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El Palomar - Santa Cruz

4.1
154 reviews
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$30 and under
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Mexican
Perfect For:
  • Good for Groups
  • Vibrant Bar Scene
  • Neighborhood Gem

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About

El Palomar is an authentic, yet original, Mexican restaurant located in Santa Cruz, California. Diners who step into El Palomar will immediately be struck by its bright and vibrant colors. Rich blues, greens, pinks, and yellows dance around the dining room putting everyone in the mood for a fun-filled meal. The quality of El Palomar is not just surface level either since its opening in 1983, the restaurant has been steadily growing in clientele and reputations. In fact, for the past several years, El Palomar has been named the Best Mexican Restaurant in Santa Cruz.

Specialties of the house, or "house favorites" as they are called on the menu, include a marinated rib eye steak, tacos de carne asada, pollo con mole or enchiladas especiales, which are corn tortillas filled with grilled chicken topped with red enchilada sauce, cheese, Linda's cabbage, guacamole and sour cream.

Dining Style
Casual Dining
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Cuisines
Mexican, Regional Mexican, Contemporary Mexican
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Hours of operation
Lunch: Monday - Friday: 11:00am - 3:00pm; Brunch: Saturday - Sunday: 10:00am - 3:00pm; Dinner: Monday - Wednesday: 5:00pm - 9:30pm, Thursday: 5:00pm - 10:00pm, Friday - Saturday: 3:00pm - 10:30pm Sunday: 3:00pm - 9:30pm; Full Service dining available in our Cantina Mon - Fri from 3:00pm - 5:00 pm
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Phone number
(831) 425-7575
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Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Business Casual
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Catering
We offer on-site catering services featuring a taco bar complete with handmade tortillas made to order at event, as well as a buffet option featuring an array of our most popular and signature dishes. Please inquire with manager for more details. (Note: Our catering services are for a minimum of 50 guests only.)
We also offer many of our menu items in large to-go portions to create your own event at home, please contact us for more info.
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Neighborhood
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Cross street
Soquel Avenue
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Parking details
Public garage located at Soquel/Front
Additional
Banquet, Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, BYO Wine, Corkage Fee, Full Bar, Happy Hour, Private Room, Takeout, Weekend Brunch
What 154 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.1based on all time ratings
4.1
food
4.1
service
3.9
ambience
Noise · Energetic
95% of people would recommend it to a friend
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5.0Dined on January 7, 2012

The El Palomar is my favorite place when I want Mexican food. I've been going there for years with the food and service always great.

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3.0Dined on January 6, 2012

Since you asked: we have been going out to dinner at El Palomar for many years (probably more than 10) and we have to say that in the past two or three years the quality of the service and the food has declined. In the past we typically had to wait less than 10 minutes for our food to arrive- we were always amazed by this- but now it seems to take at least 20 or 30 minutes, which is challenging with our two children to entertain. Also, our server seemed more focused on chatting with customers than in being attentive- I asked for more enchilada sauce since my two enchiladas were dry with no extra sauce at all, and it took her a while to bring it, and meanwhile my food was getting cold. It was also slow to get our flan after dinner.

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4.0Dined on December 24, 2011

never had a bad meal at El Palomar!

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4.0Dined on December 21, 2011

A sentimental favorite that doesn't disappoint, and seems to deliver solid tastes. Extra bonus for serving Negra Modelo on draft. Recommend the chicken soup, which was a generous portion and had fresh herb flavors. Viva El Palomar!

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5.0Dined on December 16, 2011

We enjoyed our experience at the El Palomar. We were even serenaded by a wonderful trio of musicians! The food and service were excellent!

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5.0Dined on November 26, 2011

Always good, we have been going once a month for about 15 years.

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5.0Dined on November 12, 2011

They were very nice and helpful with the menu. The food was amazing! I will go back every time I'm in Santa Cruz!

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4.0Dined on November 8, 2011

The chile colorado sope and guacamole taco were excellent as ever. I still wish the chips didn't seem so prefab, but the incredible salsa more than makes up for that. My server was prompt and friendly.

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4.0Dined on November 4, 2011

Excellent food and fabulous location in downtown Santa Cruz. A little loud but a great spot for groups.

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4.0Dined on November 4, 2011

Fresh, flavorful Mexican food. Great daily specials that are truly special.

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5.0Dined on October 22, 2011

we had a great time and the food was fantastick as usual. Service was fast and courtious. This is one of our favorite placeses for dinner.

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3.0Dined on October 14, 2011

Took a while to get our food but when the hour was up the food was good. The music was OK, the musican where in street clothes. But I loved the food.

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2.0Dined on October 1, 2011

El palomar was somewhat difficult to find due to being in a hotel and parking was very difficult to find in a busy Saturday night. We chose this restaurant due to the great reviews of a kid-friendly restaurant. It was definitely loud and the kids loved the mariachi band but that is where the fun stops. The food took a long time to come out which isn't great when you have hungry children. My husband and I both ordered enchiladas with different types of fish, very bland, absolutely no flavor!! The bartenders also need to learn how to make a proper margarita, it's a Mexican restaurant for pete's sake!! Just avoid if at all possible.

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4.0Dined on September 15, 2011

The lunch special was a deal, even though they now consider chile colorado a specialty filling and will charge $1 extra for it (the bill will look miscalculated, you'll have to ask). Even so, it was worth it, with satisfyingly tender pork chunks in a sauce with just the right amount of spice. I had it in a nicely crisp sope, accompanied by a great guacamole taco. The salsa is addictive, though I guarantee the chips are prefab (probably because tortillas are made to order and there aren't enough to fry for chips) and not up to the rest of the meal's standards. Service was friendly, prompt, and efficient.

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4.0Dined on August 19, 2011

El Palomar is a locals' favorite. The food is great and the service is friendly. The only drawback is the noise. The restaurant is located in a historic hotel, with gorgeous high ceilings. Unfortunately conversation and music seem to bounce off the walls and get amplified off the ceilings. Not a place for intimate conversations but fine for parties and celebrations.

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4.0Dined on August 13, 2011

We vacation in Santa Cruz every summer and always have a large group of all ages. This place is a perfect place to bring children. It is noisy enough that they don't have to be on their best behavior:) and the food is always abundant and very good. There is a children's menu. The endless chips and salsa are always a big hit!

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5.0Dined on August 12, 2011

One of my favorite Mexican restaurants! Getting warm chips and their great salsa makes me want to keep eating and eating. The food is great and I really enjoy the atmosphere!

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4.0Dined on August 5, 2011

The food was good except the chicken mole. In the wayback the served a half chicken baked in the mole sauce. Now a boneless chicken breast is served with the mole over it.

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4.0Dined on July 16, 2011

El Palomar has a hopping vibe in their loud, vintage, ballroom dining area. Great food and margaritas as always.

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3.0Dined on July 8, 2011

We really looked forward to bringing guests to this Santa Cruz institution. We always had a great overall experience. This time, service was quite underwhelming and food was a little lacking: fish special was on the dry side and our second pitcher of Margarita was terrible. While the fish special could happen on a busy night, when addressing the Margarita issue, our waitress offered the usual resolutions, but did nothing. Even making minimal contact with our table, except when it came time for the bill. If weren't late, with our children being tired, would've pursued the matter more.

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5.0Dined on June 25, 2011

The food is fantastic at El Palomar. The shrimp enchiladas are other-worldly! I have given up trying shrimp enchiladas anywhere else because nothing compares. This is a destination restaurant.

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5.0Dined on June 18, 2011

Saturday morning brunch with my 3 year old. The food arrived very fast with no mistakes and our drinks were never empty. Delicious hot food, clean comfy booth, excellent server, and relaxing atmosphere for a weekend brunch. Palomar is one of our favorite resturants for meals with the kids, special events with family, and date nights.

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4.0Dined on May 28, 2011

The menu is extensive, and the food is always good. The only negative is that the restaurant is quite noisy.

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5.0Dined on May 28, 2011

Very yummy!!! Celebrated my daughters birthday and had a fabulous time and the food was
great! Thank you El Palomar!

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4.0Dined on May 16, 2011

GREAT FOOD. Atmosphere felt a little bit outdated.

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4.0Dined on April 24, 2011

In looking for a special Easter restaurant that everyone in our group could enjoy (vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free), we found El Palomar; delicious food, great service from our knowledgeable server, nice ambiance and a convenient location! We'll definitely return next time we're in town.

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5.0Dined on April 16, 2011

Best Salsa I've ever had in restaurant; obviously made fresh and veggies were grilled. If I had stopped with just chips and salsa it would have been great night. The fish and skirt steak some of the best I have had and my wife's ceviche was fabulous. Sons had steak tacos and shrimp burrito and they loved it. The handmade corn tortillas were the best. Mojito and Pina Colada were top notch. I wanted to try the flan, but couldn't eat another bite. This is a must see place for foodies.

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4.0Dined on April 8, 2011

Excellent carnitas special. Generous portion and very lean and flavorful. A bit noisy but food was excellent.

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3.0Dined on March 28, 2011

Food was just your average meal. Kinda pricey for what you got.

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4.0Dined on March 26, 2011

Consistently great. I ordered my steak well done and it was rare, which usually doesn't happen so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise great as always. I do wish it wasn't so loud in there though.

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4.0Dined on March 25, 2011

Exceptional Ceviche platter. Noisy on Friday night.

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5.0Dined on March 25, 2011

Been here a thousand times, food is always consistently delicious. Probably one of the best mexican restaurants in Santa Cruz. Staff is always friendly and quick.

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4.0Dined on March 9, 2011

Since it was Ash Wednesday, I had to pass up my usual chile colorado and go for something meatless. The guacamole sope had a great contrast between the crisp masa and rich, cooling guacamole and crema. The rice and beans were surprisingly flavorful for being vegetarian, too. I polished off plenty of the excellent salsa, even though the chips seem prefab to me. My server was very sweet and alert, too. I'd say weekdays are the best time to go, since the lunch specials are a steal.

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4.0Dined on February 28, 2011

The waitress was attentive, the chip hot and salsa cold, and the food excellent. I ordered the chimichanga and it was perfect! Hot, stuffed full of peppers, cheese adn chicken, and lightly fried to a flaky perfection.

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3.0Dined on February 26, 2011

Great food and service but way too noisy.

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5.0Dined on February 26, 2011

food was good. Kim, our waitress was excellent.

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4.0Dined on February 18, 2011

The Crab enchiladas were out of this world according to my wife.
I love that the chips and salsa are warmed. It was better that any
chilled salsa I've tried. A good review would be: We talked about
how good the food and the atmospher was the next day! "& we did"

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4.0Dined on February 12, 2011

A historic, fabulous dining room (look up!) and friendly, excellent service. The roaming Mariachi Band is fantastic...ask them to play the chicken song!

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4.0Dined on February 12, 2011

Fun place. Food is good mexican food. Service is great and people are friendly.

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2.0Dined on January 21, 2011

The hostess' in the front have bad attitudes and their policies on exact people for a reservation is ridiculous.

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