One of the best, if not the best, Santa Cruz-area restaurants is Au Midi in Aptos. The food is French provençal with extraordinarily deep flavors, fresh exuberance, and beautiful presentation. The menu descriptions understate the quality of ingredients and the vibrancy of the cuisine. This is not heavy, plodding French food; it zings.
We loved the Chicken Provençale and the Crispy Goat Cheese salad. The goat cheese is wrapped in "brick," a slighty thicker-than-phyllo dough that looks like crisp thin potato slices. The savory chicken is accompanied by a lively, intense ratatouille that made me forget all those watery, unbalanced renditions of this vegetable stew.
The prices for lunch are moderate, more spendy for dinner. Au Midi is hidden away in a corner of a strip mall behind the Aptos Twin Theaters. I'm afraid that its off-the-path location and a name that non-francophiles can't pronounce have made it a hidden gem.
Try Au Midi soon (it will be closed for vacation the first week of September). I want to keep Au Midi alive so that I can continue to enjoy it!
Au Midi Restaurant & Bistrot
Aptos Village Square
7960 Soquel Drive, Suite E
Aptos, CA 95003