Dining Reviews

Oswald Takeout Delights with Sublime Dungeness Crab

And yes, you can have your Oswald Negroni to go

Shannon Magnante crafts a Manhattan martini for a takeout order at Oswald restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Easily one of the best restaurants in the central Bay Area, Oswald has hosted countless cocktail hours, memorable dinners, and robust lunches. Now open for curbside pickup, Oswald provided two terrific dinners for us last week, even given the difficulties of quarantine. 

The infamous Oswald Dungeness crab and avocado has long been one of my go-to dishes, and I was grateful to find it on the current take out menu. One evening I picked up a caesar salad ($10) with Mt. Lassen trout ($9) and the sublime Dungeness crab with avocado creation ($14). On another evening, we ordered skirt steak with roasted carrots, potato gratin and chimichurri butter ($35). I might have tried the fried chicken, or housemade beef lasagna for the other entree, but I caved and ordered another Dungeness crab. Yes, it’s that good. The caesar salad and the Dungeness crab are both items that don’t need heating, and as a result they gave us a fair reenactment of the way they would taste in the restaurant. 

The trout was thick and delicious along with the tangy, garlicky salad of baby romaine. The Dungeness dish involved a shaped mound of sweet, fresh crab meat atop a pillow of smashed avocado garnished with a dice of ripe orange citrus. We added glasses of our own Birichino Chenin Blanc, and a plate of cheeses (a Pyrenees sheep cheese, blue Agur, and a young Mahon are current picks) and savored every bite and sip. The second time around, we had a chance to see how a hot dish would fare in the short transit from downtown Santa Cruz to our Westside table. 

Of course the ambience of Oswald, the expert service, the vibe, the chance to catch a glimpse of chef Damani Thomas and his team in the kitchen—all those specific pleasures were missing. But the food was excellent. Slices of skirt steak glistening with the zesty herb butter, were fanned out—exactly rare/medium rare as requested—alongside a plump square of gratin potatoes and faceted chunks of roast carrots. All wonderful, with the paper-thin potato creation a stand-out. The beef satisfied our craving for steak and was as tender as this cut can be in the hands of an expert. Such an urban dish. 

Since we couldn’t enjoy the actual restaurant experience—yet—we supplied our own. Cloth napkins, a bottle of Dolcetto, and candles—candles are crucial to lifting spirits, trust me on this. It’s an easy touch, lighting a few candles, yet it casts a spell no matter what you’re having for dinner. Just do it. Next time we’ll save room for the chocolate soufflé-for-two. And yes, you can have your Oswald Negroni to go ($8). 

Oswald, 121 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Wednesday-Saturday, 4-8pm. Phone in your order to 831-423-7427 30 minutes before you wish to pick it up. 

More Reasons to Live

Zachary’s, my friend Leslie’s favorite breakfast joint, is open for takeout, including that all-star breakfast Mike’s Mess—eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and home-fries topped with cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and green onions, with jalapeño cornbread (or other breads, but the cornbread is to kill for). 

Zachary’s, 819 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Thursday-Sunday, 8am-1:30pm. Zacharyssantacruz.com.

Splash is now Makai Island Kitchen and Groggery on the Santa Cruz Wharf, specializing in the playful flavors and drinks of Hawaii. Stroll down the wharf and check it out! 

Turkey and havarti sandwich, a cowboy cookie, and a double macchiato from Cafe Iveta, mmmmm. Open on Delaware Avenue daily 9am-2pm.

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.

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