This is the fourth of seven choices for the Best New Restaurants in Santa Cruz in 2014. To see the full list, click here.
Lúpulo Craft Beer House, owned and operated by Noëlle Antolin and Stuyvesant Bearns, is a tasting room, restaurant, and bottle shop that offers 16 rotating taps and over a hundred bottled beers.
The atmosphere is cozy, with tables and a bar. Whether or not you’re a beer lover, the food is definitely worth a visit. The menu changes with the seasons, as the owners are committed to sustainable food practices. “Our ingredients are organic, our meats are local and pasture-raised, and most our produce comes from the farmers market,” says Antolin.
Although they have served food since they first opened, the selections have expanded over time. “Stuyvie and I came up with the recipes and were inspired by our Latin and Mediterranean roots,” Antolin adds. “Stuyvie is from Mexico and my family is from France and Spain. We took some family recipes (tacos de pibil, aubergine, garbanzos, tortilla española) and then did a lot of experimentation for flavors that we felt would compliment the variety of craft beers that we serve.” In August the couple hired Chef Joe Rubin, who has helped them continue to carry out their vision.
Lúpulo is Spanish for hops, and the menu’s prime focus is—appropriately—tapas, which originate from Spain. There are also several sandwiches and salads, and a soup of the day. The tortilla española, a traditional Spanish omelette including potatoes, onion, and harissa aioli, is delightful. The aioli adds a perfect kick.
The very popular tacos de pibil features slow-roasted pork infused with orange and achiote, served with pickled onion-habanero salsa. Other current tapas include house-made seasonal pickles, empanadas, and one of the latest menu additions: garbanzos con espinacas (Andalucian-style chickpea and spinach stew).
Sandwiches include customer favorite “Verde,” very satisfying with pesto, queso Oaxaca, chevre, avocado, and arugula.
Current salads include one with arugula, quinoa, fresh persimmons, pistachios, goat cheese, and pomegranate vinaigrette. It has complex, enjoyable layers of flavors.
A nice feature when ordering draft beer: most of the time, each selection is available in a smaller 5-ounce serving as well as a larger pour (10, 12, or 16-ounce, depending on the style, price and alcohol content). This makes it possible to still have a beer even if you don’t want a large serving, and the 5-ounce portion is handy if you want to sample a few different kinds.