"Try This" is a weekly column that celebrates local businesses — especially eateries, watering holes, coffee shops and the like.
Food: Zameen’s Mediterranean Cuisine
This wonderful restaurant in Aptos is one of my favorite places to dine in Santa Cruz County. I have not been to its satellite location at Pleasure Point yet, but every trip to the Aptos restaurant is always a pleasure. You can find a number of different combination plates, gyros, falafels, pizzas, soups and more. Their house soup, Moroccan Madness, is delicious, but my all-time favorite is the carrot-ginger. Zameen’s also bakes some incredible flatbread—it’s perfect to wrap your gyro, dip into your soup or just munch on by itself. Rumor has it there will be a Zameen’s location in Watsonville at the Municipal Airport, near the new Beer Mule, which I am very excited about.
Drink: Jamba Juice
Jamba Juice is a giant, international company, but I always feel welcome when walking into the store on Clares Street in Capitola, in the Brown Ranch Marketplace shopping center. I used to work two doors down from the store at Zizzo’s Coffeehouse and Wine Bar, and would often pop in during my lunch break. My picks include the “Strawberries Wild” smoothie from the Classic Smoothie Menu, as well as the strong but satisfying “Greens n’ Ginger.” If I had to pick a favorite it would be the “Berry UpBEET.” Despite including beets and other veggies, the blend remains sweet thanks to its various fruits added. Jamba Juice also offers coffee drinks, food, and for the more adventurous types—wheatgrass shots.
Food: Hula’s Island Grill
Crispy coconut shrimp rolls and Kona style chicken wings are just part of the bounty of flavor on the Happy Hour menu, known as pupus, at Hula's Island Grill on Cathcart Street in downtown Santa Cruz. Top that out with their japapeño, bacon mac & cheese and you can call it dinner on the cheap. Their $5 mai tai has been a sure winner with my wife, Sarah. I like their house lemonade. It can get crowded, so plan an an early visit if you want to get seated right away. Their friendly crew there always makes for a warm and comfortable visit. By the way, their Happy House extends all day, so you aren't trapped in by time limits.
Drink: Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s 60-gallon wine barrels draw attention to their tasting room on the west side of Santa Cruz. Several tasting rooms share the same business plaza. Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard has been making European-style, food-friendly, cellar-worthy wines since 1975. They are largely known for their Pinot Noir that can age beautifully for three decades. The address is 334 Ingalls St.
Fun: Live music at Abbott Square
At Abbott Square Market and the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, Friday night entertainment is a regular item on the menu. I recently caught a set by local rock band Cement Ship, who delivered its own blend of music. Scores of eateries, a cafe and a bar adds top the mix.
Food: De La Colmena
The tortas (sandwiches) at De La Colmena are a great (and filling) lunch. They have several different versions, including “El Monstro” (The Monster), a triple-meat work of culinary art piled with the taqueria’s famous carnitas, in addition to al pastor and ham. If that doesn’t sound good, try the lunch special, which changes daily and costs no more than $6.
I don’t often drink wine, but when I do I like Soquel Vineyards, which has several excellent selections. I bought a bottle of 2017 Lone Oak Chardonnay for a recent gathering, which was so good that I wished I bought more than one. Better still, I like supporting local businesses. The Santa Cruz Mountain appellation produces some really excellent wines, one of the reasons I am proud to call this area home. Visit soquelvineyards.com.
For most of my life, marijuana was illegal, and I assumed it always would be. With the polar shift we have seen as states legalize the plant for recreational use, dispensaries are opening up across the state. My suggestion for anyone – whether you support the legalization or not, and whether or not you use marijuana – is to visit one of the dispensaries.
The experience is truly fascinating. Highly knowledgable “bud tenders” walk visitors through the varieties, and can talk about their various affects, whether the customers are looking for relaxation or something more cerebral. And although the FDA has not officially said so, Cannabis is thought to have myriad physical benefits.
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