9 Best Restaurants in Santa Cruz, CA

Joe Prather February 23, 2024

Santa Cruz, Calif., is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and diverse culinary scene. With an abundance of restaurants offering everything from fresh seafood to international cuisine, there's something to satisfy every palate in Santa Cruz.

Whether you're a resident or just visiting the area, here's a guide to some of the best restaurants in Santa Cruz that you won't want to miss.

Crow's Nest

Located on the Santa Cruz harbor, Crow's Nest is a local favorite known for its breathtaking ocean views and delicious seafood. Enjoy fresh catches of the day, savory clam chowder, and mouthwatering fish tacos while taking in panoramic views of the Monterey Bay. With its relaxed atmosphere and waterfront location, The Crow's Nest is the perfect spot for a casual lunch or romantic dinner overlooking the ocean.

Lillian's Italian Kitchen

For authentic Italian cuisine in Santa Cruz, look no further than Lillian's Italian Kitchen. This cozy restaurant offers a menu of traditional Italian dishes with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. From homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas to hearty meat and seafood entrees, Lillian's has something for everyone. Pair your meal with a glass of wine from their extensive selection of Italian and California wines for the ultimate dining experience.

The Walnut Avenue Café

If you're craving hearty breakfast or brunch fare, head to The Walnut Avenue Café. This charming eatery has served delicious breakfast and lunch dishes for over 25 years. Indulge in fluffy pancakes, savory omelets, and creative specials like the crab cake benedict or huevos rancheros. With its friendly service and cozy atmosphere, The Walnut Avenue Café is a must-visit spot for breakfast lovers in Santa Cruz.

Café Cruz

Nestled in the scenic countryside of Santa Cruz County, Café Cruz is a hidden gem known for its farm-to-table cuisine and rustic ambiance. The menu features seasonal dishes with locally sourced ingredients, including fresh seafood, organic produce, and grass-fed meats. Whether you're dining indoors by the fireplace or al fresco on the patio, Café Cruz offers a warm and inviting atmosphere for enjoying a memorable meal with friends and family.

Charlie Hong Kong

Charlie Hong Kong is your best bet for delicious and affordable Asian-inspired cuisine. This popular eatery specializes in organic, sustainable, and vegetarian-friendly dishes influenced by Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese flavors. Choose from various rice and noodle bowls, curries, and salads made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. With its laid-back vibe and commitment to sustainability, Charlie Hong Kong is a favorite among health-conscious diners in Santa Cruz.

Laili Restaurant

Transport your taste buds to the heart of Afghanistan and the Mediterranean at Laili Restaurant. Dive into the rich aroma of their signature lamb shank, slow-cooked to tender perfection. Savor the delicate flavors of handcrafted vegetarian dolmas, bursting with fresh herbs and spices. Don't miss their house-made flatbreads, warm and pillowy, perfect for scooping up every delicious morsel. Laili promises a unique and flavorful journey, leaving you wanting to explore more of this culinary gem.

Linda's Seabreeze Cafe

A Santa Cruz staple since 1979, Linda's offers classic American fare in a relaxed, beach-casual atmosphere. Soak up the loose, beach-casual vibes as you savor traditional American fare. Start your day with their hearty breakfast options, or refuel after a day of exploring with their juicy burgers and fresh seafood dishes. Remember to sit on the patio and indulge in prime people-watching along bustling Pacific Avenue.

West End Tap and Kitchen

The gastropub West End Tap and Kitchen serves elevated pub fare, focusing on local ingredients. Their juicy burgers, crafted with fresh, local ingredients, will tantalize your taste buds. Beyond the classics, indulge in their creative salads bursting with seasonal flavors. Wash it all down with carefully curated craft beers, perfect for a casual lunch or lively dinner with friends.

Marianne's Ice Cream

No visit to Santa Cruz is complete without trying Marianne's Ice Cream. Go classic with vanilla bean or chocolate, or branch out and try their lavender honey for a floral sweetness or their salted caramel for a decadent twist. With an ever-changing lineup of tempting options, Marianne's guarantees to satisfy your sweet cravings and provide an authentic taste of Santa Cruz in every lick.

Why foodies love life in Santa Cruz

From fresh seafood and authentic Italian cuisine to hearty breakfast fare and international flavors, the restaurants in Santa Cruz offer a diverse range of dining options to suit every taste and occasion. Whether you're craving a casual meal with a view or an upscale dining experience, you'll find something to satisfy your appetite in this vibrant coastal city.

Discover your new home in Santa Cruz

Ready to make Santa Cruz your home and experience its vibrant culinary scene? Partner with Joe Prather, Santa Cruz’s most trusted real estate. With Joe's expertise and dedication to client satisfaction, you'll have the support you need to find your dream home in beautiful Santa Cruz.

Contact Joe Prather today and find the perfect property to suit your lifestyle.

*Header photo courtesy of Crow’s Nest

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