It’s summer and stores are stocked with grilling supplies including cedar planks. Cooking meat on wood over fire is an ancient technique perfected by Northwestern Native Americans. But there’s no need to fire up the grill if you head over to Cypress Lounge, where Cedar Plank Salmon ($16.95) headlines the menu.
While the outside patio was relatively empty, inside, cacophonous conversation of after-work minglers joined rollicking strains of live music. Friends lounged on grey sofas or gathered around tall café tables. Energetic, charming servers darted between the kitchen and customers.
The menu includes salads, burgers, tri-tip sandwiches, entrees, dessert, and an extensive appetizer selection. Creamy hummus is served with pita bread, and fresh tortilla chips carry spicy guacamole. We selected a seat at one of the three semi-circular booths near the bar. Since we arrived before 7 p.m., appetizers were half-price and happy hour draft beer was just $2. Sweet potato fries (normally $6.95) were delivered promptly; piping hot and crisp with a side of deliciously powerful garlicky aioli. The Hades from Belmont’s Devil’s Canyon Brewery carried a hint of habañero, while their Scotch Ale was strong, dark and sweet.
The entrée’s accompanying dinner salad included leafy greens, carrots and sliced mushrooms with a side of brightly flavored rosemary-lemon vinaigrette.
The Salmon ($16.95) was served on its charcoal black plank, topped with a glaze of Dijon mustard and brown sugar. Smoke from its burning pedestal had infiltrated the fish with nuances of sweet cedar. Caramelized, sautéed vegetables joined creamy brown rice pilaf, redolent of garlic.
Cypress Lounge, 120 Union St., Santa Cruz, 459-9876. Full bar.
Serving dinner nightly, happy hour 5-7 p.m.