EATERS DIGEST: Betty Noodles returns, Pizza Series pops up and El Vaquero Winery wins double gold

The wontons and pork soup at Betty Noodles in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

Betty Noodles returns to downtown Santa Cruz after closing in 2019, with bowls of soup that are bigger and better than ever. El Vaquero Winery wins two double gold medals for its carignan and cabernet franc, and The Pizza Series pops up in Scotts Valley with Detroit-style pies.

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Remember when “June-uary” was a thing? The sky might be clear, but you’re not imagining it — it’s definitely been colder than usual this month. In this issue of Eaters Digest, I have a few suggestions to warm you up.

For those who fondly remember the noodle soups from Betty Noodles, the tiny restaurant located at the Metro Center in downtown Santa Cruz, I have good news: It has reopened just around the corner off of Cathcart Street in the spot that previously held Monster Pot, and the soups are bigger and better than ever.

The Pizza Series is getting close to opening its restaurant in Scotts Valley and is celebrating this weekend with a pop-up featuring its Detroit-style pizza. If you’re looking for a glass of red wine to warm you up on a cold winter evening, check out the 2019 “One-Eyed Charlie’’ carignan and 2018 cabernet franc from El Vaquero Winery in Corralitos, both of which won double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.


Congratulations to the Prikazsky family at El Vaquero Winery in Corralitos for winning two double gold medals in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. El Vaquero’s 2019 “One-Eyed Charlie’’ carignan earned double gold in the carignan/carignane category and its 2018 cabernet franc won in the cabernet franc $30.00-$39.99 category.

I’m consistently impressed by El Vaquero’s wines, crafted by winemaker Alex Prikazsky, and have enjoyed the supple, spicy and complex “One-Eyed Charlie.” You’d be hard pressed to find a beverage with a better story behind it — this special wine is named after Corralitos Gold Rush-era icon Charley Parkhurst, a legendary six-horse-stagecoach driver. After Parkhurst’s death in 1879, it was revealed that Charley was biologically female, astonishing those who knew them. Charley, it turned out, was short for Charlotte, according to a New York Times obituary.

El Vaquero’s tasting room in Corralitos is worth a visit, though the winning wines are in short supply. The carignan is available in the tasting room, but is limited to one bottle per purchase because the winery is down to its last few cases. Alex Prikazsky says she made wine from the little-known grape in 2019 because she loved it, and it turned out to be a surprise hit. The 2018 cabernet franc, as well as the previous 2017 vintage, are available. More info at

President Joe Biden visited Santa Cruz County for a few short hours Jan. 19. He was here to tour the damage wrought by the intense storms in early January, but I was curious, would he have time for a bite to eat? As it turned out, yes. The president, notorious for his love of ice cream, had time to chow down on his favorite snack courtesy of Marianne’s Ice Cream, as well as pizza from Woodstock’s Pizza in Santa Cruz, while at Seacliff State Beach. Read more about what Biden ate during his visit to Santa Cruz County in Monday’s story.

Eat this

After closing in 2019, Betty Noodles has reopened off of Cathcart Street in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

For years, Betty Noodles, tucked inside the Metro Center in downtown Santa Cruz, was my go-to soup spot. What it lacked in atmosphere it more than made up for with colorful, steaming bowls brimming with rich, homemade broths, fresh vegetables, dumplings and kimchi.

When it closed in September 2019, I was devastated. At the time, Asian noodle soups were difficult to find in Santa Cruz County, and while they’ve gained popularity — you can find great ramen at Full Steam Dumpling and pho at Asian Express and Charlie Hong Kong — they’re still not nearly as accessible as I’d like.

Betty fans, I’m pleased to share that it’s back and its bowls are bigger than ever. While I’ve been tempted by other dishes on the five-page menu, I can’t tear myself away from the Super Soups. My beloved sesame soup ($15.95) has the same unctuous, nutty broth, plus a pile of thinly sliced steak, napa cabbage, dark green Chinese water spinach, tofu and deep red chili crisp. Delicate pork-filled wontons bob in rich bone broth in the wontons and pork soup ($15.95), while tender, sweet slices of char siu pork, broccoli and cabbage top a thick pile of noodles. The portions are so large I’d be impressed if anyone could finish a full bowl off in one sitting.

The sesame noodle "super soup" at Betty Noodles.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

Owners Xue Bai and Linna Zhang, the chef, opened Monster Pot off of Cathcart Street after closing Betty Noodles, hoping to elevate their popular soups with more refined hot pots. However, because hot pots are shared by guests at the table, the pandemic made it difficult to attract customers, Bai said. Additionally, they struggled to manage the high cost of the ingredients due to inflation. Late last year, Bai and Zhang decided to return to the more affordable Betty Noodles menu of noodle soups and rice dishes, while still using the same high-quality ingredients.

They’ve also added a new menu of Grandma’s Dumplings, with fillings and toppings ranging from kimchi to mapo tofu to vegetable. Betty, Zhang’s daughter, had a baby last year, and the hand-folded dumplings are made by the new grandma’s hands, explains Bai.

“We think that family is the first priority, and we should treat the guests who come to our restaurant as our family members,” says Bai. “The dishes are just like the dishes made in our family. I hope that everyone who comes to our restaurant can feel at home.” View the full menu and order online at


The crispy "cheese crown" is a hallmark of The Pizza Series' Detroit-style pizzas.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Former pop-up The Pizza Series is getting close to opening its restaurant on Mount Hermon Road in Scotts Valley, and is holding a soft opening this weekend for takeout only of its crispy, thick-crusted Detroit-style pizza. While there’s still some remodeling to finish inside the restaurant, owners Matt Driscoll and Maddy Quesada say they “want to start making pizza again and serve our amazing community.” Friday is already sold out, but pre-orders are available for Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Place orders at

With more than 100 employees unable to return to work due to prolonged restaurant closures in Capitola Village, chefs from Reef Dog Deli, Trestles, Home and Shadowbrook are teaming up for an exclusive gala Monday, Feb. 6, to raise funds to support them. A five-course dinner paired with local wines will take place at Shadowbrook in Capitola from 6 to 9 p.m. Half of each $300 ticket will be donated through Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. Only 84 tickets were released, and as of Friday morning there were a few still available. Tax-deductible donations may also be made through the ticket site. Find out more in Wednesday’s story and purchase tickets through Eventbrite.