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10 Best Local Eateries In Santa Cruz, California


by Junia Sudduth


Santa Cruz, California, nestled along the stunning coastline of the Pacific Ocean, is a vibrant city renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, breathtaking natural beauty, and diverse culinary scene. As a haven for food enthusiasts, Santa Cruz boasts a plethora of local eateries that offer a delightful fusion of flavors, showcasing the region's rich culinary heritage and commitment to sustainable, farm-to-table dining.

From charming seaside cafes to trendy farm-to-fork restaurants, Santa Cruz's dining landscape is as diverse as it is enticing. Whether you're craving freshly caught seafood, artisanal pizzas, or innovative vegan fare, this coastal gem has something to satisfy every palate.

In this article, we'll take a tantalizing journey through the 10 best local eateries in Santa Cruz, each offering a unique culinary experience that captures the essence of this captivating city. So, grab a seat at the virtual table as we explore the delectable delights awaiting you in Santa Cruz, California.

Laili Restaurant

Nestled in downtown Santa Cruz, Laili Restaurant offers a delightful fusion of Afghan and Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant's warm and inviting ambiance, coupled with its flavorful dishes, makes it a must-visit for locals and tourists alike. Laili's signature dishes, such as the mantu dumplings and lamb shank, are a testament to the culinary expertise that sets this eatery apart.

The Crepe Place

Tucked away in the heart of Santa Cruz, The Crepe Place is a beloved local gem renowned for its delectable crepes and vibrant live music scene. Whether you're craving a savory or sweet crepe, this charming eatery has you covered. The laid-back atmosphere and diverse selection of crepes make it a popular haunt for food enthusiasts and music lovers alike.

The Picnic Basket

Located near the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, The Picnic Basket is a quaint eatery that prides itself on serving locally sourced and organic fare. From artisanal sandwiches to refreshing salads, the menu is a celebration of fresh, seasonal ingredients. The Picnic Basket's commitment to sustainability and community has made it a cherished dining spot for those seeking a taste of Santa Cruz's culinary essence.


Situated in a historic building, Oswald is a refined dining establishment that exudes elegance and sophistication. Boasting a menu that highlights California's coastal flavors, the restaurant offers an exquisite dining experience. Whether indulging in the seafood platter or savoring the house-made pasta, patrons are treated to a culinary journey that captures the essence of Santa Cruz's vibrant food scene.

Charlie Hong Kong

A beloved fixture in the local dining landscape, Charlie Hong Kong is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere and delectable Asian-inspired dishes. Embracing a farm-to-wok philosophy, the eatery sources organic and locally grown ingredients to craft its flavorful offerings. From customizable bowls to mouthwatering curries, Charlie Hong Kong invites diners to savor the diverse and bold flavors of Santa Cruz.

Cafe Sparrow

Nestled in the charming village of Aptos, Cafe Sparrow is a culinary gem that embodies the essence of French-inspired cuisine. The restaurant's intimate setting and thoughtfully curated menu reflect a commitment to culinary excellence. Whether enjoying the signature coq au vin or savoring the decadent crème brûlée, guests are treated to a gastronomic experience that transports them to the heart of Provence.

The Walnut Avenue Cafe

A beloved institution in Santa Cruz, The Walnut Avenue Cafe has been delighting diners with its delectable comfort food and welcoming ambiance for over 40 years. Known for its legendary breakfast offerings and hearty American fare, the cafe has become a cherished gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The welcoming atmosphere and mouthwatering dishes make it a quintessential stop on the Santa Cruz culinary trail.

La Posta

Embodying the spirit of Italian culinary tradition, La Posta showcases the art of wood-fired cooking and artisanal pasta making. Located in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, the restaurant's rustic charm and commitment to locally sourced ingredients create an authentic and memorable dining experience. Whether savoring the wood-fired pizza or relishing the house-cured salumi, patrons are transported to the heart of Italy's gastronomic landscape.

The Crow's Nest

Perched on the picturesque Santa Cruz harbor, The Crow's Nest offers a captivating dining experience with panoramic views of the coastline. Boasting a diverse menu that highlights fresh seafood and innovative cocktails, the restaurant captures the essence of coastal dining. Whether enjoying a sunset dinner or sipping on a signature libation, guests are treated to a feast for the senses at this iconic Santa Cruz eatery.

The Penny Ice Creamery

A beloved destination for artisanal ice cream aficionados, The Penny Ice Creamery crafts small-batch delights using locally sourced and organic ingredients. With a commitment to sustainability and flavor innovation, the ice creamery has garnered a loyal following. From classic flavors to inventive creations, patrons can indulge in a scoop of pure delight while savoring the essence of Santa Cruz's culinary creativity.


Santa Cruz, California, is a culinary paradise offering a diverse range of local eateries that cater to every palate. From fresh seafood to farm-to-table delights, the city's vibrant food scene reflects its rich cultural heritage and commitment to sustainability. Whether you're a food enthusiast or a casual diner, Santa Cruz has something special in store for you. By exploring these top 10 local eateries, visitors and locals alike can embark on a delightful gastronomic journey, savoring the unique flavors and warm hospitality that define the city's dining experience.


What type of cuisine can I expect to find in Santa Cruz, California?

Santa Cruz boasts a wide array of culinary options, including fresh seafood, farm-to-table fare, international cuisines, and innovative fusion dishes. Whether you're craving authentic Mexican street food, artisanal pizzas, or gourmet vegan creations, the city's eateries offer a diverse range of delectable options to satisfy every craving.

Are these local eateries suitable for families and individuals with dietary restrictions?

Yes, many of the local eateries in Santa Cruz are family-friendly and accommodate various dietary preferences and restrictions. From gluten-free and vegan options to kid-friendly menus, these establishments strive to ensure that all guests can enjoy a memorable dining experience tailored to their specific needs.