Standing in the middle of his open, subway-tiled kitchen, chef Matt McNamara hesitates to assign a title to his position at his new Soquel restaurant Pretty Good Advice. Like the other members of his team—most of whom he coaxed down to the Santa Cruz area from his Michelin-star restaurant in San Francisco, Sons & Daughters—McNamara does a little bit of everything.
But his passion for the local area, and the incredible produce he’s able to grow at his 83-acre farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains, is the root of his new hyper-local, fast-casual dining spot, which opened in mid-January.
What would make a successful chef move from San Francisco to Soquel? McNamara explains that while preparing multi-course tasting menus was stimulating, he saw that his friends often couldn’t afford the $150 experience. So he decided to create a more approachable restaurant with the same creative, seasonal ethos. “We want to feed our friends. We want to do something that’s just about the food,” says McNamara.
His farm, where for the last five years he has raised animals, tended orchards and grown a perennial bounty of produce, from mushrooms to greens to chilis, is the backbone of Pretty Good Advice. Making everything from scratch gives him and his team total control of flavors and encourages collaboration.
That vision was appealing to husband and wife team Jen and Alex Jackson, who were looking for a community that they felt they didn’t have in San Francisco. “Everything we use in S.F. is grown down here, so why not go to the source?” says Alex, who manages savory menu items and creates delicious charcuterie at Pretty Good Advice. “Matt’s passion for what he grows makes us want to be really smart with our dishes,” adds Jen, who works fruits and herbs from McNamara’s farm into sweet and savory pastries and breads.
Layers of flavor, texture and freshness elevate everything on the menu, which offers breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, soups, and sides ranging from $3 to $12. All items are available all day for takeout or dining in. Tim Oegema, who helped bring PGA’s hip modern aesthetic to life, emphasizes a desire for the restaurant to be a gathering place: “We want to be a place where our friends and community can come every day.”
7 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. 3070 Porter St., Soquel. 226-2805.