One of the best aspects of Santa Cruz is the local cuisine, along with its stunning coast and bustling cultural city center. Embracing Southern California tradition with a bit of influence from around the world, the coastal city's culinary scene is among the best around. 

    To truly embrace everything it can offer, you'll need to learn how to eat like a local. Check out our guide to places locals love to eat in Santa Cruz – these are restaurants you won't want to miss out on during your vacation.


    Lillian's Italian Kitchen

    Enjoy authentic Italian meals in Santa Cruz

    • Food
    • Families

    Lillian's Italian Kitchen offers an authentic taste of Italy right in the middle of Santa Cruz. When the restaurant first opened, it was envisioned as an extension of the Moreno family's kitchen, bringing traditional home cooking to the local community. 

    The food is notably Sicilian and crafted from fresh local ingredients. Classic favorites like lasagna, spaghetti, and chicken parmigiana are available, along with American favorites like New York steaks. You can even find gnocchi stuffed with black truffles on the menu. 

    Location: 1148 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 4 pm to 8.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +1 831-425-2288


    Harbor Cafe

    A nautical-style restaurant offering special themed days

    • Food
    • Families

    Harbor Cafe is a nautical-themed breakfast spot in Santa Cruz's 7th Avenue, right opposite Twin Lakes State Beach. It's known for hosting themed days such as Mimosa Fridays and Beer Thursdays, though its specialties are delicious Southern Californian dishes. 

    The service is notably welcoming as well, so you can expect the treatment you deserve as well as any accommodations for dietary restrictions. Don't forget to ask about their doggy bags, which contain food that your pup can safely enjoy.

    Location: 535 7th Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Thursday–Monday from 9 am to 2 pm (closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

    Phone: +1 831-475-4948


    The Point Market

    A charming market and cafe on East Cliff Drive

    • Food
    • Families

    The Point Market is a restaurant-and-shop combo that specializes in delicious Southern California-style food. This longtime local favorite is famous for its burritos and tacos, though you can find interesting takes on those classics, including Thai burrito. 

    The Point Market gets busy in the morning, thanks to its delicious breakfast burritos. Its market section stocks chips, snacks, muffins, and other goodies you can take home.

    Location: 23040 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 831-475-3356


    Linda's Seabreeze Cafe

    For classic American breakfast in Santa Cruz

    • Food
    • Families

    Linda's Seabreeze Cafe is an excellent breakfast and brunch spot along Seabright Avenue, less than a 10-minute walk of Seabright State Beach.  You can find classic American favorites on the menu, including omelets and pancakes. 

    For lunch, sandwiches, fries, and burgers are must-tries at Linda's Seabreeze Cafe. Vegetarian and vegan options are available if you want to keep your meals meat-free. All dishes are made with fresh local ingredients. Keep an eye out for daily specials if you're looking to try something unique during your visit. 

    Location: 542 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Monday–Tuesday and Thursday–Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm, Sunday from 8 am to 1 pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +1 831-427-9713


    West End Tap and Kitchen

    Enjoy innovative pub food with local craft beers

    • Food
    • Families

    West End Tap and Kitchen offers a traditional pub environment with a California twist. All dishes are made using locally grown fresh ingredients, with the entire menu designed to pair with its extensive list of craft beers and wines. 

    The chef creates dishes using French cooking techniques standouts include the smoked pork belly and spinach papperdelle. With rigorous attention to detail brought to every dish, West End Tap and Kitchen takes pub food to the next level with quality assurance and healthy offerings.

    Location: 334 Ingalls St d, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 4 pm to 9 pm, Friday–Sunday from noon to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 831-471-8115


    Aloha Island Grille

    For a taste of Hawaii in Santa Cruz

    • Food

    Aloha Island Grille serves excellent Hawaiian dishes in a tropical setting. It has a spacious patio section where you can enjoy the warm Santa Cruz air. 

    The place is run by a Hawaiian, so expect authentic meals such as loco moco, chicken katsu, and fresh ahi poke. Located along Portola Drive, Aloha Island Grille is only a block from Sunny Cove. 

    Location: 1700 Portola Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 831-479-3299


    Crow's Nest Restaurant

    A Santa Cruz staple for over 50 years

    • Food

    Crow's Nest Restaurant is a double-decker restaurant near Twin Lakes State Beach. It has been a local favorite since 1969, thanks to its delicious meals and scenic location, right where the harbor meets the sea. 

    The ground floor hosts a traditional restaurant with an all-day menu of pasta, seafood, and Midwestern aged beef. The upper level is great for quick, casual meals or appetizers throughout the day. At night, it hosts w wide range of live entertainment, complete with drinks and a dancefloor.

    Location: 2218 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 7.30 am to 9 pm, Friday–Saturday from 7.30 am to 11 pm, Sunday from 7.30 am to 9.30pm

    Phone: +1 831-476-4560


    Johnny's Harborside

    Enjoy excellent seafood with views of Monterey Bay

    • Food
    • Couples

    At Johnny's Harborside, you can enjoy some of the best seafood dishes in Santa Cruz. You can start your meal with steamed mussels or fried calamari, followed with sauteed seabass or wasabi-crusted ahi tuna.

    The seafood options here are seemingly endless, yet the menu is compact enough for the kitchen to have mastered every last item on offer. Johnny's Harborside has a casual vibe, with picturesque views of Monterey Bay. 

    Location: 493 Lake Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Wednesday–Friday and Sunday from 3 pm to 8.30 pm, Saturday from 3 pm to 9.30 pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Phone: +1 831-479-3430


    The Picnic Basket

    Grab a seat in the patio for beach views

    • Food
    • Families

    The Picnic Basket is a simple restaurant that offers classic California meals made with fresh local ingredients. Located between 2 beaches in Santa Cruz, it has a nice patio overlooking the ocean. 

    It's common for locals to stop in to grab a quick ice cream and head out. Of course, if you're looking to take a whole meal out with you, they offer picnic baskets full of everything you need for lunch on the beach.

    Location: 125 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 831-427-9946


    Betty Burgers

    A 1950s-inspired joint in Seabright Avenue

    • Food
    • Families

    Betty Burgers is a great spot for classic American fare that the whole family can enjoy in Santa Cruz. You can get a taste of classic American, with a focus on Texas, among its offerings of burgers and fries. The 1950s-style burger joint also serves hot dogs, chili, wings, milkshakes, and ice cream. 

    It's important to note that among each of these items, there is more variety than you'd think, with several burgers and fries styles available for extensive customization options.

    Location: 505 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062, USA

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 831-423-8190


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