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Chocolate the Restaurant Celebrates Spring

Chocolate’s popular pasta rosettes (photo: Liz Birnbaum)

Now that local COVID restrictions have eased, Chocolate the Restaurant is welcoming back customers to both its indoor and deluxe outdoor spaces, with new menu items like its mo’le trio which allows diners to sample three versions of this classic sauce.

Chocolate continues to be a favorite dining destination in downtown Santa Cruz despite all the challenges that the pandemic threw at it. During stay-at-home orders, the restaurant ramped up its takeout service. When outdoor dining was allowed, Chocolate made sure customers would be comfortable, with warming lamps on the patio and sheltered seating in a lush garden.

Now that indoor dining is being allowed again on a small scale, larger groups are being welcomed with safety in mind, says chef/founder David Jackman. One group at a time can be seated indoors, and because this seating is limited, reservations are strongly recommended, he says.

However, what he has observed is that customers are still preferring to eat on the outdoor patio, which is an excellent option.

The Trio of Mo’le sauces includes: rich Oaxaqueño, spicy-chocolaty poblano and complex and spicy amarillo sauce, served with Mary’s free-range boneless chicken breast, a house salad and a slice of cheesy polenta pie.

“We’ve had such a great response from people — they are loving being able to eat outside,” says Jackman, who notes that Chocolate will continue to make its outdoor area available all year round. Of course, following extra safety protocols has been a necessity, with the goal of creating a safe and socially distanced space for customers and staff alike, and masks continue to be required for entry to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Birthdays, anniversaries and other events can be celebrated either indoors or outdoors at Chocolate, with the Chocolate Orgy dessert a popular choice for birthday celebrants. The Chocolate Orgy can be prepared in a variety of sizes, depending on how many are partaking. “It’s a fun way to celebrate a birthday,” says Jackman.

The chef is now coming up with ideas for spring, using seasonal asparagus and strawberries, and is offering new menus items such as Sesame Ginger Shrimp & Asparagus. He’s also expanding the mezcal cocktail menu, and with the goal of keeping Chocolate hyperlocal, is offering Santa Cruz-made Birichino sparkling wines.

“We’ve always been farm-to-table but we’re tightening up our local circle (of suppliers),” says Jackman. “It’s more important for us than ever to do so.”

Chocolate covered strawberry

Chocolate, located next to Bookshop Santa Cruz, continues to offer takeout items and home delivery via DoorDash. “Our clientele has been very loyal about ordering meals for pickup,” says Jackman, who notes that the full menu is available at chocolate-the-restaurant.square.site where online orders can be placed. Patrons can order not just meals, but also libations such as its famous cocktails, hot chocolates, wine and beer to go. In addition to dinners, appetizers and desserts, whole cakes and pies are also available at any time, although they must be ordered 48 hours in advance.

When Chocolate the Restaurant first opened 20 years ago, it had the goal of creating a lively and friendly atmosphere in downtown Santa Cruz. Although chocolate is definitely a focal point here, the farm-to-table establishment prides itself on offering the area’s best to its customers, with local sourcing of produce, breads, pasta, coffee and olive oil, and aiming for organic and GMO-free whenever possible.

Asiago Corn Pie (photo: Liz Birnbaum)

The wide-ranging, diverse menu includes such specialties as Pork & Plantains, roast free-range pork simmered in housemade barbecue sauce and served with sesame roasted plantains, and the Mo’le Plate, which offers free-range chicken braised in a traditional sauce made with organic bittersweet chocolate plus a slice of cheesy polenta pie. Seafood, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free selections are also available as well as soups, salads and appetizers.

The restaurant is also known for its cocktails, which are prepared using simple top-quality ingredients. Bar favorites include the Passion Fruit Margarita, Fresh Mint Mojito, Cucumber Gin & Tonic and the Bourbon Bee, made with Westside Water small-batch bourbon, lemon juice and honey. All are available to go, in addition to local beers and wines. There is also an extensive selection of creative hot chocolate and mocha beverages.

Desserts, of course, are a must at Chocolate the Restaurant. As you might imagine, chocolate is plentiful, with Dulce de Leche Torte, Chocolate Cream Pie, tiramisu, Chocolate Ecstasy Cake and many others, as well as delectable non-chocolate offerings like Coconut Cheesecake. For those who can’t make up their minds, a sampler platter called the Dessert Orgy can be ordered.

Chocolate cream pie is the perfect end to a meal at Chocolate

For those who want something sweet that’s a little smaller, the restaurant’s truffle offerings are perennial favorites, with cherry, mint, hazelnut, bittersweet, salted caramel, coconut and many others to choose from.
With strawberries season upon us, Jackman plans to offer strawberry cosmos and strawberry tiramisu as well as other delicious berry treats.

Chocolate the Restaurant • 1522 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz • 831.427.9900 • chocolatesantacruz.com • online orders: chocolate-the-restaurant.square.site

About the author

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Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about the environment, sustainable living and health for numerous publications and websites. She is the co-author of “Humbled: How California’s Monterey Bay Escaped Industrial Ruin.”