Laili

4.4
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2108 Reviews
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$30 and under
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Mediterranean
Rich Mediterranean Flavors with a Unique Afghan Twist in the Heart of Downtown Santa Cruz.

Laili is our expression of love through food and service. We offer a unique menu made up of fusion Afghani Mediterranean items that include kabobs, wraps, flatbreads, pastas, and spiced lamb and chicken dishes as well as delicious vegetarian options.
What 2108 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.4based on recent ratings
4.5
food
4.2
service
4.5
ambience
4.3
value
Noise · Moderate
92% of people would recommend it to a friend
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HG
San Francisco
8 reviews
Dined 2 days ago
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 5

Very nice outdoor seating area, attentive service and interesting selection of well prepared dishes. We had the lamb kabob and eggplant, with the ashuk appetizer. All were enjoyable.

GJ
Montreal
1 review
Dined 3 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Great food, great service and very reasonably priced!

RP
1 review
Dined 4 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Our favorite restaurant! We love the flavors and menu choices. Our visit was for lunch, a few large parties and the service was perfect.

B
Central Coast
11 reviews
Dined 4 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We have always loved going to Laili! The food is fabulous, the atmosphere outside is just beautiful, and I truly appreciate the kind service! What I love about Laili is the unique taste of the dishes. Certainly not something I would serve at home which makes the restaurant experience so very special .

G
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined 5 days ago
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 4

Our experience at Laili this time was not as good as before. Our waiter seemed a bit off and not quite on top of things. Our order was short one item and we had to wait for it. Granted, they seemed to be short in staff. Perhaps that was the reason. Otherwise, food was good as always. That experience will not prevent us from returning.

OT
San Francisco
2 reviews
Dined 7 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Best food ever! And great for vegans!

OT
1 review
Dined on September 10, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 3ambience 5

Delish food eaten outside on a sunny day in the lovely courtyard.

KB
1 review
Dined on September 8, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The food was very flavorful, fresh, authentic and delicious! The servers were knowledgable and welcoming. The ambiance is inviting. The outside patio area looked great too -- would consider that seating location for next time also. Will go back again!!

MW
San Francisco
11 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 3

WE very much enjoyed our evening and were delighted to share it with a couple who were new to lcili. The main courses were excellent. The fried bolani was less than interesting as it had too little squash and the taste was just fried. With the sauces, it was okay but it fell short of our expectations.

KV
1 review
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Absolutely adore the food at this restaurant! The vegetarian soup was incredible, I will be going back at lunch time just for that. Also loved the strawberry merengue dessert. Our waitress was incredibly attentive and helpful. My only complaint would be that there was a significant backup at the hostess stand when we arrived, line out the door, we waited 20 minutes past our reservation to sit, even while at least 10 tables were visibly available. Otherwise a wonderful experience.

EQ
1 review
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 4

I've dined at Laili 10 times or so. This was the first time I was not "wowed". The service and food were off. There was a private party of 30 on the patio and maybe that was the issue.

Anyway, I hope the next time I eat there, they redeem themselves.

OT
Central Coast
2 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The staff is friendly and helpful. The food is beautiful and flavors, complex.

KB
1 review
Dined on September 6, 2019
Overall 2food 3service 4ambience 4

The biggest problem is that Laili was not responsive to my attempts to reach a manager. First of all, no one answers the phone. Secondly, no one returned my phone messages. I wanted to talk to a manager because the credit card company did not include the tip I put on the bill. This is the third time that I know of that that happened. If it's occurring with my company on my card, it may be happening to others. Mine was a $21 tip and if I were wait staff, I'd want management to be looking into the problem. I hope Laili management is more responsive to its staff than it has been to me. Secondly, the chocolate torte was not chocolaty--very disappointing. It looked great, but tasted blah. Third, the mobile reservation system flails. To get the time we wanted, I had to put in a later time and then modify it. I had to do that twice before the system gave a sufficiently early time. There was no instruction to do that; I just tried it. We liked the dinners and the wait staff.

MM
1 review
Dined on September 6, 2019
Overall 2food 4service 3ambience 2

Although the food was good, when we arrived we were all but ignored, and even with a reservation, we were told that we only had a certain amount of time to finish eating and then we would have to give up our table! I found this very off-putting. We had to move three times in order to get an adequate spot where we wouldn't have to be kicked out before we finished enjoying our night out! Even the manager (who we spoke with) was only lackluster at best in his willingness to help. I would say the host was inept. The wait staff were very nice. Mostly attentive. I would love to see a restaurant in Santa Cruz where people are actually trained to go overboard for the customer, who is paying a decent sum of money, by the way, to frequent their establishment. Adult, well-educated, dedicated wait staff.

R
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on September 6, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 4

Excellent food, very nice setting, a bit noisy. Greeter and servers very professional but bit cold.

SS
1 review
Dined on September 5, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 3ambience 2

Usually when I go to Laili, I ask for garden seating and get it. This time I did not receive it. The interior of the restaurant does not have anywhere near the ambience of the garden, and is very noisy.

J
1 review
Dined on September 5, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 4

Every visit to Laili has been enjoyable. The atmosphere of the outside courtyard is attractive, comfortable and inviting. Meals are outstanding; flavorful and original. Service has always been good, but not great. Yesterday, the hostess was unwelcoming, unfriendly, never smiled, exhibited zero customer service attributes and was borderline rude. Perhaps more training is necessary and a basic understanding of what it means to work in the hospitality business could help her do a better job and not offend your guests.

MG
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on September 5, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We chose Laili’s for our August birthday lunches, and this is why...
Reservations were easily made online, our table was ready when we arrived. Our server was very attentive, brought us menus and water, then we received flatbread with oil to dip. We each had a delicious iced drink- coffee with cardamom and a tall glass of chai. We each decided on the lunch trio and had chocolate moose for desert! It was a lovely time because it’s Laili’s, deliciousness and very pleasant atmosphere!

LT
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on September 4, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 3

Especially excellent service and food that is always tasty and fresh, from local sources. I appreciate balance of health and savory dishes. I also feel like staff are very welcoming

OT
1 review
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall 2food 2service 1ambience 1

This place use to be what I looked forward to. But this time was a big disappointment. From “registering” at the front desk for our reservation to getting the bill, it was a 2 out of 10 at best. Who is managing the restaurant because it felt like it was not being managed at all. Oh yea, and when you sit outside on the patio the light from the kitchen was blinding and the kitchen noise was horrendous.

M
San Francisco
5 reviews
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 4ambience 4

The setting is nice, and our waiter very much service oriented. A few observations. The hostess was clearly overwhelmed. We had to wait 10 mins to check in, and 10 mins to be seated, and we had a reservation.

Also, I have several dietary restrictions. I did tell the waiter I am lactose intolerant, and they kept the cheese on the salad, and omitted to say there was lactose in the pomegranate sauce, resulting in me being quite sick the next day. While food is good and innovative, I think the plates were priced higher that they should be.

P
San Francisco
13 reviews
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

As usual the Cesar salad was great. Most of us had the salmon pasta dish. A nice dish with lots of salmon. We'll be back

DC
Washington DC
3 reviews
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Fantastic food as usual. We come here once a year during the summer and it is our favorite restaurant in Santa Cruz. Service was a bit lackluster this time, but not a big deal.

JL
New Mexico
16 reviews
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 4

Having dinner at Laili was a delightful experience. This is a great spot for special occasions.

h
San Francisco
32 reviews
Dined on August 31, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Lovely setting, delicious entrees, and solid service. It would have been a perfect meal if the server, after saying that we would get as much naan as we would like, had brought more than the two pieces of naan that we ultimately received (for a table of 7). We couldn't finish our appetizer due to insufficient naan, which was a shame. Otherwise the entrees were all great.

OT
1 review
Dined on August 31, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

One of our favorites!

M
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on August 30, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Being there several times and will go back again. Ambiance, i.e., the patio, was great.

OT
1 review
Dined on August 29, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

My daughter and I had dinner here. She’s visiting from New Orleans. It was a beautiful summer night, dining in the charming outdoor courtyard/patio. The food was fresh and delicious and the service was personable and efficient. We shared plates which was fun. We started with the borani as an appetizer, followed by the spinach salad. Our entree was fettuccine w/ an arugula pesto sauce, sun dried tomatoes and black olives. We finished w/ the cardamom creme brûlée. The presentation of each dish was creative and portions are ample. All in all a great experience.
I have had both lunch and dinner here and have never been disappointed.

DH
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on August 29, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

It was a beautiful evening and we sat outside on the lovely, green patio, which is amazing! We felt like we were in a European cafe. Food was excellent, and the service, too. Would definitely recommend it.

MS
San Francisco
5 reviews
Dined on August 25, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Excellent food, best restaurant of its kind. Great place in Santa Cruz

KJ
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on August 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Caesar was our waiter, he was also our waiter last time we ate there. I think he's one of the best waiters I've ever had. He's calm, clear, sharp, and on it. He doesn't try to connect too much, he just gets to the point and does a fabulous job. He should get a raise! The food was amazing as usual. My partner thought her trout was a little too salty, I thought it was perfect, but I love salt! We did have to wait for almost 20 minutes for our table, even though we had reservations, I thought that was weird. There were tables inside, but since we asked for outside, I assume that's why we had to wait. The host kept asking to get the reading glasses back that I borrowed to see the menu, since I forgot mine. I couldn't figure out why he kept asking me for them. I was still using them, trying to figure out the bill. Awkward, since I had zero intentions in taking them. Overall I give Laili a 5! I love the sauces and the way you cook your lamb, yum! I like that your restaurant is consistently good. Thanks for a great experience.

TB
1 review
Dined on August 23, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 3ambience 5

I love this restaurant but a couple things seem like maybe they are careless now. Spinach Salad with Grilled Haloumi cheese arrived with no cheese, the main event! It was just a soggy spinach salad. :(

My beloved Borani (spelling) used to be a delicate dish presented artfully.
This was a scoop of mashed (with hard chunks) of squash on a blob of sour cream. Looked sloppy and had no spice .

Please retain your attention to detail and innovative food. I will try you again for sure.

Other dishes were ok.

J
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on August 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We love the courtyard and always go to Laili for a special occasion because the food and service are awesome!

JC
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on August 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Every time we come here, it’s better than the last visit, and each is great. Discovered it by accident on the 4th of July. We drive the better part of 100 miles to get there. (Doesn’t hurt that I spent 2 great years in Santa Cruz, ‘89-‘91.)

Outstanding, unique, food, outstanding service, reasonably priced. We didn’t have to wait long to be seated on our first visit, even without a reservation.

A little louder than I’d prefer, but I guess there are plenty of folks that love this place like I do. The staff is very responsive to requests and really takes care of you—makes you feel special, having the kind of dining experience we all like to have. I hate to tell more people about such a gem, in a way, but ya gotta give props when they’re due! Wish there was such a place in Marin County. But what a great excuse for a day trip down Highway 1!

TW
1 review
Dined on August 23, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 5

Laili serves consistently good food and the service is always very good. They are very attentive. I love to sit on the patio which can be romantic or just quiet enough to have a nice conversation. Lunch and dinner have been equally satisfying.

JB
Palm Springs
3 reviews
Dined on August 21, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Excellent Mediterranean meal. We had delicious dumplings, lamb kabobs and a Greek salad.
They also served a flat bread with an olive oil mixture that was perfect.

L
1 review
Dined on August 20, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

I love everything about this great restaurant! It’s wonderful! Please don’t change a thing!!
The ambience, food, service and experience overall is great! Whenever I want to take a friend for a special lunch, I always choose this wonderful restaurant!
Lisa

OT
Orange County
1 review
Dined on August 18, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

A perfect find in the heart of Santa Cruz! The food was fantastic. We shared the Apricot Chicken Flatbread and that night’s special salad that had arugula and strawberries. The flatbread was delicious, a great pairing of flavors. The crust was crisp and flavorful. Our guest had the chicken kabob, which was a generous serving. The plate came with three sauces to dip the chunks of chicken in. So good.

JE
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on August 18, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 3

The food was especially good on Sunday night and our wait person was very nice and accommodating. It was a little loud and challenging to talk across the table, but overall, we loved it.

KB
1 review
Dined on August 18, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We love this place! We visit whenever we’re in the area and have recommended it to friends who were planning trips to Santa Cruz. This is a real find!

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