Amber Selene Turpin is a freelance food and travel writer based in the Santa Cruz Mountains. She is a regular contributor to The Mercury News and Edible Monterey Bay, and has written for Civil Eats, EatingWell Magazine, and many other publications over the last fifteen years. While Covid-19 has certainly put a halt to the travel part of her career, food continues to illuminate and inspire, never ceasing to unveil a good story.
From a new Beer Thirty and Penny Ice Creamery to wine options from Beauregard, Big Basin and Sante Arcangeli to a local chef returning home from Napa, the new businesses taking shape help bolster this growing feeling of normalcy and new adventure ahead.
It’s safe to say we are all feeling a bit lighter these days. As the weight of the pandemic backs off, there is a sense of levity and renewal in the air.
And while we can’t forget the devastation this past year has had on much of our local community, and specifically within our restaurant industry, it feels time to celebrate our silver linings over a glass of wine or beer, maybe with a little handmade goat cheese or other small nibbles for good measure.
Luckily, there is a growing list of new places to do just that, food and drink establishments that have just opened or are on the precipice of opening, lead by folks with immense resiliency and vision. Here are our top 10 spots to plan a visit to in the not-too-distant future.
You might have noticed some things going on at the former Bella Roma space in Capitola Village. And pretty soon we’ll get to peek into chef Nick Sherman’s new creation, what he is calling Trestle’s (for the train trestle above the space), set to open this summer. An Aptos-area native, Sherman got his start cooking at Michael’s on Main back in the day.
He loved it so much, he decided to leave town and head north to Napa Valley Cooking School. “I fell in love with the fast-paced environment in the kitchen, I never wanted to just sit at a desk. And I was able to be creative and learn things and be able to work with the beautiful produce that we have in California,” he recalls of those early days.
He went on to intern at Redd in Yountville, which was deemed one of the top restaurants in the world by Esquire magazine during the time he was there. It also got a Michelin star. After that, he went on to work at Martini House in St. Helena, and got a Michelin star there as well. So you can see the trend here.
Fifteen years later, after working his way up at many other fine dining restaurants, Sherman has returned home to “do my own thing.” But he isn’t doing it alone.
His brother, a general contractor, is helping him refresh the space (and create the reclaimed redwood bar top), their parents are helping out too, and a bunch of his buddies from growing up here are in the trades, which comes in handy when it’s time to lay tile. “I really wouldn’t be able to do it without my family and friends for sure,” he says.
And while the menu will fall into the “California cuisine” category, Sherman says, “I don’t want to be strapped to one cuisine.” He is inspired by the different influences we have here in California, that it can be eclectic, and plans to feature a “very farm-driven and seasonal” focus. We might see a paella, a soy-glazed pork belly, maybe some raw fish preparations, for instance.
He says, “I’m just excited to bring what I’ve learned through all my experience home and be a part of this community again. I feel like the town is growing culinarily, and hopefully I can be part of that growth.”
Location: 316 Capitola Avenue, Capitola
Opening Date: Early July
Penny Ice Creamery
The empire grows. Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis, founders of The Glass Jar family of businesses, certainly qualify as pioneers in our local food community. Their flagship ice cream shop, The Penny Ice Creamery, which opened downtown on Cedar Street back in 2010, was an instant success for their in-house, scratch-made ice cream using hyperlocal ingredients.
Over the years, we have seen them blossom around town, from the wharf to Pleasure Point to Aptos. And now, they have just announced they are coming to Scotts Valley.
The new location on Mount Hermon Road will be in a new development called The Hangar at Sky Park. Built on the former Sky Park airstrip, the proximity to the popular public park is a major highlight of this spot — it’s walkable to and from countless family events and kids activities taking place all year long.
Baker and Davis have already established regional partnerships in Scotts Valley, including sourcing produce from Abounding Harvest Mountain Farm off Glenwood Drive, and plan to collaborate with the new businesses nearby, perhaps with a stout beer float at the Hangar Tap Room & Grill, due to open in the fall. Construction has begun, which includes production space to make ice cream on-site.
Location: 262 Mount Hermon Road, Suite 104, Scotts Valley
Opening Date: Late July or early August
Santa Cruz Wine Bar & Tasting Room
Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards had a pretty intense year. As with everyone, the pandemic forced him to hustle wine sales and figure out how to stay afloat, but then the CZU Lightning Complex fire came through, burning a portion of his vineyard as well as his home on the historic estate property he lives on in Boulder Creek.
In such circumstances, there are only two options: Give up completely, or look ahead with hope. Brown is taking the latter approach, recently announcing that he will be opening up a brand new wine bar and tasting room in downtown Santa Cruz, just a stone’s throw from the wharf and boardwalk, ensuring a lot of foot traffic.
The location will be in a new Swenson development called Five55 Pacific, a mixed-use residential and retail project that is part of the City of Santa Cruz’s revitalization efforts on this lower part of Pacific Avenue. With a nod to the forest where many of his wines originate, there are plans for a curly redwood bar.
Also, given Brown’s strong belief that food and wine are meant to be enjoyed together, showcasing his old-world style, plans for special food pairings and complementary nibbles and small plates are in the works.
Location: 555 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz
Opening Date: Late summer
Website: Big Basin Vineyards
The new yet-to-named Beer Thirty
There is something appealing about a reimagined fast-food restaurant building. The broken-down Wienerschnitzel on Soquel Avenue in Midtown has been sitting there, just taunting us with tempting kitsch, for years. It is obviously a huge project for just the right folks.
In an almost-too-perfect concept, the owners of Beer Thirty Bottle Shop & Pour House in Soquel and Beer Mule in Watsonville have taken on the task to revitalize this unique A-frame, bringing us more beer garden fun.
Co-owner Kym DeWitt says that the “kitchen is brand-new and sparkling clean, and while there will definitely be chili dogs on the menu, that’s about all that is left from the old days when Wienerschnitzel occupied the building.”
And while she isn’t quite ready to disclose the name of the new spot, or any other details on the menu, until they have confirmed an opening date, she can share that they will start out serving lunch and dinner daily and plan to launch a weekend brunch program “once we get off our sea legs.”
The drive-through has been converted to a walk-up service counter, where there is a direct draw tap system that will feature 30-plus rotating taps of beer, cider, kombucha, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. They have also “squeezed in our signature bottle shop into this tiny building, and just like our two other locations, we will have 300-plus craft beverages to go,” DeWitt says.
Dining will be 100% outdoors, and they have embraced the city’s design requirements to have open fencing along busy Soquel Avenue and Caledonia Street by creating a “green screening” landscape plan.
And while it sounds like everything is rolling along quite smoothly on the road toward opening, DeWitt laments, “We had hoped to open late June, but we are facing the same challenge that many restaurants are facing these days and that is staffing. We can’t open if we don’t have a crew to service our customers.”
Location: 800 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz
Opening Date: Summer
11th Hour Coffee
Joel and Brayden Estby, the brothers behind 11th Hour Coffee, announced back in August that they were expanding a second location at the former Kelly’s French Bakery in the Swift Street Courtyard. And then they wheeled over their coffee cart, slinging espresso drinks and those incredible house-made biscuits in the pleasant, aptly named courtyard space out front.
But, Brayden explains, “We stopped that, we had to pool all our resources. The build-out got in the way of actually serving people.”
So now what we are all waiting impatiently for is when the indoor build-out will be unveiled, promising to be full of breezy space, plants, stone, local metalwork, redwood accents and good vibes (as always from the 11th Hour team). There will even be a running water feature, and wall murals done by local artists from The Art Cave.
The aesthetic is really “pulling from inspiration from what we did downtown, and putting it into the Westside,” says Brayden, “but done a little bit more organized. Downtown we did it piece by piece, because we had so much time and deliberation. This will be a really dialed-in version of that.”
And while he couldn’t give too much away as to what the food menu would be, he did say it would be “amplified” in comparison to the one we all know and love from downtown. They will also be doing some fun collaborations with Kelly’s, which still uses the back of the building for wholesale and as a “speakeasy” baking facility.
Location: Swift Street Courtyard, 402 Ingalls Street, Santa Cruz
Opening Date: Late August-early September
Back in January, deep within the purple tier, Wallace Baine wrote that Dave and Terri Terwilleger, the couple about to open a new taproom in the former 99 Bottles location downtown, were “among the Santa Cruz entrepreneurs who are laying the groundwork for a post-pandemic economy.” Well, can we safely say that day is about to arrive?
There is certainly some hustle and bustle downtown, a lively feeling of commerce that was eerily absent in the thick of winter. And the Tony & Alba’s owners who are bringing us this new beer destination certainly have some longstanding business savvy, so we should be hopeful in their prediction for success.
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In addition to craft beer (probably not 99 kinds in this permutation), we can expect grass-fed burgers, flatbreads, and Buffalo chicken wings, an homage to Dave’s upbringing in Buffalo, New York. They are spiffing up the place, too, and look forward to revitalizing one of their favorite local haunts.
Location: 110 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz
Opening Date: Summer
Humble Sea Mountain Tavern
The internet almost broke when the co-founding trio of friends behind Humble Sea Brewing announced their plans for expansion. When us San Lorenzo Valley residents found out that one of the spots they were moving into would be the sadly shuttered Cremer House, you could almost hear the cheering among the redwoods.
Mark Conley had an interesting chat with co-founder Frank Scott Krueger, who really explained the team’s impetus of opening a location back in their original hood. The building is basically turnkey, as former owner Emily Thomas, of Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, developed The Cremer House with so much intention, curating a beautiful, welcoming place to pull up a stool and linger over a pint or three.
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They will be calling it the Humble Sea Mountain Tavern, and we can expect their great beer, cocktails and a full kitchen serving up gastropub favorites.
Location: 6256 CA-9, Felton
Opening Date: Summer
Slow Coast Wine Bar
Back in 2008, Ryan and Rachel Beauregard, co-owners of Beauregard Vineyards, bought their current historic “Lost Weekend” winery and tasting room on Pine Flat Road in Bonny Doon from Randall Grahm. The day Ryan was at the bank putting down a deposit on the new winery, the Martin Ranch fire started.
In early 2020, as the couple celebrated the lease signing of a new tasting room in Davenport, which they took over from — you guessed it — Grahm, the unknowns of a worldwide pandemic were unfolding. There soon followed the CZU Lightning Complex fire, which threatened the tiny coastal town.
This pendulous pattern of beginnings has led to an appreciation for what matters. And as Ryan literally fought off flames from his property last summer, the Beauregards held onto a vision of one day opening the tasting room for their neighbors, friends and travelers to gather in.
That day has come, and there is much to celebrate. Rachel Beauregard, the mastermind behind the new space, says, “Our community is definitely ready to get out, celebrate and reconnect. We hope this space brings people together for sunsets and wine, birthdays, FriYAY afternoons with co-workers and friends, DJs, live music, dancing and all things celebratory. ”
The tasting room is open to the public for wine by the glass, bottle or 1-ounce pours of your own choosing. The Beauregards are also making the space available to rent for private events.
Location: 450 CA-1, Davenport
Opening Date: It’s open!
The hot chicken trend is catching on everywhere, including right here in downtown Santa Cruz, with chef Jeffrey Wall’s new iteration in the Abbott Square Market. If you already know about his amazing hen-of-the-woods mushrooms from Alderwood (that’s his day job), then you will be overjoyed to find them in the form of a hot “chicken” sandwich substitution, encased in his squishy house potato roll.
But yes, there is also real chicken, brined, fried and/or grilled, with a bevy of scratch-made sauces (the “Flashsauce” and the Ranch are addictive) and sides that include the earth-shattering onion tangles. Also, the restaurant’s website is pretty hilarious.
Location: 725 Front Street, Abbott Square, Santa Cruz
Opening Date: It’s open!
Sante Arcangeli Tasting Room at Harley Farms
The recent unveiling of Sante Arcangeli’s tasting experience on-site at Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero is a homecoming of sorts for winemaker John Benedetti. His family has deep roots in this little town (you might recognize the family name at that little grocery store with the amazing artichoke bread), and he actually had his first brick-and-mortar tasting room in a tiny space right on the main strip of town until 2019.
When asked how this new partnership came about at Harley Farm, Benedetti explains, “The property is owned by Tim and Dee. Tim’s parents and my parents go way back — my dad and Ron Duarte were friends since kindergarten. Ron’s gone now, unfortunately.
“During COVID, after I’d been forced to close my former Pescadero space downtown, my brother, Dee and Tim began getting together regularly for dinner — a bit of a COVID pod. Dee hatched the idea after probably having a few gins during one of those dinners.”
Well, a few too many gins is good news to all of us. Reservations are required if you want to get the full experience, which includes a flight of six of Benedetti’s outstanding Burgundian-inspired wines paired with a sample selection of Harley handmade cheeses. Walk-ins are also accepted, if capacity allows, but won’t include the cheese, so get over to that website now.
Location: 205 North Street, Pescadero
Opening Date: It’s open!
Website: Sante Arcangeli Tasting Rooms
Know of other awesome operations percolating? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com.