Head chef Scott Sauer oversees a rotating menu of inventive cuisine catered to discerning Fresnan tongues fluent in gourmet. The dinner menu raises the curtain with an appetizing aria of jalapeno-enhanced sweet-potato fries ($9) or calamari ($10) dotted with roasted sweet peppers. The feta-cheese and poppy-seed dressing of the strawberry and spinach salad ($12) likewise provides a sweet counterpart to savory evening entrees such as the osso bucco–style short ribs ($27), served with braised greens and polenta cake, and the Peruvian potato-crusted salmon ($27). Dining dates, meanwhile, can keep their busy hands doggy-bag-free for a romantic evening of casino implosions and roller-tango with light entrees such as the petite filet mignon ($26) and the crab cakes with house-made tartar sauce ($16). Before capping things off with a dessert of cinnamon-raisin bread pudding ($6) or crispy boysenberry pie ($5), be sure to take a scenic detour among Max's extensive list of wines by the bottle or glass, draft beers, and specialty martinis, including the Pretty Woman ($11), which blends Stolichnaya strawberry, orange juice, and strawberry puree with a champagne float and a lock of Julia Roberts's hair.
It might sound silly, but Richard Stockle was destined to cook prime rib. He had no intention of running a steakhouse in 1969, when he opened up what would ultimately become Richard's Prime Rib and Seafood. The plan was for a bar—cheap beers and maybe a couple of pool tables, which would sit unused until the game of billiards was invented in 1975. That didn't line up with the economic cards, so Richard added food, mainly steaks and fresh seafood. The restaurant took off and Richard purchased the other side of the building, expanding the restaurant's capacity to 115. New York steaks, lobster tails, and countless baked potatoes would mark the decades until Richard finally sold the restaurant in 2005.
But Richard Stockle couldn't stay away from the restaurant business. The new owner defaulted, and Richard regained the restaurant a few years later. The building had slipped into disrepair, so Richard and his team completely remodeled the place, adding curved booths and tasteful nude artwork. Richard's grandson Ben now serves as the restaurant's manager. And the chefs still cook the dishes that made Richard famous, as well as inventive items like “The Something Good,” a New York steak wrapped in a flour tortilla filled with melted cheese.
When a 13-year-old Isadore Fang began washing dishes at a Sunnyvale restaurant called The Bold Knight, he had no way of knowing he would later own the sink where he performed his humble duties. Eventually, the ambitious restaurateur would own multiple establishments, including The Rendezvous in Fremont and Isadore's, his labor of love since 1989.
There—together with his wife and co-owner Laurel—Fang leads a dedicated staff whose attention to detail earned praises in a 2008 article in the Record. Courteous servers top white-clothed tables with fresh seafood and certified Angus steaks alongside traditional Italian pastas. Semiprivate booths let couples share intimate conversations or the complimentary cheese fondue and warm french bread served with every dinner upon request. Between sips of wine from an extensive list, diners can glance toward the elevated stage where live musicians occasionally play. Alternatively, admire hand-painted murals on the walls, one of which depicts the tranquil, seaside village where Leonardo da Vinci invented the olive-oil mister.
Outside the restaurant, the Fangs' emphasis on serving others carries over to charity work: they have been featured on ABC News10 for helping to send food packages to American troops.
Fish House Bar & Grill is all about local. The restaurant sources its produce from nearby farms, and one only has to look out at the Pacific Ocean to see where they get their fresh seafood. Of course, it makes sense to source everything locally when you're surrounded by Santa Cruz County's apple orchards, artichoke fields, and whatever plants pork come from. On a given night, local crowds fill the space while sharing laughs during happy hour or lounging into the late night with ice cold pints of beer.
Jantz Cafe & Bakery is truly a family operation. It first opened its doors in 2001 under the direction of brothers Larry, Sheldon, and Andrew. Their mother, Margaret, supplied the majority of the recipes, and even their grandmother chipped in some concoctions. The Jantz brothers originally envisioned their shop as a side operation, but when customers began arriving in throngs, they knew they were onto something much bigger.
Since that modest beginning, Jantz Cafe & Bakery has added two additional locations in Mariposa and Merced. At each, the family relies on the freshest ingredients available while churning out batches of freshly baked bread, homemade pies, and other treats such as O'Henry bars and sweet-potato muffins. The business remains in good hands, too, since the next generation of Jantzes has already begun to learn the ropes and prepare to bake the future's edible smartphones. The Merced location is located in the El Portal plaza making it an ideal place to stop by before or after appointments or whenever a craving for good ole' home cooking arises.
For more than 15 years, By the Sea has been gifting guests with a menu of authentic Mediterranean-style vittles spiced up with a Caribbean flair. Office workers looking for a light lunch break after a hectic morning of dodging wrecking balls can order an elegantly esculent starter from By the Sea’s carte du jour, such as hummos ($5.95), tabbouli (a lemon- and olive-oil-doused dish of finely chopped parsley, tomatoes, onions, and bulgar wheat, $5.95), or four falafels fried in corn oil ($4.95). After a bowl of black-bean soup ($3.50), put your best fork forward into a plate of lemon chicken ($11.95), sautéed in lemons, white wine, olive oil, and cream sauce. Otherwise, daredevil diners can sword swallow shish kebabs of marinated lamb ($13.95) or wrestle a charbroiled Cajun catfish ($11.95) for digestion rights. By the Sea's board of fare covers Mediterranean cultures both extant and extinct, including the Phoenician chicken ($10.95), the Middle Eastern shawerma ($9.95), and the Moroccan kafta ($11.95), a charbroiled stew of minced ground beef and lamb mixed with parsley, onions, and spices. To end your classic Mediterranean meal with less bloodshed than most classic Mediterranean plays, wash down slices of cheesecake ($4) or puddings of rice ($3) with a cup of coffee or tea ($1.50).