.Innovative Cocktails and Fresh Seafood Fuel Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille

The view from the balcony of Paradise Beach Grille, across the water with the pastels of Venetian Court as a backdrop—sweet. As I waited for my companions to join me last week, I soaked up the last of sun and the first of the atmospheric fog slipping in over the water. After my friends arrived, amid gossip and laughter, we checked out the possibilities. Chef Scott Cater’s menu offers appealingly updated seafood classics—everything a local or the many out-of-towners could want in a waterfront restaurant. But not one of those long, long lists of every seafood possibility you or your parents ever heard of.

Attractive cocktails with names like Painkiller and Mango Margie join an extensive list of wines by the glass. I went for a tall, refreshing cucumber cooler—a tumbler of Venus gin, muddled cucumber and lime. Melo had a mango margarita filled with Altos silver tequila, mango purée and assorted margarita necessities like fresh lime, salt, sweet and sour. Patti chose a grapefruit vodka martini with grapefruit vodka, triple sec and fresh grapefruit juice served in a traditional martini glass ($14 each). Throughout our relaxing dinner at Paradise, bemasked staffers were attentive and swift, working tables out front, indoors, and on our secluded balcony. Children are made to feel welcome here, and we had fun watching them watch the seagulls.

We shared a tall paper cone of piping hot deep-fried calamari ($20.25) fresh, crisp and tender, dipping each morsel into a caper-laced tartar sauce. Calamari frito and cocktails are almost a beachfront requirement. Heat lamps and tall flame heaters came on soon, making us toasty and cozy in the outdoor setting. It was quiet enough to enjoy our conversation amidst our fellow diners—some with young children, a few foursomes and a first date couple.

For mains, we each had a different idea. Melo wanted the Sugar and Spice Salmon ($30), whose odd name must have referred to the side of caramelized pineapple salsa. The salmon filet, glazed with champagne mustard beurre blanc, was tender and delicious. Ditto the huge sides of garlic mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts tossed with squash. A lavish portion. Patti worked quickly through a bowl piled high with Linguini and Clams ($22.50)—classic in every way, from the littleneck clams to the garlicky lemony sauce.

But I think mine was the top dish of the evening. The Paradise Beach Quesadilla plate ($13) was gorgeous; four sun-dried-tomato tortillas were filled with cheddar and jack, chipotle aioli and grilled prawns (+$13). Folded into quarters, the quesadillas fanned out next to slices of perfect ripe avocado, a mound of sour cream and a bowl of pico de gallo. Plenty to share with Melo and Patti, who made oohing and aahing noises between bites. I’ve never met a quesadilla I didn’t like, and Paradise’s version is a real winner. Could easily make dinner for two. Maybe with an extra cocktail.

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The menu here also includes various burgers, fish and chips, fish tacos, and a variety of steak and chicken dishes, as well as a substantial listing of creative salads. Lots to like while you soak up the soothing view of the bay and estuary. Paradise Beach Grille continues to earn its reputation in the heart of the Capitola Esplanade. Sit outside on the balcony, if you can. 215 Esplanade, Capitola. paradisebeachgrille.com.

Michelin Man
Congratulations to David Kinch and his Mentone team, who scored a prestigious Bib Gourmand rating in the new Michelin Guide. The award designates a restaurant offering “excellent food at reasonable prices,” specifying two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for around $40. Here’s what the Michelin folks said: “The carte is unusual, unveiling fried sardines with Meyer lemon aioli or white bean soup with chickpeas in a prosciutto broth. Pizzas take the cake, such as the ‘Pesto’ shimmering with fromage blanc, Crescenza, and caciocavallo, or ‘Sardenaira’ with tomato sauce, anchovies and olives.” They are so right. Mentone’s Pesto pizza is dreamy—very light, delicious crust, and sophisticated pizza bianca topping. An award well-deserved, as are Kinch’s three Michelin stars for his dining palace Manresa up the road in Los Gatos. Mentone is in Aptos Village, across from New Leaf.


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