What was a noteworthy food or drink trend to hit Santa Cruz over the last five years?

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Emily Thomas, owner and brewer at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing: “Breweries! The last five years saw a surge in brewery openings. From Watsonville to Scotts Valley, you can now find a local brewery in just about every neighborhood.” 

Brion Sprinsock, owner of Santa Cruz and Capitola Food Tours: “The growing reliability of apps like Yelp, Instagram and Google Maps allows restaurants to find an audience on side streets where the rent is lower. The Penny Ice Creamery, Mutari Chocolate, Surfrider Cafe, Malabar, and Laili have all found success off the main drag.”

James Manss, executive chef at Süda: “The trend that sticks out to me most is farm to table. I’ve seen this movement through out Santa Cruz and within the kitchens I’ve worked at, and it continues to thrive. We Santa Cruzans care about where our food is from so we can get the most out of the beautiful food our seasons give us. It’s given me to the opportunity to create some really fresh, healthy dishes that showcase all the bounty our community offers, as well as work with some amazing local farmers and vendors. I think this one is a trend that will stick around for years to come.”

Everardo Jaime Jr., retail coordinator for Cat & Cloud: “We’ve noticed that people have been wanting morning/sticky buns more and more with their coffee to-go, but avocado toast has really been taken to the next level. That said, street-style tacos are pretty much everywhere lately.”

Kara Bonney, grocery program and category manager for New Leaf Community Markets, “Popular in the natural foods community for decades, it’s incredible to watch kombucha go mainstream as more Santa Cruzans learn how gut health is linked to immunity. Now one of the most widely available fermented foods, I’m excited to see more local craft producers like Moss Beach Kombucha and others.”

Liz Birnbaum, founder and curator of The Curated Feast: “The food and dining scene in Santa Cruz has shifted so much. From small pop ups to third-wave coffee, one of the core influences over the last five years was using ingredients to tell a deeper story. Often it was an environmental, historical, and cultural story being told. Additionally, from counter service like steamed dumplings and friend chicken, to more curated meal experiences and long dinner tables, there was a strong trend toward innovation, concept exploration, and community engagement. That was what made it all so fun!”

Andrea Mollenauer, owner of the Santa Cruz Food Lounge: “Healthy beverages. Local breweries, craft spirits, Santa Cruz Mountain wineries and coffee shops galore are great, but Santa Cruz was loving on healthier beverage options to hydrate. From CACOCO and Mutari sipping chocolates to ViDA Juice probiotic drinks, and MeloMelo kava to LIFEAID healthy lifestyle exercise and recovery drinks, Santa Cruz was thinking outside the box when it came to hydrating!”


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