A longtime fixture in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, Chocolate is pushing through the pandemic by offering takeout food and serving guests on its lush Pacific Avenue patio until 9pm seven nights a week. Chef and owner David Jackman spoke to GT about the adjustments he’s made over the last few months and the diversity of his menu.
How has outdoor dine-in service on the patio been going?
DAVID JACKMAN: Outdoor dining has been the choice of our customers since we opened over 20 years ago, so we’ve learned to keep our patio heated and protect it from the wind and elements year-round. Even when it’s raining, people love to sit outside. Our job is to make it as comfortable as possible. We have also expanded our outdoor areas that we hadn’t used before, and Bookshop Santa Cruz has donated some of their outdoor space. We have about as many seats outside as inside; we’re operating at about 50% capacity and our revenues are about 50% of what they were pre-pandemic.
What has been the hardest part of doing business during the pandemic?
Confronting the transition from takeout to reopening for dine-in service. It was daunting; all the protocols were difficult. It took us a couple of weeks to figure out how to provide hospitality at a certain distance, but now we’ve gotten used to everything. We can accommodate customers just like we used to. Rather than seeing pushback from customers, we’re experiencing only gratitude.
How would you characterize your menu, and what inspires you most on it?
Our menu is American food celebrating diversity and is a reflection of the many cultures that come together to make up this American experience. I am most inspired by our variety of molés and working with a diversity of chocolate-inspired menu items, both sweet and savory. Right now, we have four different kinds of molés: spicy poblano, Almendrada (a rich Oaxacan style), amarillo, and verde pipián, which we serve with fish. I don’t think you find them commonly. I’ve been to Oaxaca city in Mexico twice in the last four years to learn more about traditional molés.
1522 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-427-9900. chocolatesantacruz.com.