Santa Cruz Hot spots and other notables you need to know about
Motiv, Mad House, Jalisco, Parish Publick House, Britannia Arms, Boulder Creek Brewery
In downtown Santa Cruz, Motiv is hot and happening. The nightclub’s owner, 39-year old Mike Pitt, said the root word motiv in many languages means purpose. Purpose is fueled by inspiration.
“We’re an art venue,” says Pitt, “we’re a political forum, we’re music, we’re food. What all those things have in common is inspiration. That was my goal, to bring together all this inspiration.”
Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Pitt graduated from UCSC. Once a competitive surfer, he’s a sales rep for O’Neill, managing 100-plus accounts. And he’s no stranger to nightlife. In 2005 he purchased Castaways, a seedy Live Oak bar.
“Castaways did well right off the bat,” Pitt says. “We cleaned it up and turned it around. I was real proactive with the Sheriff’s Department. I wanted to work with them to make it a better place. They’ve been really supportive.”
Pitt bought the Dakota Club in bankruptcy court to make way for Motiv. Unaware that the use permit was void, he sought the expertise of land use consultant John Swift.
“The city didn’t want another night club. John helped me through the bureaucracy which I didn’t have any experience with. But once you get to know everybody, and they can tell you’re not just coming here to exploit downtown, that you’re trying to do something different, things kind of opened up.”
And Motiv is different. It’s about “unmet needs”. Just as Pitt bumped up Castaways, he recognized the need for a safe, upscale venue. He enjoys a livelier environment than that in a neighborhood bar, noting that there are two distinct customer bases.
“Some people go out to party,” he says. “Some people go out to be social. If people want to go out and dance and party, they’ll come to Motiv. If they want to hang out and chill in the neighborhood, they’ll go to Castaways.”
At 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights the $5 cover kicks in, as does the dress code. Customers avoid excessively baggy clothing, baseball caps and sportswear. The fee helps pay for better entertainment, and security, however facebook fans that RSVP pay no cover before 11 p.m.
One Saturday night after 9:45, a steady stream of customers flowed through the doors. I enjoyed incredible sliders on soft buns as the house techno music started spinning.
In the upstairs lounge we discovered a Motiv secret – bartender Pat Johnson, rather like a liquid chef, who was slicing fresh ginger for a signature drink.
“Pat is one of those people that’s truly inspired by bartending, which is rare,” Pitt told me. “Twice a week he buys all his fresh ingredients and muddles them all together. Very few bartenders can say ‘I love this’. I am always impressed with the drinks he makes.”
Different too, is Tuesday night live art, where perhaps magicians will confound you, or a painter will create art right before your eyes. Motiv is also on the tour of First Friday, showing a different local artist each month. Wine dinners should return by early summer.
Motiv, 1209 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 429-8070. Full Bar. Open at 4 p.m. weekdays and 2 p.m. weekends. Visit facebook.com/MOTIVSC
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Madison Smith loves his job. Late on a Saturday night, behind the bar at his Mad House Lounge, he demonstrated skilled disco moves. On the next song, Smith created his own lyrics for the DJ’s choice of Katy Perry’s “I kissed a girl”, following the title phrase by, “and it freaked me out”.
A younger Smith bartended before a stint in Corporate America working for Playboy Television. Ready for a change, Smith says he was skilled at two things,
“Bartending and casting naked people,” he cracked, “and I’m getting a little old for the latter.”
So he purchased the Seabright Bar and Lounge, which over the past five years has also been known as Cardiff Lounge and the 529 Club. And lucky for us, he’s added beer on tap! Saturdays are Lollipop night, which explains the dum dums and Tootsie Roll Pops (Yay, I scored a chocolate one!) on the homey coffee tables which line one wall between comfortable white sofas. In the men’s room, porcelain red-lipsticked lips serve as a urinal.
At one point, Smith stepped onto the dance floor to bust some moves with a Harley-riding utilities technician who was enjoying the evening with siblings and his pretty wife.
Madhouse is busiest during Thursday night’s Rainbow Room when young and old, gay and straight gather. The DJ starts spinning at 10 p.m. On Wednesday nights it’s Customers’ choice on the jukebox, and on Sunday play free pool and enjoy happy hour prices until 10 p.m. Daily happy hour runs from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Madhouse, 529 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-2500. Full bar. Open Tuesday through Sunday at 4 p.m. Closed Mondays. Visit myspace.com/madhouseba
If you’re a fan of hard-to-find tequilas, Jalisco in Watsonville has your number; more than twenty of them in fact, with an extended happy hour that runs from 3 to 7 p.m.
The extensive menu features fresh fish and mesquite-grilled meats. An appetizer of Coctel de Camarones y Ostiones ($12.95) was served in a large, stemmed sundae glass. Raw oysters, cooked shrimp, onions, cilantro and avocado were layered in a chilled tomato-seafood broth.
Main courses are served with rice, beans and aromatic handmade corn tortillas. A fat, lightly fried Chimichanga ($12.95) was filled entirely with juicy, hot carne asada beef, and covered with tart tomatillo sauce.
Pipian Mole Verde ($14.95) featured chicken breast in a sauce of roasted tomatillos, dried fruit, roasted pumpkin seeds and almonds. Both included sour cream and guacamole.
For dessert, two huge scoops of Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream ($3.25) were lusciously flavored with cinnamon.
Of interest is the landmark 1931 building which housed power companies. The Spanish architecture with Moorish influences was purchased by restaurateurs Stella and Ramiro Roma. Original tiled arches and painted open ceiling beams are spectacular, and the lush landscaping around the tables has soothing appeal.
Jalisco, 618 Main St., Watsonville, 728-9080. Full bar. Open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit jaliscorestaurant.com
Parish Publick House
At the tail end of happy hour, all the barstools were taken at Parish Publick House. With almost thirty international beers it’s an ideal stop on the Westside. In their large kitchen, they also create some tasty food.
We ordered a couple of appetizers to go with our IPAs. Most famous are the Dixie Pickles ($6.99). Five beer-battered and deep-fried spears were served with ranch dressing. The familiar flavor of a warm, salty pickle was discovered within the impeccably crunchy-crisp coating. Three long Vegetarian Spring Rolls were deep-fried and cut diagonally lengthwise, making each an ideal scoop for the sweet and sour sauce.
Although live music is often heard on Saturdays, the stereo played Irish folk rock and then some alt rock. The full bar, displayed on a commanding, decorative, and finely crafted Victorian bar back included numerous Irish whiskeys.
Parish also serves beautiful salads, sandwiches, and ground chuck burgers with numerous accessories. Traditional pub food is also available, including bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie.
Weekday happy hours are 4-6 p.m., 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturdays, and all day Sundays. Get half-off appetizers and selected $3 drafts.
Parish Publick House, 841 Almar Ave. (in the Mission Safeway Shopping Center), Santa Cruz, 421-0507. Serving lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
A sign on the wall at Britannia Arms advises, “CAUTION ADULTS AT PLAY”. At this British pub, restaurant and sports bar in Aptos the games never end.
The phone rang often during one lunch hour as Sharks fans hoped to land bus tickets ($100) which would take them to a VIP suite with a catered buffet at the game.
With ten satellite receivers and 12 televisions, including one that projects onto a large movie screen, live soccer from England can be enjoyed, as well as numerous basketball and baseball teams at once.
Typically live music is played on Thursday and Saturday. At 8 p.m. on Wednesdays there’s Trivia. At 9 p.m. on Fridays, customers entertain themselves with karaoke.
You’ll find unique draft beers such as Belhaven’s Twisted Thistle from Scotland. Absolut Citron Lemon Drops are poured from a chiller, and with the Hamm’s stimulus package, get a can of beer for a penny with any shot.
The menu is a mix of British and American favorites. I chose a delicious Bridie ($10.95) from the specials board. In this Scottish meat pie, a thin layer of moist seasoned meat and onions was wrapped in pastry and baked. A pile of plump peas joined a cratered mountain of mash waiting to receive the pitcher of brown gravy.
St. Patty’s Day the Brit continues a ten-year tradition: Celebrity DJ Sean Bodie from Radio Dublin will MC a KPIG broadcast with live music from local Irish folk band Innisfree at 3 p.m., and at 8 p.m. singer, songwriter, and guitarist Christy O’Connell from County Cork will share his Irish pub, rock, folk, and rebel songs. And don’t forget the Irish stew, it’s made with Guinness.
Britannia Arms, 8017 Soquel Dr., Aptos, 688-1233. Full bar. Serving lunch and dinner daily. Weekday happy hour 2:30 to 6 p.m. All ages until 11 p.m. Visit britanniaarmsaptos.com
Boulder Creek Brewery
In Boulder Creek, the eponymous brewery is again happily pouring house-made beers. Pints of Dragon IPA ($4.75) are at their hoppy best. They also have a dozen wines including a couple of sparkling ones, and a small selection of the hard stuff. And to go with those beverages, some nicely-done meals.
This green company powers its pickup with their used fryer oil. Food is from farmers markets, and Natural beef is from Creekstone Farms. The owners also generously support community groups.
The Skippy Burger ($8.50) was a yummy combination. A third pound of beef, mixed greens, fat tomato slices, and peanut butter were layered on a soft bun. The accompanying salad was topped with shredded carrot, more tomato and delicious sunflower seeds.
The Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($8) included sliced breast meat, smoky bacon, and a touch of BBQ sauce.
Happy Hours are between 4 and 6 p.m. weekdays (2 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays) and on Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to close, which occurs around 10:30. You can also find their brews at sister restaurant Surfrider Café in downtown Santa Cruz.
Boulder Creek Brewery, 13040 Highway 9, Boulder Creek, 338-7882. Serving lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 a.m. Visit bouldercreekbrewery.net