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We know you have your favorite beachside restaurants and bars, those classic spots you return to year after year with family and friends. Just in time for the summer, it’s time to add these eateries and hang outs to your favorites list. They’ve all opened within the last year and provide a little something special, like — spoiler alert! — a high-quality grab-and-go option in the heart of Capitola village.
Here are five new ways to eat and drink in Santa Cruz and beyond.
Humble Sea Brewery
Santa Cruz’s newest brewery and taproom is an homage to nautical life. Even on Monday afternoons, you’ll find this light-filled spot on Swift Street brimming with regulars. The interior is done up in Aegean blue and white, with thick ropes criss-crossing the ceiling, light bulbs dangling from their tips. Outside, picnic tables and upturned barrels provide more space to spread out with the kids or the dog.
The vibe is mellow and welcoming. Even on a busy day, the staff is friendly and willing to walk you through (and let you sample) Humble Sea’s growing program of lagers, IPAs, pale ales, saisons and other ales. There were 15 on tap during our visit. We’re on a hazy IPA kick, and loved the Jetski Rental ($7), with its crisp, lemon peel aroma, and the Juice Bag ($7), golden and full of citrus.
Humble Sea offers a few hot-pressed sandwiches, and we found the perfect pairing in a classic pastrami-and-Swiss Reuben ($12) with a Kookumber Gose ($7), a tart, salty cucumber gose that tasted like the faint sea spray of nearby waves.
Details: Open daily at 820 Swift St., Santa Cruz; http://humblesea.com
Beach Break by Marianne’s
Capitola is all kinds of dreamy, but it’s not exactly brimming with culinary options. That’s why we’re pretty psyched about this new spot from the local ice-cream legend. Nestled on the corner of the Esplanade, the tiny scoop shop and diner offers cheap and easy beach eats, from burgers ($5.25-$8.25) and paninis ($4.50-$7.75) to salty sides, like housemade fries and spicy onion rings ($2-$5.50). This is perfect grab-and-go, sand-between-your-toes eating.
We grabbed stools and lingered over the Standard Deluxe ($6.75), a juicy, medium-sized beef patty topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato and onion. Another bonus of eating-in: Pondering which of Marianne’s 54 flavors to get for dessert ($3-$6.50 cup or cone). They’ve got some winners, from Snickerdoodle Cookie Dough and Northern Oregon Blackberry to Golden Pistachio.
Details: Open daily at 104 Stockton Ave., Capitola; http://beachbreakcapitola.com
Camping or hiking around Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park? Head over to Empire Grille, a family-friendly American restaurant that pays homage to the eating houses that filled the San Lorenzo Valley in the 1850s. The digs are modest and homey, with photographs and newspaper clippings that hark back to the era of miners and loggers.
The menu, too, is simple and classic, with a selection of Small Bites ($7.75-$12) and hearty Large Bites ($19-$27). There’s no fusion and it’s not New American. Expect straight-forward, well-executed dishes, such as Braised Short Ribs in a carrot-flecked red wine sauce served atop mashed potatoes ($22), or a special of baked Pacific Salmon ($20) in a lemon, garlic and butter sauce. Portions are large and good for sharing, though we could’ve done without the soggy veggie sides.
Details: Open daily at 6155 CA-9, Felton; http://empire-grille.com
Bay Brews and Beer Cove
Hop heads, rejoice. You can now enjoy Santa Cruz’s essential summer attraction with a local craft beer in hand. Whiting Foods, a Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk concessionaire for 65 years, has opened two small bars featuring craft beer and cider on tap and in cans, plus kombucha, wine and craft sodas.
Bay Brews, located by the Log Ride, offers about 15 brews from several producers, including Strike Brewing Co., Golden State Cider and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, with its boardwalk-inspired Boardwalk Blonde. Beers and ciders come in 12- and 16-ounce cans, or you can opt for a sample of four pours for $8.
Whiting Foods’ other spot, Beer Cove, offers the same lineup and is located just left of the bumper cars.
Details: Open daily at 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz. Check out the Bites & Brews, a new festival celebrating Santa Cruz craft beers paired with amusement park foods, on Sept. 29; https://beachboardwalk.com
5 new ways to eat and drink in Santa Cruz, Capitola and Felton