Guest post: Santa Cruz’s best kept veggie secrets  »

Santa Cruz: Foggy Redwoods, beautiful beaches and lots of hippies! You know what that means? Lots of organic and vegan-Friendly dining options in this funky little city nestled along the Monterey Bay. You can pretty much go anywhere here and you’re bound to find some decent veg options; even better, you won’t get a confused look if you tell the server that you’re vegan. While SC has a few popular veggie restaurants, I want to focus on two lesser known establishments of theAsian persuasion: Charlie Hong Kong and Pearl of the Ocean.

Charlie Hong Kong

Santa Cruz is a pricy place. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on delicious AND nutritious grub. Charlie Hong Kong is a local hotspot that provides quick, cheap ‘Organic Asian Street Cuisine’ to busy (and lazy) Santa Cruzans. Known for their rice and noodle bowls, they also have Vietnamese sandwiches and other small dishes like salad rolls and soups. All of their bowls are vegan, with local and organic veggies, with the option of adding on ‘toppings’ if you so choose. Toppings range from sweet tofu, marinated mushrooms, as well as a couple to satisfy the omnis which will remain nameless. But whether you’re craving curry, peanuty, spicy or sweet, you have plenty of options at CHK. For about five bucks, you can get a fast, warm, DELICIOUS meal filled with veggies, and we’re not just talking a few pieces of crummy lettuce.   We’re talking broccoli, chard, mushrooms, cabbage, and usually a nice helping of peanuts! If you’re like me and go for the peanut sauce, you won’t be disappointed, TRUST. Their Pad Thai (pictured) is a local favorite, with a delicious sauce that really packs a punch. The icing on the cake? They sell BEER and VEGAN COOKIES!! I mean, what else do you need?   

Pearl of the Ocean

If you have a little more cash on hand, do yourself a favor and check out this amazing little restaurant, Pearl of the Ocean—arguably Santa Cruz’s best kept secret. If you’ve never experienced Sri Lankan food before, you’re missing out! Imagine if Indian food and Thai food had a delicious food baby. That’s the best way I can describe the amazingness that is Sri Lankan cuisine. The most flavorful, sweet and spicy curries, elaborate salads, fancy soups, as well as a great wine selection, makes this place a treasure trove of exciting vegan dishes. Pearl is owned by a sweet and motivated Sri Lankan woman, dedicated to serving healthy and organic meals to locals and visitors alike. As newbies can be a little thrown off by the Sri Lankan style of ordering, which typically includes multiple small dishes, the employees are always willing to help and provide suggestions. With the exception of a few unfortunate items, the menu is almost entirely vegan. I can NOT get enough of the Spicy Mango Curry and Kale Mallam, while my husband could eat their Garbanzo Curry for every meal, of every day. Each dish comes with ginger or brown rice and a mild yellow dhal, the perfect compliment for mellowing out your taste buds in between those spicy bites. Top it off with a creamy Soy Mango Lassi, or if you’re feeling fancy, a Kiss of the Island Princess cocktail. I’ve always said this would be my ‘Last Supper,’ you know, if I’m ever on death row or Top Chef. Until then, I will be shamelessly and unsuccessfully trying to recreate these meals at home. Next time you’re in the SC area, be a little adventurous and check them out! Your belly will thank you.      

Alicia Guzman Sadler lives in Santa Cruz with her husband and two crazy cats. She spends her days writing, gardening and cooking, and her evenings plotting to take over the world. Keep up with her culinary adventures at

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