Dining Reviews

Wild, Wild West

diningGeoff Hargrave of West End Tap & Kitchen adds intrigue to Santa Cruz’s Westside

The Swift Street Courtyard complex has evolved into a bustling scene where people go to enjoy good food, wine and beer and have a good time, especially on the weekends. Along with about a dozen tasting rooms, a brewery and high-end bakery/eatery can be found as well.

When West End Tap & Kitchen opened in July, this casual “gastropub” added greatly to the vibrant culinary scene. And, along with former University of Colorado friend, co-owner Quinn Cormier, we have executive chef Geoff Hargrave to thank. Hargrave’s menu features the kind of comfort food people are looking for on a casual night out.

Hargrave, who hails from Dallas, Texas, comes from a family of “foodies” and has been fortunate to experience the varied cuisine of many different countries.

“My family is very food oriented and they helped me get into cooking,” says Hargrave. “I traveled round the globe with them—going to Western Europe, Turkey, North Africa.” He also lived part of his college career in New Zealand, and traveled round South East Asia.

Hargrave also was in Istanbul “for a few months” when he was 13, and, long before that, his mother attended high school in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. It is no wonder that this exposure to such fine eclectic cuisines of the world piqued his interest to become a chef.  Also, his mother has Italian background—her ancestors originally emigrated from Italy—and Hargrave has “lots of family” in Boston.

Eventually, Hargrave went on to live in Squaw Valley for 12 years, where he honed his cooking skills at Tahoe’s premier dining destination, PlumpJack Café & Bar. He also ran Mamasake, the well-known sushi restaurant in the same Olympic Village area as PlumpJack.

Hargrave is an avid back-country skier. “When you live in Squaw Valley, it’s what you do,” he laughs. Another sport he pursues is downhill mountain-bike racing. “I just love it,” he enthuses.

But when Bonny Doon Vineyard closed its Le Cigare Volante and a golden opportunity came up in the form of a beautiful restaurant space, he and business partner Cormier, who’s originally from Aptos, jumped at the chance.

“We’d been looking to open a restaurant for a few years and we came across Bonny Doon’s Le Cigare Volante, so I came here from Tahoe for this project in particular,” says Hargrave. “It was a big undertaking, but it could not be more exciting, that’s for sure.”

Hargrave is thrilled with people’s response to West End Tap.

“We’re doing so much better than I expected,” he says. “There’s been a great community response to our restaurant, and it means a lot to me. I’m so happy. I think that we put a lot of effort into making a place where people feel comfortable.” And when the owners put in a fireplace with stools around, and added couches and two lounge chairs, the place became even cozier.

“We wanted a neighborhood establishment where people can come often – not just for anniversaries and birthdays,” Hargrave adds. “Most importantly I wanted it to be inclusive of everyone and make food that is approachable for everybody.”

Hargrave says that West End Tap is doing well at weekends and he now wants to increase the popularity of weekday lunches as well. He also plans on doing special events in the future, such as beer dinners with a featured brewery.

“My goal is to build up a successful and stable business and become a Santa Cruz institution,” he adds. “We’re only a few months old, but we’re doing really well.” 

West End Tap & Kitchen, 334-D Ingalls St., Santa Cruz, 471-8115, westendtap.com. Photo: Keana Parker

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