In 2019, a new kind of restaurant settled into The Hangar complex near Watsonville Municipal Airport. Mr. Z’s Crepes and Teas, created by owner Rocky Patel, offers a wide selection of offerings: Fresh savory and sweet crepes, bubble teas, waffles, acai bowls, coffee drinks and more.
The popularity of the eatery has continued to grow, garnering a dedicated following of customers from as far away as Scotts Valley. And now it is opening a new location in Aptos.
Patel’s wife and business partner, Ru Patel, says they had been interested in expanding, but weren’t sure if it would be possible during the pandemic.
“Rocky just started looking around to see if there were any potential locations, and came across a spot in Aptos,” she said. “Everything happened very fast—we were really fortunate. It was just an idea but it literally happened overnight.”
The new eatery is located at 7518 Soquel Drive in the Aptos Center shopping complex, between Ace’s Flowers and Aptos Natural Foods. It is right around the corner from another popular eatery, Zameen Mediterranean Cuisine, which opened a satellite location near Mr. Z’s in Watsonville before temporarily closing during the pandemic.
Zameen owner Ed Watson was Mr. Z’s first customer at both the Watsonville and Aptos locations. Ru Patel says Watson has been a big support for them through the process of opening the eateries.
“We are both originally from England but ended up in Santa Cruz,” she said. “We’re kind of kindred spirits. Even before our Watsonville location, we went to Zameen and talked with him. Once we opened, he became a familiar face.”
Santa Cruz and Mid-County businesses expanding into South County has been a common trend in recent years. In addition to Zameen, Beer Mule Bottleshop + Pour House, an offshoot of Beer Thirty in Soquel, settled into the Hangar complex.
Ferrari Florist, an iconic Santa Cruz-based florist recently expanded into a spot at the East Lake Shopping Center. And in late March, Staff of Life will open a second location of its natural foods grocery store in that same center.
But with Mr. Z’s expansion, now a Watsonville eatery is getting a chance to expand north. They will be offering the same menu, but Ru Patel says things might change depending on customer preferences and patterns. They have already seen a difference in what time of day they are busy.
“In Watsonville, we have a big crowd in the evenings, probably because of Beer Mule,” Patel said. “In Aptos it’s more of a breakfast-lunch thing. So maybe things will change in the future. We’re going to listen to our customers and adapt from there.”
Before opening Mr. Z’s, Patel says she and her husband purchased a commercial crepe griddle and kept it on their kitchen counter for about a year, experimenting and perfecting a technique.
“We were making crepes maybe two or three times a week, for an entire year,” she said. “It was a labor of love.”
Every month they and their employees try new recipes—in March, they featured a BBQ Chicken Crepe. Sometimes a limited item will become popular enough to make it to the regular menu.
“We had a Chicken Pesto crepe that was meant to be a special… but when we took it off we had mutiny on our hands,” Patel laughed. “Now it’s a staple.”
Other popular items include the Cali Club Crepe, the Bubble Waffle and the Iced Thai Tea. They have also just introduced three vegan crepes.
Mr. Z’s is looking to add more experienced crepe makers to its Aptos team before it sets a Grand Opening date. Currently they are still at limited hours, Thursday-Sunday 10am-6pm.
“Aptos has been so welcoming,” Patel said. “We’ve had some amazing customers. But we’re still learning. And it’s Covid, so you still need to social distance, wear a mask, and be a little more patient with food service.”
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