Some years ago, Muriel Loubiere was building an enviable career around New York City as the creator of a menu that had received the New York Times's coveted "Excellent" rating. And though she uprooted everything to relocate to California, one can't really blame her—she was in search of warmer climes, and Aptos's location beside Soquel Cove was a welcome reminder of her upbringing on the French Riviera. It was there that she opened her own restaurant, Au Midi, where she prepares dishes that elegantly fuse French and Californian flavors.
Parts of Au Midi's menu are steadfastly French, including a cassoulet made from Toulouse sausage and duck confit. But other dishes balance Pacific and Mediterranean elements, such as Californian mussels cooked with fresh tomatoes, brandy, cream, and garlic. Many of the dishes are made with organic produce from local farmers. Naturally, the wine list is split between French and Californian varietals.
Even after swapping coasts, Muriel's hardly lost any steam. She's currently listed in the Best Chefs America directory, a list that's compiled from interviews with other chefs and nominations by various culinary professionals and the raccoons that eat from the restaurants' dumpsters.
Sweet Pea's Cafe & Catering specializes in crepes for breakfast and lunch, accenting their café food with coffee from North Coast Roasting Company. Breakfast stretches from open to close, boasting eggs benedict crepes and fluffy farm-fresh omelettes wrapped around avocado or apple sausage. Savory crepes enclose fillings of salmon or brie, while sweet crepes are stuffed with Nutella, strawberries, or a light combo of lemon and sugar. Gluten-averse patrons can comfortably enjoy both gluten-free crepes and gluten-free sandwiches stacked on Udi’s breads. At the Capitola location, paintings and other work from local artists populate the walls of the cozy café.
At Tenth Street Basque Cafe, diners always receive the full attention of chef Dallas Holt. The Spanish-Basque-style café does not maintain a regular menu and only seats guests at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays for a prix fixe dinner prepared by the chef. Chef Dallas typically winds palates up with tapas such as stuffed mushrooms or albacore fish cakes before regaling senses with a main course such as stone-oven-cooked whole salmon or his specialty, the chicken and sausage paella.
Vibrant South American, North American, and Middle Eastern flavors come together between slices of bread at Mundos 2. According to a profile in the Monterey County Weekly, brothers Eli and Fernando Mundo, who also own Mundo's Cafe, not only use creative ingredients in their sandwiches—including paprika-flecked chicken breast and Argentinian tri-tip—but also slather them in secret housemade sauces.
Cream cheese and cranberry sauce join turkey breast, mustard aioli coats the pastrami sandwich, and housemade falafel sandwiches may be slathered in hummus. Burgers get flame-broiled before hitting buns, as do eggplant cutlets, red bell peppers, and other veggies.
Basque Country in northern Spain may not be well known, but it does have a well-deserved reputation for culinary excellence, according to Food & Wine. The chefs there rely on the region’s bountiful surroundings, using local seafood and farm-fresh produce along with more rarefied ingredients such as forest mushrooms and wild boar. The result is a unique cuisine that is not commonly found outside of Basque Country, and is the singular specialty at Basque Matxain Etxea Restaurant, which has been serving Basque-style cuisine for more than a decade. Head chef Guillermo Matxain learned the craft organically during his childhood in San Sebastian, a major city in the Basque region, and years spent in the kitchen at the family restaurant.
Today, Chef Matxain cooks elaborate and authentic Basque dishes, such as shrimp, mussels, and seafood paella according to family recipes that have been passed down and absentmindedly folded into paper airplanes over several generations. He crafts small tapas for diners to share, including baby calamari in garlic, oil, and paprika, and woody mushrooms sautéed with parsley. His rich traditional Basque dishes include Cazuela Easo, a mixed seafood dish cooked in a secret family recipe creamy cheese sauce.
Mission Café’s impression of a retro diner is spot on; it has red-and-chrome bar stools, a red-and-white checkered floor, and an array of breakfast, lunch, and dinner food from the griddle and grill. The cooks crack eggs for omelets, toss house-made corned beef for the reuben sandwich, and flip an array of burgers, including the chili burger, the double burger, and the vegetarian Garden City burger. Frothy milkshakes and steamy coffee complement the all-American food, just as George Washington once dictated.