Quick Take:

Santa Cruz will be represented for the first time ever with September’s release of the Michelin Guide to California. Meanwhile, Soquel’s Discretion Brewing has gotten another honor, this time as Small Business of the Year in Assemblymember Mark Stone’s district.

Despite the challenges of opening and maintaining high-end restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic, two Santa County County establishments have achieved one of the industry’s highest honors.

Downtown Santa Cruz’s Alderwood and Aptos’ Mentone will be featured in the forthcoming Michelin Guide to California — the first time that’s happened for any county establishment.

It’s not yet clear how they will be recognized when the full guide is released in September — the restaurateurs and diners alike will have to wait and see whether there are actual Michelin stars involved.

Opened in late 2018, Alderwood aims to bring French influence to its menu, with head chef Jeffrey Wall aiming to highlight vegetables and seafood from across the county.

“We want to become part of the fiber of Santa Cruz and are creating Alderwood Santa Cruz to serve as a gathering place for the community,” he told SF Eater.

Inside the kitchen at Alderwood in Santa Cruz on Friday, June 16, 2021.
Inside the kitchen at Alderwood in Santa Cruz on Friday, June 16, 2021. Credit: Neil Strebig / Lookout Santa Cruz

The Michelin inspector noted both the “crispy crab sandwich” and the “wood-roasted shrimp with leeks and pancetta” as delightful options to tuck into, but the evening can always start with one of the three oyster offerings (Humboldt Kumamoto Gold, Totten Inlet, or Hammersley).

It hasn’t been all good news about Alderwood the past year. After a physical altercation following a racist tirade by diners, sous chef Paul Suniga was fired and staff resigned in solidarity. The restaurant’s leadership has since said they will invest in retraining staff in conflict resolution and de-escalation while increasing restaurant security.

Mentone — which soft-launched in July 2020 and began indoor dining in late May 2021 — is chef David Kinch’s most recent restaurant launch, following Michelin recognition for his Los Gatos restaurant Manresa.

Diners at Mentone's
Diners at Mentone’s “Little Beach,” their 15-month pizzeria takeout option prior to opening indoor dining in late May 2021. Credit: Crystal Birns

As noted by the Michelin inspector: “Pizzas take the cake, such as the ‘Pesto’ shimmering with fromage blanc, Crescenza and caciocavallo, or ‘Sardenaira’ with tomato sauce, anchovies and olives.”

On top of these forthcoming Michelin recognitions, local brewery Discretion Brewing received the Small Business of the Year award for Assemblymember Mark Stone’s district on Wednesday . The 29th District includes Santa Cruz County and parts of Santa Clara and Monterey counties.

Owners Kathleen and Rob Genco visited Sacramento on Wednesday for an award luncheon at the state legislature.

Opened nine years ago, Discretion has recently evolved with new pandemic updates. Beginning in the original lockdown, Discretion planted a living garden of edible plants, fruits and vegetables, all alongside 12 tables for guests.

After a dip into the world of Home’s Brad Briske with “Home Fry” the kitchen is also headed in a new direction, with Marco Paoletti and Andrea Loporcado of Sugo Italian Pasta Bar coming aboard to prepare a new menu of small bites, salads, sandwiches and pizzas.

Grace comes to Lookout from just over the hill, originally from Sunnyvale but with a variety of journalism experience from across the country.After doing her undergrad at Seattle University, Grace earned...