Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen Beachside in Rio Del Mar is aiming to reopen this summer after a remodel.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Food & Drink

Lily Belli on Food: Restaurant reopenings, Westside coffee options expand & call for kiosk operators

Hello eaters! Jessica M. Pasko here. While Lily is out on parental leave, I’m pitching in on the latest local food news. A little about me — I’m a writer and a native of upstate New York, living in Santa Cruz for over a decade. Our rich food culture is just one of the many things I love about our region, and I’m especially interested in the stories of the people who grow, serve and make the food we eat. Now, let’s dig in!

Alderwood Santa Cruz back open, Venus Beachside soon to follow post-remodels

The kitchen at Alderwood Santa Cruz.
(Via Alderwood Santa Cruz)

Downtown’s Alderwood Santa Cruz is cooking again, with a renewed emphasis on fine dining, while Venus Spirits’ Rio Del Mar restaurant is aiming to reopen in July. Both locations underwent a facelift, and Venus Beachside is promising some menu renovations, too. Read more here.

City of Santa Cruz extends call for food businesses to operate kiosks, Tannery cafe

a food kiosk on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz
(Via City of Santa Cruz)

The kiosk outside downtown Santa Cruz’s Del Mar Theatre is empty following the demise of Cafe Campesino and another could open up this year, the city’s economic development manager says. And expanding the reach of the Tannery’s food outpost is the goal as the city looks for a new partner for the arts campus. Read more here.

Lulu Carpenter’s takes over former Coffeetopia on the Westside

Inside Lulu Carpenter's new Westside cafe.
(Via Lulu Carpenter’s)

The Mission Street spot that housed Coffeetopia for more than two decades is now under Lulu Carpenter’s umbrella, joining its downtown location and pair of smaller kiosk outposts. Read more here.


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At Steamer Lane Supply on West Cliff Drive
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Hungry on West Cliff Drive? Laura Sutherland has mapped out the perfect day of walking and eating, with options for every meal. Delicious food, tasty coffee and amazing views? What’s not to love about that? Check out her recommendations here.


90% – That’s the amount of food scraps South Korea has been able to divert from landfills and incinerators, thanks to a number of programs focused on turning scraps into animal feed, fertilizer and fuel. The country’s government banned food scraps from landfills almost 20 years ago.

“At this point, we are pushing the envelope of what is possible in food production. And it’s not naive since we have to deal with the uncertainties of operations on real farms. Robotics have decades of development, but we are just now in the position to get these robots outdoors and do some real stuff. That’s really exciting.” – UC Santa Cruz Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Dejan Milutinovic. Milutinovic recently co-advised a group of students who won the Small Farm prize in the inaugural Farm Robotics Challenge for their work with self-driving tractors. Read more about it here.


… the Instagram account 70s Dinner Party (@70sdinnerparty.) I’ve followed this account for a few years now and it never ceases to entertain me. It’s a curated collection of recipes, advertisements and food photos from the era when Jell-O salads ruled and the microwave was considered the utmost in kitchen wizardry. Ever tried a tomato soup cake, featuring Campbell’s condensed tomato soup? How about a mysterious concoction called “donut prune salad”? I can’t get enough of the technicolor photos of recipes from cookbooks created solely to sell more canned soup and the hideous-sounding combinations of ingredients like bananas and salmon.

I also collect old cookbooks from this genre, and I have a particular affinity for any books that feature Jell-O prominently. For years now, I’ve been toying with the idea of hosting a potluck party where everyone’s challenged to create a tasty version of some of these vintage dishes. There’s got to be a way to take inspiration from something called “hot dog surprise” and make a dish that’s actually palatable, right? At the very least, it sure sounds like it would be fun to try. (What’s the surprise in “hot dog surprise”? Cream of celery soup, apparently.)

Jokes aside, there’s some really interesting history behind a lot of these recipes, when you stop to consider what conveniences like the microwave oven and better food preservation meant for families — and specifically, women — of that era. But at face value, these Instagram collections are just pure — albeit mildly gross — delight. There’s so much negativity on social media and the internet that accounts like 70sDinnerParty and @CursedCookbooks are such a needed distraction. I even have an entire message thread with one of my co-workers that consists almost solely of sharing our favorite posts from these accounts.

Next time you’re in need of a good giggle, check them out. I dare you not to get intrigued by the likes of the chicken aspic towers or the olive and ham mold.


Breweries are becoming welcome homes for drag performers (Imbibe)
Our shot to let it rot: Will we make 75% organic waste diversion by 2025? (Good Times)
The untold tale of the artichoke parm, the most mysterious sandwich in Brooklyn (Bon Appétit)

Happy eating!

~ Jessica