Thursday, June 12, 2014

Johnny's Harborside Restaurant


Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

$4 Crispy Artichoke hearts, Calamari, Quesadilla, Shrimp Louie, Tempura Fried Green Beans
$5 ½ Grilled Artichoke Hearts, Cheddar Bacon Potato Skins, Blackened Chicken Sliders, Fish Bites
$6 Buffalo Shrimp, Pulled Pork Sliders

$4 Margaritas, Martinis, House Wine and well drinks (extra dollar for Bloody Marys and combined mixed drinks)

 $3 selected draft beers 

Johnny's website
Julie's review


Johnny’s Harborside is not surprisingly located at the upper portion of the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor.  It is an upstairs venue with windows on three sides, with lovely views looking out at the boats in the harbor.  Parking in front of Johnny’s used to be meters, but they now have a parking machine which charges of $1.00 an hour – the same as the Crow’s Nest.

Josephine and I were celebrating Lysah’s big birthday.  We wanted to do happy hour for dinner and then head down the Crow’s Nest Beach Party.  Different bands play outside on the beach every Thursday evening during the summer and Johnny’s is just a short walk away.

 You can sit anywhere for happy hour, either at the bar or the restaurant.  We met the owner and Executive Chef, Owen.  They told us to choose our seat, so we had a nice table overlooking the harbor.  Happy Hour is Mon- Fri between 3-6  p.m.  Josephine and I made a point to get there at 4:30 so we would have lots of time to sample goodies before heading to the beach.

Wesley our waiter came over to take our drink order.  For happy hour they have margarita and martinis, as well as well drinks for $4. Combined mixed drinks such as Bloody Marys are $5.00.  Josephine and I both ordered margaritas.  We decided to order a plate of calamari while we waited for Lysah to arrive.

The margaritas arrived in nice tall glasses the way we like them.  Jo and I laughed at the size of the lime slice – it wasn’t a slice – it was half a lime per drink.  We perused the menu which had a variety of appetizers ranging on $4 to $6.   Wesley answered all our questions and was very attentive.  I was pleased that they had a Shrimp Louie on the happy hour menu – so often happy hour specials are less than healthy options. 

Wesley explained that it wasn’t a full Shrimp Louie – just a tiny little taste of a salad with a few shrimp (that would be something to get a Shrimp Louie for four bucks!).  Jo and I settled on the Shrimp Louie, the Tempura Green Beans,  the fried Artichoke Hearts and the Blackened Chicken Sliders.

Lysah and the Calamari arrived about the same time.   The calamari came with two sauces – both tartar sauce and a cocktail sauce that had a spicy salsa consistency.   The calamari was in small bite size pieces.  Evan the chef, later told us they will be getting Monterey calamari soon and will feature that on the menu.

My favorite was the fried artichoke hearts which came with a delicious sauce.  The fried artichokes were crispy on the outside and soft and velvety on the inside.  Some of the best fried artichoke hearts I have had.  The Tempura green beans were also delicious.  They came with a spicy ginger sauce that was so good we asked for another little bowl of it.

My Shrimp Louie was a cute little morsel with several shrimp in a tiny mason jar.  The cucumber was a bit bitter as Josephine pointed out after taking a bit.  There were two blackened chicken sliders which had cole slaw on them.  Quite tasty.

We dug right in.  At this point I decided to pop for the extra buck and ordered a Bloody Mary for $5, since I couldn’t decide what well drink I wanted.  It came tall and tasty.  We talked and chatted and ate.  We sang Lisa our traditional “God Danced”  birthday song. 

I was still a little hungry and Lisa hadn’t eaten much, so we ordered the quesadilla.  Executive Chef Evan came to talk with us about the upcoming change in menu.  The menus rotate about four times a year.  Evan was also looking out the window to see what fresh fish was being unloaded from the boat outside.  One of the nice thing about their location is they get FRESH fish often straight off the boat.  They also get their produce from two local farms.

Josephine and Lysah had ordered another round of drinks earlier, but I had lost track of time.  Before I knew it, it was 6:05.  I asked Wesley if I could slip over that happy hour cutoff this once and he was very accommodating, seeing what he could do.  He brought me another margarita – now that is what I call five shot service!

We were all pleasantly full and had that nice happy hour buzz.  We settled our check and were on the way to the beach party. 

In sum, Johnny’s Harborside is a nice happy hour – good ambience with a view of the water, friendly service and good food.  I would definitely recommend the artichoke hearts and tempura green beans, if you go.  The portions are not large enough to make a meal, without buying several dishes, so the happy hour price tag was a bit high. 
Their happy hour is Mon- Fri until 6:00.  It would be great to have the happy hour run later, rather than earlier and a Sunday afternoon would be a welcome addition.  They have stiff competition with the Crow’s Nest ocean views and $3.75 Bloody Marys and chicken wings just a few blocks away.  However, if the Crow’s Nest is packed and you can’t get a seat – take a stroll down to Johnny’s and tell them J & J sent you! 

Julie’s rating:  4 Shots

 Jo's Review

Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant, a cute little place located at the beginning of the main harbor surrounded by boats both docked and in dry-dock being worked on. It is on the second floor and just below is a fish market where the locals bring in the days catch to clean and sell. I love going down to the harbor, its walking distance from my place which means I tend to spend a lot of time down there. 

From that second floor you get a great view of the bay and the harbor from the windows encompassing 3 of the 4 walls. They have a pretty good size bar and the kitchen is semi-open so if you like you can watch the chefs creating and preparing. Julie and I arrived at the same time so we headed upstairs and got a table right by the window.

Happy hour is M-F 3-6pm. They have a number of appetizers that run from $3-$6 and $4 well drinks, Margaritas, Martini’s, house wines, and $3 drafts. We start with margaritas and the calamari.  My friend Lysah is going to join us, it’s her birthday that day so we will be treating her to happy hour.

Our very friendly and attractive waiter Wesley comes back with our drinks and a few recommendations for eats so we decide on the fried artichoke hearts, green beans, and the blackened chicken sliders to go along with our calamari. The margaritas are hitting the spot and each has half a lime in it………now that’s a lot of puckering. 
The calamari arrives next along with the birthday girl. So as we give out the gifts and such to Lysah and she orders her vodka and cranberry the rest of the food arrives.
Everything looks lovely, the calamari is dark and crispy as well as the fried artichokes. The calamari is a little overcooked for my taste but the artichokes were very yummy. 

The green beans came with 2 dipping sauces, a spicy aioli and a teriyaki sauce. The aioli was nice and spicy and we asked for extra of that. The blackened chicken sliders were good as well with a fairly good size chicken breast on each one. We were munching away and downing the drinks and have a grand time.  

For our next round Julie goes for her old standby the bloody mary which you can get for a $1 extra on the happy hour price, and I move on to beer. 

Julie spots on the happy hour menu a shrimp Louie and is intrigued by it. Could it be…….a shrimp Louie at a happy hour price!!!!!! As we question Wesley he informs us that it is also a happy hour size shrimp Louie, the cutest little thing so we go for it. It was small and cute and I let Julie enjoy it.

Since Lysah was with us we decided one more wouldn’t hurt so we ended happy hour with a quesadilla. It was good sized with all the trimmings and looked rather good. I would like to say that we ordered all that food for the 3 of us but Lysah eats like a bird so, no it was the 2 of us scarfing most of it down and having a happy time.

So happy hour at Johnny’s Harborside Restaurant was a great success. The food was good, the prices were right and the company was great as always. The staff was very friendly and helpful and the chef even came by to talk with us and tell us about how he goes down when the boats and trucks come in to pick his fresh fish for the day and plan his menu. I mean does it get any fresher than that. A fun time was had by all.

After all that we walked down to the Crows Nest for the outdoor beach band which was Extra Large, I mean we had to work off that happy hour after all.

Jo’s rating: 4 shots

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cafe Mare


Happy Hour  Sunday - Thursday 5pm - 7pm

$4 Draft beers, well drinks and wine

$7 Specialty drinks

$5  Appetizers

Cafe Mare Website

Jo’s review

Café Mare (Mare in Italian means the Sea), is a beautiful little restaurant located in downtown Santa Cruz. It located off of Front Street in a slightly sunken building near a small mall.  The outside is surrounded by a beautiful garden lush with colorful flowers and plants. Once inside there’s a good size open area, a lovely table-clothed dining area with a small patio for outdoor eating, and a good sized bar. The owners of the place Andrea and Jean Pierre are all smiles and very welcoming to their Café by the Sea.

It has been a while since our last blog entry; we need to step up the pace now that summer is on the way and there are so many happy hours to be had. I always enjoy coming to Café Mare. Personally, I enjoy the handsome European men who own and work in the place. They are always attentive, and there’s just something about foreign men, but maybe that’s just me. 

When I arrive, Julie is already there with this fantastic looking bloody mary in front of her and looks too good to pass up, so I order one for myself. The drink, made with fresh tomato juice, has a skewer of some of the best garnish I have encountered in a bloody mary- 2 types of pickled onions (the traditional one and one pickled in Balsamic vinegar), an artichoke heart, olives, tomatoes, and a celery stalk to finish it off. 

The drink was spicy, just the way I like it and the fresh tomato juice really made it. Café Mare uses only the finest fresh organic ingredients. Happy hour is Sunday – Thursday 5pm – 7pm and consists of $4 drafts, well drinks and wine, $7 specialty drinks and $5 appetizers. We start looking at the menu and end up picking 3 items, Polenta Grigliata, a Margarita Pizzetta, and Ali de Pollo ala Diavola (chicken wings in hot sauce).

Julie and I are enjoying our bloody marys and laughing it up with Andrea when the food starts to arrive. The Polenta is grilled and topped with a choice of Bolognese, marinara, or marsala & mushrooms. Julie opts for the marsala & mushrooms and she is not disappointed. The Polenta, shaped in triangles has a nice light crunchy grill on it and the marsala with mushrooms is great with it. 

The chicken wings are plump and juicy with a slightly crunchy skin to them, slightly breaded and the sauce is a little sweet but tasty. The plate is decorated with thin slices of celery, and cherry tomatoes cut in half, a lovely presentation. The pizzetta was good, I like more sauce on mine and less cheese but it was good. It was a good size though and I’m glad we shared it.

While we’re munching away, Julie orders something different this time and goes for one of the specialty drinks, a ruby red Cosmos, which was very pretty in color and very refreshing. I decide on wine and go with the Negroamaro red, nice full bodied Chianti styled wine. Well the food is going down, the drinks are going down and the happy is going up!!!!

All in all Café Mare is a great place for happy hour. I like that they have it on Sunday, always looking for weekend happy hours, with good prices and great food. The main thing I like though is chatting it up with our bartender/owner. We got to meet the cook and the wait staff and it gave the place a very friendly and homey atmosphere that was warm and inviting and I look forward to going back soon.

Jo’s review: 4.5 shots

Julie’s Review
Café Mare is conveniently located downtown on Front Street in the Galleria.  The outside of the restaurant is surrounded by beautiful flower beds.  They have Happy Hour Sunday through Thursday from 5 – 7 p.m.  I’m always thankful for a happy hour extending past 6:00, since it’s nice not to rush to make a happy hour after work and a Sunday happy hour downtown is extremely convenient.

During happy hour, well drinks, beer and wine are $4.00, specialty premium cocktails such as Ruby Red Cosmo, Berry Lemon Drop, Ginger Island or an Old Fashioned are $7.00.  The food options for $5.oo are Bruschetta, Pate,  Pizzetta, Polenta Grigliata, Chicken Wings, Fried Calamari, Fried Zucchini and Mushrooms and Meatballs.  French fries are $3.00. There is no take out on the happy hour menu, a $10 credit charge minimum and happy hour may not be on holidays.  All very reasonable.
I arrived at Café Mare after a hard day at work and was ready for a drink. The interior of Café Mare is cool, dark and inviting.    I was quickly greeted by Andrea, one of the owners of the restaurant.  Andrea started working at Café Mare in 2002 when he arrived from Sardinia; he became a co-owner with the other owner, Jean Pierre, several years ago.  He is a friendly and attentive bartender.  He explained Café Mare uses all local, organic ingredients, even in the Bloody Mary mix!  He takes a lot of pride in his restaurant, as he should.

                                   Jean Pierre                Andrea

I asked if I could get a well bloody mary on the Happy Hour and he was very accommodating.  That Bloody Mary was a sight for sore eyes and thirsty throat.  I always judge a Bloody Mary by the garnish and this was a garden to with celery, olive, onion, artichoke heart, tomato and a special pickled onion marinated in balsamic vinegar.  It had the right level of spiciness and hit the spot.  When Josephine arrived she liked the looks of mine so much she ordered one herself.

I ordered the Polenta Grigliata which is grilled organic polenta in Marsala and mushroom sauce, Jo ordered the chicken wings and we decided to split the Margherita Pizzetta.  We chatted with Andrea about running the restaurant, we met Jean Pierre and even  the multitasking chef even came out to meet us.

I decided to try one of the specialty cocktails so I ordered the Ruby Red Cosmo made with Absolut grapefruit vodka, fresh lime juice, orange curacao and cranberry juice.  It was delicious.  Jo ordered a glass of red wine.  I noticed that Andrea let the couple next to us taste the wine before ordering, again a nice level of service.

The food was wonderful when it arrived.  I particularly enjoyed the polenta, two triangles of grilled polenta floating in the mushroom sauce.  It’s a treat to find grilled polenta and the Marsala sauce was absolutely delicious.  I liked Jo’s chicken wings which arrived artistically displayed with a spray of finely cut celery sticks and “Pac-man” cut cherry tomatoes.  I liked the smaller pieces of celery with the ranch dressing.  The wings were sweet and spicy.  I realized I’m not much for cheese pizza, I want more toppings on it, but Jo was very happy with it since she loves Margherita pizza.

I ordered a well cucumber gimlet to finish the evening.  It was National Dance Week and I was enjoying this happy hour before seeing friends perform in the street.  I got the text message my friend was about to perform, so Andrea quickly rang up our bill and I swiftly departed.  Too quick of an exit to a lovely happy hour.

I was very impressed with Café Mare.  It has a great location, the service and food were wonderful, and it’s a nice atmosphere for quiet one on one conversation.  Having happy hour on Sunday and until 7:00 on weekdays is a real plus.  I like the attention and care that was given us.  Andrea really showed us “what they got” so I will give them 4.5 shots!!

Julie’s rating: 4.5 shots