Coronavirus

25 of the Best Things About Outdoor Dining and Takeout in Santa Cruz

From delicious apps to beachfront views, these things are worth savoring

The Crepe Place’s namesake creations are a great match for patio dining. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Yes, of course we all want to be back in our favorite restaurants, enjoying the ambience of dining with our friends. But that’s not happening—at least not for a while. Here are a few of the reasons that dining out in Santa Cruz is still worth anticipating.

1. The View from Steamer Lane Supply

It doesn’t get much better than watching the surfers at Steamers while enjoying some breakfast muffins and coffee from the benches at Steamer Lane Supply, at the edge of Lighthouse Field. Daily 8:30am – 6:30pm. 698 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 831-316-5240, steamerlanesc.com.

2. The Bread at La Posta

Soft, dense, chewy, fresh-baked sourdough, white or dark brown, in round loaves ready to take home and slather with butter. There are actual meals here, too—but the bread! Thurs-Sun, 4-8pm. 538 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-457-2782, lapostarestaurant.com.

3. The Ravioli at Gabriella Cafe

The butternut squash ravioli dish—luscious with brown butter, sage and goat cheese—is one of the top reasons to get in the car and park in front of this landmark of charm downtown. Tues-Sun 5-8pm. 910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831-457-1677, gabriellacafe.com. 

4. The Apps at Oswald

Specifically, the mighty Dungeness crab and avocado creation that travels beautifully from the hand of Damani Thomas to your very own kitchen. Add something liquid involving gin and you’ll have a memorable experience. Wed-Thurs 4-8pm, Fri-Sat 4-9pm. Order in advance 30 minutes before pickup. 121 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-423-7427, oswaldrestaurant.com.

5. The Esplanade Beachfront

Sidewalk tables let patrons savor the salt air of Capitola’s piquant Esplanade district, while choosing from a half dozen menus spanning Italian to seafood to pizza to margaritas. Culinary variety embraced by beachfront views.

6. The Yvette Salad at Cafe Sparrow  

Deliciously durable is this creation of grilled chicken breast, pears, toasted walnuts and blue cheese glistening in warm vinaigrette on a bed of spinach. Love, love, love it! Pickup only, Tues-Sat 4-7:30pm. 8042 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 831-688-6238, cafesparrow.com.

7. The Courtyard of Laili

An alfresco hideaway in the heart of downtown, the Laili courtyard delivers space, lush greenery, and the outstanding cuisine long on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern specialties. Celestial kabobs and chutneys. Tues-Sun: lunch 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner 5pm to close. 101 B. Cooper St., Santa Cruz. 831-423-4545, lailirestaurant.com.

8. The Pizza from Mentone

Quicker than a trip to a Milanese pizzeria are the stunning wood-fired creations from the latest David Kinch kitchen. The crust is to cry for, but multi-cheese toppings make it divine. Add a house Negroni to go. Or dine al fresco at Mentone’s “Little Beach” parking lot seating. Wed-Fri 3-7pm, Sat-Sun noon-6pm. 174 Aptos Village Way, Aptos. 831-708-1174, mentonerestaurant.com.

9. The Desserts from VIM 

The chocolate cake with malted buttercream is an explosion of true dessert satisfaction. But if you must show restraint, try the lemon cornmeal cake with roast nectarines and whipped cream. Wed-Sat 5-8pm, Sun 10am-1pm. 2238 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 831-515-7033, vimsantacruz.com

10. The Spices of Charlie Hong Kong

Green Curry Noodles yield all kinds of complex coconut, cilantro and chile flavors. Or try the Pad Thai, with the amazing tamarind sauce on luscious wide rice noodles. Love the daikon and pickled carrots. Oral organic fireworks. Get some. Enjoy. Daily 11am-9pm. 1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-426-5664, charliehongkong.com

11. The Yachts at Johnny’s Harborside

Just walking up the stairs to Johnny’s offers an eye-soothing panorama of little boats, yachts, and catamarans bobbing in the harbor. Fresh local halibut, king salmon, clam chowder for takeaway. Wed-Sun 3-8:30pm. 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-479-3430, johnnysharborside.com.

12. The Mega-Sandwiches of Persephone

The chicken Caesar, the pork belly BLT, the mighty Italiano—que bella with mortadella, salami, provolone, and arugula on house made ciabatta. Finish with a salted fudge brownie. Pick up and head for your favorite patch of lawn. Lunch pick-ups Wed-Sat 11:30-2pm. 7945 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 831-612-6511, persephonerestaurant.com.

13. The Big Easy at Roux Dat

Take home some gumbo, the very essence of Cajun cooking: chicken, smoked sausage, and okra simmered with tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and a touch of filé. Enjoy on the big Abbott Square deck. Wed-Sun 12-9pm. 118 Cooper St., Unit B, Santa Cruz. 831-888-6500, rouxdatcajuncreole.com.

14. Almond Croissants at Companion Bakeshop

Everything a morning pastry should be. Buttery puff pastry loaded with almonds and almond paste. An unforgettable creation of tender and crisp. Tues-Sun 8am-2pm, 2341 Mission St., Santa Cruz; 7486 Soquel Drive, Aptos. companionbakeshop.com.

15. Tzatziki from Nick the Greek

First, start with something tangy and juicy like the gyro salad, then add lots of garlicky tzatziki yogurt sauce! Make sure your dining partner enjoys the same garlicky tzatziki, for obvious reasons. Addictive flavors. Daily 11am-11pm. 1133 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-431-6313, nicksantacruz.com.

16. The Cinnamon Rolls from Seabreeze Cafe

They’re huge; they’re definitive. And if you need a 3D breakfast, try the Scrambler loaded with eggs, mushrooms, green onions, and cheese. Perhaps walk to the beach to consume. Mon,Tues, and Thurs-Sat 8am-2pm; Sun 8am-1pm. 542 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-427-9713, seabreezecafe.com.

17. The Garden Oasis of Crepe Place

Cozy social distancing on the blooming back patio. Draped with pretty white lights and heat lamps for primo spacious dining, the garden of Crepe Place—almost 50 years a legend!—welcomes its many neighborhood fans for all the classics from bar and kitchen. Takeout or patio dining Tues-Thurs 12-7:30pm; Fri 12-8:30pm; Sat 10am-8:30pm; Sun 10am-7:30pm. 1134 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz. 831-429-6994, thecrepeplace.com.

18. Peach Clafouti from Soif

Every seasonal dish on the takeout menu is wonderful, but many crave the fresh desserts here. Clafouti of ripe peach and blackberries. Mmmm. And there’s a fig and almond galette with honey mascarpone. Pickup Wed-Sat 4-8pm; Order by calling between 2-7:30pm, or emailing [email protected]. soifwine.com.

19. The Avocado Toast from Bantam

The specific stylings change from time to time. Lately, the toast arrives slathered with avocado and preserved lemon, a slice of radish, some intriguing herbs, and hazelnuts for crunch. However it is adorned, this is one of the definitive avo toasts on the planet. Consider carryout of the burrata with nectarines and basil-pine nut pesto. Ditto any one of the house pizzas. You get my drift. Tues-Sat 4-8pm. 1010 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-420-0101, [email protected], bantam1010.com.

 20. The Morning Buns at Gayle’s

Sugar, cinnamon, butter, and puff pastry never combined better than in these pastries from the landmark of amazing bakery and rosticceria delights. You already know this. Order online, or come in for takeout. Daily 7am-7pm. 504 Bay Ave., Capitola. gaylesbakery.com.

21. Pinot Tasting at Windy Oaks. Outside tasting at the sprawling estate vineyards is a treat, every Saturday and Sunday, 12-5:30pm. Taste some spectacular Burgundian-style Pinot Noirs, bring something tasty for an al fresco picnic on the patio or on the ridge. The fresh air and complex oeno-flavors are worth the scenic drive to 550 Hazel Dell Road in Corralitos. Make online reservations for your place at the outdoor tasting site. windyoaksestate.com.

22: The Terrace at Iveta

With ample outdoor patio seating, either on comfy couches, big stuffed chairs or the cafe tables, Cafe Iveta on Delaware offers lots of space to sit at the appropriate distance while scarfing down a warm-from-the-oven Cowboy Cookie and a double macchiato. Good Westside neighborhood vibes, and there are great eggy breakfast foods, salads, and sandwiches to go with those house scones. Daily 8am-3pm for outdoor patio and takeout. 2125 Delaware Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-713-5946, iveta.com

23. Paella from Barceloneta

Loaded with pork, Spanish chorizo, romano beans, cherry tomatoes, white beans, aioli, and tinted yellow with saffron, this is authentic paella that feeds a few authentically hungry diners. Take-out and reheat at home. Fabulous aromas! Order sangria for full effect. Thurs-Sat 4-7pm. 1541B Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-900-5222, eatbarceloneta.com.

24. The kale and steak salad at Avanti

The Dinosaur Kale Salad at Avanti on the Westside has everything! They add slices of rare grilled hanger steak to this huge portion of shredded kale, almonds, ricotta salata, and bread crumbs. It’s major. Takeout Wed-Sun 5-9pm. 1917 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 831-421-0135. avantisantacruz.squarespace.com.

25: Sumac Spuds from India Joze

The best five dollars you will ever spend—that’s what it is, this mound of incredible Turkish fries. Crisp red potato wedges arrive spicy with pepper and sumac, along with a generous side of Joze Organic Ketchup. Order online. Tues-Sat 5-8pm. 418 Front St., Santa Cruz. indiajoze.com.

UPDATED July 27, 11:30am: This post was updated to show sandwiches are not currently on Charlie Hong Kong’s menu and to reflect the current hours for Steamer Lane Supply. We regret the errors.


Check out our continually updated takeout guide here.

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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. CAROLYN RUDOLPH

    July 25, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    We appreciate your praise for Charlie Hong Kong’s Hoisin Pork sandwich, however due to COVID, we’re currently not offering sandwiches. We’ve had to disappoint several customers, shows how popular you are.
    Carolyn, Charlie Hong Kong

    • Alisha Green

      July 27, 2020 at 11:59 am

      Sorry about that! We’ve updated the online article to highlight other awesome options.

  2. Marguerite Miller

    July 25, 2020 at 8:57 am

    What a treasure of restaurants you shared. I most definitely try some of them. Take out of course.
    Thank you Walt

  3. Sam

    July 23, 2020 at 11:16 am

    When I saw tzatziki, I expected to see Vasili’s Greek Restaurant! Best greek around, hands down. The keftetakia meatballs are zingy with lemon, great horiatiki salad, roasted lamb is excellent, taramosalata dip rivals the tzatziki–so many delicious options!

  4. Paul Bacon

    July 22, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    You hit many of our local treasures, but of course you can’t hit them all…. we all have some favorite, and mine has been the family style meals from Crow’s Nest. Prime Rib dinner for four at only $60, is my favorite take out meal and best value in town. Comes with everything you would want with your prime rib, such as mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.. au just, and horseradish. Don’t forget to order a bin of their homemade croutons for $3 a quart.

  5. chris

    July 22, 2020 at 9:13 am

    the margaritas and carne assada natchos or pulled pork steet tacos at Tortilla flats in Soquel. Complete with Mexican beach atmosphere!

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