I love dining out by myself. Sometimes it’s just too much work to cook for one, it’s nice being out around people and it’s a short time away from the computer where I give myself permission to enjoy myself. Thankfully, Santa Cruz provides multiple options where I can be comfortable hanging out alone and reading or people watching while enjoying good food and not doing dishes after.
I don’t always dine out, I frequently just get food to-go, but a lot of those places aren’t environments suitable to taking in the view or hanging out in the crowd. There are also lots of places I like to go with friends, but those aren’t where I feel okay being alone. I do have limits when it comes to what type of restaurant I’m comfortable enough to bust out my novel and kick back for a while. I’ve traveled alone some, and don’t mind splurging on a nice foodie type meal for myself at a fancy restaurant in New York City or Paris, but that’s not a regular type place I’m going to unwind after a bad day of work a couple times a month.
I get a lot of stress relief from dining out. It’s one of my most favorite things to reward myself with. It’s just always been a gift I’ve given myself. I love the experience of reading menus, even if I’m not too adventurous with my food most of the time. In fact, after 16 years in living in this town, I’m not very adventurous at all – I’ve come to develop my habits. I pretty much just frequent the same places because they’ve been so good to me and the experience can’t be beat. I am grateful for these places in my life. I think they help keep me sane.
Here are my top five favorite restaurants in Santa Cruz that are perfect for solo dining.
These places have never given me bad service as a solo diner, provide excellent people watching and entertaining environments, and yummy food and beverages.
The Crepe Place
I love The Crepe Place. Set in a gorgeous building, decorated in fun old posters with a wonderfully landscaped back patio, it’s perfect for leisurely hanging out and enjoying yourself. They have the yummiest comfort food for a cold evening, and serve breakfast on the weekends. On Saturday you can catch the rotating showcase of Belly Dancers after enjoying brunch in the fresh air. They are also one of the raddest music venues in town, and host to some of my favorite singer-songwriters when they come through town. The people that work there are awesome and I have always had a fantastic experience.
Chocolate is amazing. This tiny little place set in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz is perfect for cozying up with hot chocolate or a glass of wine. Their outdoor patio feels like you are worlds away from the hustle of Pacific Avenue. The high bushes mask the foot traffic while the fountain drowns out most of the sound. (Though sometimes there is a beautiful violin player that stands at the entrance to the shop and you get a show for free.) Whether you want dinner or just dessert, you can sit under their outdoor heat lamps and take in the seasons – rain or sunshine. If you want protect yourself from the elements and choose to sit inside at their pretty wooden tables, they never make you feel bad about sitting by yourself at one of their few spots. Plus – best hot chocolate ever.
I love The Crow’s Nest. It may be easy to gleam from the above that I like dining outside. I also love the ocean, and I love the sunset. Give me a place where I can experience all three and I’m in heaven. Despite being a beach town, Santa Cruz has a less than acceptable amount of places where that experience is possible. This makes me even more grateful for scenic dining experience I’m able to take in at The Crow’s Nest. During the summer I find myself riding my bike down to the harbor to hang out on their balcony before I head down to put my feet in the sand for a few. When I’m too lazy to pedal, it’s a quick car ride that comes with pretty cheap paid parking in order to accommodate the tourist beach goers influx. They have homemade potato chips, a decent salad bar and Great White Wheat from Lost Coast Brewery, one of my faves. They also have a nightly happy hour with half price appetizers and cheap beer! You can even catch the game while you watch the ocean – it can’t be beat!
Oh Saturn, I heart you so big. Dining here is just fun. Awesome fun. The ever changing decor and shadow table contents are only part of the amusement. While the people watching here is first rate, this place defines comfort for me. They may not serve meat, but they still make my carnivore belly super happy. They do a pretty damn good grilled cheese. Does there need to be more? Nachos are a food group for me, and they do them perfectly. They make some of the best tomato soup I’ve ever had. The fries come in thin or thick and are delicious either way. The staff will never, ever, rush you to give up your space and are all around just kind quirky weird rad. Due to it’s large wrap around windows, it’s a perfect place to read and drink tea on a cold rainy day in the winter. The reasons why I love this place could go on and on. Saturn always makes things better.
The Red Restaurant & Lounge
I love the Red Restaurant and Lounge. It has a special place in my heart for numerous memories with my friends over the years. It’s played host to birthdays, Halloweens and other holidays, business meetings, goddess nights and dates. But it’s also been the perfect host to me dates and solo post-work unwinding too. I love cuddling up on one of their couches or sliding up to the bar and enjoying a delicious amber. They make a decadent Panzanella salad and their Maker’s Mark Pulled Pork Sliders are one of my favorites. They also make a yummy Kraken and Coke. From 4-7pm every day, including weekends, they have my favorite happy hour ever and I usually take advantage of the great Green Lakes amber they have from Deschutes Brewery. It gets crowded there pretty fast and dark in there quickly, and I was teased one by one of the bar patrons before for reading during happy hour, so I am mostly comfortable going early if I’m planning on reading and relaxing. I think there staff is fantastic and are always so good to me as table for one.
I’m so grateful to have these places in my life. I’m so grateful to be able to work to reward myself with these places and these experiences to fill my heart and soul. I love that these places contribute to how much I love Santa Cruz, and give me a way to experience it. Thank you to all of these businesses!