Bars, Restaurants, & Nightlife.  

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SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA

is the largest city in Santa Cruz County, and at last count there were nearly 63,000 people living here. So what is it that brings you to this far south of San Francisco? Perhaps it's the surfing! Lots of surfers come here to enjoy the waves, and of course there are also amazing museums and seasonal events that draw big crowds. If you find yourself planning a trip to the zip codes of 95060, 95061, 95062, 95063, 95064, 95065, 95066, and 95067 for any reason, whether it's business or whether it's for fun, be sure to take a peek at some of these eateries and lounges while you're here! These are our top picks!

Café Brasil

Café Brasil is such a pleasant place to dine if you are a big fan of Brazilian and Latin food like we are. They've got wonderful flavors here, with may of the dishes incorporating fresh vegetables and sausage, which we think is just divine. Our pick for favorite is between the acai bowl and the banana pancakes, but the avocado al cavalho is also a contender! Everyone that we know loves it here, and we try to come in at least once a month to bask in the exotic tastes. The staff is extremely accommodating and the ambiance is out of this world. When the craving for delicious food strikes, head on town to Mission St and find Café Brasil, it's between High and Limestone! You do not want to miss this one.

Saturn Café

If you've never had the pleasure of dining at Saturn Café, which has been local staple since '79, then you are really missing out! It's definitely time for you to see what you've been missing. The service is hospitable, and we love the comfortable and cozy ambiance and the funky decor! You'll want to try their juicy hamburgers, or their mouthwatering veggie burgers if that's more your style! We also love their butternut soup which is a seasonal item that we look forward to all year! We also can't get enough of the sweet potato fries or their breakfast. Anytime that we're near Laurel St in Santa Cruz we find an excuse to stop in for a delicious meal! Very highly recommended.

Hula's Island Grill

Hula's is the best place around for the tropical lover in you. These flavors are just unparalleled. We don't know anywhere else that you can get Hawaiian food this good! The shrimp rolls are very nice, and we opt for the south seas fish tacos more often than not! Don't forget about the sweet potato fries! While the food is great, it's really all about the Tiki Bar for us! There's just something about a Tiki Bar that makes drinking more fun, maybe it's the exotic vibe! We recommend their Painkiller cocktail, and if that doesn't numb away the work week that preceded your visit, then we don't know what will! Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room is situated at 221 Cathcart.

Cilantros

Certainly you have tried Cilantros in Santa Cruz? This is one of the most popular spots around, and if you are a Mexican food lover like we are, then it's even more of an essential. The chips and salsa are of course an excellent starter, and we also enjoy their green sauce so much that we order it with whatever entrée we choose. In terms of their food, we opt for the seafood dishes more often than the meat dishes, but everything is really good here. If you want to save a few bucks while you're here, come in during happy hour! If you're planning a special night out with your significant other, this is a great bet, with the ballroom style candlelit dining room! You can't top that! Cilantros is on Pacific Avenue between Soquel Avenue and Walnut Avenue.

Red Restaurant & Bar

If you are looking for a fun and lively spot to enjoy both dinner and drinks, Red Restaurant & Bar is one of our top recommendations. Their margaritas are some of the best in town, really fresh and wonderful, and they have plenty of different shots specials to choose from here too. They're all fantastic. We also love their beer selection, and we especially love the lower prices during happy hour! Some say this is the best bar in the city, and we agree with them! You will be able to locate Red Restaurant and Bar on Cedar Street between Union Street and Locust Street.

Chocolate

If you love French food, you will love Chocolate. The restaurant gets its name from the incredible array of hot chocolates that they serve, including white hot chocolate, dark hot chocolate, and even Mexican hot chocolate! Beyond that they have a wonderful menu of entrées to choose from, and we particularly love their fresh salads and delicious soups, including their homemade chicken soup. We recommend Chocolate for those special occasions when you want to celebrate with your closest loved ones. Chocolate lovers can find this exquisite restaurant on Pacific Avenue between Locust Street and Front Street. Treat yourself ASAP!

Santa Cruz Diner

Santa Cruz Diner is known to many of the locals as just SCD, and it's become immensely popular because of their high quality food and friendly service! We love their sandwiches and spring rolls, and their pho and vegetarian options are really fantastic. It's just a casual diner with an incredibly varied menu, and a great location right there near the beach. Did we mention how large the portions are here? You can really indulge in this wonderful comfort food and never go away hungry! The popular Santa Cruz Diner is easy to find on Ocean Street between Blaine and Coloma.

Gabriella Café

Gabriella Café is a gorgeous Italian bistro that we really enjoy for casual lunches with friends and special occasions with that special date! Their wine selection is really worth mentioning, with special attention paid to the beautiful local vineyards that the area is known for. Everything that they serve here is made fresh and prepared perfectly. We have never been served a meal that is less than top notch. And best yet? The prices! They aren't anywhere near what you'd expect to pay for food this good. Gabriella Café can be found on Cedar Street between Church Street and Locust Street.

El Palomar Restaurant

If you're searching for outstanding Mexican food in Santa Cruz, your search will end with El Palomar Restaurant! To start, their chips are salsa are addictingly good, and probably the best we've ever had! Their carne dishes are divine, and their pollo dishes are also out of this world. If you are a fish taco fan, you will definitely want to stop in and try theirs. They are just perfect. This is the place that began the trend of using fresh cabbage in the burritos and tacos! And are we ever grateful for that! We just love it. The service is really great and the ambiance is so cozy and comfortable. If you're near Pacific Ave in Santa Cruz, be sure to stop in, it's right between Soquel and Walnut!

Walnut Avenue Café

We've been going to Walnut Avenue Café for quite some time now, and no matter what time of day we stop in, it's always packed with happy customers. The breakfast is so good that it will get you out of bed even after the craziest night out! They make the best blueberry pancakes, but if you're not a pancake fan, consider their sautéed shrimp and tomato eggs benedict! If that doesn't drive you wild, we don't know what will! We are in love with it. The waffles are also a really good choice, especially for the kids, and for us grownups the coffee is really superb. Forget about that expensive coffee shop, this is the place to begin your morning! Walnut Avenue Café is appropriately located on Walnut Avenue, specifically near the Walnut and Pacific intersection.

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