There really aren’t that many restaurants in Santa Cruz County that have an excellent ocean view with equally engaging food. And THAT is why I love Aquarius restaurant at the Dream Inn. The Dream Inn is the coastline’s tallest multi-story hotel that had probably gotten to be a little shabby by the time LL proposed to me there all those years ago, but in recent years received an upscale hipster-worthy remodel from new management Joie de Vivre along with a total foodie remake of the restaurant, newly christened Aquarius.
I LOVE this place . . . LL and I go there a few times a year for lunch when schedules permit – are we really that busy?? This Monday, there were only three other tables seated, and we sat watching some hardcore couple in wetsuits playing kettleball in the surf with a couple of sea lions peeking their shiny heads up from the sea.
If you ever are traveling along the coast between San Jose and Monterey, this is one restaurant worth stopping for both the food and the view – and it’s even a hotel restaurant. I’ve dug up a few photos for you to see why:
- Artisan reuben sandwich I say "artisan" because the pastrami came from Santa Cruz's own El Salchichero butcher shop, home of locally raised meats and artistry in the hands of owner Chris LaVeque. Then the sauerkraut isn't just any sauerkraut - it's Farmhouse Culture, also a Santa Cruz creation. Aromatic, spicy, and delicious.
- The scene of the crime The Dream Inn, now a Joie de Vivre-managed property, houses Aquarius. It's also where LL proposed all those years ago.
- Fish and chips The chip basket is so great - if I had big empty cupboards I'd totally get a set of these to use. That fish was locally caught halibut in a very light, crunchy batter. Best fish 'n' chips in the world.
- Huevos rancheros This was fabulous - flavorful black beans topped with two cruchy corn tortillas, cheese, a sunny-side up egg, avocado and salsa, all in a crunchy mini tower of goodness.
- salad LL got this salad on a warm day last year - I didn't write down what it was, but I do remember tasting those prawns, warm and rich, in a citrusy sort of vinaigrette. Mmm, prawns.
- Aquarius logo The menu is sandwiched between two sheets of plexiglass held together by a giant fat green rubber band - a clever and colorful way to make them easy to change out when the menu changes.
- A pot of hot tea THIS is the way hot tea should be served - that's a nice large ceramic pot that brewed several cups. Mmm, tea.