Best Restaurants in Santa Cruz

Pacific Coast Highway Travel picks the best restaurants in Santa Cruz, choosing the finest high-end and gourmet eating places, some with international cuisine.

jack-oneill-restaurant-santa-cruz.jpgThe Jack O'Neill, one of the best restaurants in Santa Cruz

If you're driving the Pacific Coast Highway, there's one gastronomical pit-stop you definitely need to earmark - Santa Cruz. This California coastal city is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant boardwalk, and surprising array of international culinary delights.

Here, we share our top recommendations for the best eating places in Santa Cruz, that will satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Best Restaurants in Santa Cruz

Bistro 112 (112 Paseo de Onis, Santa Cruz, CA, 95060, +1 123-456-7890, bistro112.com). It tops our list of the best restaurants in Santa Cruz with its elegant fusion cuisine. Reflecting the waves of the sea close by, Bistro 112's menu flows and changes with the seasons, always serving up only the freshest of ingredients in artful arrangements.

Try their charcuterie plate to start, and maybe the braised lamb shank with white polenta, smoked mozzarella, and rosemary jus. But don’t worry, there are plenty of seafood and veggie choices too, like the mouth-watering Moroccan vegetable tagine.

bistro-112-restaurant-santa-cruz.jpgTo tempt you at Bistro 112 in Santa Cruz

Shadowbrook (1750 Wharf Rd, Capitola, CA 95010, +1 831-475-1511, shadowbrook-capitola.com) is less about food and more about the experience. Don't get us wrong; the food itself is phenomenal. But really, it's the romantic ambiance, mesmerizing views, and the unique hillside cable car that really seals the deal for us.

Take a look at Shadowbrook

Next is Oswald (121 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA, 95062, +1 831-423-7427, oswaldrestaurant.com). In what you might describe as an understated chic environment, Oswald serves mainly American fare, but with an international twist that brings an exciting zest to each plate. If you don’t want to splurge, they also have a Pub Grub menu, but you never tasted burger and fries this good in a bar!

oswald-restaurant-santa-cruz.jpgSample plates from Oswald

We like the laid-back Jack O’Neill (Dream Inn, 175 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, +1 831-740-8138, jackoneillrestaurant.com) because there’ll be something on the menu no matter what mood you’re in. Surf? Turf? Salad? You can have a straight ribeye, or a chickpea curry, quail with a strawberry habanero coulis, or pasta. And there’s always something new and unusual that demands you try it. There’s regular live music too.

jack-oneill-restaurant-santa-cruz-octopus.jpgAnyone for octopus at Jack O'Neill's?

For an upmarket Italian experience, don't miss La Posta (538 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA, 95062, +1 831-457-2782, lapostarestaurant.com). Their delectable Italian offerings, coupled with a cozy setting, really capture the essence of a leisurely European dinner. We also like the way they highlight the partner farms they get their produce from. And we especially like their pizza topped with their housemade sausage and Calabrian chili – now there’s a combo!

la-posta-restaurant-santa-cruz.jpgPlates at La Posta

Lillian's Italian Kitchen (1148 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA, 95062, +1 831-425-2288, lilliansitaliankitchen.com) is another gem for Italian food lovers craving for hearty, homemade dishes. It always makes us long to be in Italy, though it’s a close second! We could just keep on eating their fried artichoke hearts with that fantastic smoked paprika aioli – now that’s something you wouldn’t find in Italy.

lillians-italian-kitchen-restaurant-santa-cruz.jpgEveryone loves Lillian's

Last but not least, Café Cruz (2621 41st Ave, Soquel, CA 95073, +1 831-476-3801, cafecruz.com) is just along the Pacific Coast Highway a few miles in Soquel. With its tantalizing grill and rotisserie offerings, this California Bistro-style place has carved out a niche for itself amongst food lovers in Santa Cruz.

cafe-cruz-restaurant-santa-cruz-2.jpgSlicing steak at Cafe Cruz

Remember, it's not just the food that makes these places stand out, but also the unique experiences they offer. For example, those wanting a romantic dining experience will fall in love with Shadowbrook's charm. You want a sea view? Head to Jack O’Neill’s.

Best Guide Covering Santa Cruz

Moon-Monterey-and-Carmel.png

Santa Cruz spoils you with choices. Our personal favorites? It would have to be a toss-up between Bistro 112 for their seasonal fresh fare and Oswald for their unique and flavorful takes on classic American dishes. Then again, who can resist Lillian's Italian Kitchen's home-cooked meals?

One thing is undeniable - you're in for an unforgettable odyssey of gourmet delights when you hit up the best restaurants in Santa Cruz.

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