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El Palomar - Santa Cruz

154 reviews
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$30 and under
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Top Tags:
  • Good for Groups (197)
  • Vibrant Bar Scene (153)
  • Neighborhood Gem (135)

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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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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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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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Cross street
Soquel Avenue
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Parking details
Public garage located at Soquel/Front
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
4.1  based on all time ratings
Noise · Energetic
95% of people would recommend it to a friend
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SantaCruzie (Vancouver)
4.0  Dined 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.

OpenTable Diner (Los Angeles)
3.0  Dined 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.

AHTONY (San Francisco)
4.0  Dined on April 19, 2015

Carne asada melt in your mouth delicious. Beans blah.

vipOpenTable Diner (Salt Lake City)
4.0  Dined 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.

Crc2 (Central Coast)
4.0  Dined 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 :)

Travelwise (San Francisco)
4.0  Dined 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.

Julz (San Francisco)
5.0  Dined 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!

vipOpenTable Diner (San Francisco)
3.0  Dined 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.

vipSusan (Central Coast)
5.0  Dined on December 10, 2014

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

Madam1 (San Francisco)
3.0  Dined 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.

vipCKP59 (San Francisco)
4.0  Dined 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.

vipOpenTable Diner (Palm Springs)
4.0  Dined 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.

Stephanie (Sacramento)
4.0  Dined 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.

SCgirl (San Francisco)
5.0  Dined 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!

vipSusan (Central Coast)
5.0  Dined 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.