Shadowbrook: The Best Restaurant For Family Travel In Capitola

Shadowbrook in Capitola, CA (near Santa Cruz) is a favorite restaurant and has won multiple awards over the years, including The World Spoon Award and the Neighborhood Favorite from Nextdoor. My family and I make a point to visit this restaurant every time we head to Capitola – it’s that good. This particular family travel trip was during summer vacation. This restaurant is truly unique, starting with its history. 

The History Of Shadowbrook

Initially, Shadowbrook was used as a summer family home in the 1920s. It became inhabited by a few different families who added to the house until its last tenant abandoned it. The restaurant’s original owners found the property in 1944, and they began restoring/renovating the house. This included creating a pathway through the thick brush and carrying furniture down this pathway.

After three years of work, the restaurant was able to open in 1947 to instant success. 1958 brought along the famous cable car that is still used today. Throughout the years, the restaurant has updated furniture and redesigned to create the Shadowbrook you see today. 

The truly unique décor helps create a fantastic atmosphere here. You can either enter the restaurant by a winding stairwell or via cable car leading from the top of the hill into the restaurant. 

What You Need To Know:

  • There is a dress code that you will need to adhere to. Dinner attire is required to eat in the Dining Room – think business casual or more formal.
  • If you’re bringing your child with you, ask for the children’s menu.
  • Make sure to schedule a reservation as it gets quite busy at this location. 
  • If you need a ride to the restaurant, you can call for a free shuttle. You must be within 3 miles of Shadowbrook.
  • Last year, the restaurant was closed due to Covid. It has recently been reopened and is accepting guests.

About Shadowbrook:

One thing to note about this restaurant is there are two different main dining areas/menus – the Dining Room and the Rock Room. The Dining Room provides a more formal setting which requires more formal attire. The atmosphere of the area emotes a romantic vibe and offers seating near a fireplace.The Rock Room is named so for its interesting rock wall. This is the more casual area of the restaurant. However, the rock wall coupled with the partial window ceiling creates the ideal backdrop for wedding ceremonies. While wedding events are booked all around the picturesque property, it is a popular spot to have it hosted in this section. There are even little hidden nooks and private dining areas where you and your significant other can enjoy your meals.

Shadowbrook Menu Offerings:

Both the Dining Room and the Rock Room offer American-style cuisine with seafood and steak options. They have an extensive wine list and a good number of beers/cocktails available. There are some non-alcoholic options available as well, like smoothies and Italian sodas.

You can expect to find items like seared Ahi Tuna, sea scallops, and lobster tail on the menu in the Dining Room.  

The Rock Room menu offers items like soft pretzels, pizza, and sandwiches. There is some spillover from the Dining Room, like a few appetizers and entrees. If you’re in the mood for a more relaxed setting but still want items from the other menu, you’re in luck.

What We Ate:

I have tried many items from Shadowbrook’s menu and have loved each one. I ate the pan pacific salmon on this particular visit, which is my favorite item on the menu. It features organically fed (and sustainably raised) salmon with julienne vegetables and sea greens, all topped with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds. When visiting this restaurant, it is a must-try dish – it has been featured both in Bon Appétit magazine and in the local newspaper as one of their best menu offerings. 

My husband enjoyed the steak, and my daughter ate the mac and cheese from the kid’s menu. The children’s menu includes favorites like chicken tenders, pasta, pizza, prime rib, and fresh salmon. You can find items for even the pickiest eaters.

As for drinks, I enjoyed the hot pear cider, which has pear puree combined with apple cider. My husband indulged in a martini, and my daughter loved her apple juice.  

Shadowbrook Reservation tips:

As Shadowbrook is a highly visited restaurant, I recommend making reservations before heading here. You can make daily Dining Room reservations up to 30 days before you plan to head here. If you are visiting on a weekend evening, be prepared for this spot to be quite busy. Arriving around 4 pm to eat will offer some ease from the crowd, though if you plan to be here at 6 pm or later, you’ll see people start to stream in. 

We always make a reservation before heading here to ensure we won’t have to fight the crowds. Of course, if it’s a busy night, you may still need to wait for a table even with a pre-appointed time.

Why You Should Eat Here:

There’s a reason we keep heading back to this restaurant over and over again. The location, for starters, creates a unique experience that newer restaurants can not replicate. You’re surrounded by a creek on one side and lush greenery and bright flowers on the other. Plus, the unique entrance methods (cable car and winding staircase) set the scene and mood for the evening. 

When you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice a natural vibe promoted by windows overlooking the creek, a porch offering views of the treetops, and the surrounding trees and brush. No matter where you choose to be seated, you’ll feel as if you’re eating in the comfort of your home. Especially with the world-class service.

We have had excellent experiences at Shadowbrook with their customer service. Friendly waiters and waitstaff fill the restaurant. 

The interior of the restaurant is also something to marvel at. Most areas include large windows allowing plenty of natural light to flow in. If you happen to go here while an event is occurring, you’ll most likely see the rooms light up with strings of lights as well.

Overall, Shadowbrook is as close to perfection as possible for a restaurant. From the food quality to the ambiance, friendly staff, and interior, you really can’t get much better. If you find yourself in the Capitola area in the future, make sure you head here for an unforgettable experience. You won’t be disappointed! Make sure to bring your family when you travel here – they’ll love it too. 

Location of Restaurant: 1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, CA 95010. 


Hours vary depending on the day. 

Comments (7)

  • Lesa Rossick

    August 11, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    oh wow! I haven’t heard of this place…sounds perfect!

  • Julie

    August 26, 2021 at 12:19 am

    That place looks so cozy. Love it. Great pictures!

  • Julie

    August 30, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    This place looks so cute and cozy! Love your pictures

  • LeeAnah James

    September 5, 2021 at 5:48 pm

    This sounds great!! I live in Cali so I need to check this out.

  • Rimina

    September 6, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    Love the thorough guide on this! Thank you ✨

  • Owen Ponce

    December 1, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    I am delighted by its history behind this… So good and wonderful day here with the whole family! Good choice for a wonderful feast too

    1. Hyun Jang Nim

      December 6, 2021 at 8:27 am

      This is indeed a great experience. The place is awesome. I appreciate that you give so much information which are very helpful in case we will have a chance to visit this as well.

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