Manuel Santana passed away last week. He was a vibrant Santa Cruz renaissance man that was a voracious painter, helped create the Cabrillo Music Festival a political activist and founded Manuel’s restaurant in Seacliff. I only met him a couple times. Sometimes I saw him during lunch time at his Manuel’s restaurant. The waitress would tell me that Manny is serving up some special soup he just concocted and if I would like some – like an oversized amuse bouche as only the big guy could make it. Over the years I came to realize that Manuel’s was not only my all time favorite restaurant, but the one I’ve dined at more than often any other in my lifetime.
My early remembrances are going there in the early Seventies. Then, the tab for my family of four with a couple of beers for mom and dad, came under twenty bucks. Through out time, they eventually came about to accepting credit cards and were open to midnight on most nights!
The Food? Still, in my opinion probably still the best Mexican American style food I can find. The refried beans are still the bar that all others are measured. The Chile Relleno is sublime, fluffy batter surrounding a large chile liberally stuffed with cheese. The chips? Still the best served with a zippy salsa that I can’t stop eating!
A toast to Manny and his everlasting imprint on Santa Cruz life!