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Delicious breakfast on a light table

Shortlist: Eight Breakfast Places In Santa Cruz That Locals Love!

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Santa Cruz on central California’s coast is packed full of unique places to eat and shop. A popular tourist destination, this area is known for its beaches and surf culture, and is a place where you can easily build up an appetite!

Luckily, whether you’re here for the surf or just to chill by the water, you can start your day right thanks to our selection of the best spots for breakfast in Santa Cruz!

So whether you just want some great food or want to fuel up for a day full of adventures, there’s breakfast spanning from Brazilian cuisine to classic American dishes waiting for you in Santa Cruz. Let’s dig in!

Selection of breakfast items
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Our Top Eight Picks For The Best Breakfast In Santa Cruz: Food, Views & Fun!

1. Café Brasil

This colorful spot is a beautiful celebration of Brazilian culture with Brazilian-style dishes made with local ingredients from Santa Cruz. This is a wonderfully unique place to tuck into a seriously fresh breakfast or brunch in Santa Cruz.

Café Brasil has got your basic breakfast offerings down with some authentic additions such as Tilapia fish fillet with eggs or crab meat benedict. The vast array of ingredients to choose from when it comes to omelettes will get your stomach growling too, and with two different tofu scramble options vegetarians and vegans are sure to be satisfied too.

Portions for all menu items are generous and you will find so much to enjoy like delicious pancakes and muffins as well as a breakfast bowl of tropical fruit. Alternatively, on hot days you might appreciate the juice bar with made-to-order smoothies and juices using delicious tropical fruits like papaya, açaí, and acerola! We’ve been told their açaí bowls are fantastic and certainly they do appear to be a popular favourite for takeout! The flavour you will experience at Café Brazil is impressive for sure.

You will find indoor and limited outdoor seating, as well as a few parking spaces available. The staff are friendly and helpful, and you’ll be welcomed warmly.

On top of that, this café gives off a chill and fun vibe, their prices don’t break the bank and it’s easily accessible from the highway. Definitely one of the best places for a very unique breakfast or brunch in Santa Cruz.

Opening Times: 08:00-15:00 Mon-Sun

Address: 1410 Mission St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

a selection of acai bowls
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2. The Picnic Basket

Right across from the beach, one of the best spots for breakfast in Santa Cruz by the sea can be found at The Picnic Basket. This quaint little counter-serve café right by the boardwalk brings locally sourced breakfast items to the table and ingredients are delivered fresh every day from farms, fields and food artisans around Santa Cruz County.

The breakfast options on offer are simple but high quality, and include tasty classics like the breakfast burrito, sandwiches or avocado on toast, hot cereal, toast and jam, as well as pastries from the local bakery.

The Picnic Basket offers indoor and outdoor seating but is also the perfect takeout for breakfast as you’re just a few steps away from having your toes in the sand. An ideal start to the day would surely be to grab a delicious cup of coffee with a breakfast burrito and hit the beach?

The staff here are super friendly and happy to help too, and with your average beachside café usually offering sub-par coffee and unhealthy snacks, The Picnic Basket should be a top pick for a healthy and delicious breakfast right on Santa Cruz Beach.

Plus, if you fancy popping back after you’ve sunned yourself, you can find a selection of ice cream from the famous Penny Ice Creamery sold here.

Opening Times: 07:00-16:00 every day.

Address: 125 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

3. Santa Cruz Diner

If American diner-style is more your thing, then Santa Cruz Diner is the place for you. The jukebox playing music, as well as the classic imagery and signage on the walls make for an authentic kitschy feel to the place. The classic dining booths and bar compliment the look, offering a fun space for breakfast out. There is also a lovely patio out back while breakfast treats for the whole family can be found thanks to the massive all-day breakfast menu.

Included within that is a large selection of pancakes and waffles, as well as omelettes, skillets and scrambles. Some options worth a taste include the Canadian Bacon Benedict that’s bursting with flavour, plus a side of sausage gravy will gain you a large and fluffy biscuit!

The waffles give other restaurants a run for their money thanks to their perfect balance of crunchy and soft. There are some great vegetarian options too, including an indulgent Quasidilla filled with scrambled egg, onions, peppers, and cheddar as well as Monterey Jack cheese.

Notably, Santa Cruz Diner sets itself apart from most American diners with their offering of coffee brewed from freshly ground beans and thick old-fashioned hand-scooped milkshakes.

In our opinion, this kid-friendly diner easily earns its spot as one of the best spots for breakfast in Santa Cruz. It’s a classic diner with great food, a retro vibe and a little modern flare.

Opening Times: 08:00-21:00 Mon-Thurs, 08:00-22:00 Fri-Sun.

Address: 909 Ocean St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Waffle stack
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4. Windmill Café

This cute little café just two blocks from the water is a real diamond of a breakfast spot offering takeaway and outdoor seating. It’s a really nice space to hang out at before hitting the beach.

Situated within the historic Lincoln Windmill building established in 1930, this establishment is not only pretty but it also offers health-conscious options for breakfast.

Take a seat in the sweet patio garden surrounded by flowers and foliage to eat beneath a picturesque windmill. There are parasols to provide shade, dogs are welcome, there’s wifi, and the staff are super friendly and attentive. What’s not to love? Parking can be found on-site too, and as this café is so small and there are seats outside, it’s very accessible.

The Windmill Café offers a simple selection of breakfast options with a great number of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Most notably Tempeh Bacon, a rarity in breakfast restaurants, can be found here.

Locals love the Windmill Café’s homemade muffins, and if you’re after a wholesome smoothie they’ll have you sorted with ingredients ranging from spirulina to aćaí and plenty of fresh fruit in-between.

Opening Times: 08:00-14:00 Mon-Sun

Address: 21231 E Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

dog and food
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Buchanan

5. Zachary’s Restaurant

This oldie but a goldie is a popular favourite with locals in Santa Cruz and is an ideal place for a good old-fashioned American breakfast. Open bright and early at 7am, there are plenty of options here to whet your appetite.

Having been around for almost four decades, Zachary’s has a fun, casual, homely, even nostalgic feel to it with friendly staff and quick service. You can sit inside or outside (that area is dog friendly), and with the Santa Cruz Riverwalk just a stone’s throw away you can walk off your indulgent morning straight afterwards! Or perhaps you’d like breakfast to go so you can find a spot along the walk to sit and eat?

Make breakfast your own here with many variations on the basic breakfast, from steak and eggs to sourdough pancakes and delicious veggie options like scrambled tofu with fresh garlic and ginger. You can easily substitute aspects of your meal for more preferable or healthy options such as exchanging toast for jalapeño cornbread or fries for fresh fruit. Whatever your preference for breakfast, Zachary’s has some fantastic options.

You can also create your perfect breakfast omelette from a list of over 15 ingredients and enjoy it with home fries cooked in onions, garlic, herbs and special seasoning. Sounds good right?

But a special mention must be made for “Zachary’s Breakfast Burger” too. If you’re in the mood for food, then get your chops around this one! Grilled oatmeal molasses toast topped with two fried eggs, pepper bacon, grilled onions, cheddar cheese and smoky maple mustard on the side. This mega mouthful makes a great brunch option for those who skipped breakfast.

For a hearty classic American breakfast in Santa Cruz, Zachary’s is amongst the best. 

Opening Times: 07:00-14:30 Tues-Sun.

Address: 819 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Omelet with parsley, cherry tomatoes
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6. Linda’s Seabreeze Café

Loved by tourists and locals alike, this restaurant is found just a short walk up from Seabright Beach and is a lesser-known gem within the Santa Cruz area. The food here is appetising and fresh, the service is smooth, and the vibes near the sea are just what you want.

Along with all your classic breakfast offerings, the original dishes at Linda’s Seabreeze Café are something to behold. Take the “Tofu Fun” as an example. This vegan dish is a definite hit, with Tofu sautéed with mushrooms, green onions tomatoes and salsa served with potatoes and toast. Yum! In fact there are several vegan and veggie options to enjoy, and overall the menu has a lot to offer.

And one fantastic highlight to this menu that we always rave about is the offering of a cinnamon roll with your meal instead of toast or a muffin! This unique addition will get your mouth watering. After all, what better way to finish a delicious breakfast than with a soft, gooey cinnamon roll and the option of some butter to melt over its steamy goodness? Add a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice to your order to really make this breakfast worthy of a chef’s kiss.

Linda’s Seabreeze café isn’t shy about substitutions so if there are some items you want to switch around to make your breakfast perfect for you, go for it. All of which makes this Santa Cruz breakfast spot a great place if you have dietary requirements.

The staff here are super friendly and genuinely care if you’re having a good time too. Plus, with tasty daily specials made with fresh ingredients, you’re sure to agree with many that this is one of the best breakfasts in Santa Cruz.

With indoor and outdoor seating they truly cater for a lot here. Just be sure to hit the ATM before you stop by this cash-only business!

Opening Times: 08:00-14:00 Mon, Tues, Thurs-Sat, 08:00-13:00 Sun

Address: 542 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Delicious breakfast on a light table
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7. The Walnut Avenue Café

According to Sunset Magazine this is Santa Cruz’s best breakfast, and it’s hard to argue with that. From waffles to omelettes, scrambles to benedicts, The Walnut Avenue Café certainly has enough options to charm the whole family. Besides, where else can you get a mouth-wateringly good Blackened Ahi Tuna Benedict!

A Santa Cruz breakfast favourite since 1994, The Walnut Avenue Café has a friendly atmosphere with a relaxed, cozy dining setting and delicious food served with a smile. On top of that, this cafe is situated just a short walk from the San Lorenzo River. You can choose indoor or outdoor seating and there are parasols available to give you some shade outside if needed.

Kids will feel treated dining here too, especially if they are allowed to enjoy the “Mighty Mouse Pancake” – perhaps with an extra indulgence of hot chocolate too? Quite frankly adults, you’ll be jealous.

There’s great options here for big kids too of course. And a popular favourite with the locals is the Belgian waffle or French toast with grilled banana, walnuts and whipped cream. An indulgence worth sinking your teeth into. If you’re a fan of caramelised banana this certainly makes for one of the best breakfasts in Santa Cruz – and a very tasty way to gain energy for the day ahead!

If you love something savoury, then the Eggs Benedict will be right up your street. Prepared with two poached eggs with smoked Canadian bacon, hollandaise sauce and served on an English muffin with homefries, this breakfast item is a crowd pleaser!

This popular breakfast spot doesn’t take reservations so turn up early and expect a short wait – although it’s well worth it in our opinion! Plus, you are welcome to bring your furry friends along as the outside dining area is dog friendly.

Opening Times: 08:00-15:00 Mon-Fri, 08:00-16:00 Sat and Sun.

Address: 106 Walnut Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Eggs benedict breakfast
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8. Harbor Café

Situated between Twin Lakes State Beach and Santa Cruz Harbor, this nautical-themed breakfast restaurant combines a laid-back American diner atmosphere with seriously good food.

An established part of the local community now for over sixty years, Harbor Cafe has grown to become a brunch hotspot. You can sit inside or out on the pleasant patio dining area and feast your eyes on a selection of breakfast delights. Plus, the location means it’s for sure a great choice for takeout too.

This popular Santa Cruz breakfast spot offers all your breakfast essentials of scrambles and omelettes, benedicts, pancakes and waffles, as well as breakfast burritos and Huevos Rancheros. 

A special mention must go out to the tasty Cali croissant as well. It’s a delicious open-faced croissant with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon, topped with avocado and served with hash browns… yum!

There are some exciting cocktails on offer to go with your meal if you fancy breakfast with an added kick. No ordinary Bloody Mary’s here though, as Harbor Café serves up it’s own award-winning spicy mix alongside a cocktail stick of snacks on top. It’s a whole appetiser in itself! With many naming this place as the best breakfast in Santa Cruz, you’re hard-pressed to find anyone in the area that doesn’t enjoy the food here.

With super friendly staff, a feel-good atmosphere and exciting cocktails, what’s not to love? Harbor Café supports some great local businesses too and is partial to hosting events in the afternoon and evening. In fact, they have previously held a summer party in collaboration with Collective Santa Cruz so keep an eye out for more to come.

The café doesn’t take reservations and wait times for a table can get long, but it’s well worth it. Plan ahead, get down there early and you won’t be disappointed. You down?

Opening Times: 09:00-14:00 Thurs-Mon

Address: 535 7th Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Filled croissant
Photo for illustrative purposes only: Unsplash+

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