After 20 years, the restaurant at Soif will be closing.
(Via Soif Instagram)
Food & Drink

‘That was a great 20 years’: Soif Restaurant to close its doors Saturday; new plans for space in the works

While Patrice Boyle takes a bow, continues to manage La Posta and tries to spend some more time at home, a mystery longtime local restaurateur, who is said to be well known, will take over the downtown Santa Cruz restaurant as the retail wine business continues on its own.

Soif Restaurant in downtown Santa Cruz will serve its final meals Saturday night after a 20-year run on Walnut Avenue. A local restaurateur, unnamed at this point, is expected to take over the space, while the retail wine shop will remain open and independent of the new eatery.

“After a long deliberation, I have decided that Soif Restaurant will close its doors at the end of January,” owner Patrice Boyle said in a newsletter from the restaurant that went out on Monday.

Soif and La Posta owner Patrice Boyle
(Via DowntownSantaCruz.com; photo by Mara Millam)

The announcement goes on to say that Soif Wine Bar & Merchants, the retail wine shop adjacent to the restaurant, “will remain open and continue to be part of the vibrant community in downtown Santa Cruz.” The Terroiriste Wine Club, which has around 140 members, will continue to see regular allotments, tastings and events.

The move comes less than three weeks after another Santa Cruz culinary mainstay, India Joze, closed its doors for good. Soif and India Joze add two more names to the tally of downtown food and drink establishments that have closed during the pandemic, joining 99 Bottles, Saturn Cafe, Rosie McCann’s, The Poet and The Patriot Irish Pub and Pour Taproom.

Over the past two decades, Soif has become a mecca for oenophiles and lovers of fine dining on the Central Coast. Its wine list is second to none, offering hand-picked selections from around the world that have always felt fresh and exciting. The seasonal cuisine is consistently exceptional, from recently featured dishes like pappardelle with oxtail ragu and gremolata, to the famous stuffed piquillo peppers — so simple and delicious that one couldn’t help but order them at every visit.

“I don’t think anyone besides another restaurateur can understand how difficult it is to be a restaurateur,” says Boyle, who has run both Soif and La Posta, its sister restaurant in Seabright, for the past 15 years. She said she has worked incredibly hard over her career and would now like to spend more time at home.

Boyle, a Los Angeles native who came to Santa Cruz in 1987, working at Bonny Doon Vineyard with Randall Graham, will continue to manage La Posta, which she said will not be affected by Soif’s closure.

Dede Eckhardt, who has co-managed the wine bar for the past three years with Alexis Carr (who herself has been with Soif for five years), says the decision was a long time in the making. About a year ago, Boyle was approached by a local chef about taking over the space. While Eckhardt declined to say who that will be until all the paperwork is finalized, she did say that “everyone knows him and everyone loves him,” and that he has been cooking in the area for the past 15 years.

The mysterious new tenant didn’t want to take on the wine shop, however, so he is currently working with the city to separate what was one business into two entities. Eckhardt and Carr will continue to manage operations at the wine shop, and are excited about its next phase of life. Eckhardt says that for the time being, the shop will remain open as usual and wine club operations will remain unchanged.

Due to the legal transfer of the business and some “sprucing up” of the restaurant by the new owner, the space could be closed for at least six months. That timeline has necessitated the staff find new positions. Boyle will provide a month’s severance based on December, Soif’s busiest month, and will personally write letters of recommendation for each staff member to the top three restaurants of their choosing, says Eckhardt. “Thankfully, almost everyone is hiring.”

“I don’t get caught up in how sad I am about it. There’s a sense of loss, but mostly I feel like, wow, that was a great 20 years,” says John Locke, who was the wine director at Soif from 2007 to 2017 before opening his winery, Birichino, with Alex Krause. “It’s a testament to a lot of people but in particular Patrice that it was really, really good, and often great.”

While Soif wasn’t the first restaurant in the area to have a good wine program, it was the first to be that substantial. “To achieve that high level, you need someone very skilled and passionate at the top, and that describes Patrice,” Locke said.

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He says he loved working there, and believes that 105 Walnut Ave. is filled with a “fabulous mojo” that will be passed on to the next tenant. He hopes it will be a place where “Patrice will be able to relax a little bit and have a place to go and then leave without worrying about if the grease trap is overflowing.”