.Turn It to 11(pm)

Swooping through late-night eating in Santa Cruz [part two] when a pizza debate breaks out

Most debates improve as the night advances, even the iffy ones (Is this a simulation? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Would you rather be forced to sing along or dance to every song you hear?).

The great debates, meanwhile, get greater, like Who serves the best slice in town?

To be fair, not many quality spots rock by-the-slice. But those that do serve memorable options

The Pizza Series’ Detroit-style pepperoni, Slice Project’s Bianco, Pleasure Pizza’s atypical Santa Barbara, and Bookie’s strawberry and stracciatella can all make cases for consideration. (Side note: let’s call Bookie’s smart new personal pies a “slice” to be inclusive and because they’re the bomb.)

But none of those do a slice with as much oomph, identity or garlic (about five cloves a slice).

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Something about that vampire repellent, at a quasi-vampire hour, combined with ribbons of portobello, organic sauce, crisp pepperoni, hardy sausage and green onions, earns the Big Sur slice at Pizza My Heart my lasting loyalty and a special nod as Good Times continues its downtown-centric survey of after-hours eats—yes, PMH is open till 12pm nightly, uncommon around these parts.

PIZZA RULES

No matter where you land on a go-to slice, it’s hard to question this: deep into the night, the pizza category comes on strong.

Venerable family-owned Upper Crust Pizza & Pasta stays open until 11pm Friday-Saturday on Mission, (10pm on Soquel Drive) while carrying a loaded menu: thick-crust Sicilian pies, wings, muffalettas, salads, meatballs, house-made spaghetti. Then there’s a true champion of the wee hours, Woodstock’s Pizza on Front Street. It goes till 1am on weekends (and midnight otherwise) peddling classics (Grateful Veg and All Meat Orgy) and creative takes (Siracha-Cha and Kickin’ Carnitas) to go with sandwiches, salads, and 16 beer taps. And $9.99 pitchers after 9pm don’t suck either.

EXTRA HOURS, EXTRA CREDIT

Maybe it’s a coincidence that a few S.C. institutions, old and new, have longer hours. Or maybe they’re institutions in part because they stay open.

Take the Crows Nest with its ambitious live music program, outsized drink menu and underrated food, open till 11pm on social evenings (shutting sooner on school nights).

And new smash hit Special Noodle and its handmade dumplings—from soup to pork-and-cabbage—plus headlining noodles that Good Times’ Christina Waters calls “unbeatable,” also open until 11 on weekends.

Or Boardwalk Bowl’s Coasters Bar and Grill, which comes steady on karaoke and basics—think pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads—until 11pm, drinks till midnight.

Or Capitola fixture Britannia Arms, doors wide open until 12pm for Irish BLT’s, bangers, mash, fish and chips. Oh wait, kitchen closes at 9pm. Which inspires a hunt for street food, the star of the next late-night installment (send any tips, oversights or insults to @MontereyMCA on IG).

BONUS CUTS

Nourishing nuggets, rapid fire:
1) Pretty Good Advice has a second location coming to Pacific Avenue in November;
2) Just down the block, Alderwood Pacific closed suddenly late last month, with promises to reopen;
3) Pare Filipino Pop-up with chef Paul Suniga happens 5-9pm every Sunday at After Hours Cocktails;
4) Fresh new organic cafe The Grove in Felton now has beer and wine flowing and starts dinner service mid-month.

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