Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Point Chop House

The Point Chop House & Lounge

Happy Hour       M-Fri 4 to 6, Sun 4 to Closing!!

$1 off well liquor, house wine, draft beers

$3 The Wedge
$4:  Sliders: (Angus, Pork or Meatloaf) Fries :( Garlic, Sweet Potato, Regular) or Bruschetta
$5: Calamari, Chicken Wings
$6: Three Chicken or Beef skewers with dipping sauce

Julie's Review


The Point Chophouse is located on Portola drive and has been there for about six years.  When Jo told me they had happy hour on Sundays all night long, I was ready to go.  It had been a rather intense day with a healing circle and a friend’s memorial service, so I was ready to have a little happy hour time.

Walking into the bar at The Point has a definitely local feel.  There are sport screens behind the bar and a football game was playing.  It has an older crowd and you get the sense that these are faithful regulars.

I met Ryan our bar tender and he explained about the happy hour specials.  I ordered a well rum and coke and he quickly brought my glass of water as well.  By that time Jo had arrived.

 I was having technical difficulties with taking pictures on my phone.  I’m out of storage, since I have so many photos.  Jo had her camera, but it was low on batteries.  I brought out a brand new pack of dollar store batteries, but the camera still said low batteries. Sarah the other bartender nicely took the batteries out of the remote TV and those seemed to help.  We don’t have a lot of good photos from this episode of the Buzz.  Not a photogenic night, either!

Jo and I looked over the appetizer menus.  During happy hour you have a range of appetizers,  between $3 - $6.  Jo and I were particularly excited about The Wedge which is a wedge of Romaine lettuce with blue cheese and bacon for only $3.  It is rare to find a salad or anything that is green and not deep fried on a happy hour menu.  We ordered The Wedge, the wings, the calamari and two angus sliders.

Jo had brought the reindeer antlers, so we put them on to bring on the holiday cheer.  It’s become an annual tradition.  Jo ordered the house wine and stuck with wine all night.

Our food arrived shortly.  My favorite was The Wedge.  Cut into chunks, it made a nice little salad.  The chicken wings were sweet and tasty, but there were only five, which seemed a bit skimpy, even for a happy hour.  The sliders were okay, nothing to write home about however.  The calamari was pretty basic.  Overall, I would rate the food as standard and reasonably priced.

I had a gin and tonic next and Jo had another glass of wine.  The drinks were strong and tasty.  I was disappointed however, that there wasn’t a fancier drink special.  I’ve been spoiled by other happy hours like Hulas or Cafe Lucio where you can get a froufrou drink for $5. 

The service was good.  Ryan was friendly, but not overly engaged .  Sarah was helpful, but we were left up to our own devices.

The atmosphere at the Point didn’t do much for me, not being a sports fan and there wasn’t much in the way of eye candy for this old cougar.  What are we doing hanging out with the old folks?   It was easy to lose track of time.  Being inside The Point made me think it was 10 at night when it was really only 7:00 p.m.    It felt like a smoky local bar without the smoke.

In its favor, an all-night Sunday happy hour combined with a salad on the HH menu is worth an honorable mention.  If you are out and about in Live Oak on a Sunday evening looking for a bite to eat and a drink, pop into the Point.  Otherwise, what’s The Point, eh?

Julie’s rating: 3.5 shots
Jo's review

The Point Chophouse is a fine restaurant and bar located on Portola dr. in what we refer to as the Live Oak area of Santa Cruz. I have lived on this end of town for most of my time here in Santa Cruz. I like this area a lot.

So Julie and I are trying to get one more happy hour in before the holiday season and trying to find time has been challenging. So kudos to The Point for having happy hour on a Sunday from 4pm to closing. It was a cold and cloudy day and I was very happy on my couch catching up on my programs, but happy hour calls us and must answer. I run a few errands and get there to meet Julie early so I decided to take a walk down 30th to the beach and back. It’s nice to see all the different Christmas lights out in this funky little cottage beach area. I get back just in time to meet Julie.

The Point use to be The Portola House. It has stayed with it’s traditional history of a steak house.  The place is dimly lit with a nice long bar, some booth seating as well as tables and chairs. Julie’s at the bar chatting up the bartender Ryan and I start in snapping pictures of the place. I’m having technically difficulties with the camera today, all of my batteries are dead. 

 Julie has some she just bought and they wouldn’t work either so the other bartender Sarah graciously give up some batteries in one of the remotes they aren’t using and that seems to work at least for a bit so we are a little light in the picture department this time around. We start right in on the menu and decide on wings (of course), calamari, beef sliders and the wedge. I was pleasantly surprised to see a salad on the appetizer menu, not something you see often. 

I decide to go with wine for the evening and Julie has her rum and coke to start.
The place has what appears to be a regular crowd and most everyone’s watching the game. Once the food arrives we dig in. The wings are ok, a little sweet for me and not that many. 

The calamari is tender with all the right dipping sauces.  I think I enjoyed the sliders the most, juicy and the bun was nice and soft. I guess when you go to a steak house the beef is probably the best thing to order. I could of gone for a big burger. They actually had a burger and beer special on Sunday nights as well. 

So the point is a fine place to go for happy hour. I wouldn’t jump up and down about it but it was nice, food was fine and we had a good time. I believe that’s what happy hour is all about.

Jo’s rating: 3 shots


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cafe Lucio


Happy Hour is nightly 5:30ish - 7:30ish

An assortment of specialty drinks $5.00

$1.00 of of wines, beers and well drinks

$7.00 Pizzettas

Cafe Lucio website
Julie's review

Caffe Lucio is located on the corner of Soquel and Ocean street.  It is has been different restaurants over the years, in fact, I worked at that location when it was Players Pizza, many, many moons ago.   Caffe Lucio is very unassuming from the outside, but inside it is quite charming.  
It is a perfect happy hour atmosphere with a long, full bar, disco ball and Christmas lights.  The place is loud, fun and has a party atmosphere.

There is parking next to the restaurant on Soquel, but Jo and I parked on Ocean and walked the long way round.  Brenda was already at the bar when we arrived.   

Our wonderful bartender, Amber, was quick to get us water while we looked over the drink specials.  This was the first Santa Cruz Buzz for Brenda, but she quickly got into the swing of things.  She was about take a sip of her drink, but we stopped her with the “wait, we need a picture!”

First, the essentials- happy hour SEVEN DAYS a week – 5:30 – 7:30!  What’s not to love?  I like a late happy hour and being located right on Ocean means it’s easy to get to.  There were plenty of seats at the bar, but it was lively.

Happy hour is $1.00 off beer, wine and wells.  In addition they have a large $5 happy hour martini menu which all sounded delicious.  Brenda is a vodka drinker and was very impressed with the vodka selection.  I decided to start with a Miss Chocolate – vodka, white and dark Crème de Cacao with cream.  It is beautiful cocktail in a chocolate swirled glass.  Sweet and delicious.  Brenda started with a Bellini – Salmon Creek Sparkling and Peach.  It was very refreshing.  Jo decided to start with red wine or “Jesus Juice” as she described it.
We got right down to the business of ordering food.  

For Happy Hour they have a variety of $7 pizzettas and fried calamari.  Brenda ordered the fried calamari, Jo the Rustica pizzetta – Italian sausage and arugula and I ordered the Quattro Stagtoni (which means four seasons in Italian) – Olives, Mushrooms, Ham and Artichoke. 

Amber was happy to tell us about Lucio Fanni and his colorful history.  He is a wild character born in Sardinia and raised in Milan.  He bears a striking resemblance to a crazed Albert Einstein. He moved from Italy to San Francisco and opened a restaurant there.   He came fishing in Capitola, caught a big fish and decided it was the place to be.  

He opened the restaurant Al Dente in Capitola Village and was known for being a wild character – a little too wild for the village.  He moved to a Seabright location next to Bradys until 2006.   He opened Caffe Lucio on Ocean in 2007 and has been there ever since.

Amber is a great bartender.  She loves her job and loves working with Lucio.  There is a passion about working here that makes it a unique experience.  

We gave her one of our cards, told her how we would be rating their happy hour with our five shot glass rating system.  We asked if we could get a photo with Lucio and she took him our card. 

When most owners or managers get our card they head straight over, wanting to make a good impression and that they get a good review.  It didn’t faze Lucio in the least, however.  He was busy training new chefs, going to greet customers and petting someone’s dog.  Yes, Caffe Lucio is pet friendly with a lovely dining patio.

Lucio has a loyal fan base with regular customers, who keep coming back for more, partly for Lucio’s magnetic personality, partly for the atmosphere and food and a great bartender like Amber.

Lucio considers the restaurant his home, an extension of himself, where he can do as he pleases and have a good time.  He wants customers to have a good time.  If they don’t enjoy his antics- running around shouting and being his boisterous Italian self, then they can go someplace else.  There are enough loyal regulars that love Lucio to keep the place hopping.

Now it was time to try a well bloody mary.  It came in a nice tall glass and had just the right amount of spiciness.  Brenda tried the Bourbon Ball – bourbon and hazelnut liquor with a chocolate rim.  It looked like the Miss Chocolate, but I liked bourbon ball better.  Jo tried the Gintastic – gin, cucumber, lime and soda.  We decided it was too light for a winter drink, but Amber told us they are very popular in the summer since they are so refreshing.

By now the food had arrived.  The portions were very generous.  The calamari came with cocktail and tartar sauce and was crispy fried.  Josephine said it was the best calamari she has had in a long time and she is quite the calamari critic.  She also has her opinions about pizzas being from upstate New York, but she was quite pleased with her pizzette.  The pizzettes were large – we could have easily split one between the two of us.  Mine had a generous serving of ham and olives and Amber poured on the parmesan for me.

At this point it was a gentleman’s 50th birthday in the corner and Amber cranked up the house birthday song and everyone sang.  The disco ball was going and the place was rocking.  Amber put on, Queen’s “We are the Champions” followed by a little Michael Jackson and I was won over. She said they had a ton of people coming in during the World Series.

By this time we had polished off the calamari and were working on the pizzettes.  There was so much food, that we ended up taking pizza home in doggie baggies.  That’s a first for a happy hour!

Amber told us next on the agenda was the song “What the Fox Says” by Ylvis.  We look to the kitchen and all of the cooks and Lucio had donned fox head masks and were dancing around the open kitchen.  I knew right then and there, this is my kinda place.  There may have been some fog from the fog machine, my memory is a bit foggy, but the disco ball was spinning and we were officially have a good time.


At this point we noticed a sign saying there was also a Mama Mia on the $5 drink menu.  When we asked Amber about it, she said that she had actually created the drink after her honeymoon in Hawaii – it has vodka, guava and Prosecco.  She gave us complimentary drinks – (she understands our motto) and they were marvelous and refreshing.  We all loved it.  It was my favorite drink of the night.

Lucio had finally finished with the birthday boy, the doggie and his trainees and came to talk with us.  “This is my house! If you no lika my house, then fuck you!   We have a good time here.”  I had to agree with him.

I loved everything about Caffe Lucio – happy hour seven days a week until 7:30, great cocktails, excellent friendly service, good food with generous portions, reasonable prices, an extremely fun eclectic atmosphere, fox masks, dance music and crazy Lucio inviting you into his home.  Bueno Apertivo!!! – this is five shot party house!!!

Julie’s Rating: 5 shots
Jo's review

OMG Caffé Lucio is fun fun fun. This friendly authentic Italian restaurant is just a couple of blocks from downtown Santa Cruz. I could tell as soon as I walked in that this was going to be fun. The place has a nice sized bar with flashing laser type lights and a disco ball light which can really liven up a place if you know what I mean.  Plenty of seating and space for large parties, there was a party of about 10-12 people sitting in the middle of the place when we got there. The kitchen is open so you can watch the chefs at work, and there’s a small patio with heaters for outside dining. 

Caffé Lucio is known for the yummy food and of course the owner Lucio who has been around Santa Cruz for many years.  Lucio can take a bit of getting use to, I remember him when he owned Al Dente in the Seabright area. He is an excellent chef who cares deeply about serving authentic Italian cuisine and he’s not afraid to get a little crazy at times. Of course that’s the fun part. He has this wild gray hair and a full of life personality, speaking Italian most of the time (and I can just imagine what he’s saying), with his arms waving as he moves about the restaurant. He has mellowed some since my last encounter with him, but just some.

Julie and I arrive at the same time and our friend Brenda is waiting for us at the bar. We quickly dive right in to the menu and start drilling the bartender Amber about the happy hour deals.  So they have happy hour every day (always a plus) from 5:30 to 7-7:30ish. $5 specialty drinks, $1 off beers, well drinks, and most wines, and $7 personal Pizzettas. 

With so many specialty drinks to choose from we end up getting a Bellini, sparkling wine and peach liquor, a Miss Chocolate, Vodka white & dark crème de cacao and crème, and a Gintastic, Gin, lavender, cucumber lime and soda. Along with the drinks we order up some fried calamari, and 2 pizzas, the Rustica, mild italian sausage and arugula, and the Quattro Stagioni, olives mushrooms ham and artichokes. 

Amber the bartenders is just as nice as she can be, very friendly and lively while she’s mixing up our drinks and telling us about Lucio and how much she enjoys working here. I can see why. The place has a very comfortable feel about it. 

The drinks are great, Brenda’s Bellini is pretty in a tall glass, Julies Miss chocolate has chocolate swirls around the glass, very fancy, and my Gintastic is cool and refreshing.  My Gintastic was a little light for me, but a great drink for a hot summer day. Soon the food starts to arrive. 

The calamari arrives first and it is so light and tender and melts in your mouth with a duo of cocktail sauce and tartar sauce for dipping. They use a different light breadcrumb on the calamari definitely some of the best fried calamari I have ever had. The pizzettas arrive, both very good sized for personal pizzas. 

My Rustica is very yummy, the sausages are mild and plentiful, and the arugula is fresh and piled high. I am a bit of a snob when it comes to pizza. Being a born and raised New Yorker you get use to really good pizza and frankly I haven’t found much out here to jump up and down about, but Lucio pizza is the real deal. The crust is thin and flavorful, something I never find out here, nice tangy sauce, fresh cheese just some dare good pizza.  

Julies Quattro Stagioni is covered with large slices of ham, and the rest of the fixings surrounding it.  So as you can guess we are munching away, laughing it up and having a grand time. The happy is kicking in.

Before you know it someone in the place is having a birthday and everyone in the place is singing the happy birthday song. Amber starts talking about a show the chefs put on and before you know it the chefs have animal masks on and the song “what does the fox say” is playing and they are dancing around in the kitchen area.  The lights go down the disco light brightens up and the place is jumping. What fun.

So I move on to wine and Julie tries her standard bloody mary, while Brenda tries out the Bourbon ball, bourbon hazelnut liquor and a chocolate rim. They do make some nice drinks. Julie’s bloody mary was pint sized and had all the trimmings and the bourbon drink looked very similar to the chocolate drink with the swirls of chocolate sauce in it. Amber starts telling us about her specialty drink she made while she was still on her high from her honeymoon in Hawaii which is the Mama Mia, vodka, guava, lime and prosecco.  She made us a sampling of it and I must say the best drink in the house. Very tasty with the guava and lime and a little bubbly with the prosecco, I would definitely get one of those drinks again.

We couldn’t even finish our pizzas so we boxed them up to go (a to-go box during happy hour, unheard of!). All in all a very fun time was had at Caffé Lucio. The place is bright and inviting, very warm friendly people working there, Lucio being his usual crazy self and yummy food and drink to enjoy. One of the best happy hours around town. Check it out.

Jo’s rating: 5 shots!!!!