Lance Haggard worked in aerospace sales until 9/11. After his position was cut, he followed a “traveling itch” and moved to Shanghai, where he helped open several restaurants, including his own. But Haggard missed home too much, so he returned to Santa Cruz, where he had lived as a young adult. He responded to a Craigslist ad seeking a GM for Woodies Café. That was five years ago.
Woodies has the feel of a 1950s diner. Of course, the ocean views are timeless. Haggard defines the menu as “elevated fast-casual American cuisine centered around classic seafood favorites.” The fresh calamari is a palette-awakening favorite, as is the award-winning clam chowder, served in the obligatory sourdough bread bowl. Other options include fish and chips, burgers and the nostalgia-flavored old-fashioned milkshakes.
Hours are 11am-9pm every day. Haggard dished to GT on the clam chowder and his passion for Woodies’ customers.
What makes Woodies’ chowder so good?
LANCE HAGGARD: The recipe is over 50 years old; I think the owner actually sleeps with [the recipe] under his pillow. The secret is putting in the highest quality ingredients to get the highest quality product. It’s a thicker style with a lot of clams and fresh potatoes. And we serve it in a fresh-baked bread bowl that is over-proofed, so it gets just the right amount of sourdough tang with a crispy crust and a billowy, soft, cloud-like interior.
What do you love about working on the Wharf?
Working in Shanghai for so many years, I was used to meeting people from all over the world. Working here is similar. The breadth of the different clientele is very rich and diverse. Our guests come from down the street, Asia, Europe and everywhere in between.
Woodies Café, 25 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 831-421-9410; woodiescafe.net