There is a slightly sagging, slightly grubby Indian restaurant in Santa Cruz, the Royal Taj. My family had always looked at it with interest but dismissed it on the grounds of an unassuming exterior, until my parents went with their friends the Mounts for dinner. The Mounts love the food (and their family is a wonderful judge of food) and since that dinner we have gone several times to enjoy, especially the chicken makhan wala. It is always a good sign of an ethnic food establishment when most of the customers are of that particular ethnicity: they won't be there if it isn't good. I went with my mother for lunch last week, the $8.95 lunch buffet, and we loved it (unlimited naan!) especially, as reflected on our clean plates. As an added bonus, the curry and spice colors are incredible to gaze upon while you eat. The restaurant rests on the corner of Soquel Avenue - go!
The lunch was followed by toasted barley (me) and cardamom-pistachio-chocolate chip (mom) ice cream from the Penny Ice Creamery, a store whose story is as inspiring as its local, organic, seasonal homemade ice cream. The toasted barley was savory and sensational, the cardamom sweet and fresh. This will be a summer favorite indeed.