Since Santa Cruz, California is a small, beach-side town, we never had to pay our Lyft drivers a fortune. That meant more money to fill our bellies. Our short commutes also resulted in us often walking. Since Pacific Avenue was the nearest district to our AirBnB, many of our belly-filling adventures revolved around this area.
Let’s start with the non-Pacific Avenue locations!
After a rather disappointing day at the boardwalk (combinations of beaches and amusement park rides is not our thing) we were craving seafood. At the boardwalk, we passed way too many restaurants with signs boasting the ‘best seafood’ and way-too-fried entrees; If I wanted to cook a delicate protein beyond flavor recognition, I would’ve just strolled over to a fast food joint. Eventually, we moved away from the tourist hub and into Johnny’s Harborside. The prices were higher and the setting was more upscale than locations along the boardwalk (oh wow oh wow that elevated view overlooking the marina!), but the seabass, calamari, and clam chowder we ate were delicious in their simplicity.
Aaaaand, that’s it! LOL. More locations caught our eyes along Pacific Avenue than any other dining option within our commute.
Verve Coffee welcomed us as we marched in armed with our laptops and work. Despite a continuous stream of guests, there was plenty of seating. I’m always a happy gal when I see a ‘one-to-one’ listed on the menu board, and I don’t have to attempt describing it to sometimes clueless baristas. Although the pure espresso was extremely bitter, I enjoyed tasting it against the creamier macchiato. And who knew my Hub’s regular drip coffee could be so beautifully presented?
Sesame Korean Grill was one of our first Santa Cruz destinations after leaving the bus. While the banchan and bibimbap from this large restaurant were not the best I’ve had, it was still a yummy experience along with a very friendly staff.
Woodstock Pizza was a fun location with a lively, sports bar vibe. A large outdoor patio filled with families and dog-owners out to enjoy the weather. Besides gluten-free options and personal pizzas, the interesting topping choices practically had us drooling as we pondered over the menu. Juicy, fresh tomatoes over artichoke and cheese was a delicious harmony of flavors over a playful mix of textures.
One evening, we craved a meal and live music. We didn’t anticipate our cravings would be fulfilled by a Hawaiian restaurant, but Pono’s Hawaiian Grill features live music on most nights. The mellow music of a reggae-styled group transported our mood to a faraway beach before we had even ordered up front. My bowl of Creamy Wasabi Poke featured way-too-much ginger, but was otherwise satisfying. Meanwhile, Hubs was licking his fingers after devouring their Paniolo Burger which included a pineapple BBQ sauce and onion rings inside.
One evening, we walked from our AirBnB to Pacific Avenue, and along the way the drool-worthy smell of spiced meats stopped us in midstep. We peered into the small Taqueria Los Pericos to see every seat filled with (what looked like) college-aged students or Hispanics– all great signs pointing to an authentic and cheap Mexican restaurant… and it certainly grabbed us. I tried several of their tacos with a variety of meats including chorizo and chicharrones and enjoyed their simplicity- just with onions, cilantro, and a light salsa. For the price, we were pleasantly surprised to also see a self-serve chips area and a salsa bar.
There was a line to enter Penny Ice Creamery. No doubt this place delivered ice cream-turned-Instagram-status once you topped off a scoop with a toasted, almost melting marshmallow cap.We skipped the marshmallow show, but pondered over which flavors to taste from this organic-loving, free-roaming dairy place. Hubs took a chunky Cookies and Cream, while I enjoyed a scoop of Lemon Poppyseed over a scoop of Green Tea. As we licked our fingers upon finishing, we cried out in disappointment as a staff member fixed a menu sign of flavors to add a new one– bourbon-infused ice cream. Ah well, we’ll just have to return.
For most of our dining out, we relied on the crowd-sourcing opinions of Yelp and found it to be overall aligned with our experiences. We had a good time sampling what Santa Cruz offered, but now we’re heading onwards to its bigger sibling up north. Stay tuned as we begin to explore San Francisco.
To never miss an adventure, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!