The Olive Connection makes for one heck of a "pit" stop. Photo by Georgia Perry.
The coming of “First Friday” means two things: One, another night of inspiring, innovative arts events. Two, you just paid rent.
Luckily, once a month in Santa Cruz you can satisfy your inner culture vulture, while simultaneously acting like an actual vulture. Go ahead, eat that 18th cheese cube—save your groceries for Saturday night. Here are some of the best places to score free food and drink on First Friday in downtown Santa Cruz:
The True Olive Connection
106 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz
If there were a one-stop shopping destination for a variety of free food, this might be the spot. The True Olive Connection presents its visitors with a mountain of cheese cubes, charcuterie, crackers and olives. It is even the best place to pick up a “date.” (Get it? They have dates you can eat. As in, the food. Dates!). The shopoffers a 10 percent First Friday discount on its merchandise.
Stripe & Stripe Men
107 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz
For one night a month, Stripe Men is the home of a watered-down but tasty whiskey cocktail called a “man-tini.” Freeloading patrons are welcome to wander the store staring at (or, depending on how many man-tinis, conversing with) the animal heads on the walls. Next door, Stripe Men’s older sister Stripe has a refreshing vodka-hibiscus “Stripe-tini,” plus brie and crackers.
Felix Kulpa Gallery
107 Elm St., Santa Cruz
With wine and bite-size sweets, Felix Kulpa offers standard First Friday fare. Robbie Schoen’s gallery is famous for its phone booth water fountain and wild sculptures, and often has some of the most intriguing art downtown—both indoors and out. We enjoyed the view of the sculpture garden while munching homemade chocolate chip cookies.
1329 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
The second to last stop on our First Friday tour had bottles of Crane Lake wine, a variety of hors d’oeuvres and some of the friendliest catering service this side of the San Lorenzo.