.Holiday Quickies: The Best Grab-and-Go Bites in Santa Cruz

The best grab-and-go bites in town, plus a new lunch menu and cocktail hour at Oswald
I don’t know about you, but this time of year I am rushing around like a Taylor Swift roadie—shopping, baking, wrapping, schmoozing, card-writing, party-prepping, caroling, reminiscing—and the last thing I have time for is organizing a decent meal. But I don’t stress—I have many options in this food-forward place we call “home.”
I’ve long ago found aid and comfort in the deli section of New Leaf, where the always comforting Turkey Chili makes a terrific meal (lunch or dinner), when paired with a salad (kale is our go-to flavor) and a slice of walnut sourdough from nearby Companion Bakeshop. I have also recently discovered the deep comfort of housemade soups from Whole Foods, especially the inventive kale/potato with little sausage meatballs. We love WF’s rich and well-spiced minestrone, too, which makes a nice cool-weather dinner with the addition of a big kaiser roll and some amusing triple crème or Saint Agur Bleu cheese. Add one of the sweet little mandarin oranges that are enjoying their perfect moment right now, and you have dinner. (I am assuming that if it’s dinner, you’ve already selected your favorite house red to accompany any and all of the above.)
From The Buttery bakery we often bring home any one of the gargantuan house sandwiches—the turkey and basil with pickled onions and pesto aioli ($7.75) is a huge favorite. The Joe’s Special ($7.75), with mega-quantities of Black Forest ham and provolone on a fresh onion roll absolutely qualifies as dinner. The Buttery makes a definitive pumpkin pie ($4/slab) and the finest carrot cake in this hemisphere ($4). Out at Gayle’s, one can scoop up everything from those addictive rosti lavosh wraps packed with meats, greens and cheeses ($4) to full-on meatloaf ($8.95) and potatoes dinners all ready to heat up in your oven. Grab a bag of the stupendously rich and satisfying biscotti ($10.95/8-ounce bag) that provides all the texture groups from chewy to crunchy. Add coffee or tea and feel your toes curl.
Kelly’s French Bakery on the Westside has provided aid and comfort in the form of easy dinners that hit all of our culinary buttons. Our take-away favorite is the house half roast chicken, with loads of french fries and a delicious green salad ($17)—enough for two people to enjoy (along with the aforementioned glass of red wine). And don’t forget Zoccoli’s while you’re roaming around downtown Santa Cruz. The venerable deli whips up a mean Mediterranean sub ($7.75) and the messy, addictive Meatball Italiano ($7.25) which make a great meal if you add a few deviled eggs and some sinful cannoli ($3.25). Many people have been known to enter this delightful old-world shop on Pacific Avenue and simply never leave.

Lunch Update of the Week

Oswald, at the corner of Soquel Avenue and Front Street, is now offering its irresistible lunch menu on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This is great news; the expanded hours not only include lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. three days a week, but also a sexy new cocktail hour as well—from 4:30 p.m. (when many of us appreciate the mood created by a well-crafted “early bird” cocktail) until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with bar bites, wine and cocktail specials. Oswald lunches include a classic pan-fried flank steak with biscuits and gravy ($14) as well as a TDF Burger & Fries ($13). Go to oswaldrestaurant.com to find out more.

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