Each year, as summer turns to fall, Santa Cruzans fight the urge to cozy up inside and instead flood the local dining scene.
They aren’t just fighting back against shorter days, or hesitant to let the good times roll—Santa Cruz Restaurant Week offers a unique incentive. The annual event, which runs Oct. 16-23, gives guests an opportunity to dine out on any budget and explore their local culinary options. Participating restaurants—more than 30 this year—offer guests a three-course meal with fixed-price menu options for $25, $35 or $45 dollars.
It’s a time to dine at the best local spots without breaking the bank, but Restaurant Week is enticing for local chefs, too. It’s an opportunity for kitchens to flex their culinary skills and experiment with the bounty of the season.
We spoke to each participating restaurant to find out what they’re offering this year, which menu items they’re especially excited about, and why they love participating in Santa Cruz Restaurant Week. Find all their menus at santacruzrestaurantweek.com.
Why should diners choose to visit your restaurant during this year’s Restaurant Week?
“It’s an authentic, Italian experience. You hear us speaking Italian, the recipes are straight from the homeland, and it gives you that feeling of really being there.”
— Jean Pierre Iuliano, Chef/Owner at Cafe Mare
“We were one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the area, and people should come see why we’ve survived for 27 years.”
— Paul Cocking, Owner at Gabriella Cafe
“We source all of our fish as locally as we possibly can. I work with a fishmonger who is literally getting fish off of the dock right below the restaurant, so our products are incredibly fresh.”
— Nichole Robbins, Executive Chef at Johnny’s Harborside
“We have a lot of people who’ve been working here for seven or eight years. It’s like a family. There’s a lot of Italian restaurants around, but each one is different, and this is an opportunity for everybody to get to know each other and see what the different areas in Italy have to offer.”
— Giovanni Spanu, Executive Chef/Owner at Lago Di Como
“It’s a Hawiian-style restaurant, but there’s a bunch of different flavors that are mixed in. We have Asian, Latin and American flavors that are combined with the Hawiian preparation, and they go really well together. There’s a lot of sweet and spicy or savory and creamy combinations.”
— Francisco Cervantes, Front of House Manager at Hula’s Island Grill
“I think the value we’re offering for $25 is really outstanding. It’s great appetizers, great desserts and really special entrées, which typically are more than the $25 by themselves.”
— Michael Harrison, Owner at Michael’s On Main
“Looking at our menu, there is a dish for everyone. We have seafood, pasta, meat and a vegetarian dish. We always want to make sure everyone who comes by for Restaurant Week has an entrée for them. Who can pass up a three-course meal for $25?! We just want everyone to leave with a smile on their face and taste the authenticity that we put into every dish.”
— Aileen Garcia, Manager at Ristorante Italiano
“Rosie McCann’s is a very unique, individual spot in Santa Cruz. It’s great for everyone—for kids, for adults. We welcome everybody in. We pride ourselves on giving really good customer service to make sure people have a great experience.”
— Jose Cadenas, Floor Manager/Bartender at Rosie McCann’s
“This is a great time to come in and see how we produce our menu seasonally. This is a time where you’ll see fall items on the menu—your bitter greens, like radicchios, and fall fruits—and we’re starting to serve more cold-weather dishes. We’ve got a really beautiful kabocha squash soup done with coconut milk and lemongrass. It’s very warm and comforting. Same thing with our braised short rib dish. It’s kind of getting to that cold time of year, so we’re going to have dishes that reflect that.”
— Steven Billings, General Manager at Soif
“We do a great variety of locally produced items. Our concept is farm-to-table, and this event is an opportunity for us to showcase our menu.”
— Jonathan Degeneres, Chef/Owner at The Water Street Grill
“I think fun and playfulness are an essential part of cooking. At Your Place, people aren’t just coming in for food, they’re coming in and making friends. That’s really the goal—to connect with people and build a sense of community.”
— Rachel Wiotsky, Owner at Your Place
“Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to visit Zelda’s without the craziness of tourists. It’s a beautiful time of year, and our outdoor patio is an amazing location to watch the sunset while enjoying delicious California coastal cuisine. We’re one of the few places on the entire coast where you can literally dine on the sand.”
— Jill Ealy, Owner at Zelda’s on the Beach
What are you most looking forward to with the menu this year?
“The Restaurant Week menu is made up of items we serve on our normal menu. Our hope is that we get people who haven’t eaten at the Back Nine before come in and try it out. If they really love and enjoy what they’ve had, then they’re able to come back and get that on a regular basis.”
— Ben Kralj, General Manager/Executive Chef at The Back Nine Grill & Bar
“It’s really about letting myself and my staff be more creative with the menu, allowing everyone to express themselves while showcasing what Santa Cruz County has to offer, both produce-wise and from the ocean, using local fisheries and all that stuff. It’s a very beneficial outlet.”
— Matthew Espinosa, Executive Chef at Sotola Bar & Grill
“I’m excited about some of the special cocktails we’re offering for Restaurant Week. The vanilla-infused rum soda is very approachable. It almost tastes like an old-fashioned cream soda, but it’s made with rum. The chocolate-strawberry cosmo is a cacao infusion that’s completely unsweetened, but still has a chocolate flavor from the cacao, and the strawberry is literally just Windmill Farms strawberries baked in the oven to make a sauce. That’s exciting, because when you look around at a lot of the bars, they’re offering complexities that sound almost like modern art––in other words, very interesting but sometimes above our heads. What we’re offering to people is a simplicity of origin in their cocktail mixers.”
— David Jackman, Executive Chef/Owner at Chocolate
“For each course this year, we’re offering at least one vegetarian option and trying to do things that are totally different from what we usually do. So for me, that’s what I’m most excited about—I get to play with different foods.”
— Jeff Westbrook, Executive Chef at the Crow’s Nest
“I’m really excited about our wild mushroom salad. It’s going to be one of the first courses, all foraged within 150 miles of here, served with a nice, warm sherry vinaigrette. It’s going to be a great dish.”
— Peter Henry, Executive Chef at The Cremer House
“Getting people in the restaurant that maybe haven’t been before, to come and try it out. We’re offering our seasonal salad with special organic and local produce and our artichoke soup, which is another favorite—the local Italian people go crazy if we don’t have it.”
— Chris Moreno, Executive Chef/Co-Owner at Lillian’s Italian Kitchen
“It’s a great value and variety, from shrimp appetizers, spanakopita and hummus to salmon as a choice of entrées. And we have the chicken souvlaki, a marinated chicken that’s probably one of our signature items.”
— Jay Dib, Owner at Mozaic
“One focal point we’re really excited about is our balsamic salmon. It’s a charbroiled salmon that has almost a bruschetta concept on top, so you’re going to have tomatoes, basil and garlic with a balsamic glaze over it. It’s super fresh, and you get some really amazing salmon with it as well.”
— Kristopher Rucker, Executive Chef at Stagnaro Bros.
“Offering people creative menu items. We’re on the ocean, so showing some of what’s happening in our area here with the fish. Also, mixing it up a little to have creativity for the steak lovers, or people who enjoy duck or pork.”
– Jeff Hanson, Restaurant Manager at Sanderlings
“We’re looking forward to serving the cioppino. Our head chef Antonio Gomez has put a lot of time into creating it and making it super delicious. It’s got crab legs, mussels, scallops, prawns, and calamari, so it’s a really nice array of all kinds of different fresh seafood. We’re also going to serve our apple-berry cobbler, but as a pie, so it’s a new twist on an old classic.”
— Krista Haux, Ast. Restaurant Manager at Severino’s Bar & Grill
“A couple of our most famous are for sure our pappardelle Bolognese, our lasagna and our meatballs. Those are really classic, but we also try to put something new and fresh on the menu and take a bit of a risk with something that might be unusual for our customers, but that is really natural for us. We’ll try to discover an old family recipe and put it on the menu, to help people understand our roots.”
— Matteo Robecchi, General Manager at Tramonti
What’s the best thing about Restaurant Week?
“It’s a really great thing for our community, because you don’t normally try new things. You normally just go to the one restaurant that you love, but this gives you an opportunity to branch out.”
— Joanne Guzman, Bruno’s Bar & Grill
“I think the best thing for us is bringing in new customers. After Restaurant Week, we see a lot of new faces in our restaurant. They like what we did, so they come back.”
— Samuel Yanez, Chef/Owner at Hindquarter Bar & Grille
“People getting familiar with the quality, amazing ingredients we have in our town. There’s so many mom and pop restaurants that I think we take for granted, and this really shines light on these fabulous places. I went back last year and multiple times throughout this year to places I went for Restaurant Week, and that’s what I hope for my restaurant.”
— Jon Chadwick, Food and Beverage Manager at The Dream Inn, Jack O’Neill Restaurant
“You get to show off a little bit. I feel like we’re taking more risks on the menu, instead of just playing it safe. I think the chefs want to show the best of what they got, their best cuisine, their best dishes, and just go for it.”
— James Manss, Executive Chef at Süda
“Creating a unique menu for new guests and welcoming back our regulars to something special.”
— Winona Holmes, Marketing Manager at Linwood’s Bar & Grill, Chaminade Resort
“The best thing about Restaurant Week are the multi-course offerings for an affordable price. It entices guests to try out new places and menus that might not have been on their radar before. The reasonable price point also allows guests the opportunity to add one of our handcrafted margaritas to their experience.”
— Kathleen Cannon, General Manager at Margaritaville
“The best thing about Restaurant Week is the exposure. Everyone’s shining. We’re all trying to put our best foot forward and show the community what their delicious restaurant choices are.”
— Damani Thomas, Executive Chef/Owner at Oswald
“Food brings happiness and helps people create beautiful memories together. It’s a time to go out and let people have something special, or feel like a star. It’s amazing. I feel like Restaurant Week is the most beautiful, festive and joyous event in Santa Cruz.”
— Ayoma Wilen, Executive Chef/Owner at Pearl of the Ocean
“It’s great that locals can come in and get a deal and hopefully try something they’ve never had before. For us, it’s a chance to get new people into the restaurant now that we’re open again.”
— Erasmo Garcia, Executive Chef at the Point Chophouse & Lounge
“It’s really nice to get new guests out on the wharf, especially locals—who maybe don’t come over here as often—to experience how beautiful a place it is and see what great food they can get out here.”
— Caleb Hanscom, Executive Chef at Splash!
“It’s great because people don’t always get three courses. It’s a way to make sure you have a full dining experience that’s coursed-out. Plus, you definitely get dessert, which is obviously one of my favorite things.”
— Jesikah Stolaroff, Executive Chef/Owner at VIM Dining & Desserts
Back Nine Grill & Bar
555 Hwy. 17, Santa Cruz. 423-5000, backninegrill.com.
Bruno’s Bar and Grill
230 Mt. Hermon Rd. Ste. G, Scotts Valley. 438-2227, brunosbarandgrill.com.
740 Front St. #100, Santa Cruz. 458-1212, cafemare.com.
1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 427-9900, chocolatesantacruz.com.
2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 476-4560, crowsnest-santacruz.com.
910 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 457-1677, gabriellacafe.com.
Hindquarter Bar & Grill
303 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 426-7770, thehindquarter.com.
Hula’s Island Grill
221 Cathcart St., Santa Cruz. 426-4852, hulastiki.com.
Jack O’Neill Restaurant and Lounge
175 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 740-8138, jackoneillrestaurant.com.
493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz. 479-3430, johnnysharborside.com.
Lago di Como Ristorante
21490 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. 454-8257, lagodicomoristorante.com.
Lillian’s Italian Kitchen
1148 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 425-2288, lilliansitaliankitchen.com.
Linwood’s at Chaminade Resort
1 Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz. 475-5600, chaminade.com.
231 Esplanade #101, Capitola. 476-2263, margaritavillecapitola.com.
Michael’s On Main
2591 S Main St., Soquel. 479-9777, michaelsonmain.net.
110 Church St., Santa Cruz. 454-8663, mozaicsantacruz.com.
121 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-7427, oswaldrestaurant.com.
Pearl of the Ocean
736 Water St., Santa Cruz. 457-2350, pearloftheocean-hub.com.
555 Soquel Ave. #150, Santa Cruz. 458-2321, ristoranteitalianosc.com.
1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 426-9930, rosiemccanns.com/santacruz.
Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort
1 Seascape Resort Drive, Aptos. 662-7120, sanderlingsrestaurant.com.
Severino’s Bar & Grill
7500 Old Dominion Court, Aptos. 688-8987, severinosbarandgrill.com.
105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz. 423-2020, soifwine.com.
Sotola Bar and Grill
231 Esplanade #102, Capitola. 854-2800. sotolabarandgrill.com.
49 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz. 466-9766, splashonthewharf.com.
59 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz. 423-2180, stagnarobrothers.com.
3910 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz. 600-7068, eatsuda.com.
The Cremer House
6256 Hwy. 9, Felton. 335-3976, cremerhouse.com.
The Point Chophouse & Lounge
3326 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz. 476-2733, thepointchophouse.com.
The Water Street Grill
503 Water St., Santa Cruz. 332-6122, thewaterstreetgrill.com.
528 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 426-7248, facebook.com/tramontisantacruz.
VIM Dining & Desserts
2238 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 515-7033, vimsantacruz.com.
1719 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 426-3564, yourplacesc.com.
Zelda’s On The Beach
203 Esplanade, Capitola. 475-4900, zeldasonthebeach.com.