Thank God my husband has college-aged kids enrolled in universities located in beautiful communities! It gives us places to go and new foods to try. In October my husband & I spent a weekend in Santa Cruz visiting his son at UCSC. We rolled into town Saturday morning with my list of Chowhound suggested eateries in hand. After extracting my stepson from his dorm, we decided to brave the wait at Café Brasil. Every time we drove by over the weekend, there were throngs of people waiting outside. A word to the uninitiated; the clipboard with the sign in sheet for a table is at the cashier’s counter. This isn’t clearly indicated. Once you push your way through the crowd you may have dig as the clipboard could be covered with miscellaneous stuff. But don’t let that deter you. Be brave. Breakfast is amazing! The boys each started with small acai bowls and loved them. I had the Gallo Pinto, which the menu proclaims is a Costa Rican favorite. Hmm, it may be my new favorite. “Mixed rice w/ yellow onions, parsley, red bell pepper, black beans and original Costa Rican sauce. Served w/ 2 eggs any style, corn tortillas and fried plantains.” I had it with poached eggs (yes, they do know how to poach eggs properly!) and it was a great blend of seasonings that were complex but not necessarily spicy with the sweetness of the plantains for balance. My stepson had the Cocota, which offered two soft poached eggs topped with a Cocota sauce, which is white sauce seasoned with Tabasco and Worcestershire. Again, it was well seasoned without being overly spicy. I’m at a loss to remember what my husband ordered, but he I do remember he liked it. We will totally be back. In fact, if I could go right now, I probably would. My in-laws visited my stepson a few weeks after us and they ended up here for breakfast and loved it as well.
We stayed full for a very long time. After the requisite parentally sponsored shopping trip to Trader Joe's to stock up on snacks, my stepson politely ditched us for a few hours to work on homework. My husband had never been to the boardwalk, so I had to show him what he was missing. We stopped at the Surf City Grill near the entrance so I could get a snack. The Italian sausage sandwich was cooked to order and nestled in a large sourdough roll. Expectations were exceeded. It was fun to wander around the boardwalk with a large, greasy, flavorful sausage sandwich.
I was pleasantly surprised when my stepson picked La Posta for dinner. We didn’t have a reservation, but they were so gracious and after a brief wait, squeezed us in. It was a very warm, relaxing environment. We weren’t all that hungry, but we each got salads, which were good. My stepson had the pear and prosciutto pizza which he liked quite a bit. I had the potato gnocchi with duck ragu. It was a nice sized portion, which left me full but not achingly stuffed. The gnocchi were light and a good balance against the richness of the ragu. My husband had the Bolognese, which was also very good. The wine list is very interesting, and I appreciate the option of both a half glass and a full glass. It was fun to try some of the different Italian varietals. The guys did gelato for dessert, which was delicious. I had the panna cotta, which was creamy good, but I like mine better. Theirs had just a tad too much gelatin for me, and mine has bit of tangy buttermilk for zing. We will definitely be back.
For breakfast the next morning, we headed to Walnut Avenue Café. My stepson enjoyed his French toast. My husband had the waffle and I had the huevos rancheros con carnitas, which was really quite good and not too spicy. This was our second visit to Walnut Avenue, as we stopped for breakfast on move-in day. Again, the food was good, the service timely and the atmosphere homey. We will be back.
My stepson chose Falafel House (just across the street from Walnut Avenue Café) for lunch, perhaps missing the shawerma back home at Small World in Napa. My husband had the juicy chicken shawerma; my stepson had the gyro and enjoyed it. I went for the combo plate, with a little of each of the meats. It was all very good, with subtle spice. Judging from the posters and décor, it must be Syrian owned. The tv playing Arabic music videos - think Bollywood meets hip-hop - was hugely entertaining. The lady at the counter got a big kick out of my very waspy husband trying to dance to the music. We’ll be back for the food, or even just to sip a Turkish coffee and watch tv.
Thanks Santa Cruz Chowhounds for all your wonderful posts and inspirations about where to eat. You give us lurkers plenty to salivate over. We had a great time, gave the kid a break from dorm food (pizza-burgers-salad-cereal), and can’t wait to explore some more in the spring.