Michael’s on Main, Soquel

Michael’s on Main - a nice, cheerful little place to drop in for a good meal.

I liked this place a lot – it’s sort of the Goldilocks of restaurants in this area. It’s not too big and not too small. It’s sort of tucked away in a grotto in Soquel, where apparently a lot of other places have come and gone. It has a friendly, competent staff, good food, and an interesting décor that’s a combination of comfortable and funky, and works well.

In short, this is a fun, unpretentious place with very good food. It has every indication of becoming a kind of standby, or the kind of place where locals go and love, and tourists find out about if they’re lucky. It’s not a showhorse kind of place, like Assembly in Santa Cruz. It’s not a tourist place, like the Paradise Grille down the road in Capitola. It’s a nice, cheerful little place to drop in for a good meal. That’s not saying a lot, but on the other hand, it’s saying an enormous amount.

The Location

Right on Main Street, in Soquel (duh). It’s off the Porter Street exit from Route 1, and pretty much directly across Route 1 from Capitola. Michael’s has a nice, big private parking lot out front, so parking is easy.

Address: 2591 Main Street, Soquel, CA 95073

Phone: (831) 479-9777

The Hours

Tuesday – Friday: 11:10 – 23:00; Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 – 23:00

The Ambiance

Fun, casual, interesting. There is a bar in front, where there was some kind of jazz band playing, a big patio out front and a smallish dining room in the back – ten or twelve tables, I’d guess. The dining room is full of bright, primary-colored modern art. The back of the building – trees, mostly, are illuminated and visible from within, including a big painting of the restaurant’s logo. The ceiling in the dining room is covered with interesting-looking fabric panels. The patio is lit by Christmas tree light bulbs on cords. All in all, this is a place that’s got an interesting, fun vibe, and it’s executed well and taken care of.

The Service

Good – a friendly, professional young waiter, who was eager to chat, offer his opinion and generally make himself helpful without being in the way.

The Price

Moderate. The tab came to $115, before tip, which is a lot, but on the other hand we had three appetizers (I’ll explain in a little bit), four beers and a shared dessert. Not bad, considering what we ate.

The Food

Good, interesting, professionally done.

We began with half a dozen raw oysters. I love oysters, and these were delivered in the classic setup – in their liquor, with lemon, and a dipping sauce. They lasted about one minute, and cost fourteen dollars, but they were great. Did I mention that I love oysters?

Having hovered the oysters down, we then had salads. Mine was a traditional wedge salad – a wedge of iceberg lettuce, with blue cheese, bacon, diced tomato and dressing. Simple, all-American and good, albeit probably quite unhealthy. Michael’s names/describes this salad as a “BLT Wedge” but it’s basically a traditional wedge salad. Beth had a Greek salad – although this was presented as a side salad, it was basically a nicely-done Greek, with feta and cucumber along with dressed lettuce. Also good.

Beth’s entrée was an excellent chicken cordon bleu. This is another one of those dishes that’s rather easy to mess up – it becomes a heavy, soggy cheesy mess. This wasn’t. It’s definitely comfort food – chicken with prosciutto and Monterey Jack cheese on top of mashed potatoes, with Dijon sauce, but it was delicious, and expertly prepared, served with sautéed vegetables.

I had the linguine with clams, which turned out to be the only little letdown of the entire meal. It was fine, but the sauce was a white wine one, which ended up being a little too watery for my taste. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t too flavorful, either, and the whole thing ended up being sort of mediocre. It also wasn’t plated too well – some of the sauce had sort of leaked onto the rim of the plate, and the overall effect was kind of messy and unpleasant. It’s a small thing, but I did notice it.

Dessert was cheesecake, with really amazing coffee. The cheesecake was good, but the coffee was absolutely incredible. Restaurant coffee is NEVER incredible, but this was – strong and rich and just about perfect.

Michael’s website describes what he does as “cutting-edge comfort food” and I’d say that’s fair. There’s a modern, professional twist on everything, but they’re serious also about making guests feel at him, and they deliver. This is not a place for a super-fancy highwire-act of a meal, and it’s not a diner, either. It’s a cheerful, fun place for a really good meal. Doesn’t get much better than that.

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Michael’s on Main, Soquel - Restaurant Review
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Published On: Saturday, October 18th, 2014