Soif Restaurant and Wine Bar is still the go-to place for one of the best culinary experiences in Downtown Santa Cruz
When a restaurant has upbeat ambiance, a good vibe, courteous service and good food as well, then it’s not lacking for much. This is the case at Soif, and this is also what keeps the restaurant and wine bar at the forefront of diners’ minds when they’re looking for a reliable culinary experience downtown.
On a busy evening, as my husband and I waited for a table, we browsed Soif’s wine shop, which is part of the restaurant. There, one high table and a couple of stools outside the thrum of the main dining area make it a nice place to hang out. Olive oil and Gayle’s Bakery bread are brought pretty quickly, but minus napkins, as well as some Birichino Cinsault we ordered. I love that we are surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine in the Wine Shop.
Soif has won praise for its modus operandi, which is to pair a different wine with each dish they serve. Although this is very helpful, it is merely a suggestion, and one can easily peruse their wine menu or simply check out the aforementioned wine shop to pick out something from the impressively large inventory. I especially like the Birichino varietals made by winemaker John Locke, who is also wine buyer for Soif, and we enjoyed his versatile 2012 Cinsault ($21), which went down very nicely with Executive Chef Santos Majano’s imaginative cuisine.
On transferring to a table in the main area, I ran into Edith Meyer sitting at the bar with a friend of hers—the talented local makes exquisite wedding cakes. Edith and her friend highly recommend the Shrimp and Grits ($15) served with chorizo and roasted cauliflower, which we promptly ordered. It turned out to be a very tasty appetizer, and my Texan husband especially loved the grits. Sipping wine from Soif’s own logo glasses, complete with a symbol of a bare vine—matching the artistic vines that hang on the ochre wall—is an added attraction, as is the simplicity of the restaurant’s minimal décor.
Hubby is thrilled with his Seared Scallops ($25), and asks for more of Gayle’s Bakery bread to have with the accompanying braised turnips, local hedgehog mushrooms and rhubarb/blood orange compote. When I tasted a forkful of his food, I agreed with his high rating of this innovative dish. My entrée of Ricotta & Nettle Ravioli ($19) was nicely prepared and served with asparagus, roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions. Sharing two heavenly desserts—an amazing Chocolate Sorbet with strawberries and crème anglaise ($9), and a Buttermilk Tart ($10) with rhubarb sorbet and strawberries—was a fabulous finale to a good dining experience. I had to forgo my favorite caffeinated ending—a cappuccino—because Soif prepares only French press coffee ($3.50). But my local Lulu’s coffee was so fresh, hot and delicious, especially with the amount of cream I added, that I was just as happy without the cappuccino.
There are so many things to love about Soif, especially its urban-but-casual atmosphere. It’s a great place to pop into for a small plate of something, such as artisan cheese, of which Soif offers an excellent variety, or just for a glass of fine wine to linger over. There are more than 100 wines to choose from here and the wine shop itself boasts an impressive inventory. All that, and a menu that changes regularly with seasonal specials, continues to make Soif stand out.
Take note: Soif also participates in Date Night Santa Cruz—Dinner & A Movie Specials for Two, the new concept of dining at local restaurants and getting two movie tickets into the bargain. Each restaurant offers around $50 to spend on appetizers, entrees, dessert or drinks. It’s an excellent deal. Visit thenick.com for more information.
Soif Wine Bar & Merchants, 105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-2020. Soifwine.com.