clock menu more-arrow no yes
 Zoccoli’s Deli
Zoccoli’s Deli

18 Exciting Places to Eat and Drink in Santa Cruz

Catch a new wave of restaurants, craft breweries, and cocktail bars

View as Map
 Zoccoli’s Deli
| Zoccoli’s Deli

Famed for its twenty-nine miles of beaches, Santa Cruz lures visitors with surf, sun, and a Coney Island-esque beach boardwalk. Yet, come mealtime, you aren’t limited to fried calamari and corn dogs. In recent years, Santa Cruz has upped its food and drink game while still maintaining its soulful surf and outdoor culture. Translation: you can enjoy gourmet Neapolitan pizzas in board shorts, and sip craft cocktails in flip-flops.

The region is engulfed by farmland — nearby Watsonville was the hub of frozen food packaging for much of the 20th century — and fresh, organic produce fills local menus. Plus, a recent explosion of craft breweries makes it one of the most exciting (if often underrated) beer destinations in California. You’ll even find local craft brews sitting next to cotton candy at the beach boardwalk.

The next time you head to the birthplace of mainland surfing, here’s where to get stoked on the latest in Santa Cruz’s contemporary dining scene.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Venus Spirits

Copy Link
427 A Swift St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 427-9673
Visit Website

Since opening his westside distillery in 2016, Venus Spirits owner Sean Venus has racked up awards for his organic, small-batch spirits including single-malt whiskeys; California’s only blue agave spirits (they’d call them tequila if the term weren’t protected); and signature, floral gins that dial down the juniper for softer botanicals such as cardamom and citrus. The stylish tasting room welcomes guests to sample a flight of spirits, enjoy a freshly made cocktail, and take home a bottle or two for the home bar.

Courtesy of Venus Spirits

2. Humble Sea Brewing Co.

Copy Link
820 Swift St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 431-6189
Visit Website

Like the region’s famed surf breaks, craft breweries have become an integral part of the local landscape. Humble Sea stands out with exceptional New England-style IPAs; eye-catching graphics; and a pleasant, olive tree-shaded beer garden situated five blocks from the shore on the westside.

Courtesy of Humble Sea

3. Bantam

Copy Link
1010 Fair Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 420-0101
Visit Website

In an airy, transformed warehouse space on the hip westside, owners Ben (Chez Panisse) and Sarah Sims have been cranking out wood-fired Neapolitan pies since 2012. Yet, pizzas are only half the story, with a sizable, daily selection of bites and entrees such as a clam-and-smoked trout chowder and fried chicken with chili butter. Local beers and wines keep the lively dining room humming, while a succinct cocktail menu nails variations on the classics.

Naveen Hattis

4. Copal Restaurant

Copy Link
1203 Mission St Suite
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 201-4418
Visit Website

Copal opened in the summer of 2020, delivering chef Ana Mendoza’s homestyle Oaxacan fare to the California coast, most notably in the form of moles — Mendoza is particularly known for her bold mole negro, gaining acclaim prior to Copal at pop-ups and festivals. Get it served with chicken or pork or in tamales wrapped in banana leaf; and don’t miss the tlayuda, an Oaxacan favorite.

5. The Penny Ice Creamery

Copy Link
913 Cedar St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 204-2523
Visit Website

Along with business partner Zachary Davis, former Manresa pastry chef Kendra Baker created a beloved local institution with this ice cream shop that features seasonal scoops made from scratch and served in homemade waffle cones. True to Santa Cruz ethos, Davis and Baker source ingredients from more than 40 local farmers and foragers for flavors such as strawberry pink peppercorn and cardamom coconut blackberry. Just be sure to top it with toasted marshmallow fluff. Find locations in downtown and Pleasure Point.

6. Birichino Winery Tasting Room

Copy Link
204 Church St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 425-4811
Visit Website

Don’t let the flood of craft beer let you overlook Santa Cruz’s original drink of choice: wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. At Birichino — the Italian word for “naughty” — industry pros John Locke and Alex Krause produce lush, richly flavorful wines that showcase local vineyards and lesser-known varietals such as the warm-weather fave, malvasia bianca. The tasting room offers tastings on the sidewalk patio’s seven tables; book one in advance to be sure.

Courtesy of Birichino

7. Alderwood Santa Cruz

Copy Link
155 Walnut Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 588-3238
Visit Website

This upscale newcomer represents a sign of Santa Cruz’s recent changes, replacing a former lunch deli space with sleek interiors, expert cocktails, and a menu of New American dishes and steaks. Chef-owner Jeffrey Wall made a name for himself at Atlanta’s lauded Kimball House, and woos Santa Cruz with an extensive raw bar, modern takes on steakhouse classics, and composed plates such as an Insta-worthy smoked beet tartare.

Liz Birnbaum

8. Lupulo Craft Beer House

Copy Link
233 Cathcart St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 454-8306
Visit Website

At this convivial downtown taproom named for the Spanish word for “hop,” 16 taps feature brews from Santa Cruz and beyond, while a notable food menu eschews the usual pub grub for Mexican and Spanish plates — family recipes of husband-and-wife owners Stuyvie Bearns-Esteva and Noelle Antolin — sourced exclusively from local organic farms. Think boquerones, cochinita pibil tacos, and empanadas. A cold case offers an additional 300 cans and bottles to crack open on premises or take to go.

Courtesy of Lupulo

9. Zoccoli's Delicatessen

Copy Link
1534 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-1711
Visit Website

Zoccoli’s is arguably Santa Cruz’s favorite deli — rightfully so, after 70+ years serving custom-made sandwiches and house hoagies, like everyone’s favorite, the Mediterranean (mortadella, salami, prosciutto, and provolone cheese on a sourdough French roll with Italian dressing, olives and peppers). There’s a surprising number of vegetarian options and hot and cold sandwiches all go for under $10, another reason to love it.

10. Soif

Copy Link
105 Walnut Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-2020
Visit Website

This fetching restaurant-wine shop hybrid has been a reliable, welcoming spot for refined food and drink since 2002. Chef Tom McNary cut his teeth at Chez Panisse, and it shows in his seasonal, ingredient-driven dishes sourced from local farms and fishermen. Menus shift accordingly, but dishes have included diver scallops with caviar and uni butter, and grilled quail with salsa verde. As always, half the fun is pairing dishes with selections from their deep wine shelf, which features labels from far beyond the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Alyssa Twelker

11. Steamer Lane Supply

Copy Link
644-670 W Cliff Dr
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 621-7361
Visit Website

This modern, seaside snack shack dishes up affordable, from-scratch, handheld meals across from Steamer Lane, the city’s most iconic surf break. A butcher paper menu lists Sharpie-scrawled items including salmon poke bowls, fresh fish tacos, and panini-pressed quesadillas such as the Break-A-Dilla with scrambled eggs, hash browns, queso fresco, and salsa verde. Nab one of the Adirondack chairs scattered among the park-like setting outside, or head to the benches overlooking surfers shredding massive swells.

Garrick Ramirez

12. Abbott Square Market

Copy Link
725 Front St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Opened in fall 2017, this indoor-outdoor food hall is a buzzy new addition to downtown. Housed in the city’s former jail — check the old cell door hanging inside — the bustling market is home to numerous food and drink offerings including blistery pies from Pizzeria la Bufala, a more than 100-drink-strong cocktail menu at Front & Cooper, and the supergroup coupling of Companion Bakeshop and third-wave coffee darling Cat & Cloud. A sprawling outdoor patio takes advantage of Santa Cruz’s 300 days of sunshine, and the connecting Museum of Art & History is well worth a stop.

Courtesy of Abbott Square

13. Oswald Restaurant

Copy Link
121 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 423-7427
Visit Website

Longtime restaurant Oswald in the heart of downtown is loved by the Santa Cruz community, as much for its seasonal California cuisine as for its rotating artist exhibits and warm ambiance. In the fall, try anything with butternut squash, like the soup with persimmon or the Autumn pasta; comforting dishes like curry braised lamb or beef lasagna; and a customer favorite, the chocolate souffle.

14. East End Gastropub

Copy Link
1501 41st Ave i
Capitola, CA 95010
(831) 475-8010
Visit Website

You’ll find this delightfully stylish eatery hidden away in a nondescript strip mall in beachy Capitola. High ceilings and an open kitchen keep the split-level interior buzzing, as do 16 taps of house and guest beers. The menu features farm-to-table takes on gastropub staples — think burgers and Brussels — but don’t overlook the vibrant cheese plate, house salad with pumpkin brittle, and anything out of the wood-fire oven.

Courtesy of East End Gastropub

15. Pretty Good Advice

Copy Link
3070 Porter St
Soquel, CA 95073
(831) 226-2805
Visit Website

Fleeing city life to tend to his Santa Cruz Mountain farm, chef Matt McNamara, former co-owner of SF’s Michelin-starred Sons & Daughters, teamed up with other Sons & Daughter alums to open this casual breakfast and lunch spot in Soquel. The seemingly simple menu features homemade bread and ingredients sourced from McNamara’s farm in items such as ricotta toast with honeynut pumpkin butter and fennel beet soup (there are burgers too).

Courtesy of Pretty Good Advice

16. Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House

Copy Link
2504 S Main St
Soquel, CA 95073
(831) 477-9967
Visit Website

Find beer garden nirvana at this sprawling, dog-friendly taproom with shaded picnic tables, lawn games, and 30 rotating taps available in pints or 4 oz. tasters (with even more options available in a cold case). You can bring your own snacks — numerous food vendors are within walking distance — or belly up to an on-site take-out window that slings hearty grub such as al pastor tacos and fish and chips on the weekends.

Garrick Ramirez

17. HOME

Copy Link
3101 N Main St
Soquel, CA 95073
(831) 431-6131
Visit Website

Housed in a charming, early 20th century Soquel bungalow, this cozy and aptly-named restaurant features owner Brad Briske’s deeply flavorful cooking, which incorporates the bounty of local produce, meats, and seafood. In addition to an in-house butchery program that yields the restaurant’s beloved charcuterie, Briske is renowned for homemade pastas that’ll dazzle even the most noodle-jaded diners with dishes such as squid ink spaghetti with manilla clams, pork belly, and fermented chili miso.

Garrick Ramirez

18. Mentone

Copy Link
174 Aptos Village Way
Aptos, CA 95003
(831) 708-4000
Visit Website

The casual, French-Italian restaurant from chef of Michelin-starred Manresa is going strong in Aptos, just a skip and a jump over from the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Fried anchovies with Meyer lemon aioli and burrata with roasted strawberries and hazelnuts accompany a list of simple but exceptional pizzas.

Loading comments...

1. Venus Spirits

427 A Swift St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Courtesy of Venus Spirits

Since opening his westside distillery in 2016, Venus Spirits owner Sean Venus has racked up awards for his organic, small-batch spirits including single-malt whiskeys; California’s only blue agave spirits (they’d call them tequila if the term weren’t protected); and signature, floral gins that dial down the juniper for softer botanicals such as cardamom and citrus. The stylish tasting room welcomes guests to sample a flight of spirits, enjoy a freshly made cocktail, and take home a bottle or two for the home bar.

427 A Swift St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

2. Humble Sea Brewing Co.

820 Swift St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Courtesy of Humble Sea

Like the region’s famed surf breaks, craft breweries have become an integral part of the local landscape. Humble Sea stands out with exceptional New England-style IPAs; eye-catching graphics; and a pleasant, olive tree-shaded beer garden situated five blocks from the shore on the westside.

820 Swift St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

3. Bantam

1010 Fair Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Naveen Hattis

In an airy, transformed warehouse space on the hip westside, owners Ben (Chez Panisse) and Sarah Sims have been cranking out wood-fired Neapolitan pies since 2012. Yet, pizzas are only half the story, with a sizable, daily selection of bites and entrees such as a clam-and-smoked trout chowder and fried chicken with chili butter. Local beers and wines keep the lively dining room humming, while a succinct cocktail menu nails variations on the classics.

1010 Fair Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

4. Copal Restaurant

1203 Mission St Suite, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Copal opened in the summer of 2020, delivering chef Ana Mendoza’s homestyle Oaxacan fare to the California coast, most notably in the form of moles — Mendoza is particularly known for her bold mole negro, gaining acclaim prior to Copal at pop-ups and festivals. Get it served with chicken or pork or in tamales wrapped in banana leaf; and don’t miss the tlayuda, an Oaxacan favorite.

1203 Mission St Suite
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

5. The Penny Ice Creamery

913 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Along with business partner Zachary Davis, former Manresa pastry chef Kendra Baker created a beloved local institution with this ice cream shop that features seasonal scoops made from scratch and served in homemade waffle cones. True to Santa Cruz ethos, Davis and Baker source ingredients from more than 40 local farmers and foragers for flavors such as strawberry pink peppercorn and cardamom coconut blackberry. Just be sure to top it with toasted marshmallow fluff. Find locations in downtown and Pleasure Point.

913 Cedar St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

6. Birichino Winery Tasting Room

204 Church St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Courtesy of Birichino

Don’t let the flood of craft beer let you overlook Santa Cruz’s original drink of choice: wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA. At Birichino — the Italian word for “naughty” — industry pros John Locke and Alex Krause produce lush, richly flavorful wines that showcase local vineyards and lesser-known varietals such as the warm-weather fave, malvasia bianca. The tasting room offers tastings on the sidewalk patio’s seven tables; book one in advance to be sure.

204 Church St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

7. Alderwood Santa Cruz

155 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Liz Birnbaum

This upscale newcomer represents a sign of Santa Cruz’s recent changes, replacing a former lunch deli space with sleek interiors, expert cocktails, and a menu of New American dishes and steaks. Chef-owner Jeffrey Wall made a name for himself at Atlanta’s lauded Kimball House, and woos Santa Cruz with an extensive raw bar, modern takes on steakhouse classics, and composed plates such as an Insta-worthy smoked beet tartare.

155 Walnut Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

8. Lupulo Craft Beer House

233 Cathcart St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Courtesy of Lupulo

At this convivial downtown taproom named for the Spanish word for “hop,” 16 taps feature brews from Santa Cruz and beyond, while a notable food menu eschews the usual pub grub for Mexican and Spanish plates — family recipes of husband-and-wife owners Stuyvie Bearns-Esteva and Noelle Antolin — sourced exclusively from local organic farms. Think boquerones, cochinita pibil tacos, and empanadas. A cold case offers an additional 300 cans and bottles to crack open on premises or take to go.

233 Cathcart St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

9. Zoccoli's Delicatessen

1534 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Zoccoli’s is arguably Santa Cruz’s favorite deli — rightfully so, after 70+ years serving custom-made sandwiches and house hoagies, like everyone’s favorite, the Mediterranean (mortadella, salami, prosciutto, and provolone cheese on a sourdough French roll with Italian dressing, olives and peppers). There’s a surprising number of vegetarian options and hot and cold sandwiches all go for under $10, another reason to love it.

1534 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

10. Soif

105 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Alyssa Twelker

This fetching restaurant-wine shop hybrid has been a reliable, welcoming spot for refined food and drink since 2002. Chef Tom McNary cut his teeth at Chez Panisse, and it shows in his seasonal, ingredient-driven dishes sourced from local farms and fishermen. Menus shift accordingly, but dishes have included diver scallops with caviar and uni butter, and grilled quail with salsa verde. As always, half the fun is pairing dishes with selections from their deep wine shelf, which features labels from far beyond the Santa Cruz Mountains.

105 Walnut Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

11. Steamer Lane Supply

644-670 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Garrick Ramirez

This modern, seaside snack shack dishes up affordable, from-scratch, handheld meals across from Steamer Lane, the city’s most iconic surf break. A butcher paper menu lists Sharpie-scrawled items including salmon poke bowls, fresh fish tacos, and panini-pressed quesadillas such as the Break-A-Dilla with scrambled eggs, hash browns, queso fresco, and salsa verde. Nab one of the Adirondack chairs scattered among the park-like setting outside, or head to the benches overlooking surfers shredding massive swells.

644-670 W Cliff Dr
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

12. Abbott Square Market

725 Front St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Courtesy of Abbott Square

Opened in fall 2017, this indoor-outdoor food hall is a buzzy new addition to downtown. Housed in the city’s former jail — check the old cell door hanging inside — the bustling market is home to numerous food and drink offerings including blistery pies from Pizzeria la Bufala, a more than 100-drink-strong cocktail menu at Front & Cooper, and the supergroup coupling of Companion Bakeshop and third-wave coffee darling Cat & Cloud. A sprawling outdoor patio takes advantage of Santa Cruz’s 300 days of sunshine, and the connecting Museum of Art & History is well worth a stop.

725 Front St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

13. Oswald Restaurant

121 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Longtime restaurant Oswald in the heart of downtown is loved by the Santa Cruz community, as much for its seasonal California cuisine as for its rotating artist exhibits and warm ambiance. In the fall, try anything with butternut squash, like the soup with persimmon or the Autumn pasta; comforting dishes like curry braised lamb or beef lasagna; and a customer favorite, the chocolate souffle.

121 Soquel Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

14. East End Gastropub

1501 41st Ave i, Capitola, CA 95010
Courtesy of East End Gastropub

You’ll find this delightfully stylish eatery hidden away in a nondescript strip mall in beachy Capitola. High ceilings and an open kitchen keep the split-level interior buzzing, as do 16 taps of house and guest beers. The menu features farm-to-table takes on gastropub staples — think burgers and Brussels — but don’t overlook the vibrant cheese plate, house salad with pumpkin brittle, and anything out of the wood-fire oven.

1501 41st Ave i
Capitola, CA 95010

15. Pretty Good Advice

3070 Porter St, Soquel, CA 95073
Courtesy of Pretty Good Advice

Fleeing city life to tend to his Santa Cruz Mountain farm, chef Matt McNamara, former co-owner of SF’s Michelin-starred Sons & Daughters, teamed up with other Sons & Daughter alums to open this casual breakfast and lunch spot in Soquel. The seemingly simple menu features homemade bread and ingredients sourced from McNamara’s farm in items such as ricotta toast with honeynut pumpkin butter and fennel beet soup (there are burgers too).

3070 Porter St
Soquel, CA 95073

Related Maps

16. Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House

2504 S Main St, Soquel, CA 95073
Garrick Ramirez

Find beer garden nirvana at this sprawling, dog-friendly taproom with shaded picnic tables, lawn games, and 30 rotating taps available in pints or 4 oz. tasters (with even more options available in a cold case). You can bring your own snacks — numerous food vendors are within walking distance — or belly up to an on-site take-out window that slings hearty grub such as al pastor tacos and fish and chips on the weekends.

2504 S Main St
Soquel, CA 95073

17. HOME

3101 N Main St, Soquel, CA 95073
Garrick Ramirez

Housed in a charming, early 20th century Soquel bungalow, this cozy and aptly-named restaurant features owner Brad Briske’s deeply flavorful cooking, which incorporates the bounty of local produce, meats, and seafood. In addition to an in-house butchery program that yields the restaurant’s beloved charcuterie, Briske is renowned for homemade pastas that’ll dazzle even the most noodle-jaded diners with dishes such as squid ink spaghetti with manilla clams, pork belly, and fermented chili miso.

3101 N Main St
Soquel, CA 95073

18. Mentone

174 Aptos Village Way, Aptos, CA 95003

The casual, French-Italian restaurant from chef of Michelin-starred Manresa is going strong in Aptos, just a skip and a jump over from the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Fried anchovies with Meyer lemon aioli and burrata with roasted strawberries and hazelnuts accompany a list of simple but exceptional pizzas.

174 Aptos Village Way
Aptos, CA 95003

Related Maps