Our staff recognizes some of this year’s outstanding accomplishments in dining around Santa Cruz County.

Farm Fresh Produce
One could call this stop at Holohan Road and Highway 152 the Target of produce stands. No, not because of any massive campaign contributions to get George W. Bush reelected, but because the huge shack-like store goes on forever and has unbelievable seasonal deals. $1 for five pounds of oranges? Yes, please! There’s also a wide variety of nuts, seeds and snacks. Try the ranch-flavored corn nuts—way better than the Nabisco ones we used to eat in middle school. 37 Holohan Rd, Watsonville. 831.722.3636. (JP)

Planet Fresh
Here in Santa Cruz, we love our burritos. But what about those locals whose mouths and stomachs aren’t yet big enough to tackle the proverbial Giant Dipper of meals? Luckily, Planet Fresh downtown offers an option to have a taco wrapped like a burrito. It’s basically a mini burrito and, for less than four bucks, a great option for the not-tall-enough-to-see-over-the-counter set. 1003 Cedar St, Santa Cruz. 831.423.9799. (GP)

Oysters from H&H Fresh Fish
One of the best things about our farmers markets is the variety—it’s not all tomatoes and lettuce. One of the quickest ways to class up your farmers market experience is with the delicate slurp of seafood: H&H Fresh Fish offers oysters on the half-shell plus a nice balance of hot sauces and toppings at the downtown Santa Cruz Farmers Market every Wednesday for $2 each or 3 for $5. (GP)

German Chocolate Cupcake at Buttercup Cakes.html
I love a nice slice of German chocolate cake as much as the next person—but a German chocolate cupcake! That’s just too good to be true, especially a nice artisan cupcake. Buttercup Cakes makes a delicious German chocolate cupcake with pecan almonds and caramel, made completely from scratch, using local and organic ingredients. It’s not as weird as some of their other cupcakes, (carrot ginger, hibiscus or the triple orange, which has Early Grey in it), but it’s oh so good. The German chocolate is available in regular and gluten-free. 109 Locust Street, Santa Cruz. 831.466.0373. (AC)

Salad bars were all the rage in the 1980s and 1990s. Anyone remember them? (The ’90s, I mean.) But something happened, and the fresh-tasting cafeteria format went the way of the Thunderbird. They were out of style, even in Santa Cruz, as the health food movement reached new heights. Luckily, there’s still a family-friendly place in Soquel where we can load up on all the lettuce, spinach, garbanzo beans, cheeses and dressings they want. 75 percent off if you show up in parachute pants. OK, we made that up, but it’s a great idea. 2400 Porter St, Soquel. 831.476.6260.(JP)

The Quail and Thistle Tea Room
Having tea in England doesn’t just mean sipping on a hot beverage. It involves a lot of food too, both savory and sweet, and mostly bite-sized. (Mini-sandwiches!) The Quail Thistle Tea Room in Capitola is Santa Cruz County’s answer to a British tea room. They offer full three course options, or just some light snacks. Their teas are all organic and whole leaf. The building is in an old carriage house, built in 1890, one of the most historic in the city. You’ll feel like royalty in no time. 911 Capitola Avenue, Capitola. 831.477.1798. (AC)

Taqueria Michoacan
After a long day at Twin Lakes Beach, there’s a great way to satisfy your hunger while you dry off and wiggle the sand out of your toes. Taqueria Michoacan’s guacamole and sour cream taste incredibly fresh, and are layered superbly with their burritos’ rice, beans, cabbage and meat. This is one of the area’s better taquerias. The fact that it’s within sniffing distance of refreshing ocean breezes is a lucky bonus. 21401 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz.831.465.8290. (JP)

Restaurante Los Pinos
A friend once told me a Los Pinos burrito is roughly the size of a small child. Well as a newspaper, we donít typically condone comparing cute, young people to food, but the dimensions here seem accurate. The wrapís quality ingredients are a valuable plus. May we recommend the California burrito, which comes with crunchy, greasy French fries on the inside. Restaurante Los Pinos, 2019 N Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz. 831.425.2554. (JP)