EATERS DIGEST: Closures startle Aptos, SLV; Uncie Ro’s opens in Watsonville; a PSL for the haters

Aptos' Restaurant Malik Williams, which opened in March, closed suddenly this week.
Aptos’ Restaurant Malik Williams, which opened in March, closed suddenly this week.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

In this week’s Eaters Digest, Restaurant Malik Williams in Aptos and Ben Lomond’s Tyrolean Inn close their doors, while Uncie Ro’s opens in Watsonville. Plus, Lily Belli suggests two seasonal beverages to imbibe this autumn.

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Lily

Happy Friday and welcome to Eaters Digest. This week definitely had its ups and downs.

First, the bad news: Santa Cruz County is losing two restaurants — Restaurant Malik Williams, a fine-dining restaurant in Aptos that opened just nine months ago, closed suddenly; and Tyrolean Inn, a German restaurant that has served in Ben Lomond for more than 50 years, ends service this Sunday. Losing these businesses reminds us all that although restaurants and food businesses seem to have boomed post-pandemic, it’s still a difficult industry.

There’s good news, too: Longtime pizza pop-up Uncie Ro’s has a new, permanent home in Watsonville, and Capitola landmark Shadowbrook celebrates its 75th anniversary this week.

If you are feeling the fall vibes, I have several beverage suggestions for you — a riff on the pumpkin spice latte with a fraction of the sugar at Honeylux Coffee in Watsonville, and two single-varietal hard ciders from Tanuki Cider. Plus, get ready for Gourmet Grazing on the Green this weekend. I’ll be there — come say hi!

News

Two Santa Cruz County restaurants suddenly closed their doors this week. Restaurant Malik Williams, a fine-dining restaurant in Aptos that opened in March, shut down; in Ben Lomond, the Tyrolean Inn, which has served hearty German cuisine since 1970, will pour its last pint this Sunday. On his eponymous restaurant’s website, Malik Williams explains that the venture was “under-capitalized to survive in today’s extremely difficult market” and says he “will be back.” A staff member at Tyrolean Inn, meanwhile, confirmed that the owners are retiring and that a new restaurant and concept will take its place.

These two restaurants could not be more different. Restaurant Malik Williams was a brand-new establishment headed by Williams, the youngest chef in the county; the Tyrolean Inn was a local institution that served the community for more than 50 years. The news of the end for both shows that, despite a spate of recent and forthcoming openings, the restaurant industry is still uncertain. No word yet on what’s next for either of these spaces.

Shadowbrook restaurant celebrates 75 years in Capitola.
(Via Shadowbrook)

A hearty congratulations to the historic Shadowbrook in Capitola — the iconic fine-dining restaurant celebrated its 75th anniversary on Thursday. Shadowbrook first opened for dinner on Oct. 13, 1947, with capacity for 50 guests. Today, it seats more than 200 and is a destination for celebrations for locals and tourists alike. Owner Ted Burke is also celebrating his 50th year working at the restaurant. He started as an hourly employee in 1972, became a manager soon after and purchased the restaurant with a business partner six years later in 1978. Shadowbrook has changed a lot over the years, but every visit promises a unique and memorable experience.

Roland Konicke, aka Uncie Ro, has baked legendary wood-fired pizzas with seasonal toppings for more than a decade. As one of Santa Cruz County’s first pop-ups, he often pulled his mobile pizza oven to businesses also committed to using local ingredients, like Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz and Everett Family Farm in Soquel. Now Konicke has his own home base. Last week, he opened an Italian restaurant and pizza kitchen under the same name in the East Lake Village Shopping Center in Watsonville. The menu includes small seasonal plates and a variety of Neapolitan pizzas, as well as Odonata Wines vintages by the glass. This shopping center has quite the food scene — it’s also home to Fruition Brewing, Coffeeville, Sushi Qu, Carmona’s BBQ, India Gourmet and Staff of Life Market. I can’t wait to try it. Uncle Ro’s Pizza is open Thursday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m to 8 p.m.

Eat this

The baristas at Honeylux in Watsonville have nailed it again with their pumpkin spice cold brew, a seasonal drink starring their irresistible cold foam. Cold foam is made from milk or cream whipped at a cool temperature so it keeps its shape while floating on an iced drink, mimicking the froth on a cappuccino or latte. For Honeylux’s version of a pumpkin spice latte but with far less sugar, house-brewed unsweetened cold brew is served over ice, topped with a solid inch of sweetened cold foam imbued with warm pumpkin pie spices and finished with freshly grated cinnamon. Sip through the sweet, spiced cold foam and get a hit of black coffee — perfect for people, like me, who normally drink coffee without sugar but want to feel a little autumnal. Find the pumpkin spice cold brew at Honeylux in the Watsonville Hangar, open every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tanuki Cider released two single-variety hard ciders made from Bellflower and Newtown Pippin apples.
(Via Tanuki Cider)

Speaking of seasonal drinks, Robby Honda of Tanuki Cider recently released two single-varietal hard apple ciders, one made from Bellflower apples and one made from Newtown Pippins, both with 8.5% alcohol by volume. While cider is delicious any time of year, I love enjoying it in the fall because it pairs so easily with seasonal autumn foods. And while single-varietal wines are commonplace, the vast majority of ciders on the market are blends. These are the first two I’ve seen that are made with just one variety of apple.

The Bellflower is a sunny, light yellow cider with a lemony nose. Its bright, tart body offers persistent effervescence and a dry, tart finish. Grab this one to open your meal, especially to sip around a cheese plate filled with creamy, funky cheese and fall fruit.

Newtown Pippins are a common cider apple in our area, and here it’s easy to see why. Tanuki’s version is light amber and medium-bodied, with a juicy center that finishes dry. Pair this with your autumn roasts and bakes — it would be beautiful with meat, vegetables or savory dishes pulled deep golden-brown out of the oven. Tanuki ciders are available throughout the county. Go to tanukicider.com to find your closest supplier.

Events

Gourmet Grazing on the Green, Santa Cruz County’s premier tasting event, returns Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at Aptos Village Park. Guests can expect expressive bites and sips from dozens of the county’s finest wineries, breweries, restaurants and food businesses, plus live music in a beautiful outdoor space. Tickets are limited, but it looked like there were still a few left as of Friday morning. I’ll be cruising around at the event, and will be at Lookout’s booth from 1 to 1:30 p.m. if you’d like to say hi and talk about our local food scene. Proceeds go to the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group, which supports families experiencing cancer. Tickets are $95 in advance through sccbg.org and $120 at the gate.

The Oktoberfest season is winding down but it’s going out with a bang — this Saturday, head to the Elk’s Lodge in Santa Cruz from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for one more polka-pumping celebration. Expect kids activities, German food, beer from Discretion Brewing in Soquel and music by German band AlpineSound at this family-friendly event. All of the proceeds benefit the California-Hawaii Elks Association Major Project to address unmet needs of children with disabilities. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for kids under 18. Admission is free for children 10 and under. Call 831-423-8240 to purchase in advance.

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