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California Restaurants

Pearl of the Ocean, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Pearl of the Ocean, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

After you’ve done it enough, reviewing restaurants becomes, unsurprisingly, a little predictable. Preparing and serving food is, after all, a business. There are best practices, like in every business, and categories into which restaurants fit – Mexican, high-end French, the dinner-as-exciting-experience place, and so on. What really makes this work worthwhile, however, is the rare(…)

Published On: Friday, September 12th, 2014
Kauboi, Aptos - Restaurant Review

Kauboi, Aptos - Restaurant Review

Kauboi doesn’t really work. It doesn’t even seem as if they’re trying that hard. Oh, well. The name (say it out loud) is sort of an inside joke – the place is kind of an Asian fusion establishment, except that’s what’s fused is Japanese food and some kind of Texas cartoon aesthetic. Hence, you have(…)

Published On: Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Hollins House, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Hollins House, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

This place is a hidden gem, and an unbelievably romantic throwback to a whole other era in the history of the Bay Area. A little background: Santa Cruz is overwhelmingly about the city of Santa Cruz, and the University of California Santa Cruz. That means leftist, hippie-ish sixties throwbacks, generally. It does not mean affluence,(…)

Published On: Monday, August 18th, 2014
Center Street Grill, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Center Street Grill, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

One of the things I find profoundly irritating about restaurants is the unfortunately common practice of Trying Too Hard. This entails dressing up what ought to be straight-ahead dishes with garnishes, decoration from squeeze bottles, fancy names or other affectations in an effort to both raise the price and make them appear trickier than they(…)

Published On: Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Aquarius, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Aquarius, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Santa Cruz is an unusual town. It has an amazing, and slightly unreal list of world-class things to do and see – the Boardwalk, Big Basin, Monterey Bay, surfing. But it also has a gritty, discouraging underside – an enormous drug problem, an army of homeless people, and the highest crime rate of any city(…)

Published On: Saturday, July 26th, 2014
Palapas, Aptos - Restaurant Review

Palapas, Aptos - Restaurant Review

  Palapas may be the best Mexican restaurant in the Santa Cruz area. The food is terrific, the atmosphere is lively, fun and smart, and the staff is great. Here’s an example: When we ate there, we were at a two-person table right next to a big group – what looked like a multi-family dinner,(…)

Published On: Monday, July 14th, 2014
Lago di Como, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Lago di Como, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Lago di Como is an odd place. The food isn’t bad, and everyone’s friendly and everything, but you get the impression when you go there that they’re just kind of making it up as they go along, and they’re not really serious about it. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the place, and I(…)

Published On: Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Kabul Palace, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

Kabul Palace, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

This was a very, very good meal. A few completely random thoughts: Afghanistan has basically been at war for the past three decades. The life expectancy there is 45 years. Although I’m sure this is genuinely Afghan cooking, I’m equally sure that almost nobody in that country eats this well. The one thing that’s clearly(…)

Published On: Saturday, May 24th, 2014
Caruso’s, Capitola - Restaurant Review

Caruso’s, Capitola - Restaurant Review

Caruso’s is, if not the very best Italian restaurant in the Santa Cruz area, damn close. It and La Casa Nostra are neck-and-neck, although they’re as different as two places could be. LCN is big, expansive and rural, with several different eating areas tucked into the middle of a redwood grove in the middle of(…)

Published On: Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
West End Tap & Kitchen, Santa Cruz  - Restaurant Review

West End Tap & Kitchen, Santa Cruz - Restaurant Review

As John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island.” First of all, what other restaurant review have you read, ever, that quotes John Donne? Second, no restaurant, apparently, is an island either. The West End Tap & Kitchen is the product of what seems to be a thriving restaurant ecosystem in Santa Cruz’s west(…)

Published On: Thursday, May 1st, 2014