Nightlife in Santa Cruz

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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

Since 1994, Wingstop's franchise locations—more than 600 currently operating or in the works—have cooked up and served more than 2 billion wings, and amassed a considerable following. Whether regular or boneless, these modern-day game-day staples come in one of the shop's 10 signature flavors: Louisiana rub and hickory-smoked barbecue have a classic spicy kick, whereas tanginess prevails in the lemon pepper, Hawaiian, and teriyaki.

Because the wings are always made to order, they derive their heat from their seasonings and their recent stay inside the fryer, rather than from heat lamps or tiny, individual Snuggies. The same amount of care goes into the Wingstop's housemade sides, which range from fries that are cut daily at each shop to the bourbon baked beans. Even the honey mustard, blue cheese, and ranch dipping sauces are mixed onsite.

845 Almar Ave
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

At Vino Prima, the wine pours freely. Surrounded by 360-degree views of the Santa Cruz wharf and sparkling lights of the boardwalk, patrons soak in the views as they sip their choice of wine by the flight or glass, with a rotating selection of 30 wines pouring daily. Enclosed in their protective casings, more than 150 boutique wines are also available by the bottle, which can later be filled with a miniature version of your favorite 14th-century shipwreck. On some weekends, belly dancing and live-music sessions create a lively atmosphere to complement the always-flowing libations.

55 Municipal Wharf
Santa Cruz,
CA
US

Located right off Mission Street, Parish sports an extensive selection of domestic and European drinks, from ales to stouts and drafts, as well as a menu packed with pub staples including fish and chips, shepherd's pie, and eight different burgers. Channeling the dark woods, cozy decorative accents, and neighborly atmosphere of a classic English alehouse, Parish's fraternal founders based their brainchild on a collage of amber-tinted memories from their own 15-day tour of Britain, the original Australia. Stop by this homey hoppery to catch a game, celebrate with friends, or get reacquainted with the magic of beer.

841 Almar Ave
Santa Cruz,
CA
US