Brunch, otherwise known as “weekend breakfast” or “hangover cure,” is also the go-to meal for special occasions: Mother’s Day, Easter or your mother’s birthday (moms love brunch). Santa Cruz brunch spots cater to every whim, with options ranging from high-end gourmet to old-school diners serving traditional egg-based breakfast fare. Whether the aim is to prep for a hike through the redwoods or a wine tasting trip, or to fuel-up after an intense surf session, a good brunch is just what the doctor ordered. Savor a dish of rich Eggs Benedict while looking across the Santa Cruz harbor or clink glasses of mimosas while devouring a plate of Huevos Rancheros. More popular spots will necessitate a wait, but trust us, it is well worth it.

The only difficult part of your morning (besides getting out of bed) will be deciding what to order. Our recommendation: coffee first.

  • Zachary's Restaurant

    Downtown Santa Cruz

    Open for breakfast and lunch since 1985, Zachary’s is a favorite among locals, students and visitors alike. Stepping into the Pacific Avenue restaurant is like visiting a country lodge with its wood-laden interior and bustling but cozy vibe. The kitchen produces comfort-food, delicious and satisfying, from their three styles of house-made bread to their heavenly home fries. Their one-of-a-kind sourdough pancakes and waffles are made from starter purported to date back to the Alaskan Gold Rush (ask for the story). Try the Mike’s Mess: three eggs, bacon, mushrooms and home fries mixed together and topped with cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and green onions. No matter what you order, you won't leave hungry.

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  • Aldo’s Harbor Restaurant

    Santa Cruz Harbor

    The roots of this family-run Italian restaurant go back to the 1950’s when they opened a stand next to the Santa Cruz Wharf where the family patriarch, Aldo, fished. A pancake house on Portola Avenue was soon opened, and in 1963 the family opened Aldo’s Harbor Restaurant where the Crow’s Nest is now, moving across the harbor to their current location in 1977. Enjoy exquisite ocean and harbor views from their outdoor deck while listening to the waves crash in the distance. Their scrumptious Eggs Benedict, delectable calamari and mouthwatering fresh caught salmon are most memorable. Try one of everything.

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  • Linda’s Seabreeze Café


    Don’t let the ever-present long line at this Seabright neighborhood gem scare you away. It moves fast, plus life-saving coffee is available to sip on while you wait and chat with your pals about the previous night’s escapades. You’ll be seated in a jiffy, and the food will come even faster. Understated, but divine, their dainty cinnamon roll, with its tender, flakey dough is an absolute must. Serving an assortment of waffles, omelets and breakfast standards (just one egg and a couple pieces of bacon? that's okay!), everything is delicious, but of particular note is the flavorful curry scramble.

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  • Café Brazil


    Serving breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., this charming little Westside Brazilian café has a special place in many hearts. The menu features familiar fare for breakfasters, such as omelettes, scrambles and banana pancakes next to exotic Brazilian specials including feijoada completa, a traditional black bean stew, and generous acaí bowls heaped with granola, strawberries and bananas. They also have a juice bar serving up juices and smoothies packed with local and tropical fruits. Arrive early, as this place gets packed. The line does move quite quickly however, so don't give up.

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  • Harbor Café

    Twin Lakes

    Ah, Harbor Café, the perfect place to leisurely whittle away a Saturday morning, while sipping bottomless mimosas and eating all the Eggs Benedict. An institution among locals for over 50 years, this place started out as a neighborhood hangout for sailors and fishermen in the 1960s, and many of these regulars can still be found there every morning. The Cali Benedict, Huevos Rancheros and Captains Frittata are all favorites of dedicated locals. Their Bloody Marys are so famous they have their own official day: Mary Mondays, in addition to Banana Pancake Tuesdays and Taco Thursdays.

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  • Walnut Avenue Café

    Downtown Santa Cruz

    Walnut has been one of the go-to brunch spots in downtown Santa Cruz since it opened in 1994. It offers all the classic breakfast fare that your heart could desire, from Eggs Benedict to scrambles, omelettes and Huevos Rancheros. For the early morning sweet tooth, try something sweet for breakfast, such as the French toast or Belgian waffles with grilled bananas, walnuts and vanilla yogurt or nine-grain pancakes with boysenberry sauce. They offer loads of lunch items as well, if you can get past all the mouthwatering breakfast dishes. The food here is predictable, fresh and tasty.

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