Monday, August 7, 2017


Happy Hour every day 3:00 – 5:30
Well drinks, Draft beer, House Wine - $5
Bottled beer - $1 off
All Cocktails - $2 off

Pizza slice - $2.74 - $4.75
French Fries - $3.95
Sweet potato fries, Garlic fries, cup of Artichoke soup or Clam Chowder - $4.95
Fried artichokes, Corn fritters - $5.95
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Drumettes, Prawn Ceviche, Crab Cake - $7.95
Fried Calamari - $9.95

Parking validation available on Tuesdays for Locals Day!

Splash Website
Julie's Review


For our final J & J Santa Cruz Happy Hour Buzz we chose to go out with a Splash! Splash is a fun restaurant on the Santa Cruz Wharf which is a great place to bring visitors from out of town.

Happy hour is seven days a week from 3:00 – 5:30, so this is a great spot to come on the weekends. We love a weekend happy hour! 5:30 is a little hard on us working stiffs coming from San Jose. Now that Josephine is a retired lady of leisure, the schedule would work for her, if she would only stay in town!

This bar has five shot ambience, for sure! The d├ęcor is wonderful and whimsical. There are many thoughtful touches from the Octopus pipe sculpture outside to the rotating bar inside. There are windows in the floor to view sea lions, jellyfish and sea horse art on the ceiling, a sculpture of silver sardines, porthole windows, and the bar utilizes used paint dipsticks to form a wonderful color collage. The sea cave mural that you rotate through is wonderfully sensual. The furniture in the different areas is unique and fun.

I arrived at 3:30 to find Josephine alone at the bar. I was surprised that nobody else had arrived, but glad that Jo and I had some time alone together. This was a bittersweet time since Jo will be moving to New York in less than a month. No more Buzz unless we write one up when she comes back to visit.

Our bartender was Cameron and he explained all of our Happy Hour options. He has been with the restaurant since it opened and was quite knowledgeable about the decision to create happy hour. He was friendly and attentive and tried to answer all our questions. He even brought us a binder with information about the artwork.

There was a broad range in food choices. You don’t usually get soup and pizza for a happy hour. I’d like to try the soup next time. I liked that all cocktails are $2 off, so I decided to explore some of their specialty cocktails. Josephine was already having a Cucumber Lavender Mule ($6 on happy hour) with cucumber-infused vodka, lime juice, lavender bitters and ginger beer. It was light and refreshing, but not sweet enough for my taste.

I chose to start with an Endless Summer ($5 on happy hour) made with lemon grass infused rum, cane sugar, coconut water and lime juice. It was tasty light and refreshing.

Then we started on the food. Jo ordered the prawn ceviche and the fried calamari. I ordered the artichoke hearts and crab cake. There was only one crab cake on the happy hour portion, but it was quite delicious. It had both Chilean and Dungeness crab breaded with Panko crumbs and a delicious Sriracha cream sauce. It was my favorite thing on the menu. The artichokes were deep-fried in beer batter and came with a sprinkling of parmesan. They were tasty, but I would have liked a deeper crust. Jo’s prawn ceviche was marinated in mango, with jalapeno, lime, cilantro and red onion and was quite delicious, though the prawns were a bit tough.


The calamari came in big chunks. In fact, Jo found one piece that looked like either a Scottish terrier or a duck. Who knew you could find animals in calamari like you do in the clouds?

About this time, Brenda arrived and requested a Cosmo to order with Tito’s vodka and elderflower liqueur. She was quite pleased with the result. I decided to splurge on a Heat Wave ($8 on happy hour) which was rum, orange mango syrup, lime juice and habanero. It was a delicious drink – spicy and sweet. I would definitely splurge on one of those again.

By now, people started arriving. Adam showed up by coincidence, forgetting that we were doing the buzz. Teresa, his mother, followed him shortly. Mary arrived, followed by Joanie and Graciela. They ordered the sweet potato fries, which were quite tasty. Adam ordered the vegetarian pizza that came with Kalamata olives. He was very pleased with it. A good deal for $3.75. 


Cameron told us about the baby seagulls outside. As we were watching them, someone noticed that whales were spouting right off the wharf. Wonderful to see them so close.

One of my favorite features at Splash is the rotating bar. It moves so slowly you wouldn’t notice it at first. I love that you can enjoy your drink and feel like you are really going somewhere with a complete change in view. We had done about two rotations at this point. We got to know a certain spot where the bar would rub and squeak loudly for just a couple of seconds. By the end of the night, we could predict exactly when that would happen!

Unfortunately, Cameron’s shift was over and Bryan took over. He wasn’t as friendly or engaged as Cameron. In fact, in general I wouldn’t say the servers were overly friendly. We had brought in quite a crowd on a slow night, but they seemed more bothered than excited.

The Buzz was starting to hit by now. Adam’s girlfriend, Kat showed up, followed by a surprise visit by Tamara. Brenda ordered a White Russian, which came with a dark cherry and was quite delicious. I decided to try out the well drinks, so I turned to Rum and Diet Coke. Graciela was generous enough to give me a nice shoulder rub, which felt wonderful.
It was great to be with all our friends with such a fantastic view of the wharf. It makes you appreciate Santa Cruz. It was now nearing 5:30 so we made sure to get all of our last minute happy hour orders in (we are not ones to let last call slip by!). We laughed and discovered more art. We spun around on the stools in the Pac-Man corner. 


It was getting time to settle the bill. There was a small disagreement of when Adam had ordered his last drink for which he was being charged full price. We all concurred as witnesses that the drink was ordered at 5:25. Again, to be haggling over something like that seemed unnecessary. You must realize we are happy hour professionals! Lol.

So in sum: Splash has happy hours seven days a week, even though it would be perfect if they lasted until 6:00 p.m. The ambience is five shots and beyond – I love the details of this place, especially the rotating bar! It has a wide variety of food and reasonable prices for the most part – (though $9.95 seems steep for a happy hour order of calamari). . I love when you can get a specialty cocktail on happy hour and liked the drinks – though a tad more alcohol would have been welcome. Cameron was accommodating, though the other service could have been friendlier

The ambience overrides all in my book. This is a great place to bring out of town guests to highlight Santa Cruz. This will definitely be a regular weekend spot for me!

Julie’s Rating: 4.5 shots
Jo's Review

So it has been a long time since we entered a review to our blog, and unfortunately it will be our last. Life gets busy and we just didn't seem to have the time to write reviews. That doesn't mean we stopped going to happy hours we just didn't get a chance to review them. So many great places in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area, all I can say is get out there and try them. We have had a blast doing this.

Splash is on the Santa Cruz wharf and is a very unique place to visit. As you walk up to the place you see an outdoor window which wasn't open at the time, but for a quick bite I'm sure that window gets busy on the weekends. They have this large squid sculpture outside the front door and it actually functions as a water fountain. It's very impressive looking. The inside takes you to the ocean with so many interesting accents.

The ceiling has a huge silver sculpture that runs throughout the entire room and looks like a school of sardines. There are a number of sections with tables on the water side of the room, booths in the middle and a cute little alcove with small tables and cushions. The most impressive part of the restaurant is the rotating bar. Yes it rotates ever so slowly around so you get a different view of the place at all times. I was skeptical at first but go use to it pretty fast and while you're with friends drinking and chatting you look up and realize you've moved. It's pretty cool.

So I got there first and got busy taking pictures of everything so I could get busy having fun. I decided on a cocktail first. They have discounted prices on most of the appetizer menu, $5 well drinks, drafts and wine, and $2 off of the cocktails. I decided on a cocktail to start and went with the cucumber lavender mule. What a yummy drink, light with a bit of a bubbly bite to it, very fun. By now Julie is here and we are laughing it up and chatting with the bartender Cameron. Nice enough guy and he goes into explaining the happy hour thing while we explain our blog thing. Julie decides on a endless summer to begin and we peruse the appetizer menu. Not all the appetizers are discounted for happy hour, but a good amount. I end up getting the fried calamari and prawn ceviche, and Julie gets the crab cakes and fried artichokes.

 Our friend Brenda shows up and to our surprise and his, Adam. He just wanted to try the place and we just happened to be there, very funny but you know great minds think alike. Adam is our dear friend Teresa's son. It's fun for people to experience the place for the first time and as all of our friends come in we take them through the place showing them all the different nuisances and fun things about the place. As other friends so up more drinks and food are being ordered. I think we ended up ordering everything on the happy hour menu food wise at least. We had sweet potato fries, pizza, and chicken wings.

The first set of appetizers show up. The fried calamari was tender and tasty, and came with a lite spiced aoli and cocktail sauce. The breading wasn't too heavy and it had a nice mild spice to it. The ceviche was very tangy and had mango and cilantro. It came with tortilla chips but I liked just eating it with a spoon.

The crab cakes were good, lots of crab not much breading which was good and the artichokes had good flavor, were crispy and tender. I had a chicken wing which was good, it had been grilled and was moist but not much spice on it considering they were called Jamaican jerk wings. I liked the sweet potato fries very much and they came with a spicy aoli as well. I never tried the pizza but everyone who did was making yummy noises about it.

With the rest of the gang, Mary, Joanie, Garciela, and Tamara, we had the place jumping. Every now and then someone would look up and realize we had moved. It can be disorientating to some. We do get a good laugh out of it though. While we were enjoying the view we noticed some spouting going on out in the bay, and wow as Scotty would say, “there be whales here captain”.

So as I said this will be the last entry for our blog. After 30 years at the university I have retired and will be leaving the area. Santa Cruz has been a great place to live and I have made some wonderful lifelong friends here. It will be hard to leave them, but I'm not leaving forever. I will be back to visit more then most think probably, and I expect some of my friend will be out to visit me as well in upstate New York. A new chapter in life is about to begin for me and I plan to enjoy every moment of it.

So Splash was a blast, good food and drinks, great friends, whales, sea lions oh I forgot the baby sea gulls which were not that baby anymore. A fun ending to a wonderful time doing this blog and of course enjoying happy hour. Nothing better then hanging out with friends, good food and drink. I wish all of you out there, love, peace and soul.

Jo's rating: 4 shots up.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Reef/Pono Hawaiian Grill


Happy Hour – every day 3-6 and all day on Mondays

Power Hour – 10-11 pm Thursday Friday Saturday- $4 wells and $2 Coors Light

Drinks: $5 Mai Tai, house Margarita and Dark and Stormy,  $2 Coors Light, $1 off all beer , wine and liquor

Food: None
Julie's Review

The Pono  Grill and the Reef are located on Union Street.  The Reef has great happy hour time slots, but finding them was not easy.  I looked at the Pono Grill website, but no mention was made of happy hour.  I called and the phone was busy two times and then I was put on hold.  After waiting several minutes the woman came on the line.  When I asked when happy hour was the woman said, that’s over in the bar.  You will need to call them directly and hung up.  No number, no transfer and no listing of the number anywhere, that I could find.

So, the first thing to know is that the Pono Grill and The Reef are two separate businesses, housed in the same building.  Pono Grill has the food and The Reef has the drinks.  This can be a little confusing from their websites.

Having happy hour every day from 3-6 and all day Monday- you gotta love that!!!  Unfortunately, there is no food to go with the drinks.  Don’t love that so much.  There is food at the restaurant, but no happy hour specials or prices.  Ouch!   You gotta feed your drinks!


Jo and I arrived and got a table.   We quickly bellied up to the bar where Danny was working.  He told us the bar is indeed separate from the restaurant and understood our disappointment that there wasn’t food.  He runs a pop up across the street called Kickin’ Chicken which delivers chicken and waffles to your house!  That was sounding really good about now. Check out his Facebook page:

 Danny was a fun bartender – great service and a cutie to boot!  He whipped up a margarita for me and Jo ordered a Mai Tai.  Since neither Jo or I had eaten we ended up ordering food at the restaurant which was tasty, but not happy hour prices, for sure.  My margarita was made with fresh lime, but was not quite sweet enough for my sweet tooth.  Jo didn’t care for her Mai Tai.  Hula Mai Tais set the standard and these didn’t quite measure up.

By this time Joanie had joined us, followed shortly by Heather and Ted.  Joanie had a beer and Heather and Ted ordered Dark and Stormies.  Danny whipped me up a Dark and Stormy, as well.  This was definitely the best happy hour drink on the menu. 

One of the nice features of their happy hour is that ALL liquor, beer and wine is a  $1 off, so I ended up getting a top shelf margarita which was quite tasty.  The party was just getting started.  The Reef’s motif is surfer chic and has a beautiful outdoor garden area.  We noticed a flag that looked like a British flag, but when we googled it, it was the Hawaiian  flag.  Who knew?

About this time we discovered the ‘Selfie corner’ with grass skirts, straw hats and leis.  We had to get a photo of that.  Soon the band started – musicians who used to frequent the Trout Farm. (sob!).  Ted was on the floor in his grass skirt and we all kicked up our heels.  While we were dancing an over-enthusiastic waitress cleared our unfinished drinks!  I talked to Danny and he replaced the drinks free of charge – that’s the kind of excellent service he offered!

We were about ready to call it a night when Graciela and Roy showed up.  Now, we were ready to head to the Church Street Fair.

So in sum – the Reef has great happy hours – 7 days a week from 3-6.  Reasonable drink prices, though the Dark and Stormy was my favorite, by far.  Danny is a fun bartender offering great service and there is live music on Sunday afternoons.  The major down side is no food on the happy hour menu, though it’s a few steps away.  A fun place.

Julie’s rating:  3.5 shots
Jo's Review

So off we go for another happy hour.  We decided on Pono Hawaiian Grill because we had passed by at some point and saw that they had happy hour every day. We like that in a happy hour so Sunday afternoon we ventured out.
It’s a beautiful day and they have a fair crowd in the place.  You enter to what seems like a garage door front door.  The place seems homey with table and chairs, couches and a relaxed atmosphere. Lots of island motif around the place, and a beautiful patio in back.

I’m the first to arrive so I quickly secure a high table by the bar that was just vacated. As I look around the the waitress clears off the table but doesn’t bother to take an order from me I realize no one is taking orders.  I guess you help yourself around here. As I look around more I see that you place your orders for food and pay at the front door, then they give you a number and bring the food to you.  You have to go to the bar to get your drinks as well so not as relaxed as I thought since I’m fending for myself to acquire my food and drink.

Once Julie gets there she goes to the bar for the drinks and we find out that the Reef and Pono Hawaiian Grill are sort of separate entities working out of the same building. The Reef has happy hour every day from 3-6pm and all day on Mondays. They have $5 Mai Tai’s, Margaritas and Dark & Stormy’s. $2 Coors lights and $1 off all beers, wine and liquors. They also have a power hour form 10pm-11pm, $4 well cocktails and $2 Coors light.

Pono Hawaiian Grill does not partake in the happy hour deal and has no specials for happy hour that I saw. I have to say that was a big disappointment to me. I like my happy hours to have cheap prices on drinks and food. So even though I ended up getting some chicken wings, (of course) I’m not added them to this write up since they were not part of the happy hour, I just needed something to eat.  I must admit I would like to go back some time and try the Loco Moco or one of the poke dish.  The prices for Pono seemed reasonable.

So I got a Mai Tai and Julie started with the Margarita. I can say I wasn’t that impressed with the Mai Tai. Although it was made with fresh juice it was a little weak for me and to acidy. I like more kick for my buck. Not sure how Julie’s drink was but I don’t remember her raving about it.  Her next drink was a Dark & Stormy and she definitely liked that drink. I ended up getting a beer from my next drink. 

Joanie showed up and then Heather and Ted showed up. We all got some drinks and were chatting it up and having a good time. It was nice but I was just not feeling it, perhaps the disappointment of no food specials. They all started talking and reminiscing on their burner days so I ended up taking off and leaving them to it.

So happy hour at the Reef/Pono Hawaiian Grill was different to say the least. The drinks were ok, and with no food specials well I guess for a quick stop it fine.  I guess you’re still getting a deal at least with the cheaper drinks if you get food too. Not what I expected but if was fine.

Jo’s review: 3 shots