For three decades, Canton has been Santa Cruz’s go-to Chinese restaurant, and Sarah Leung has been the manager for the last 20 years—her parents own the spot. Sarah left China to be with her family, first and foremost, and has a deep adoration for Santa Cruz, which she considers her “home away from home.”
She describes Canton’s menu as a traditional blend of Cantonese and Szechuan styles of Chinese cuisine. Some of the most popular dishes include garlic chicken, ginger fish with green onions, Kung Pao chicken and Sarah’s personal favorite, the spicy Szechuan tofu—boasting a crispy exterior and soft interior.
For dessert: The sesame ball, a deep-fried sesame seed-dotted pastry filled with red bean paste, reigns supreme. Beer and wine are also available.
Canton is open 3-9pm every day except Monday. Sarah recently spoke about the different regional Chinese cooking styles and the key to the restaurant’s ongoing success.
What is the difference between Cantonese and Szechuan food?
SARAH LEUNG: Cantonese cuisine is usually milder and not as spicy, and uses a lot of sautéed vegetables. One example is chop suey which has bean sprouts, broccoli, carrots, onions and a variety of other vegetables. Szechuan cuisine, on the other hand, uses a lot of red pepper and garlic and is usually spicier, and also utilizes more black pepper and onions. One classic example is Kung Pao Chicken, as well as Szechuan green beans and tofu.
What has kept Canton in business for so long?
We’ve been here for almost 30 years, and I think it’s because we provide fresh food that is also good food. Everything is made to order, and I eat here, too, and really like the food. We’ve also had the same chef for over 20 years, which makes our food very consistent. And it’s a neighborhood spot with a lot of regular customers; we really are a part of this community. And especially during the pandemic, we’ve gotten a lot of support, and I am very grateful.
900 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 831-475-8751; cantonsantacruz.com.