Instead of doing the usual old simple chronological “this is what we did then” method of telling the story, I’m gonna go a different route. I’m going to do different categories instead. So, first up, is our dining adventures, although this will in fact be chronological… go figure.
Pleasure Pizza – Santa Cruz
Jess was all geeked up to hit this place. It is her favorite pizza joint in the world, so it was our first stop. After getting to Santa Cruz, we discovered that the place was just right up the street from us. So, we popped in for a slice. Lemme tell ya… it is good pizza. Highly recommended. But then again, I think I am addicted to pizza, so it has to be pretty bad for me to not like it (Papa John’s, I’m looking at you). This was right at pleasure point, and has a serious surfing motif. Boards and pictures everywhere. Nice old school feel.
Margaritaville – Capitola
We popped into what one might think as one of Jimmy Buffet’s signature chain bars. Where it has the same name, this one is not actually part of that chain. Apparently they were grandfathered in. Anyway, this was right on the beach, and in fact had water right out the back of the bar. It was a nice little joint, and we ordered a couple mojitos and had some chips and salsa. It was the nice start to the vacation.
Taco Bell – Santa Cruz
This is a funny story. After our lateish lunch and then drinks and chips in Margaritaville, we didn’t venture out until late for dinner. We drove around Santa Cruz looking for a place that wasn’t super crazy on a Saturday night, which was not easy to do. We didn’t head out until after 8, and after stopping a few places, both Jess and I were getting a bit punchy. Finally, we just threw in the channel and hit the Bell and took it back to the house. Yeah, it wasn’t exactly special, but it got the job done, and we could go to bed after a long day of traveling.
Zoccoli’s The Italian Delicatessen – Santa Cruz
Located in the old downtown we popped in to this place for some sandwiches. This joint was really cool. It was one of those super busy delis where everything takes a long time, even as the people behind the counter are busting their asses. We took a number, waited about 15 minutes until we could order… and waited another 30-40 minutes for our sandwiches. I had a chicken parm sandwich that was awesome. It was worth the wait. Plus, we got to sit out on the sidewalk and it was a beautiful day. I love vacation. The very thing that might have driven you nuts at home, is exactly what you’re looking for when you are out relaxing.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company – Half Moon Bay
We ventured up to Mavericks the renowned surfing area about 40 miles up the coast from Santa Cruz. Even for a Sunday night, this place was jumping. We put our name on the list and headed to the bar for a beer. Even the bar was crazy, as they had live music and people dancing in there. Although we had to wait about 40 minutes, there was some serious “entertainment.” See, there was this guy who was probably 60. He was working on this woman at the bar, who was probably mid 50’s. And when I say “working” I mean it. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but between the groping, smiling and hugging, I figured he must have popped a Viagra a couple hours earlier and his window was about to close. I don’t know if I can adequately describe how hard he was pressing. She wasn’t exactly playing hard to get either. After about the 10th hand-slide-up-the-thigh ass grab, we finally got called for our table. I hope he got what he was looking for. I’d hate to think he ran the full court press that hard and came up empty.
Once we got our table and ordered, Jess excused herself to the bathroom. It was then when I noticed a woman sitting across the room. She was directly in my line of sight to the bathroom (at about my 2:00) so when I looked up to see if Jess was returning, this woman was smiling at me. She was sitting with who I would assume were a husband and a son, and looked to be 50+. I glanced over there a few times (even after Jess returned) and I’ll be damned if she wasn’t looking at me and smiling. Strange.
On top of that, at the table next to us (this time at my 11:00) a rather large woman was sitting with her family. At a couple times during our meal, she would look at me and make some little comment and chuckle. Jess will attest to this one. It was the strangest meal I’ve had in a while. There must be something in the water up there… either that or I’ve still got it!
Cafe Rosso & Bianco – Palo Alto
In beautiful downtown Palo Alto on University Ave, this is Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurant. This place is gorgeous. Dark wood, lots of wine, and filled with very cool memorabilia from his film career. We were there in the mid afternoon on an absolutely beautiful day. Sitting in their open air front, and watching the traffic was amazing. We had a glass of house wine and ordered a small pizza. The food and wine were superb. I would have really liked to go back for dinner some night but we never made it.
Crow’s Nest – Santa Cruz
This was one of the places we tried to visit on the fateful Taco Bell night but was way too busy. We headed back on Monday night and it was really nice. We sat in the upstairs bar area and had a good view of the Santa Cruz harbor. The food was pretty much your standard pub fare and wasn’t anything special. It was amusing though, behind me dining was a table of women who spent the entire evening bitching about the guys they and their friends were dating. It was like an ‘R’ rated episode of Oprah.
Pier 39 random joint – San Francisco
We were wandering around the Pier 39 area killing time before our Alcatraz tour was to leave. It is a cool little wooden pier area that is filled with the usual restaurants, shops and attractions. We decided we should probably fire down a little something before hitting the island. I personally chose a corn dog. I’ve always liked corn dogs ever since I was a kid at the fair. It definitely hit the spot.
Hard Rock Cafe – San Francisco
After returning from our Alcatraz tour we were both hungry. There were lots of people milling around the area and lots of places looked really busy. As we walked by the Hard Rock we thought we might just check the wait. Fortunately, they were able to get us in right away, so we figured, we couldn’t do much better. Interestingly enough, this was one of the best casual meals we had all week. I feel partially ashamed to say that… since that feels like the total tourist thing to say. But, what the hell. Jess had a very nice pulled pork sandwich and I had an awesome chicken club sandwich. We also were sold a couple of beers that were $10 bucks a piece, but the came with the take home glass! Woo… of course, we had to figure out how to get them home without breaking them.
Plus, it was nice to eat at a place that was playing rock music. Not either the usual standards of oldies or musak. That can get a little old sometimes.
Pizza My Heart – Capitola
After a long day of touring and driving we were looking for a low key deal. So, we decided to grab a pizza and watch a movie. We got a simple pepperoni pie and brought it back to the house. We had heard good things about this place, so we thought we’d give it a twirl.
The pie was good enough, but the pepperoni was quite spicy. Spicy enough to give one ye olde “burn ass” the next day… so that was fun. It wasn’t as good as Pleasure Pizza though.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Self Service Cafe – Monterey
We were a little hungry before touring the the aquarium (are you sensing a theme here?) and unable to find a joint to give us a corn dog we decided to go to the little cafe in the lobby of the aquarium. Whoa, was that a mistake. They had a grill in there as well as a salad station and premade sandwiches, all at outrageous prices. We decided we would just get a basket of fries to share and a couple drinks. Ten bucks, 30 minutes and immeasurable grief later, we were done. This was a super tiny space, with a LOT of people in it and nobody was moving anywhere. Those sorts of things just make me crazy. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough… literally.
Hogs Breath Inn – Carmel
This was the second movie related joint visit of the week. This one is owned by none other than Dirty Harry himself… Clint Eastwood. Makes sense since he was the former mayor of Carmel back in the day. I really liked this place. It is a bit of a hole in the wall type joint and it has this great outdoor dining area in the middle of the building. Again, they have a fairly standard pub food menu for lunch, but damn… the food is good. We had a couple sandwiches and beers and just enjoyed the whole atmosphere. It was a beautiful day out, and was just the type of day you want to spend eating under the sky. This was one of my favorite places of the whole week.
Zachary’s – Santa Cruz
We figured we should probably get breakfast at least one day, so we hit this place in downtown. It had gotten good reviews from the few tour books and mags we had, so we went. Frankly, I was quite disappointed. The menu was very “egg heavy” and since I don’t eat eggs, it was tough to find something to get. No biscuits and gravy. No waffles. They had some french toast, but it was made with some strange bread that I wasn’t into. So, by process of elimination, I got the pancakes. They were quite thin and really nothing to shout about at all. Frankly, my personal opinion is this place is overrated. Meh. Jess was able to get a mimosa for her birthday, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Hotdog on a Stick – Santa Cruz Boardwalk
We spent the afternoon at the Boardwalk and after our lousy breakfast, we needed a little something to tide us over until our big fancy birthday dinner at 7. So, we scored a few corn dogs… uh… excuse me… Hotdogs on sticks (with some corn bread batter on the outside). Did I mention that I like corn dogs?
Casanova – Carmel
Jess wanted a special birthday dinner and she picked this place. I had made reservations the week before. One of our friends actually worked at Casanova when she lived down there in the bay area, so she called in and got us a good table. This is a very cool place. Its in an old interesting shack with various dining rooms. Again, we were sitting in an outdoor table in an indoor restaurant.
This is a seriously nice restaurant. We were seated by the maitre d’ who gave us the menus and the wine list. As soon as I cracked that wine list, I knew I was in trouble. Let me tell you, this list was unbelievable. 40 pages long. I have never seen more bottles of wine listed in the 3 figures in my entire life… and I’ve eaten at some very nice places. In the first 10 pages, I saw maybe 10 bottles that were sub $100. The VAST majority were $200 plus. This list even has maybe 10 different vintages of Opus One ranging in price up to maybe 1800 bucks. Absolutely amazing. I couldn’t help but think how my ex-laws would have been in heaven there.
I picked a local Napa wine Brown Estate zin for a paltry $60. I didn’t want to pick the cheapest wine on the list… I didn’t want to be that guy. But, I was able to find something nice for a somewhat reasonable price.
This place served a 3 course meal. You get an antipasta platter to start. It was asparagus, olives, tomato-basil tapenade and bread and breadsticks. There was also this yellow/orange thing with vinegrette on it that we could not identify. Jess thinks she might have heard a waiter call it yellow beets, but we’re not sure.
You got to pick your second course. Jess got a spinach gnocchi in a cheese sauce. I chose an arugula and paramesan salad carpaccio which came with this salty cured meat on the bottom. Very nice, but a bit salty.
For the main course, Jess ordered a seafood angel hair pasta dish with calamari, clams, and scallops. I went with an absolutely amazing ground tenderloin cannelloni in a tomato basil sauce. It was probably one of the best Italian dishes I have ever eaten.
Of course, they offered a nice dessert menu, but after the 3 courses, we were both just stuffed.
All in all, it was an amazing dinner. Which it should have been for the price! (Jess, you didn’t read that part). But, it was worth it for the big 3-0 dinner.
Cook House – Capitola
For our final breakfast of the trip, we decided to hit up a place we drove by a few days earlier. It was a typical breakfast diner with the strong coffee, large portions and good food. Jess was a touch hungover… ok, maybe more than a touch, but she was able to get a nice, hearty bland breakfast meal of scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and toast. I got biscuits and gravy (a bit runny) but the hashbrowns were really good. This was the type of breakfast we both needed and wanted. Really hit the spot.
Betty Burgers – Santa Cruz
This retro burger joint was awesome. Big burgers with nice flavor and great “lube” as they call it. This was our final lunch in CA so we wanted to get something good. This was perfect. The fries are tremendous and all in all, our meal was just great. We got to sit outside once again and enjoyed the experience. They had all kinds of shakes and floats on their menu as well, but after the half pound burgers, neither of us had any room.
Pleasure Pizza – Santa Cruz
For our last dinner, we decided to walk back down to Pleasure Pizza. It had a nice symmetry to it. We were both still partially full from the big lunch, so we walked down near sunset and had another slice. It was the perfect way to end our eating journey.
Now, I know, we aren’t exactly gastronomes or anything. We didn’t travel gourmet. We ate where we wanted to and really enjoyed our choices. We only got burned a couple times but the good meals WAY out paced those bad experiences. All in all, we ended up eating pizza 4 times and only got breakfast twice. That’s my kind of traveling!
Stay tuned for more about my California adventure. It will be coming soon!