I Went To The Highest Reviewed Restaurants On Yelp In Santa Cruz – And Here’s What I Thought

I Love Sushi

I really do love sushi so I naturally had to stop by here. The rolls are delicious and there are so many to choose from (literally pages of roll options). The fish tasted very fresh and the appetizers were great as well.

The staff is super friendly and may even take a shot of sake with you if you ask!

The Crow’s Nest

I’ve been going to the Crow’s Nest for the past several years since a friend introduced it to me. The restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating with a beautiful view of the ocean.

I usually order the crab cakes when I come here. The hollandaise sauce is generally flavorful without too strong of a citrusy taste (lemon/lime) whike the crab cakes have a crispy exterior and a soft, melt-in-your mouth interior.

They have a lot of unique and tasty cocktails that you can’t go wrong with. My favorite entrees here include the scallops, seafood fettuccine and fish tacos. I’ve also enjoyed the butternut squash ravioli and the cioppino but have enjoyed some of these dishes more at other seafood restaurants.

Overall I love the ambience and scenic views, and enjoy the delicious cocktails. The food is great as well and it’s a great spot for a weekend brunch or a date.

Walnut Ave Cafe

I love Walnut Ave Cafe! There’s usually a bit of a wait (25-30 min), but there’s a lot to do around the area since they are located in downtown Santa Cruz.

My rating on the food pictured:

  • Belgium Waffle (with strawberries, grilled bananas & walnuts, and whipped cream): Delicious! They were very accommodating and let us add both strawberries and bananas as a topping. Nothing special here – just a good, traditional Belgium waffle.
  • Portobello & PepperJack Sandwich: This is the best sandwich I’ve had in a while and would definitely come back just to order this again! It was so flavorful and the mushroom and cheese melted in my mouth.

Zachary’s Restaurant

Zachary’s Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant of local UCSC alumni and Santa Cruz locals. With great eats and a friendly staff, this is a great place for a weekend brunch filled with comfort food. Plus it’s very affordable!

My ratings on the food pictured:

  • Zach’s Old Fashioned: Delicious poached eggs with crumbled bacon! This was probably my favorite dish here!
  • Miguel’s special salsa (hot) – Really love this spicy salsa and it went great with the eggs. It wasn’t actually very spicy in my opinion but had a bit of a flavor kick.
  • Sourdough pancakes: Pretty basic pancakes served with whipped cream, butter and blueberries. Nothing special here, but nothing to complain about!

Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room

Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room is located in downtown Santa Cruz and is perfect for when you are craving a little bit of everything. Just look at my impressive table spread above and take in the fact that we ordered all this food for two people.

My ratings on the food pictured:

  • South Seas Fish Tacos: The fish tacos were pretty good! I eat fish tacos pretty frequently and this was on par with other fish tacos dishes I like. Nothing too special here, but the fish tasted fresh!
  • Ahi Katsu Tacos: These were delicious! I loved the contrast between the outer seared Pablo crust and the soft, ahi steak in the middle.
  • Kona-Style Chicken Wings: The curry sauce was delicious and flavorful with hints of coconut and lime, but the chicken was a little dry and tasted as though it was frozen and reheated.
  • Tiki Torch Chicken Wings: Similar to the Kona-Style wings, the flavoring of the tiki torch wings (island hoisin sambal sauce – yum!) was delicious. However, the actual chicken meat tasted a bit dry on these wings as well.
  • Kingston Crab Curry: This was delicious and probably my favorite thing on the menu. It was overcast and a little chilly when we went so having a warm curry dish definitely warmed me up a bit. The curry was flavorful and paired perfectly with the seafood.
  • Mac and Cheese and Cheese: True to its name, the Mac and cheese (and cheese) was very cheesy! With the added bacon, it was tasty and proved to be great comfort food. No complaints here!
  • Blue Hawaiian Tiki Drink: Very tropical and delicious tiki drink! It was a little on the sweet side and the rum was blended in well so you could only taste a hint of it.

The Penny Ice Creamery

I know this isn’t a restaurant, but with a 4.5 star yelp rating and over 1,700 reviews, I felt I owed them a spot on this list. Penny Ice Creamery is the only ice cream shop in Santa Cruz that makes their ice cream completely from scratch in house. They have unique, rotating flavors like Cardamom Pluot, Basil, and Black berry Sorbet that use locally farmed and organic ingredients.

Their ice cream has rich flavors and unique combinations that will never leave you bored. I tried their Whisky Custard and Caramel ice cream (pictured above) and absolutely loved it! They also have another location in Capitola.

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