It was a beautiful day for a drive over the hill to Santa Cruz for lunch at Makai Island Kitchen & Groggery for Thanksgiving. We did this a couple years ago and had a great time with the family and thought we’d try again this year. Last time it wasn’t overly busy but the secret seems to be out since they were quite busy today.
At first blush, Makai seems like just another tiki-leaning Hawaiian place located at a tourist location. Sure there are great views of the ocean from Makai’s Santa Cruz Wharf location, but some of Makai’s special feature really elevate the experience. We asked to be seated in the rotating bar section, which we think is a kick and also means that every table gets a window view (it also means you’re not in the blinding sun all the time either). We also like the clear floor sections where you can see the ocean and even some sea lions underneath the restaurant.
Our food was pretty good, burgers for the boys and fish dishes for the adult. And some wonderful Crab Rangoon and Spam Musubi appetizers. Service here is friendly and pretty good.
It is nice to see Makai continuing with a heavy lean towards originals on their cocktail menu. Sure, the Mai Tai or Saturn are classics that do well but the originals I today were quite good and far better than you might expect if this was just a “tourist place”. They also have a bunch of nice mugs and glassware to collect if that’s your thing.
The surf-inspired original cocktal called The Bonzer has Lemon Hart Rum, allspice liqueur, Velvet Falernum, coconut cream, cinnamon, and lime. This was quite well-balanced; creamy but not too much so. Meanwhile, the Punch to the Skull was a great capper for me. I dug the cocktail made with Denizen white rum, Aperol, Velvet Falernum, Dry Curacao, and lemon juice. Just enough Aperol to not overwhelm the rest of the ingredients.