“Try This” is a weekly column that celebrates local businesses — especially eateries, watering holes, coffee shops and the like.

Tarmo Hannula

Food: Poke House

A “signature bowl” of various seafoods, sauces, seaweed and vegetables is a typical meal at the recently opened Poke House,1543 Pacific Ave. in downtown Santa Cruz. The bowls are built by customers’ choices at a walk-up counter where a server arranges the food for you and offers suggestions to round out your meal. The menu board reads: “Our unique take on Hawaiian Poke and seasonally changing menu is made in house and prepared fresh every day.” My first dinner there was tremendous, full of flavor, freshness and variety. Our window table gave us a nice spot to check out downtown activity in the simple and modern setting.

Drink: Graffeo Coffee Roasting

I’m confident that anyone who’s been reading the Pajaronian for a number of years knows that I travel a lot. And in my travels, I’ve developed an interest in bringing home a taste of the spot I visited. One of these treats is what my wife Sarah and I have come to believe is one of the best coffees we tasted, Graffeo Coffee Roasting of San Francisco. Graffeo was founded in 1935 on the streets of San Francisco’s Italian culinary capital, North Beach, and is one of North America’s oldest artisan coffee roasters. They offer light, medium and dark roasts, and all of those in decaf as well. We get the dark and have ordered from them through the mail for decades. When in the city, we’ve stopped by Graffeo at 735 Columbus Ave. We are always warmly welcomed. Their phone is (415) 986-2420.

Fun: Santa Cruz Big Trees

The Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway operates passenger and freight services on one of the oldest and most historic lines in California. Departing from the Santa Cruz Mountains, visitors travel through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, down the scenic San Lorenzo River Gorge, across a 1909 steel truss bridge and through an 1875 tunnel before arriving at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Reverse roundtrips departing from the beach in Santa Cruz to Roaring Camp and back may be purchased from the conductor on the train departing from Santa Cruz.  When the route opened in 1875 it carried lumber as well as picnickers and tourists to Big Trees and Santa Cruz. Today’s passengers can start their roundtrip journeys from either Roaring Camp in Felton or from the beach in Santa Cruz. For information, visit roaringcamp.com.

Todd Guild

Food: Meal on a train

I took the Amtrak train to Denver, CO with my family recently to see the Rocky Mountains and spend a few days traveling around the state. Meals are included in the price of the sleeper car, which included the $39 surf-and-turf choice, the $32 steak or the $30 salmon. Lunch and breakfast was delicious, too. All in all, the experience is well worth the extra cost.

Drink: Coffee with a view

Amtrak prides itself on its service and refreshments, and both were top-notch. Each car has its very own attendant, who made our beds every night and folded them up in the morning, and also provided fresh, hot coffee.

todds food drink fun web 7-12

The author’s wife and son in the dining car of the California Zephyr, the Amtrak train that runs from Emeryville to Chicago. — Todd Guild/Pajaronian

Fun: Sleeper cars

For those of you who haven’t experienced sleeping on a train, I highly recommend it. It is a luxury to be able to stretch and sleep while traveling, and to have privacy when you want it was a nice added bonus. Moreover, riding on the train gives one a backroads view of the country normally unseen by freeway travelers; everything ranging from strikingly beautiful farmland to vast desert-scapes to gritty worlds of urban wrecking-yards and graffiti-covered warehouses. We saw the red rock mesas of Utah, the plains of Colorado leading to the Rocky Mountains and – to my kids’ surprise and giggling delight – rafters on the Colorado River mooning the passing train, apparently a tradition among that crowd.

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