.Best of Santa Cruz County 2024: Editors’ Picks

Good Times writers share a few of their favorite things


best of santa cruz county 2024
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Most Popular Place Not to Find a Table on Trivia Night

11th Hour Coffee
Despite the name, do not plan on showing up to this trivia night at the eleventh hour if you want to find a table for your group. This has quickly become the hottest trivia spot in Santa Cruz, with staff urging trivia-goers to arrive at least an hour early to snag a seat. The crowd is a mix of students—millennials looking to make new friends and the ever-growing tech population looking properly Santa Cruz-clad in Patagonia and Blundstone Boots. Topics range, but having a penchant for history and geography could come in clutch. The best part of the overly crowded 11th Hour Trivia Night: the food, featuring a Szechuan inspired menu and dumplings served by Full Steam Dumpling. Thursday nights at 7pm (get there by 3pm for a seat! Better yet, just take the day off work and arrive when they open at 7am). Elizabeth Borelli

Humble Sea Brewing
The best part about this trivia night is that the staff takes to social media ahead of time to tell everyone the topics being featured that evening—architecture, pop culture and weather systems, to name a few. That way, you can rally a group of people with knowledge in those specialties, giving you a chance to finally take home the gold. The patio seating at this trivia night gets packed early, and many attendees are shivering by the night’s end due to not properly layering, instead, wearing thin jackets and sleeveless vests. Wednesday nights at 6 pm. Elizabeth Borelli

Best Place to Recover From a Hangover 

Steamer Lane Supply
Let’s say you had a great time touring local wineries with an out-of-town friend. After more wine with dinner things get a little fuzzy, the next morning arrives a few hours too soon.  In this purely made up scenario, where could you go to clear your head with beautiful views, an ocean breeze, strong coffee and replenishing eats? Steamer Lane Supply might just hit the mark. With nourishing options like kimchi, pickles and seaweed for garnishing a tasty variety of breakfast and lunch offerings. Although portions aren’t huge, neither are the prices for ocean view dining! Elizabeth Borelli

Cheapest Place to Meet Single Vegans Over 40 

Eat For the Earth free Potluck series
Get your veg on at one of Eat for the Earth’s free potluck events! Expect to meet a cross-section of people ranging from young to old and single to coupled, but for sure you’ll enjoy an abundance of tasty eats in the pleasure of good company. Eat for the Earth is the Santa Cruz-based not-for-profit dedicated to sharing the benefits of a plant-strong diet. Their regularly scheduled potlucks are a great way to try new recipes, share and enjoy delicious food and meet great people, single or not! Elizabeth Borelli

Best Place to Drink a Cup of Old Tea 

Hidden Peak Teahouse
In the world of wine and cheese, age equates to value. Tea, not so much. Wouldn’t old tea leaves begin to lose flavor? While most tea varieties go through a process of oxidation, rare others, such as pu-erh tea, undergo a unique multistep process that includes aging and fermentation. Aged pu-erh, like wine, gains depth and rarity and the results are worth the wait. If you’re looking for the perfect place to enjoy an old cup of tea, Hidden Peak Teahouse, a digital-free sanctuary in downtown Santa Cruz, is a delightful, rare find. Elizabeth Borelli

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Best Place to Get High Without Drugs

MeloMelo Kava Bar
Looking for a high without a hangover? Kava—a traditional beverage from the South Pacific made from plant roots—is a mild psychoactive and a safe alternative. While the drink is an acquired taste, the ceremony that accompanies it is an instant hit. The friendly bartender explained that each time your carved wooden cup is refilled, everyone at the bar joins in to clap once, shout the word “bula!” and clap twice to seal the cheer. Chugging is said to enhance the effects, but slow drinkers (like me) get the benefits too. Elizabeth Borelli

Best Breakfast Sandwich Ever 

Lulu Carpenter’s 
Melted sharp cheddar cheese over a perfectly folded omelet cooked on the plancha, with crispy bacon (choice of applewood smoked or regular) and their signature sauces. The sriracha aioli is to die for. Served in between a fluffy flaky biscuit or on a croissant. With several coffee houses throughout town, quality food and pastries from a longtime local staple coffeehouse and roaster is a welcome trend. (No to Starbucks). Lulu Carpenter’s full kitchen and bakery is at their downtown flagship store. Make sure to go early as sometimes they run out before the 1pm cut-off time for brunch. Lucile Tepperman

Weirdest Landmark in Santa Cruz

Hippo Tree 
There’s a hippo poking out of a tree near New Brighton State Beach. Yep, you heard me, a burned branch resembling the famous 4,000-pound semi-aquatic African mammal juts outwardly from a eucalyptus tree on Park Avenue in Capitola. Its painted eyes and Santa hat during the holiday season makes this “hippo” one of Santa Cruz’s weirdest landmarks. Mathew Chipman

Best Coffee Shop Run by a Church

Shrine Coffee
Have you ever been walking down Westcliff Drive and wanted a delicious pastry and great coffee? You’re in luck! Tucked away at the Shrine of St Joseph with a beautiful Monterey cypress paneled interior and lush garden exterior, Shrine Coffee is the best church-run coffee shop on Westcliff Drive. If you’re looking for a  great place to stop when you’re walking your dog or need a post-surf dirty chai, here’s your spot. Mathew Chipman

Most Stylish Uni-Sex Hat 

The Hat Company of Santa Cruz
Want a houndstooth messenger cap? A trucker hat with a chicken on it? Do you need a visor with the Golden Girls plastered all over it? The Hat Company has got everything one needs and more. At 1346 Pacific Ave, presenting the window display of the craziest hat-centered dreams, The Hat Company has stood for 35 years. Friendly staff with a knowledgeable owner make for a stellar shopping experience. There is no hat concept too outlandish for this store to supply, so come get a knit owl beanie or a fur bucket hat and accessorize with the headwear of your fancy. Morgan Guerra

Most Affordable Vintage Clothing Store

Angel Aura Vintage
Most find this gem while waiting for a table at Walnut Ave Cafe because right next to the well-loved breakfast joint is the affordable vintage collective Angel Aura. Whether jamming with 90’s band tees, early 2000’s corset tops, or 70’s long flowing skirts, the Angel Aura vendors have it covered without breaking the bank. College budget-friendly, Angel Aura does the digging for patrons to find the cream of the crop in the secondhand market. It’s no thrift store, but you can find some great pieces in this vintage shop without the hefty price tag some others present. Morgan Guerra

Hiking Location with the Most Shock Value 

Loma Prieta Earthquake Epicenter Trail
When we look at what’s to blame for the Loma Prieta earthquake, it seems to be the San Andreas Mountain’s fault. This trail in the Forest of Nisene Marks starts at the end of Aptos Creek Road and takes hikers to the mainshock epicenter of the Oct. 17, 1989 quake. The epicenter went six feet sideways and 11 miles deep. Loma Prieta Peak towers over rugged country, and on the trail there’s a climb or descent four miles out-and-back. Richard Stockton

Best Dive Bar with a Jukebox

Brady’s Yacht Club
No one who owns a yacht has ever been inside Brady’s Yacht Club (413 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz). Brady’s is the most revered and reviled dive bar in Santa Cruz, depending on where in someone’s alcoholic arc they are questioned. From the opening bell at 10am, Brady’s stays packed all day. It is famous for heavy pours and friendly people. Brady’s is the place to be when last call comes around. Once, the menu favorite was something called Ass Juice, which came with a warning not to drink it. Richard Stockton

Oyster Bar with the Most Santa Cruz Vibes

Cabrillo College Farmers Market
There’s nothing like strolling down a Cabrillo College hill on a Saturday to the farmers market while catching some rays of late fall sun. With veggies in the basket, shoppers can head down to the lower market for some renewed energy at La Marea of the Sea. The price is a fair $10 for four oysters on the half-shell, locally sourced from Tomales Bay and with an exciting array of homemade sauces. Let the oyster fun begin! They offer everything from a subtle cilantro, green onion mignonette to a traditional lovers’ go-to—their in-house cocktail sauce with fresh horseradish—to their serrano salsa for those who like a bit more kick. If diners like it rustic and nonchalant, this is that SC vibe. Call it over-the-top, but they have a prepared oyster they call “the best of both worlds.” Raw oysters, topped with fresh ceviche and prawns, what!? Lucille Tepperman

Best Gluten-Free Vegan Dessert

Melinda’s Bakery 
Wondering how baked goods can taste good without critical ingredients like butter, eggs and flour? Turns out that question was harder to answer than expected! But the extra effort finally paid off with just one bite of an almond bear claw from Melinda’s gluten-free bakery: a perfectly crisp layer covered oven-fresh dough encasing a rich almond filling. If breakfast is too early for decadence, this treat makes a perfect dessert option too. Or sample one of the many options changing daily at this cozy Capitola café.  Elizabeth Borelli

Best TikTok Dances IRL 

Joy Smith Dance
Ever seen the dances on TikTok showing friends doing fun routines together? This inspired local choreographer Joy Smith (3707 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz) to offer a couple’s dance class, teaching partners user-friendly routines to bring adventure and laughter to their date night. “It’s one partner comfortable taking dance classes and a nervous but willing partner not knowing what to expect,” she says. In the 1.5-hour class, Smith teaches two to three short routines. The outcome has been better than she imagined. “The men, having discovered a new love, are begging for the next class so they can show off their new skills!” Cost is $45; email jo*****************@gm***.com. June Smith


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