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Hip SF Tapas Bar coming to Santa Cruz

Elan and Brett Emerson of Contigo tapas bar in SF
Elan and Brett Emerson of Contigo tapas bar in SF

March 17, 2015 – Owners of the lively Contigo tapas bar and Catalan restaurant in San Francisco’s Noe Valley are moving to Santa Cruz and plan to open a similar place on Pacific Avenue before the end of the year.

The new restaurant will go into the space recently vacated by Benten Japanese restaurant at 1541 Pacific. The building’s owner confirmed he signed a lease with Contigo partners Brett and Elan Emerson earlier this month. 

“They are planning to invest $500,000 in renovations and are currently in the design phase,” said property owner John Huffman. “Benten had been there for 30 years so the equipment was really old and they need to revamp the kitchen. They also want to apply for a café extension out onto the sidewalk.”

Huffman estimates that after design and permitting, remodeling work on the 1,900 sq. ft. eatery will take three months or more. He says they hope to be open by November.

Chef Brett Emerson and his wife Elan, general manager of Contigo, opened the Noe Valley restaurant in 2009. They call it their love letter to Spain. But they are also big supporters of local organic farms and farmers’ market products.

The menu at Contigo is a combination of classic Spanish tapas dishes such as albondigas (meatballs), paella, and spinach with chickpeas; along with California specialties like farmers’ market asparagus and strawberries. 

The Emersons declined to comment on the project for this story, Elan saying only: “Santa Cruz is an awesome place and if we did have a project there it would be very exciting.” Property records show the couple purchased a home on the westside of Santa Cruz in January.

About the author

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Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.