Johnny’s Harborside On the Waterfront

dining_JohnnysJohnny’s Harborside launches new summer menu
It’s easy to drive past the seafoam green building without noticing the restaurant with an intimate view of harbor life perched upstairs. Head down Lake Avenue on the one way street towards the harbor, make the first right, and you will find quick gourmet lunches, amiable neighborhood happy hours, relaxing weekend brunches, and romantic sunset dinners at Johnny’s Harborside.

Enjoy appetizers, salads, sandwiches or breakfast specialties during the weekend brunch. Most brunch entrées are served with your choice of fruit, roasted potatoes, polenta or potato pancakes. On a recent sunny Sunday, I delighted in the Harborside Benedict ($13). In this unique offering, two crab cakes, loaded with sweet crustacean, were topped with thick sautéed ham and poached eggs. The slightly spicy house-made hollandaise was lusciously creamy without being heavy. The flavor of the potato pancakes, made of finely-grated red-skinned potatoes, onions and herbs, reminded me of latkes.

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, ($11) are half price at happy hour (weekdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.). Soft butter lettuce leaves folded easily around shrimp and freshly sliced avocado, which were drizzled with rich sesame oil aioli and sweet soy sauce. They were joined by an Asian-flavored slaw, made with Napa and purple cabbages.

Other appetizers, not on the regular menu, such as chicken skewers with lemon aioli, hummus and grilled pita, oven-roasted mussels, and calamari are also specially priced from $3 to $6.  Specials on margaritas, martinis and house wine ($4) and draft beer ($3) are sure to make you smile.

Ahi Tuna Tartare ($13) is one of the recently introduced appetizers. A mound of cubed pink ahi tuna, seasoned with cilantro, spicy minced ginger and red onions was surrounded by a pinwheel of deep fried oval slices of banana-like plantain.

Also new to the menu is Baked Marin Triple-Crème Brie ($11). A half wheel of cheese was heated just until spreadably soft, and served with herb-dusted crostini. Cubes of quince, cooked until red, reminded me of chutney with hints of berry, plum, and tart cranberry, with a gritty, pear-like feel on the teeth. Figs, with crunchy seeds, were rolled with almonds and cut into chewy logs; their earthy sweetness mellowing the savory brie.

Johnny’s still specializes in “Fresh Catch Your Way” (market price). Fresh, seasonal fish is sautéed, blackened or broiled according to your specifications, with a selection of four ethnic accompaniments. Southwestern style includes a polenta-stuffed pasilla pepper. Pacific Rim comes with stir-fried vegetables, steamed rice, and spicy coconut peanut sauce. The house dinner salad ($3) is exquisite, with multi-colored greens, sliced grapes, and candied walnuts in balsamic vinaigrette.

Recently, Ivory Salmon ($27) was served as the night’s special. Caught wild in Alaska, with flaky white flesh, it was topped with a piquant pineapple salsa.

Johnny’s welcomes families, with a nice selection of kids’ meals including pasta, tacos, fish and burgers. Each is served with a side of salad, fruit, onion rings or French fries, and dessert.

Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant and Bar, 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 479-3430. Full bar. Continuous service seven days a week: open Monday-Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Serving brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit johnnysharborside.com.

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