Dining Reviews

Restaurants and Wineries Embrace Sidewalk Cafe Culture

Plus, a few food tips for getting through the pandemic

Diners sit outside at Britannia Arms in Capitola. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

Wading bravely into the new reality, many of our wine tasting rooms and dining spots have embraced the together-but-separate outdoor dining phenomenon.

The by-appointment-only tasting terrace at Alfaro Family Vineyards in sunny Corralitos has been hosting at 40% or more capacity with outside tables spaced 8-12 feet apart. It is working just fine for the reservation-holders. 

At Birichino in downtown Santa Cruz, winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke have just started up Friday-Sunday socially-distanced tastings on the new sidewalk venue in front of the Church Street tasting room. The Birichino tasting experience requires a mask—to be worn except when seated at the table—and an appointment, bookable online. Birichino continues to offer curbside pickup of wine orders on Thursdays.

Birichino, 204 Church St., Santa Cruz. Open 1-8pm Friday, 1-6pm Saturday-Sunday. Make a reservation at birichino.com.

Sidewalk Strategies

For outdoor dining with provocative variety, Abbott Square Market’s spacious terrace next to the Octagon has it all. Most of the eclectic food court purveyors are serving dishes you can pickup and/or consume on the patio between noon-9pm, Wednesday-Sunday. And that includes the full bar of Front and Cooper. The possibilities—from sushi to burgers—are tempting. 

Ditto the new Capitola Esplanade outdoor cafe scene that lets patrons cruise the beachfront food purveyors and enjoy their meals at appropriately distanced tables out front. The possibilities include The Sand Bar, English Ales, Capitola Wine Bar, Zelda’s, Pizza My Heart, Tacos Moreno, and Caruso’s, among others. There’s nothing like the sound of the ocean to take the edge off.

Pro-Tips

How to get through this thing.

  • Be good to yourselves. That means getting your favorite dishes from your favorite restaurants for curbside pickup. For dining at home, include a few luxury items on your grocery list, if your budget allows, for when the Covid-19 blues strike. We keep Wagyu filet mignon and thin-cut pastured pork chops in our freezer, and Shiitake mushrooms and Little Gem lettuces in the fridge.
  • Order enough for a second meal when getting curbside pickup. This reduces points of contact and gives you another night off from cooking. A recent dinner from Laili yielded a terrific extra meal of grilled chicken kabobs, roast potatoes and chutneys. Just get something extra every time you go out.
  • When you shop, make sure you load up on staples such as jars of pasta sauce, pasta, beans, chicken stock, tuna, and eggs. Lots of eggs. Hard boil a half dozen for “emergency” dinners. Nothing is easier than pasta with a decent marinara. Add Italian sausage, which you’ve already got waiting in your freezer. Open red wine.
  • Tuna plus hard boiled eggs on a bed of baby spinach equals a wonderful protein-intensive meal.
  • Buy local wines, beers and spirits. Shop the farmers markets. Order fresh fish from our local people: Ocean2Table, H&H Fresh Fish Co. are good choices. Don’t eat crap! This is not the time for donuts and ice cream therapy. According to the CDC, the folks most likely to be hit hard by Covid-19 include those with preexisting conditions and those who are obese, i.e. those with a body mass index of 30 or higher, which includes 42% of the U.S. population. Mind-boggling! Don’t be part of that demographic. Get moving!
  • Take a 45-minute walk every day (if you can physically manage it). It is good for your mental health and crucial to keep your body strong.
  • Listen to the sounds of summer wildlife—coyotes, baby hawks, songbirds, coveys of quail. Be grateful.

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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Joe

    July 17, 2020 at 4:19 am

    Thank you for the pro tips ,if it wasn’t for you I’d probably electrocute myself opening my refrigerator door!😱

  2. Roy Jordan

    July 15, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    You left out any good snack selections such as fresh fruit, veggies & nuts.

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