santa Cruz. Daily noon-9pm.
Huxal Mezcal Dinner at Palapas Restaurant and Cantina happens Thursday, Dec. 2. Think of it as a chance to get intimate with some fine organic mezcals while checking out Chef Estella’s tamales. The Huxal producers will be on hand to chat about the spirits, paired with four courses that start at 6:30pm ($95). Huxal mezcals will be featured at the atmospheric restaurant throughout December. Palapas, 21 Seascape Village, Aptos. Make reservations now!
Sustain AuctionSimply irresistible—that’s this delicious evening of food, wine and a dream auction at the Resource Center for Nonviolence’s Sustain Auction this Friday, Dec. 3 from 6-8pm, to benefit the important work of the Homeless Garden Project. What will your $100 donation get you? Well an auction chance for dinner cooked by Chef David Kinch for you and up to seven others. A weeklong stay at a home in Galway, Ireland, a private sailboat tour of San Francisco Bay, and much more. The RCNV is at 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. Go to eventbrite.com for tickets.