Center Street Grill's airy interior blooms with the aroma of classic American fare, with a hint of Mediterranean and a subtle nod to Asian cuisines. The dinner menu coaxes taste buds into a trot with a starters such as the applewood-smoked-bacon-wrapped shrimp ($12.95). For the main attraction, five gourmet pizzas and five lush sandwiches sandwich an eclectic selection of entrees, such as the tofu curry with sweet potatoes and garden vegetables ($12.95) or the half-rack of baby back ribs, slow-braised and fast-served with coleslaw and fries ($12.95). Entrees also include the grilled skirt steak with blue cheese ($17.95) and the fiery southwest chicken pasta, corralling corn kernels, red and green peppers, and onions doused in a creamy chipotle sauce ($14.95). The restaurant also sports wireless Internet access and an outdoor brick patio shaded by umbrellas and jealously hovering clouds.
Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall’s menu offers diners a vast array of beers, burgers, and meal-worthy sandwiches. Win your stomach’s heart with a hearty starter such as the fish and chips with salmon ($12.99) or the garlic- and cheddar-slathered steak fries ($7.49). European-influenced sandwiches such as the calamari steak sandwich ($11.99) treat taste buds to joy akin to being entitled 10 weeks’ paid vacation. The fiesta jalapeno burger, meanwhile, puts guacamole, jack cheese, and jalapenos on a half-pound patty for a party that ends best if no one rubs their eyes ($9.79). Herbivores can dig into the veggie pocket, which packs pita bread with sprouts, tomatoes, pine nuts, mushrooms, and more ($9.79). A gigantic, gourmet beer list boasting 43 brews on tap helps to inject domestic dinners with a cultured cosmopolitanism. A kids’ menu is available for humans with smaller stomachs and fewer dendrochronology rings.
To dish downtown office lunchers with an alternative to fast foods, Alfresco's walk-up eatery proffers a generous selection of hot dishes, wraps, and salads served in two minutes or less. A bed of brown rice rests below peanut sauced shiitake mushrooms and teriyaki baked tofu in the Asian rice bowl ($4.95). Meanwhile, discerning wrappers can freestyle the contents of their own tortilla with a variety of flavorful spreads, boom-bap greens, and lightly salted hype men ($4.25+). Alfresco's extensive menu also lists customizable salads (starting at $4.95) and Mediterranean small plates (starting at $2). Owner and electric car driver Marilyn Strayer prides her 2010 Golden Carrot-winning and Monterey Bay Green Business-associated food stand for using exclusively biodegradable cups, cutlery, serve ware, and servers.
Voted Best New Restaurant of 2011 by Santa Cruz Good Times, Laili silences grumbling stomachs with toothsome lunch and dinner menus of Afghan-influenced Middle-Eastern fare. Noontime noshers enlist the beef koubideh kebab ($11) to fearlessly harpoon hunger, whereas the succulent lamb wrap ($9) evokes the tender flavors of meat sleeping bags. Stop in for Laili's joy-laced happy hour, and satisfy liquid and solid cravings with an appetizer of quinoa-stuffed artichoke ($9) and a glass of wine ($5). The Silk Road plate ($8) invites dinner diners to a pre-entree party hosted by dippable eats including hummus, tabouleh, baba gannouj, and cucumber yogurt. Escape on an exotic nibbling sojourn with the alluring anar chicken entree, enrobed in pomegranate sauce and escorted to the table by roasted potatoes, broccolini, and a saltshaker wearing a cummerbund ($16). Smooth pistachio-cardamom ice cream ($6) and sweet stratums of baklava ($6) offer munchers a decadent coda to a unique meal.
Husband-and-wife owners Joe and Georgette Hammana developed a knack for restauranteering while working in the family restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon. After immigrating to the United States, the duo opened Joe’s Pizza & Subs, which serves New York–style pizza pies and more than 50 sandwiches and burgers. The menu, which contains many of Georgette’s original recipes and grade-school report cards, offers something for everyone, from specialty pizzas to vegan and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Named Best Teahouse in 2009 and 2010 by both the Santa Cruz Weekly and Good Times, Asana is a leafy retreat carrying more than 85 teas from around the world available for purchase either in bulk form or in SpecialTea drinks made in-house. Tea varieties span the color wheel, with a selection of white, green, oolong, black, tisanes, Puerh, and blooming teas, many of which sell for $4–$6 per oz. Asana's café also pours and purees specialty tea lattes, tea smoothies, and coffee drinks that dance upon your tongue and stream down your throat before warming you up from crust to core. Liquid libations include the Thai iced tea made with imported ice cubes from Thailand ($3.50) and the Vanilla Starry Night Latte, which includes rooibos tisane with whispers of vanilla and citrus ($3.50). The Lavender Love smoothie is a velvety valentine of lavender tisane, ice cream, banana, and vanilla extract that will make you reconsider culinary uses for other potpourri staples ($6.50).
Rosie McCann's specializes in twists on traditional Irish fare, tweaking classic Celtic dishes and drinks in a traditional pub setting. The menu showcases crowd-pleasing plates, such as irish nachos, sliced spuds slathered in jack and cheddar cheeses, olives, fresh salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and jalapeños ($10). 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 ($14). Heftier appetites seek satisfaction with bangers & mash, a Celtic take on the English classic, that douses irish sausages and garlic mashed potatoes in Guinness gravy ($16).