515 Kitchen and Cocktails
515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, CA
Imagine an upscale Red Room, or an intimate, quieter Red. Apparently, that's what the owners of those two ultra-hip nightspots did when they designed 515. In the upstairs cocktail lounge, comfy chairs encircle small tables, a perfect arrangement for hanging out with friends. The featured fare includes a dozen newfangled cocktails made with old-fashioned exotic liquors, and the bartenders make a mean Manhattan, too.
529 Seabright Lounge
529 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
This former dive has been transformed from a raucous scrapper's delight to a uniquely romantic and fun place to lounge. They boast live DJs playing four or five nights a week with a variety of music styles. Busy nights bouncers keep out the riffraff and make sure things stay mellow inside. Pool table, flat-screens, and I-net jukebox keep things moving when there's no DJ. The decor adds a splash of class to the mood but never too stuffy—flip-flops welcome. Happy Hour specials 4-7; open Tuesday-Saturday 4pm-2am and Sunday 4pm-11pm.
1116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA
Without the Garage Bar on Front Street, the need for a Monday night hang is being met by this Pacific Avenue restaurant/bar. The appetizers and flavorful beverages make it a good spot to catch a game or just play the field on a Friday night.
1116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA
James Bond preferred his martini shaken, not stirred, but you can have it as you wish at Bittersweet, and on Martini Mondays you can have one of the house specialties for half-price. Bring a friend or two by for a leisurely happy hour from 3-6pm any day of the week and get two pizzas for the price of one.
110 Monterey Avenue, Capitola, CA
If you're torn between watching the sun set over the ocean or the Warriors rout the Cavaliers, head over to the Bluewater Steak House down in Capitola Village and have both. Happy hour is from 4-7pm Monday through Thursday at this casually cosmopolitan bar and steakhouse, where they serve up surf and turf with style against the backdrop of the mighty Pacific Ocean.
11570 Highway 9, Brookdale, CA
A creek runs through the middle of the dining room. One of "America's Sexiest Bartenders" (according to Playboy magazine) works here. A ghost haunts the halls. And even without all that, this old hotel in the redwoods would still have character to spare. To top it off, the Lodge is a regular stop for touring tribute bands like Pink Freud and Riders on the Storm. Totally awesome.
1 Chaminade Ln, Santa Cruz, CA
Complimentary valet parking is just one perk this mini-resort has to offer. Tucked in the eucalyptus groves of the Soquel hills, Chaminade affords views of west- and east-side Santa Cruz all at once. With live dinner music and a bar that has a well most dives would kill for, this place guarantees you a classy time.
110 Church St., Santa Cruz, CA
Known for its impressive martini list, including the sinfully delicious Caramel Apple Martini, this upscale bar also has a satisfying beer and wine list. You can also find tasty appetizers to please your late-night munchie craving. Come dance while DJs spin on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
2218 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA
Perched at the mouth of the Santa Cruz Harbor, the Crow's Nest flaunts a view that dares to be outdone. Happy Hour at the Nest offers great deals on drinks and delicious appetizers. Live comedy on Sunday nights, Monday Night Football parties and live music Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Green Valley Grill
40 Penny Lane, Watsonville, CA
A Pajaro Valley institution for almost 20 years, the Green Valley Grill is the perfect place to enjoy a Manhattan or martini and a rich, decadent appetizer like the bacon-wrapped prawns, baby back ribs or homemade potato chips. Just be sure and time your visit for optimal appetite.
Mainsail Restaurant and Bar
175 West Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA
Located in the Coast Hotel above Cowell's Beach, the Mainsail restaurant boasts a beautiful ocean view. The adjoining bar has a funkier feel. Although the only beer is bottled, the full bar will satisfy your craving for a cocktail. Afterwards, you can stumble down the stairs for a beach stroll.
Peachwood's at Pasatiempo Inn
Hwy 17 and Pasatiempo Drive, Santa Cruz, CA
Peachwood's at Pasatiempo Inn is located at the bottom of the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains off Highway 17. Here you can enjoy a cocktail before dining at Peachwood's Steakhouse. With wonderful views and a weekday happy hour from 11:30 to 5:00pm, Peachwood's offers both comfort and sophistication to its visitors and guests at the Inn.
Pearl Alley Bistro
110 Pearl Alley, Santa Cruz, CA
There's something about climbing the narrow, dark-paneled stairs to Pearl Alley that says the destination is going to be worth it. And it is. A beautifully lit room with a dark bar and gleaming brass accents welcomes regulars and newcomers alike. The full-service bar pours all manner of cocktails, but the selection of French and Italian wines here demands attention.
Red Restaurant and Bar
1003 Cedar St, Santa Cruz, CA
Swanky doesn't even begin to describe this ultra-hip hangout. Located downtown in the historic Santa Cruz Hotel, Red oozes class with its plush velvet couches, large wooden bar, deep red mood lighting and cozy fireplace. With a great beer selection and skilled bartenders (try the Ginger Thai martini), Red will put you in a sophisticated frame of mind.
1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, CA
The polarity between this humble local spot and its upstairs ab-fab counterpart is clearest on your way out. From the dark and leathery Red Room, a cloud of American Spirit smoke lingers around you, burned into your being; whereas descending the stairs of the Red, you are usually followed by a pack of randy socialites.
Severino's Bar and Grill
7500 Old Dominion Ct., Aptos, CA
Known for its happy hour and live music five nights a week, Severino's is—surprise!—located in a Best Western motel. The food is excellent, and the bar is more on the upscale side, with an extensive cocktail menu that goes great with the delicious appetizers.
1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, CA
Happy hour is short and sweet (Friday, 4-6pm) here at this decades-old Capitola institution, but it appears there's a happy crew here every night. Don't miss the Wednesday night wine tastings from 5-8pm, which include perfectly paired hors d'oeuvres and great discounts on featured vintner's bottles.
822 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
Pull up a booth and relax in the cozy lounge at the end of Pacific. A trusted favorite for larger groups of fiesta-seeking patrons, Tampico serves up authentic comida and delicious margaritas to start your night off, or in some cases, end it on a good note.
1222 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA
Vida Restaurant is under the new management of Chef Nicci Tripp, who is accompanied by his longtime Sous Chef Miles Leland. Together they produce award-winning, sustainable upscale cuisine and service that consistently exceeds expectations. The restaurant’s breathtaking décor was designed by local culinary artist Mimi Snowden. For more information or reservations please call 831.425.7871.