You know the ones I mean. Locations in which well-meaning, hard-working entrepreneurs keep trying to set up a restaurant business, and which keep resisting any success. Locations whose ill-fated feng shui, or abyssmal karma, bodes against every effort to achieve something like success. There are many such culinary Bermuda Triangles in every town, and the Santa Cruz area is no exception. Here – with input from many readers – is a short list of retail revolving doors. Places that just plain don’t work, no matter how creative the make-over.
1) The very top cursed location is the corner of Ocean and Soquel. What is it about this place? Surely this could be a prime location for something? I mean every hungry, thirsty tourist aiming for the beach has to pass by here, right? Yet over and over – nothing works. Maybe it’s the tiny parking lot, or the fact that it’s just a little bit too far from downtown. This one got the most votes of all! Former Rock ‘nâ€™ Tacos, Maui Maui, something pancake house, something vegetarian, somebodyâ€™s bakery & cafÃ©.
According to Larry Pearson, Players’ Pizza was the last successful restaurant at that site, owned by Terry & Cathy Hutson who closed it down and moved to the Sierra foothills 10 years.. . . Whereâ€™s the al qaeda when we need them? Just blow up this building and put it out of its misery.
2) Then there the former Manoffâ€™s, on Water Street that re-re-opened a few minutes ago as another taqueria, after the demise of Puerto Escondido Taqueria. Way too tiny and (it has to be said) ugly. After many years of serving great burgers, Manoff’s went the way of Castagnola’s and the Santa Cruz Hotel. Then it was the Turkey Shack, then Mike’s Soul Food (or was it the other way around?), then some other burger joint, then a taqueria, and now yet another taqueria.
3) Several readers felt that the Art Center dining rooms of former, incomparable India Joze have become another cursed location. First as the ill-fated Mediterranean cafeteria known as Azur, and then Red Lantern, and then another asian something, and now Center Street Grill. Curse or not, the place might just have struck gold again. We’ll see. The big issue here is the sheer size of the facility. I think it would work much better as two separate stores – maybe one would be a white tablecloth restaurant, and next door a quick, deli cafe version of the restaurant’s top specialties. This kind of thing is done a lot in Europe – and at Chez Panisse, with the high-end upstairs, cafe downstairs. Just a thought.
4) Joseph Schultz (of India Joze fame) reminds me that Sash Mill CafÃ© (known today as Brunoâ€™s BBQ) is another famously cursed non-place. It has been many things, including the short-lived Kuta Beach Grill, and then Scotty’s Cafe, after the heyday when Nancy and Bill Raney ran the cafÃ© part as an annex to the Sash Mill Cinema (then managed by Nickelodeon owner Jim Schwenterley). Many subsequent owners kept the name, but rarely repeated the schmoozy, cozy atmosphere the Raneyâ€™s gave the place.
Here are a few more favorites. The Hooked on Fish, Auntie Mameâ€™s location in the Camp Evers strip in Scotts Valley. . . . The sushi place at corner of Mission & Bay â€“ formerly Lolaâ€™s, formerly Marcelloâ€™s, formerly a bank. Probably shouldda stayed a bank.. . . anything on E. Cliff except Star Bene seems to drift into the fog. . .
. . . . the former Seafood Mama, former Ostrich Grill upstairs at 820 Bay Avenue in Capitola. . . . And every single restaurant that’s ever tried to make something work at the summit of Highway 17!. . . . Let’s not forget the twilight zone located in the crotch of Graham Hill, Ocean Street and Highway 17. Once upon a time itâ€™s been almost everything. The Colonial Inn, El Azteca, Anastasiaâ€™s, Beaâ€™s Country Kitchen, Live Soup â€“ all at 1602 Ocean. Now itâ€™s a car lot, proving that humans ARE capable of finally getting the point.
Got any more?