Santos Majano
Dining Reviews

Discretion’s Santos Majano Elevates Brewery Food

Plus a guide to Santa Cruz summer restaurant openings and closings

Chef Santos Majano brings a focus to the food at Discretion Brewing. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

So worth looking for, the Kitchen at Discretion. My friend Beverly called it “off the beaten track.” And it might be, unless you live or work in and around the 41st Avenue corridor. 

Tucked behind an industrial labyrinth of automotive, furniture and repair shops a few clicks from Café Cruz, the Kitchen is run by talented chef Santos Majano, who creates a steady stream of irresistible dishes, plates and ideas that play cultures, culinary styles and spices off one another. All of it seems perfectly designed to go with Discretion’s fresh brews. 

Seated outdoors under an arbor of honeysuckle, bordered by strawberries ripening on a hanging garden, we struggled to decide on lunch orders. “There’s nothing on this menu I wouldn’t want!” Ellen confessed before succumbing to snack platters of sweet-and-spicy chicken wings ($16) and a dish of killer tempura eggplant ($12). Betty and Bev split a knock-out salad of melon and peaches ($11) and two beer-battered local rockfish tacos ($16). I went for a serious main course of beer-braised pork shoulder with black rice and marinated cherry tomatoes ($21). A half-pint of IPA for Bev ($3), and a San Pellegrino Limonata ($3.50) for me. There was a lot of food, and in the interests of total transparency, we demolished it all (except for some of the pork and two chicken wings that I took home for the resident guy.)

Majano is a wizard at using contrasting flavors to heighten the dishes he creates. As exciting to the eye as they are to the tastebuds, each bite produced a shameless chorus of oohs and aahs from the four of us. In a deep, round bowl, a salad of thinly sliced peaches and squares of melon arrived bathed in fresh basil and olive oil, topped with ricotta salata cheese and a fistful of sunflower sprouts. Plump, piquant chicken wings came with various kinds of fresh pickles—pale yellow, green and pink—and a bowl of buttermilk dressing. Everything sprinkled with spicy togarashi. The tacos were spectacular, again inventively topped by cabbage slaw, cilantro and sriracha aioli, plus fat wedges of lime. Betty went for the slivered jalapeños (“I like it spicy!”) 

My massive plate of braised pork offered tender flesh under a succulent layer of fat. Marinated cherry tomatoes were outstanding, and the sweet-and-sour plum sauce knocked us out. The menu offers an alluring array of fish and meat—including a heavyweight charcuterie and cheese board—but it was that plate of tempura eggplant, with a soy-citrus reduction and aioli, all dusted with red pepper togarashi, that had us well and truly enchanted. I would drive from the Westside, even during rush hour, for this dish. 

Open daily 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. The Kitchen at Discretion Brewing, 2703 41st Ave. Ste. A, Soquel. discretionbrewing.com.

Open and Shut

Nick the Greek has opened for gyros and other Mediterranean specialties at the Pacific and Lincoln slot once devoted to Sitar. Nearby, Barceloneta looks poised for lift-off downtown.

Shen’s Gallery has closed its Mission Street headquarters of so many years, only to pop up again in a sweet spot at the top of Pacific Avenue, next to the aforementioned Barceloneta.

Jaguar has closed on Soquel Avenue, and Surfrider Cafe has closed its Front Street spot after so many years, says proprietor Stephen Wyman. Local start-up Kind Brewery will open in that spot. Flynn’s is now the Felton Music Hall on Highway 9.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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