EATERS DIGEST: Mariposa Coffee finds permanent home, Cat & Cloud turns 6 and one of the best tacos ever

Tram Vu (left) and Chelsea Cabrera will open Mariposa Coffee in downtown Santa Cruz early next year.
Tram Vu (left) and Chelsea Cabrera will open Mariposa Coffee in downtown Santa Cruz early next year.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Mariposa Coffee has found a permanent home for its Cuban coffees and vegetarian pastries and sandwiches in downtown Santa Cruz. Plus, one of the best tacos in the county and a local coffee chain turns 6.

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Welcome to the weekend and your Friday Eaters Digest!

Lily

This week, I have news from the local coffee world. After serving addictive Cuban coffees and vegetarian sandwiches and pastries for a year and a half at pop-ups inside the Sandwich Spot in downtown Santa Cruz, at Pacific Avenue and Cathcart Street, Mariposa Coffee will open in the same space. That will give fans regular access to its cafecitos, guava and cream cheese pastries and vegetarian cubanos. Plus, in other news, Cat & Cloud coffee celebrates its 6th birthday this week with free espressos at all four of its Santa Cruz County locations.

While the idea of naming the “best” taco in the county is daunting, perhaps impossible, the Pericos taco at Taqueria Los Pericos in Santa Cruz continues to be one of my favorites. Read on to see why. I’m also curious — what are some of your favorite tacos in the county? Email or text me your recommendations.

And this weekend, enjoy the season with a harvest festival at Staff of Life in Watsonville and a pie potluck that supports a great local cause.

News

Over the past year and a half, Mariposa Cuban Coffee has offered Cuban coffee drinks, sweet and savory pastries and crisp-lidded cubano sandwiches through regular pop-ups inside the Sandwich Spot in downtown Santa Cruz. Stopping in to grab a strong, creamy cafecito and a guava and cream cheese pastry became my favorite Friday treat, and I am one of many fans who has missed it deeply since the shop closed up over the summer.

But Mariposa isn’t going anywhere. Quite the opposite — owners Chelsea Cabrera and Tram Vu are working on opening a permanent brick-and-mortar coffee shop inside the now-closed Sandwich Spot. The pair hope to open Mariposa Coffee Shop (the “Cuban” has been dropped — more on that below) early next year after a remodel and kitchen buildout are completed.

Now with a permanent home, Vu and Cabrera are working on creating a space that reflects their vibrant personalities and Vietnamese and Cuban cultures. Their menu will continue to be entirely vegetarian, and they will add Vietnamese dishes and coffee to the menu, including pate chaud (a French-influenced meat and cheese pastry), banh mi, spring rolls and several versions of Vietnamese iced coffee. During the remodel, the pair plan to create a “social coffee bar” with bar, indoor and outdoor seating to encourage social connections. All to-go orders will be placed and picked up through a window at the front of the shop — just like the pop-up. Follow along on Instagram at @mariposa_coffeebar.

Cat & Cloud coffee will celebrate its 6th birthday by serving free espresso at all four of its locations.
(Via Facebook)

Happy birthday to Cat & Cloud, which opened its flagship coffee shop and roastery in Pleasure Point six years ago this week. Since then, the company has grown considerably. Owners Chris Baca, Jared Truby and Charles Jack have expanded to three more locations in Santa Cruz County: Abbott Square in downtown Santa Cruz; the Westside; and Aptos. What’s more, Verve Coffee alums Baca and Truby have integrated themselves into the national coffee culture through podcasting, social media, forums and video. The company even collaborated with national brand DC Shoes to create a limited-edition pair of Cat & Cloud sneakers made with actual coffee.

On Friday, celebrate at all Cat & Cloud locations with a free espresso. New merchandise launches at catandcloud.com on Monday if you want to rep a local coffee shop no matter where you roam.

Eat this

I don’t think I could ever identify the “best” taco in Santa Cruz County, although I wouldn’t mind trying. There are so many taquerias, each offering its own array of taco options that my mind boggles at the task. And “best” is such a personal distinction, it would be hard to quantify, especially in a town as passionate about tacos as Santa Cruz.

But I will share that the signature Pericos taco at Taqueria Los Pericos, located at Water and River streets in downtown Santa Cruz, is very, very good. I believe that it is, in many ways, a perfect taco. I have never eaten one and not had my mood lifted, my chakras realigned and my third eye opened. Eating it, I’m reminded that tacos really are magical little things that are often greater than the sum of their parts, capable of creating fraternity in addition to full bellies. Sorry, I’m getting emotional, but it really is that tasty.

You have the option to choose whatever meat you want, but however Los Pericos marinates the al pastor is award-winning. Cheese is melted onto the tortillas while they’re warming on the griddle, then piled with meat, cilantro, chopped red onion, fresh slices of avocado and bright homemade salsa — fresh touches that balance the taco’s richness. One probably qualifies as a meal on its own, but who has the restraint to order only a single taco?

Recently, I also tried Pericos’ crispy taco for the first time and was delighted to discover that it’s filled to the brim with beans, cheese and meat — in this case wonderfully frizzled carnitas. The lettuce and pico de gallo comes on the side, so you never have to worry about biting into a lettuce-filled taco. I washed everything down with a pineapple agua fresca from the fountain, a lovely sweet-tart refresher.

If you go, expect to join a throng of fans at peak meal times, but it’s worth the wait. Go to taquerialospericos.com to view the full menu.

Events

Pie for the People, a community-driven pie potluck fundraiser, returns on Sunday. This time the event will be held at the UC Santa Cruz Farm and Garden from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and will benefit Life Lab, a local organization that creates garden-based educational programs. At this family-friendly event, you can enjoy unlimited slices of pie and support a great cause — just bring a $5 donation per person, a sweet or savory vegetarian pie and reusable plates and utensils. Baking not your thing? No worries — just bring an extra donation. More info at pieforthepeople-santacruz.org.

‘Tis the season for harvest festivals! Staff of Life Natural Foods is throwing a free Organic Harvest Festival on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Watsonville store in the East Lake Shopping Center. Meet organic farmers from around the Central Coast, enjoy live music, kids activities and food and product samples. Cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches will be available for purchase, and sales from wine and beer at the event will support the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley.

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