Pono Hawaiian Grill reopened this week in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Via Facebook)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Downtown’s restaurant bloom, Trout Farm Inn’s snag, Open Farms and a quick cookie fix

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… A half-dozen new restaurants are filling vacant storefronts in downtown Santa Cruz in the coming months. Soon, the culinary landscape along Pacific Avenue and its adjoining streets could look very different. Last week, I reported that Alderwood is opening a more-casual sister restaurant on Pacific Avenue in the space that previously held Snap Taco, and Mariposa Coffee, a popular pop-up serving Cuban coffee and vegetarian snacks, is coming the corner of Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street early next year with an expanded menu.

That’s just the beginning: On Thursday, Ivéta opened a third location at the end of Pacific Avenue near the new Big Basin Vineyards tasting room. The new Ivéta bears little resemblance to the popular Westside café, which serves sandwiches, salads, pastries and coffee, or its campus café at UC Santa Cruz; its downtown sister is a beautiful, light-filled sitdown restaurant open for lunch and dinner with an elevated menu. Check out my Eaters Digest this Friday for more details. Also, a restaurant named Yolked is coming to north Pacific Avenue where Buttercup Cakes used to be. Eggs must feature heavily on the menu — maybe a new breakfast spot? More info on this to come.

And Pono Hawaiian Grill reopened on Union Street on the north side of downtown Santa Cruz on Friday. The announcement is a bit of a record scratch. The original home of the local Hawaiian restaurant chain off of Center Street has been closed since the start of the pandemic, with Pono announcing in May 2020 that it would not reopen.

Psych! The restaurant has been remodeled and is in the middle of a soft reopening. Currently, its pupus, poke bowls and plate lunches are available only to go from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. while the restaurant waits for a final permit to open inside. It’s worth noting that ownership of the space has consolidated. Up until the closure, the Reef Bar — the bar within the restaurant — used to be operated by a different owner. Now the whole operation is under the management of Pono owner Tim Hunt. And just around the corner from Pono on Center Street, also on the north side of downtown, comes Honey B, a new market and café specializing in fermented foods. That aims to open this fall.

… There are two openings on the horizon in the craft beer world, too. Across the river from downtown Santa Cruz on Soquel Avenue, Gilman Brewing Company aims to open by the end of the month in the old Tony & Alba’s, in the Whole Foods Market shopping center. This will be the fourth location for the Berkeley-based brewery, which also has locations in Daly City and Pleasanton.

However, opening day for Faultline Brewing Company in Scotts Valley remains a mystery. In July, Faultline manager Andrew Pederson told me the full-service restaurant and taproom would be open by mid-August, but that obviously hasn’t happened. No one I spoke to at the original Faultline Brewing in Sunnyvale could give an update on the timeline or share the nature of the delay.

Craft beer is clearly thriving in Santa Cruz County. Both these openings are significant because these breweries will be the first to open in the county from outside the area. All other breweries in the county — 15 in total — are locally owned.

The Trout Farm Inn closed earlier this month for urgent pool reconstruction, just weeks after opening.
The Trout Farm Inn closed earlier this month for urgent pool reconstruction, just weeks after opening.
(Via Instagram)

… Just weeks after opening at the beginning of August, the Trout Farm Inn closed suddenly just before Labor Day weekend — a heartbreaking turn of events for the local community in Zayante and for the Trout Farm Inn owners, who have poured many months and untold dollars into renovating the historic pool and restaurant to stunning glory. The Trout Farm remains closed, and photos on Instagram show the pool in the middle of yet another reconstruction.

Never fear — it will reopen eventually, although co-owner Kym DeWitt can’t give a reopening date. So what happened? Unfortunately, the pool system was not installed properly, the plumbing line sizes were not adequate, and several other code compliant factors led Santa Cruz County Environmental Health to close the pool until it could be brought up to code. Contractors have worked nonstop to fix the issues, says DeWitt: “The great news is that the pool is now heated and will be open year-round, so we’re looking forward to welcoming our members and the community back to the pool as soon as we can!” Find out more about the Trout Farm at thetroutfarm.com.


Farmers at Esperanza Farm in Watsonville.
(Via Open Farm Tours)

Open Farm Tours — think Open Studios, but for farms — returns this Saturday and Sunday, and it’s bigger than ever. Fifteen farms throughout the Pajaro Valley will open their doors to guests for U-picks, tours, farm-to-table dinners, demonstrations and tastings. Check out my guide to Open Farms so you can plan your visit — tickets must be purchased in advance.


“Regardless of whether Measure O passes or not, we wanted to finish the process because we know we can sleep at night knowing we’ve got a great location that we can go to at a future date when needed.” — Nesh Dhillon, executive director of Santa Cruz Community Farmers’ Market. The board of SCCFM will likely sign a memorandum of understanding with the City of Santa Cruz to move one and a half blocks away to Lot 7, which lies along Front Street and Cathcart Street. The new site will be redesigned into a permanent home for the market with expanded infrastructure. What does this announcement mean for Measure O?


A few months ago we started using a toddler tower in the kitchen so 17-month-old Marco could help me while I cook, and I’m so glad we did. Parents probably already know what a toddler tower is — a stool with a railing around it that keeps little helpers from falling. At almost 1½, Marco is at the perfect age to measure, pour, stir, cut and place. With a butter knife and my guidance, we cut butter and fresh fruit for our oatmeal in the morning. He likes to put berries in our bowls (somehow he always ends up with the most blueberries) and is an expert at putting the lid back on the peanut butter.

His willingness to help is as surprising as his ability to help — I’m constantly amazed at the deftness, care and concentration he gives to every kitchen task, including putting eggshells in the compost and wiping off the counter. Making a meal with him has become the best part of my day.

… because a craving has hit at 8:30 p.m. and either my husband or I must — must! — have a chocolate chip cookie. We’ve all been there — it’s the end of a long day and nothing would take the edge off quite like being handed a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven. Often if I bake a batch of cookies I’ll freeze cookie dough balls specifically for these situations, but when the freezer is empty I turn to this recipe. I’m not familiar with the blogger and only discovered it by comparing my Google search results for “baking one cookie” for ease, speed and ingredients, but I’ve made it at least a dozen times now and it really works. The recipe says to make one cookie, but I always divide it into two and it’s still a really big cookie. If you’re ever struck with a late-night craving, you can use this recipe to have a cookie in your hand in under 20 minutes.


Key takeaways from Biden’s conference on hunger and nutrition in America (NPR)
Trader Joe’s finally brings back free samples (San Jose Mercury News)
The Great Food Instagram Vibe Shift (Eater)

Thanks for reading! Eat well, my friends.

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