Situated atop the lapping waves of Monterey Bay, Paradise Beach Grille combines upscale island cuisine with stunning waterfront views of Soquel Creek and Capitola Beach. Local, seasonal vegetables abut flavorful entrees from Paradise’s menu, such as the sugar and spice salmon paired with champagne mustard burre blanc ($22) and the Haleakala lava flow prawns sauteed in pinot grigio ($26). An extensive wine list complements island-inspired taste notes, and Paradise’s on-the-water location and outdoor seating means you can watch the world float by on its spherical boogie board until a jellyfish swims too close or its fingerlakes start to prune.
Picture a pool hall. Wood-paneled walls catch the light of suspended billiards lamps, which illuminate clusters of tables—19 of them to be exact. And these tables are not kiddie sized or Astroturf topped; these are regulation tables: fit for aimless amateurs and seasoned professionals alike. This is Fast Eddy's Billiards, where fun-seekers can revel not only in friendly and competitive games of pool, but also at dartboards, foosball tables, pinball machines, and beer-pong setups.
A former billiards professional still hangs around this scene, giving newbies a crash course on the basics of pool play. Above the din, neon signs rattle off the names of domestic and imported beers—available by the glass and by the pitcher—and a kitchen attendant preps bar-style snacks such as jalapeño poppers, onion rings, chicken wings, and breaded zucchini strips. Free WiFi can occupy compulsive email senders, and an Internet jukebox keeps carousers bopping with tunes of choice.
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.
In the main room of Surf City Billiards & Cafe, sun pours through skylights in the 22-foot vaulted ceilings, illuminated 15 Brunswick Gold Crown tables covered in pro-standard Simonis cloth. Darts and a shuffleboard table provide additional opportunities for competition, whereas eight big-screen TVs let fans cheer for their favorite commercials between interruptions by men throwing balls. The hall's full bar keeps spirits high with local wine and beer, and a bustling kitchen turns out gourmet takes on traditional bar food. Applewood-smoked bacon gives third-pound Angus-beef patties a porcine kick, and the Surf City dog adorns a quarter-pound 100% beef frank with zesty chipotle mayo.
The billiards hall was named one of the Top 10 New Pool Halls in America in 2008.
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 jalapeños. 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.
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.
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.