Destination: Santa Cruz
With award-winning local wines and eats, this surf city is having a moment. Here's your gastro guide to S.C.
Sleek, sparse Solaire Restaurant and Bar within the new Hotel Paradox offers farm-to-table-inspired dishes—divided into such themes as Field and Farm, and Garden and Grower. Downtown, Laili fuses Mediterranean and Afghan flavors in a romantic courtyard setting. If you’re up for some Italian, try La Posta restaurant, a local favorite, where charcuterie is made in-house, the menu is packed with farm-raised fare and live chickens roam the restaurant’s yard. World-famous Manresa in nearby Los Gatos is a destination unto itself, and is the French Laundry of the central coast. For dessert, be sure to drop some coin at one of three Penny Ice Creamery spots for killer classic and seasonal scoops like black sesame and Meyer lemon poppyseed. Also, the donut holes are life-changing. Order extras. Trust.
Downtown’s Soif Wine Bar is a solid spot to try a range of well-selected, small-production wines. Local labels to try: Mount Eden, Kathryn Kennedy and Rhys. To see vineyards, head into the mountains to visit Santa Cruz pioneers Ridge Vineyards, Bonny Doon, Thomas Fogarty and Testarossa. The up-and-coming subregion of Corralitos is where to discover new Pinot Noirs—a good place to start is Windy Oaks. Visit the taproom and beer garden at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, which makes seasonal ales and is dog friendly. In nearby Soquel, the Osocalis Distillery makes, bottles and pours heritage grape and apple brandies.