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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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4.0Dined on June 21, 2015

The restaurant is dark for dinner (had a hard time reading the menu) so it's perfect for couples. The bar is brighter with skylights and lots of young people and drink specials. Also great for lunch - good specials and fresh Mexican fare.

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3.0Dined on June 14, 2015

The food was great! The problem we had was with the seating staff and the waiter. First, they refused to seat us, then they changed their mind. And mind you, the restaurant was almost completely empty. Once we got seated, the waitress was kind of in lala land. She was nice, but did not cater to our needs. Instead, the bus boy was more attentive, providing us with refills and more chips and salsa.

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4.0Dined on April 19, 2015

Carne asada melt in your mouth delicious. Beans blah.

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4.0Dined on April 2, 2015

The restaurant has quite large servings. We ordered chips salsa and guacamole and by the time the food had arrived everyone was already full. Other than that it was great! Their special pork tamales are delicious.

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4.0Dined on January 18, 2015

Good food and good service. Try to make it on Friday if you can, it's the only day you can score carnitas mmmmmmm. Decent cocktails also :)

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4.0Dined on January 8, 2015

Was a nice time for all, waitress was very good, the guacamole was on the thin side wouldn't order again. There were 2 bills and somehow I got charged for both on my credit card althought the other person paid cash. Ultimately the confusion was redolved yhe next day, so yhank you management.

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5.0Dined on December 31, 2014

I have loved El Palomar ever since I was a little girl! The dining room has a majestic feel that always reminded me of some kind of castle, and the bar is open, with an almost tropical feel. We find ourselves going there to hit up great happy hour deals with friends, to celebrate special occasions, or just because my man and I don't want to cook that night. Definitely one of our family favorites that has stayed consistently classy and yummy. Great staff, great food!

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3.0Dined on December 29, 2014

It's down town Santa Cruz; not Palm Springs. Don't expect much and you'll be happy.

It's walking distance from the movie house; that's the "Great" thing.

If you have time drive to the wharf's pier where they're better restaurants.

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5.0Dined on December 10, 2014

Great Food, good service, always a place to bring company.

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3.0Dined on October 19, 2014

We were shocked to see the new menu at this Santa Cruz staple. $18 for my burrito and they no longer include the delicious tortillas they're famous for. Way too expensive for Mexican food. Sorry Palomar this is our last time eating at your far too overpriced restaurant.

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4.0Dined on October 12, 2014

Restaurant is in the lobby of the El Palomar Hotel. Beautiful old building, very casual feel. Everything we tried was excellent. My wife is a cook and comes from a Mexican family. She was pleased so I think others will be, too.

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4.0Dined on September 18, 2014

El Palomar offer bedsides the standard Tex/Mex menu of most Mexican restaurants, a varied and imaginative offerings of well prepared, tasty dishes.

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4.0Dined on August 10, 2014

We arrived at the specified time and were seated promptly. Our hostess dropped by the menus, telling us someone would be by later, the chips and salsa were dropped by promptly, some time passed 5-8 mins. before our waitress was free to stop by. She took our drink order, we also requested water for the table. The bar drinks came by first eventually the water arrived, this was finished quickly as it had been a hot day, waited a long time for refills of water, after our meal arrived. The food was tasty but cool. We said nothing as time on the metered parking was ticking. All in all, more wait staff would be useful as well as more service staff. The cook should take the temperature of each dish they send out. We did have a nice visit.

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5.0Dined on August 5, 2014

The dining and atmosphere is fun, casual but perfect for an evening out with a good friend, family or work group. The meal was delivered promptly and our glasses were rarely empty. The server was very attentive at appropriate times and allowed for time to enjoy our meal and converstion.

A dining experience at Palomar is a must!

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5.0Dined on June 14, 2014

We enjoy coming to this restaurant anytime. It is always a favorite. We use it for all graduations, birthdays, out of town guests, and just us.

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4.0Dined on June 11, 2014

Quick reliably quality lunch at a good price options

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3.0Dined on May 23, 2014

We went to the outdoor bar area. It's got a nice area to sit in a semi outside feel to it. Food was plentiful, reasonably priced but service from the bartender for food order was sooooo slow. We ordered guacamole and he finally attempted to bring it with our lunch instead of as an appetizer, we turned it diwn at that point.he took a long time to even get us a drink, never brought us water never refilled our chips, never asked us how our lunch was etc. it's was very quiet there but he was busy chatting behind the bar. However chimichanga was huge and delish. Margarita was good

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4.0Dined on April 5, 2014

Great food cool building and friendly service

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5.0Dined on March 30, 2014

We love El Palomar, Santa Cruz. The building is worth the price of admission, and the food and service are first rate.

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4.0Dined on March 26, 2014

I had not been to El Palomar in Downtown Santa Cruz for several years and almost forgot about it as a choice for Mexican food. I was pleasantly surprised that a friend and I got in very quickly with our reservations made on Open Table even though we were 15 minutes late. We were seated quickly and had a delicious meal and drinks. I'll put this place back on my list for sure.

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3.0Dined on March 23, 2014

We had a nice time there for a small party, celebrating a birthday. The restaurant itself seemed a little tired, but the menu was nice and the portion were good.

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5.0Dined on March 21, 2014

We make this a regular stop whenever we come to the area. The service was great and the food was even better! Great variety - loved the carne asada enchilada filling.

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3.0Dined on March 14, 2014

Four of us made a reservation on a Friday night and were seated immediately, and there were at least a dozen people waiting for tables. We immediately got chips and salsa, and quickly got glasses of water. Our server was friendly and attentive, and the food came out surprisingly fast after the order was placed, especially fast since the restaurant was packed. Be careful when ordering if you don't like spicy food, because their "house fillings" for various dishes are almost all spicy. I asked our server what the least spicy filling was, and she said the guacamole, and she was right; I had previously ordered the house shredded chicken filling and it was so spicy I couldn't eat it. The food is good and a great value.

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5.0Dined on March 14, 2014

This is our go-to place for Friday night. The carnitas is outstanding and the servers are fabulous!

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4.0Dined on March 7, 2014

I had a pleasant experience at El Palomar. I had an ahi tuna salad, and though it was a tad pricey (~$17) it was delicious. If I were to alter the salad, I would have added more avocado. The sauce had wasabi which was great! Another time I came here, I had the carne asada tacos, which was a great sized portion because I left with a leftover taco. I would recommend this place, definitely.

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4.0Dined on March 6, 2014

Can't go wrong the beautiful restaurant. Food is good, best chips of anyplace, service is professional and overall fun!

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4.0Dined on February 16, 2014

I am so happy we had a reservation. The wait looked super long, but due the afore mentioned reservation, we hardly waited at all. It was really good. The nachos are yummy.

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3.0Dined on January 24, 2014

Server was great. Good p,ace to go before dancing. Big tables and reasonably priced food.

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4.0Dined on January 12, 2014

My husband has dined here before, but this was my first time and was not disappointed. We couldn't stop eating the chips and salsa!! The dinner was great, staff friendly and attentive, wonderful ambiance in a lovely historic building. We will definitely come back.

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5.0Dined on December 13, 2013

We always go to the Friday night carnitas. THE BEST!

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4.0Dined on November 30, 2013

the seafood pozole was very good.

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3.0Dined on November 16, 2013

A good choice for downtown Santa Cruz dining. Great margaritas! Our only complaint is that it was so dark in the dining room that some of us couldn't read the menu!

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3.0Dined on November 10, 2013

The interior is beautiful and the food is decent. The downside of this place is the service. Our waitress was adequate -- filled the order but not much more. The guys clearing the tables were terrible. One fellow started clearing dishes well before we were all finished eating. Arms and elbows reaching across the table while still in the middle of our dinner. Another guy started clearing our drinks before they were finished, and barked orders about what should be handed to him. I pointed out that I wasn't finished and, after handling my glass, he put it back on the table and walked away. These guys need some serious training. Anyway, we'll go there again for the food and location, and hope that they get their act together.

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4.0Dined on October 12, 2013

Was looking for Mexican food and ended up there. Very good food and friendly service.

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4.0Dined on October 11, 2013

The food here is good, not great. Overall a fun place to dine, the waitstaff is (for the most part) very timely and helpful. If they used fresh rather than frozen prawns that would be a huge improvement. They could also have some more fun with the drink selection. The dining room tends to get quite loud and also is a bit too dimly lit. Nothing that ruins your experience, but area's where the restaurant could improve. The steak seems to be their strong point, I'd avoid prawns and some of the chicken is hit-or-miss.

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5.0Dined on September 29, 2013

El Palomar is in the Palomar Hotel and it took several trips around the block to find the restaurant. Once inside, the restaurant is in a spectacular, high ceiling room with a bar next to it which is quite grand. The menu had the usual Mexican items but featured ceviche, lobster enchiladas and our favorite, Jose's special. Everything was seasoned to have some sense of spice but not with the raw heat that blows off the top of your head. The fish items were done to a turn which the carnea(sp) asada was really unique and worth a special trip.

All in all, we were looking for a place to eat while not able to be in our home and found a quite remarkable restaurant.

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5.0Dined on August 30, 2013

This is my third visit to El Palomar, and each time the food has been excellent. The service has been generally poor however, but the atmosphere and awesome food overshadows it. The house margaritas are excellent as well. Portions are large, plenty to have for lunch the next day. Some of the bext Mexican food any of us have ever had.

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4.0Dined on August 24, 2013

The sopes were quite good, the chili rellenos was heavily breaded, but good. The other meal was a generous portion of seafood stew on top of chili rellenos. It was a satisfying meal, in an impressive environment. The interior is lovely, with an elaborately painted ceiling.

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3.0Dined on August 18, 2013

I was craving salsa and chips along with a solid Marg.

Well chips and salsa were on point and the food was great (a bit pricey) but thats what you get in a hotel.

The marg was SUPER weak. We ordered two pitchers and between 3 people did not feel a thing. Sad but at least it was good food. Waitress seemed to be over stretched I had to tracked her down :(

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4.0Dined on August 8, 2013

We had an impromptu family reunion including my 2 year old great-niece. The food was great, like fresh, home made fare. Very kid-friendly

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