Best Dinner in Santa Cruz

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Clean Plate Club

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Take a load off your feet after spending the day in the city and settle in for a spectacular dinner. Between Capitola, Aptos, and Santa Cruz proper, there’s a lot of the city to explore and a lot of places to dine at. Whether you’re looking for fancy or casual, we have a great shortlist to get you started on finding a delicious place for dinner. 

Feature photo: Trestles Restaurant

Aptos

The Hideout_dinner_Aptos_1200x900_Hideout facebook_thehideoutaptos@gmail_com
Photo: Courtesy of the Hideout

Enjoy the fresh air on The Hideout’s shaded patio (complete with booths!) or sit inside in their dining hall with a brick fireplace and artsy wood accents. On the menu, you’ll find dishes with a more Asian inspiration like their sesame seared ahi with soba noodles and honey-soy ginger dressing, alongside more Mexican dishes such as the chipotle pork quesadilla with pineapple and chipotle aioli. Keep in mind that the patio is quite popular, and they only take reservations for indoor seating. 

Capitola

East End Gastropub_dinner_Capitola_1200x900_EastEnd website_eastendgastropubsc@gmail_com
Photo: Courtesy of East End Gastropub

East End is a more upscale gastropub that still keeps a casual and relaxed atmosphere, perfect for winding down after a long day. If you’re craving a pizza with a perfectly chewy and yet crispy crust, try their bacon and asparagus pizza, or go for their bianca pizza with homemade mozzarella. Just don’t forget to grab an order of their char siu pork bao, a beloved favorite that comes packed full of juicy pork, crunchy, fresh vegetables and sesame aioli. 

Trestles Restaurant_dinner_Capitola_1200x900_Trestles facebook
Photo: Courtesy of Trestles Restaurant

This beautiful restaurant has won multiple awards since it opened in 2021, including the Reader’s Choice award in that same year for Best New Restaurant in Capitola. And with good reason! With local ingredients and seasonal menu, Trestles is always serving up something fresh and new, whether that’s their house ricotta gnocchi with mushroom fondue or their crispy pork belly with apple puree. Reservations are encouraged but not necessary, and they also have the option to book private events. 

Santa Cruz

Bantam-Central-Coast-Dinner-@bantam1010-800x450-1
Photo: Courtesy of Bantam

Frequently named as the best restaurant in Santa Cruz by locals, Bantam wows guests with its innovative and devoted approach to food. Chefs develop the deeply seasonal menu from scratch every day, showcasing the best of what the region offers. Sample dishes range from burrata with beets, pistachios and pecorino Romano, to fried chicken with butter beans, peas, fava beans, kale and chili butter. There is also an extensive line-up of crispy-crust pizzas with fresh tomato sauce and pockets mozzarella along with spicy honey. 

Photo: Ann S. via Hillstone Yelp

Laili

This Afghan-inspired restaurant is one of the best places to eat in Santa Cruz hands down. Set in the old vine-covered Santa Cruz County Bank building, the restaurant has a lush outdoor patio and a tastefully decorated interior with Middle Eastern flourishes like its floor to ceiling red curtains. The appetizer menu is filled with interesting Afghani dishes, while the mains are more diverse, including filet mignon kebab and a lamb burger. But you can’t go wrong sticking with the more Middle Eastern-focused dishes, like the juicy, perfectly grilled chicken kebab with chutney trio elevates the kebab to a new level; the lamb shank melts in your mouth. lailirestaurant.com

West End_lunch_Santa Cruz_1200x900_WestEnd Facebook_westendtap2@gmail_com
Photo: Courtesy of West End Tap & Kitchen

Putting a California spin on traditional pub food in an industrial, family-friendly setting, West End Tap & Kitchen serves up favorites like flatbread pizzas with an assortment of toppings, from slow-roasted tomato to Italian sausage, as well as a variety of starters, sandwiches and farmers’ market-inspired salads. You can’t go wrong with the house-ground burger, topped with the restaurant’s signature sauce and your choice of fixings. Pair your meal with a drink from the extensive menu of craft brews, many from local breweries, or glass of wine from the California-centric wine list (many are on tap). 

Who’s writing these?

Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite eat@localgetaways.com.

More Please!
For more suggestions on the best restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula, the best things to do on the Monterey Peninsula and the best places to stay on the Monterey Peninsula, click here.
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