Nightlife in Santa Cruz

Select Local Merchants

Rosie McCann's specializes in twists on traditional Irish fare, tweaking classic Celtic dishes and drinks in a traditional pub setting. The menu showcases plates of irish nachos, sliced spuds slathered in jack and cheddar cheeses, olives, fresh salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and jalape?os. The Americanized version of shepherd's pie simmers grass-fed Humboldt beef and vegetables in a rich irish stock before adding a helmet of mashed potatoes au gratin. Heftier appetites can get satisfaction with bangers & mash, a Celtic take on the English classic, that douses irish sausages and garlic mashed potatoes in Guinness gravy. 10 premium imports or 4 microbrews stand ready on tap, and malt mixologists also pour specialty beer drinks such as the Black Velvet, a whistle-whetting blend of Blackthorn hard apple cider and Guinness.

The dining room echoes the colors of the Irish flag, with burnt-red walls and bright-green stained-glass windows. Guests can cozy up in plush booth seats bedecked in plaid and gaze at glass chandeliers that hang from the ceilings as they sip on mimosas or savor lunch and brunch fare.

1220 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

Every week, The Palomar Ballroom's 80-year-old space reverberates with a DJ's Latin beats and synchronized salsa shimmies. Beneath a baroque chandelier, couples twirl passionately enough for the New York Times to deem this salsa party the "spiciest spot downtown." Owner and award-winning ballroom dancer Jeremy Pilling prizes the supportive atmosphere that allows his students to commingle at these parties, whose themes can also cover Argentine tango and swing.

To lead up to its festivities, The Palomar Ballroom hosts drop-in classes, weekly series, rehearsals for routines, and private lessons for dancers that range from beginner to expert. During these sessions, seasoned instructors stress the social aspects of dance while teaching the techniques, rotating partners often so that they can learn different ways to twirl, dip, and ceremoniously lacerate a rug. Visiting dance champions also lead workshops on their specialties, showcasing advanced steps in cha cha, samba, swing, rumba, and other styles.

1344 Pacific Ave.
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

Winner of the Santa Cruz Weekly 2013 Gold Award for Best Dance Club and Best Fancy Cocktails, Motiv expertly slings tapas-style eats and a wide selection of drinks in a lively lounge space. Tucked along Pacific Avenue and Pearl Alley in a stucco building with a corrugated-tin roof and flowering window boxes, Motiv’s serene Old World–exterior belies its energetic dance floor, sleek wooden bar downstairs, and intimate restaurant-lounge upstairs. Half pound grass-fed burgers, skirt steak dinners and Jorge's famous tacos populate the shareable menu, and top-shelf liquors are mixed into specialty cocktails. Nightly live music delivered by a stable of DJs encourages diners to extend evenings by shaking a leg or showing off neon puffy-paint monograms under the colorful disco lights.

1209 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

"The Nick" showcases alternative, foreign, and art-house films in a theater steeped in the stylings of Hollywood. Beyond the elegant marquee lights, in a smoothly styled lobby, the walls are accented with stained-glass detailing comedy and tragedy masks. The retro chic movie house boasts two intimate and two large screens, which will soon play host to a bevy of upcoming shows. Current features include Academy Award nominees Black Swan, Another Year, The Illusionist, and Biutiful, the story of a crime boss who is diagnosed with a serious illness which forces him to reconcile his good intentions with his lawless lifestyle.

210 Lincoln St
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

Think of Red Restaurant and Bar's menu as Picture Day for pub food. Injecting an upscale elegance into classic bar bites, executive chef Herb Kettleson flavors potato soup with beer and pairs summer succotash with diver scallops. Since he depends on seasonal offerings from local farmers' markets, his dinnertime options change from week to week. The lounge menu, however, sticks to consistent—and wildly popular—dishes such as bacon-wrapped hot dogs and pork green chili fries.

Available until 1 a.m. every night, Kettleson's edibles pair perfectly with the bar's massive selection of craft beer, as well as wines hailing from California and Europe. For something with more of a kick, try the Bruce Lee's combination of habanero tequila, organic basil, and juice from a pineapple that the bartender karate-chops himself.

200 Locust St.
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

It's fitting that the artwork across from the bar at Süda is reminiscent of the tree of life, because chef Anthony Diaz works with only the freshest local and seasonal ingredients: produce culled from local farms, line-caught fish, and hormone-free beef. With these building blocks, he creates plates such as grass-fed filet mignon, prawn linguine, and vegetarian sweet-potato tacos crowned with black beans and greek yogurt.

3910 Portola Dr
Felton,
CA
US