Dining Reviews

How to Rethink a Menu for a Successful Takeout Experience

Plus a review of Bantam takeout and a roundup of reopenings

Local salmon with spring vegetables and dill-intensive Green Goddess dressing ($33) made a spectacular main attraction in a carryout dinner from Bantam last week.

Loaded with appealing flavors, sensuous textures, and expert handling of delicate ingredients, it was Ben Sims and team at top form. The salmon was perfection—crisp skin, succulent flesh. The salmon held up to unpacking, replating and serving at home, mainly because the thick sauce didn’t move around too much in transit. The Yukon gold potatoes, cut in large quarters, were bathed in the herb-inflected dressing, as were grilled cherry tomatoes, asparagus, olives, and of all things cucumbers which when cooked become an entirely new creature. 

A generous sphere of burrata and wood oven roast asparagus was decorated with fuchsia watermelon radishes and walnuts ($15). This compact starter traveled well and looked great on our own plates. So glad Bantam’s back for takeout since this was easily one of the most satisfying dinners we’ve had in months. Next time, pizza! 

Bantam, 1010 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. 831-420-0101, bantam1010.com. Monday-Friday, 4-8pm.

Takeout Menu Design

Note to restaurateurs: Menus might need rethinking for successful takeout. For example, plated dinners, entrees with sides carefully arranged in the kitchen to look beautiful when served, may not fare as well in container carryout as do one-dish items like lasagne, stew, and pastas. Caesar salads with added proteins, such as one we picked up from Avanti, worked well too. Same with compact cold dishes of layered ingredients, such as the Dungeness crab and avocado signature from Oswald. A dinner of roast halibut with spinach gratin and polenta will never look as good when I scoop it out of a take-away container and replate it on my own dinnerware. We eat with our eyes!

Little Beach at Mentone

Mentone chef David Kinch and General Manager Chris Sullivan have started al fresco counter service style dining at Mentone. “We’re calling it Little Beach,” says Sullivan, where first-come-first-serve tables in the Mentone parking lot will be available Fridays from 3:30-7pm, and Saturday-Sunday from noon to six-ish. “Menu offerings include our Frozen Bubbly Spritz, wine by-the-glass, beer, and other cocktails, plus pizzas, salad, and a rotating lineup of snacks. Music and fun times all around.” Now you know.

Open House! 

From Shadowbrook’s Ted Burke comes the news of a July 1 reopening of dining in for the Capitola landmark, with “new and expanded hours in order to compensate to some small degree for the limited usability of our public space.” The Rockroom will open at noon daily for the wood-fired oven menu until 10pm. Dining room hours will be 4-8:45pm Monday-Friday; 2-9:15pm on Saturday, and 2-8:45pm on Sunday. 

Burke notes that the new schedule might be re-examined after Labor Day. “We will try and use all our outside tables whenever possible for those who prefer a non-enclosed environment.” There will be a slightly reduced menu, fewer tables, but longer hours seven days a week. Shadowbrook’s ambitious accommodation to the current reality begins just in time for the July Fourth holiday. 

Our favorite dining spots are opening their doors again little by little. Keep checking their websites for daily changes to the list. Having made the costly, time-consuming, and by-the-code interior changes are Home in Soquel, Vim on the Westside, Alderwood downtown, the newly reopened Oasis on River Street, and East End Gastropub on 41st Avenue. Ser’s Aptos Village tasting room has created an outdoor seating area for tastings. Next to Bookshop Santa Cruz, Chocolate is open for patio dinners 4-9pm nightly. Laili Restaurant has opened for dine-in lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday.

Curbside pickup is back at Soif, whose menu—including wild salmon salad Niçoise, and braised short rib ragout, and peach and blueberry crisp—will be available from 4-8pm Wednesday-Saturday. Call 831-423-2020 or email [email protected].

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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