.To Infinity (2024) and Beyond

An additional dose of great 2023 debuts, plus what to forward to now that the future has arrived.

It is entirely possible that many of Santa Cruz’s biggest epicurean developments of 2023 were not new restaurants.

Don’t get me wrong. As last week’s column illustrated, there have been some rock star restaurant debuts of late.

Those include Honey B Market, Namaste Bar & Grill, Far East + Kitchen, Mad Yolks, Sampa Brazilian, Tacos Al Fuego, ScoopDog, The Pizza Series, La Marea Café and Trout Farm Inn.

But that list does not account for a particularly delicious category of food-and-drink developments.

I’m looking at you, food trucks and brewhouses, wine caves and pasta playlands, upstarts and start-ups alike.

Those all merit a little love, which materializes here:

As of fall 2023, Balefire Brewing now provides Live Oak with memorable lagers, ales and IPAs to go with a welcoming vibe, regular live entertainment and food trucks.

One of its consistent mobile purveyors represents another ’23 breakout in Espadin Cocina Oaxaca, a food truck peddling authentic south Mexican items. Best-selling signatures include quesabirria, tlayudas and empanadas amarillos.

Another food truck might be the most welcome arrival of the year gone by. Friday through Monday, Melamore Cafe serves as the on-site kitchen for Love Apple Farm nursery in Scotts Valley. That’s where chef and Manresa alum Elizabeth Albertucci does a short menu long on habit-forming flavor like handmade tagliatelle carbonara and lemon-pomegranate tarts.

Also in Scotts Valley, Saison Cellar & Wine Bar gives locals a savvy take on a vino destination that opened up in October. Sommelier-hospitality savant Mark Bright curates the situation after time with Michelin-starred Saison in San Francisco and sister Saison Cellar in Los Gatos.

More good culinary content to capture emerges in the early months of 2024.

Three to prioritize:

1) Cavalletta in Aptos, an Italian-California pizza and pasta joint from Nick Sherman of Trestles of Capitola;

2) Pretty Good Advice #2 in downtown Santa Cruz, rocking the same vegetable-centric soups, salads and sandwiches that are a heralded hit at the OG spot in Soquel.

3) The Alley Oop Cocktail Lounge, a designer drink-inspired outpost with a small-plate-focused kitchen and event space complete with a stage, in The Poet and The Patriot space of Cedar Square.

It all inspires a worthy New Year’s resolution: Let’s keep eating and drinking local, and do it well.


Sea Harvest, the family-owned-and-operated fishing outfit with its own restaurants, just debuted a new fish market barely over the Santa Cruz County border. It sits off the Moss Landing docks at 7532 Sandholdt Road, open 8am-3pm weekdays.

 The ML Harvest can claim some of the best fish tacos on Monterey Bay, which got me thinking about my favorite entries of the genre closer to town. My nominee: small-but-mighty Mijo’s Taqueria in Capitola. Chef Anthony Guajardo sources the day’s catch with small independent operations like Gracie Seafood, and does knockout grilled and Baja-style tempura takes on his flagship dish.

I’d love to hear your favorites; please send your top fish taco recs to @MontereyMCA on Instagram and I’ll share them here. Happy New Year, y’all. Stay feisty and fed.


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