This is not the obituaries section. But I am here to announce 24-hour spots in Santa Cruz are pretty much…dead.
There is one shining exception, however, which goes round the clock unless it runs out of product: Ferrell’s Donuts on Mission. A place where the sprinkle cake donuts, Boston creams, bear claws, old-fashioneds and jalapeño-ham-cheese croissants remain godsends at any hour. (The other Ferrell’s locations keep normal-ish hours).
I asked a staffer—an extremely welcoming and helpful staffer, who offered me a free and fantastic cronut hole—what the scene is like around 4am.
“When it’s 4, things return to normal,” she said. “1am to 3am is when it gets interesting.”
This quest was a challenge issued by one-time night owl and local harmonica rocker Brad Kava (also Good Times’ editor), and Surf City native Jeanette Bent (managing editor) who wrote, “There used to be lots of 24-hour eateries. Now, there doesn’t seem to be any, let alone ‘late night’ places to eat that aren’t fast food. Are there?”
So I went out and yes, found the options aren’t robust, but they are there and will require at least two installments to cover.
Here appear a few other lessons that emerged, with more to come next week.
COUNT ON A CLASSIC
Good Times readers’ vote for Best Late Night Eats, Charlie Hong Kong, just celebrated 25 years, but is all about reverse aging—thanks to organic produce, tofu and chicken in life-giving dishes like Goddess of Springtime salads, Vietnamese pho ga and Chiang Mai noodles. It shutters at 10pm, which doesn’t qualify as all that late in most cities. Here it’s somewhat rare. Other excellent members of the 10pm crew: Hula’s Island Grill, Parish Publick House, Santa Cruz Diner, Sante Adarius/Bookie’s Pizza, and Back Nine Grill & Bar. Bonus until-10pm outlets: Sesame Korean Grill, Tacos El Chuy and Taqueria Jalapeños.
CENTRAL ALSO WORKS
Tick the clock to 10:30pm and even on a Friday the options slim, but do include more stalwarts. Among them is El Palomar, which presents such a bankable, spacious and central space in the heart of Pacific Street that perhaps locals take it for granted. I emerged from the friendly service with thin and freshly fried house chips and the enchiladas especiales. The huachinango (charbroiled whole snapper) looks promising too. Additional 10:30pm alternatives not far from El Palomar include the time-honored Jeffery’s; breakout newbie Namaste Grill & Bar (paneer pizza!); old standby Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub & Restaurant (open till midnight, though its underrated kitchen closes at 10:30pm); and Munch for cheesesteaks, hot dogs and burgers, until 10:30pm Friday only.
THERE’S MORE IN STORE
Full disclosure: this is not intended to be an exhaustive report. It’s a starting point. Please DM any recs to @MontereyMCA on Instagram, and maybe we can make this one-two punch a three-part combo. Up next week: 11pm stars (Special Noodle! Upper Crust! Gobi Mongolian!), midnight riders (Pizza My Heart! Britannia Arms! The Reef Bar & Grill!) and beyond.