Dining Reviews

Gilda’s Carries Unique Ambience and Dining Delights Across the Years

Gilda’s ambience is priceless and offers a taste of history

Gilda’s is open for outdoor dining, limited indoor seating and takeout. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

For a half-century, Gilda’s on the Wharf was a beacon for breakfast groups, retired fishermen who couldn’t get enough of the salt air and swooping gulls, ladies who lunched and families devoted to clam chowder with those little oyster crackers. And of course the tourists, all of whom kept Gilda’s a seaside landmark. 

Last year, Charles Maier and team, who also own The Crow’s Nest, took over the waterfront restaurant from the Stagnaro family after its closure in April. The new team opened it up during what turned out to be a very long, uneasy quarantine year. 

“For the staff, it was a dynamic transition to be closed for months, reopen under new ownership, and to be operating under the drastic changes Covid demands,” says manager Alisha Dodds. “To then take on the journey of dine-in, to outdoor only, then takeout only and back to dining, it has been a roller coaster to say the least.” 

Dodds and the Gilda’s staff are happy to be back, she says, “with the same consistent menu and loyal following of customers carrying on their Gilda’s tradition.” 

Indoor seating, at 25% capacity, is now yours for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 7:30am until 8pm at the atmospheric seafood place. Breakfast can range from calamari and eggs to buttermilk hotcakes. Crab Louie and burgers for lunch lead to dinners of Petrale sole and fried scallops (all entrees here come with clam chowder, vegetables, potatoes and french bread). Where else can you even get liver and onions? And you can phone in your order for carryout. 

The ambience is priceless. The romance of the longboard and slow sunsets invite lingering. Stroll down the wharf and treat yourself to a taste of history. 

Gilda’s, 37 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz. 831-423-2010, gildas-restaurant.com.

Virtual Foodies

Dial in to the Bookshop Santa Cruz-hosted virtual event Wednesday, March 24, at 7pm with restaurateur and chef David Kinch (Manresa, Mentone) launching his new cookbook “At Home in the Kitchen” from Ten Speed Press. Kinch appears in conversation with co-author Devin Fuller, and chef/author Andrea Nguyen will moderate. Kinch and Fuller will talk about recipes, cooking and living in Santa Cruz. Register for the free event here: bookshopsantacruz.com/david-kinch.

Holiday Specialties

Looking ahead on the calendar, I see Easter, Passover and Mother’s Day coming up fast. Avery Ruzicka, entrepreneuse of Manresa Bread, is baking up a storm, and her irresistible pastries will pop up at Mentone in Aptos for Mother’s Day. Stay tuned for those dates, and get ready to make a dash for special holiday treats: manresabread.com.

Passover dinners (available by pre-order) at Gayle’s are available March 27-April 4. That means red wine-braised beef brisket, zucchini and potato latkes, lemon asparagus, honey glazed carrots and haroset ($24.95). Matzo ball soup at $9.50/pint. Desserts are endless. gaylesbakery.com.

Farmers’ Market Springs Forward

New spring and summer hours at the downtown Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market should help expand our organic foraging horizons starting April 7. Every Wednesday from 1-6pm, the market unfurls its incredible array of seasonal produce (berries, cherries, apricots), on-the-spot foods, herbs, and flowers. Gardeners will find lots of seedlings in starter pots to take home and plant from Green Planet Organics, Blossom, Pacific Rare Plants, and Laurel Canyon. 

Treat your home dinners with jars of bolognese sauce from Home, and Nepalese dumplings from Nomad Momo. Lots of tender greens are filling the stalls this time of year—green garlic, asparagus, radicchios, and infant lettuces. Don’t miss all the opportunities for pastries and coffee to fuel your visit to the farmers’ market, as well as breakfast the next day. And yes, the market continues to open a half-hour early for Senior Only Shopping.

Barceloneta Temptation

Open for pickup Thursday-Saturday, 4-7:30pm, Barceloneta in downtown Santa Cruz has streamlined its menu to choice flavors and distinctive cocktails. Our favorite combo is the Ibiza Hippie Salad loaded with kale, yams, preserved lemons and crunchy chickpeas ($14) paired with sliced Jamon Serrano ($15) just to make sure we get all the food groups. And to drink? The pale pink Contigo Cocktail ($13) references a negroni with gin mare, Spanish vermouth, Bonanto and Meyer lemon. Very enticing. eatbarceloneta.square.site.

Updated March 25, 4pm: This story was updated to reflect there will no longer be an Easter pop-up at Mentone.

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