Todd Parker
Dream 24 Hours

Santa Cruz’s Finest Food Stops

Chef Todd Parker of Bookie’s pizza shares his picks for the best bites in Surf City.
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Chef Todd Parker spun his background in fine dining into Santa Cruz’s finest pizza pies. Originally from Mississippi, Todd worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany and New Orleans before landing at the legendary Manresa in Los Gatos. But, when the pandemic hit, he pivoted to pop-ups, selling Detroit-style pies out of The Portal window at Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Santa Cruz. It was a perfect pairing, and the pop-up, Bookie’s, soon became permanent. The seasonally-inspired Bookie’s menu features 10 ingredient-driven pies at a time. For spring and summer, expect items with ramp, asparagus, and peas to show up, alongside classics like pepperoni and cheese, and barbeque chicken from Fogline Farms. “I work with a lot of local farmers and have that same ethos that you would have in a fancy restaurant — we're just putting it on bread and we're calling it pizza. It allows us to cast a wider net and reach a lot more folks with a really cool and delicious product,” Todd says. Getting hungry? Plan a food-lovers’ day around Santa Cruz — from coffee to cocktails, pizza to Thai — with Chef Todd’s expert recommendations.


Start the day with:  

A breakfast burrito and cappuccino from Cat & Cloud on the west side of Santa Cruz. It's really a cool spot. Their breakfast burrito is delicious: eggs, potatoes, bacon, avocado, Chipotle mayo. They have a lot of outdoor seating and, of course, the coffee is really fantastic. It's kind of a cool area that’s got a lot going on now, especially in the afternoons with Humble Sea, Apero Club, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery and several wineries all within a couple blocks.

When friends ask, “Where should we eat?” I always say:  

Hanloh Thai. Best restaurant in Santa Cruz and my favorite place in town, no question. It’s a residency located inside Bad Animal, which is a really rad bookshop. The food is just really delicious there. It's kind of a different approach to Thai food, using local ingredients, but still very authentic. They have a strong emphasis on natural wines. The menu is small, but everything's super dialed in. I'm definitely biased because I was the original chef at Bad Animal when it opened. I'm still good friends with those folks and Chef Lalita is a good friend of mine. We worked together at Manresa years ago.

Locally-made favorite: 

Manresa Bread. They've had the bakery for nine years now, and they opened a retail shop on the west side, in that same little area over by Cat & Cloud. Everything they do is really topnotch, really incredible. Whether it's their laminated dough, or sometimes they have special cakes for holidays. (I bought a Valentine's cake for my girlfriend there.) Once again, I'm partial because I'm friends with Avery Ruzicka, the owner. But their stuff is just really high quality and we’re really fortunate to have them in town. A world-class bakery. They also have pastries at all of the Verve Coffee shops in the area.


Need-to-know spot: 

Miches and Ceviches in Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz. Tell everyone, now. I think they've been open for less than a year. It's a small, tucked away shop owned by a young couple that is super sweet. The food's really delicious. I had shrimp tacos and ceviche. I try to get the word out because they're doing something really good. When summer gets rolling, grab some ceviche before you go to the beach or on your way back from surfing. Yeah.

No trip to the area is complete without: 

A drive from Santa Cruz down the coast to Big Sur. Grab a loaf from Manresa Bread, a cool natty bottle from Apero Club, and on the way down stop by The Cheese Shop in Carmel for world class cheeses you just can't find anywhere else. It's such a beautiful drive. Pfeiffer Beach is a really, really special place. I was fortunate enough to take my mother down there for the first time just a few months ago. It's always great taking someone down there for the first time.

End the day with dinner and drinks at: 

Mentone in Aptos. The Frozen Aperol Spritz is delicious. Their pizzas are great. They have a great Caesar salad. Definitely get a pasta. They normally have some kind of pesto pasta, whether it's gnocchi or ravioli. It's hard to go wrong with anything there. David Kinch is such an incredible chef and it’s a cool setting. as well.


Cover illustration by Kelsey Wisdom

on the Peninsula

Map of the Peninsula

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