Summer is (almost) here and my thoughts these days are turning to the beach. Not for the sunbathing and swimming, so much, but for the chance to enjoy barbecues, picnics, and other outdoor culinary adventures.
In preparation for the summer travel season, the folks at Expedia Viewfinder asked me to share some foodie travel tips for one of my favorite summer destinations–Santa Cruz, California.
Photo: Expedia Viewfinder
Santa Cruz is a quick, 40 minute drive “over the hill,” as we Bay Area locals call the winding Highway 17 that connects the coast to my home in Silicon Valley. Santa Cruz is a beach town and a college town, so it’s all about casual, organic, and budget-friendly places to eat. Outdoor seating areas are pretty much standard.
Here are some of my go-to places to eat in Santa Cruz, CA:
- The Picnic Basket: Healthy, organic, and known for using top quality and locally-grown and foraged ingredients. I’m a fan of their panini sandwiches. They have a big sidewalk patio right at the base of the Santa Cruz Wharf with a view of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. They are the perfect place to fill your “picnic basket” and grab something to go before heading to the beach.
- Charlie Hong Kong: Hearty noodle bowls inspired by Asian street food. Their cheap, flavorful meals attracts lots of college students and surfers needing to refuel. Almost any dish can be made vegan or vegetarian.
- Midtown Cafe: A great, new-to-me modern cafe, just a few doors down from Charlie Hong Kong. They have some wonderful, well-crafted options for breakfast. I loved their polenta, kale and chimmichuri sauce. (Thanks to my friend, Garrick, who told me about the place and joined me there last week!)
- Penny Creamery: A small batch ice cream shop crafting all of their dozen or so unique and incredibly inventive flavors right there in-house. (Right now, you can find Rose Geranium, Mascarpone Kumquat, Carrot Cake, Maple Walnut Jam, Whiskey Custard, and Pomegranate Lime Sorbet). The Penny Creamery is owned by the same folks who operate The Picnic Basket, so they share the love of supporting local farmers and foragers.
Photo: Garrick Ramirez
- Verve Coffee Roasters: My favorite place for a caffeine fix in Santa Cruz and at home (my neighborhood coffee shop in San Jose actually uses Verve beans). They do have a hip and modern space in the center of Downtown Santa Cruz, but I prefer the surfer modern feel of their Pleasure Point neighborhood cafe.
- Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing Company: Certified organic craft beers–I’m partial to their creative seasonal/experimental brews and their always-on-tap, People’s Porter. The place is dog-friendly and kid-friendly, and their patio is always filled with neighbors who have popped over on their bike for a pint.
What’s your favorite summer destination?
I partnered with Expedia on this post, but all opinions are my own. Discover more things you can see in Santa Cruz, California by checking out their Santa Cruz photo gallery.