Becoming the general manager at Capitola Bar and Grill was a full-circle moment for Matt Hereford. Five years ago, he was a line cook for Sotola, housed in the same space. Before returning to where it all began, he worked for several local spots, including a stint as executive chef for the nonprofit Grey Bears.
Hereford defines Capitola Bar and Grill as “elevated seafood with a Southern twist,” punctuated by expansive ocean views. The best-selling lobster roll is loaded with succulent Maine lobster claw meat in spicy clarified garlic butter. The 40-ounce bone-in tomahawk ribeye—sliced and seasoned tableside—is a meat lover’s dream.
The recently rolled-out breakfast menu has a growing fanbase, propelled by standouts like shrimp and grits and country-fried steak. Meanwhile, the homemade beignets with chocolate or caramel sauce are unforgettable. Open every day from 9am-9pm (10pm Friday-Sunday).
Hereford spoke with GT about the restaurant’s live music and his experience cooking for senior citizens.
Why is it important for you to present live music?
MATT HEREFORD: We have a full band Friday through Sunday from 5:30-9:30pm, which is earlier than most [places]. It’s nice to offer our full menu with the music, and locals love to come in and eat, drink and dance. The locals keep us going; they’re the backbone of our customer base and set the vibe for people visiting. The music varies from classic rock to blues, soul, funk and a little bit of everything. People really respond well to the music, and everyone is getting comfortable with going out and having fun again.
What was it like cooking for senior citizens?
I have volunteered at senior centers. I think it’s something everyone should do, especially younger people. It’s the circle of life. I feel like seniors are often forgotten, and it was fun being able to kind of blow their minds by serving them restaurant-quality cuisine. At Grey Bears, I did holiday dinners during the pandemic, all to-go, drive-up style, a thousand meals a week. It was rewarding and humbling; everyone’s graciousness was amazing, and it gave me the confidence to go back into restaurants.
Capitola Bar and Grill,231 Esplanade, Capitola, 831-854-2888; capitolabarandgrill.com.