Ten years ago today this blog was born. In the mid-1990s, before Yelp of even Google existed, I was running Santa Barbara’s only online restaurant guide and review system on SantaBarbara.com, using software I wrote myself because you couldn’t buy such a thing. Then, after more than a decade of operating the restaurant guide (where I became privy to a lot of local food news), I launched this food news blog on January 4, 2007.
Soon after it went online, to my huge surprise, I was asked to write a restaurant column for the since-departed Santa Barbara Daily Sound newspaper. This was a surprise because I am a computer software engineer by trade and I have no formal food or journalism training. Despite my fear of public humiliation I accepted their offer.
For the first full year, this blog didn’t have a name, because I couldn’t think of one. Then one day I was exiting a downtown elevator when I bumped into John Zant, who has been a working journalist in Santa Barbara for over 40 years. He recognized me and said “The restaurant guy!”
Unlike with a blog, which has visitor analytics, when you write for a newspaper you never know if anyone actually reads your work. There is usually a lot of other great stuff to choose from. For all I know, the only reader of The Restaurant Guy in print is a canary looking at the bottom of her bird cage.
But while writing for the Daily Sound, I eventually discovered that at least a few people stumbled across my ramblings. One time I learned that BevMo was coming to upper State Street months before any official announcement. The very next day after my story hit the newspaper racks, a local newspaper, television channel and radio station ran their own BevMo stories.
There was also a learning curve. In the Daily Sound I once had a headline story that the Cheesecake Factory was going to takeover Pep Boys on lower State Street, which turned out to be totally false. This is when I discovered that there is no delete key when you publish in print. I was rightfully blasted for my error, complete with calls from an attorney. But I was also blasted once by the Santa Barbara Independent for a restaurant story that turned out to be… true. After 5 years at the Daily Sound, the paper ended circulation in 2012 and I had the great fortune to be invited to join the crew at the Independent which has been my happy home in the print world ever since.
TEN YEARS AGO: A decade ago I had to research about 75% of the information in this blog (walking streets looking for signs, making phone calls), and about 25% was from tips received via email. These days about 90% of The Restaurant Guy news is directly from people like you who read this blog, and about 10% is done the old fashioned way, where I go food news hunting, looking for a story. It has really become a community effort and the news is more comprehensive and much timelier.
So what was the first food news I published back in January 2007? Milk & Honey was new, Panino was opening soon in Goleta, Coffee Bean was set to replace Santa Barbara Sandwich Company next to the Granada, DogHouse restaurant on Milpas Street closed, Crumbs Bakery was opening soon in Goleta, Spirtland Bistro was hosting a Santa Barbara Young Professionals Club meeting with guest speaker Roger Durling, Julian’s Mexican Café on Milpas Street closed, Taiko on State Street closed, and The Hungry Cat restaurant was opening soon at 1134 Chapala Street, the former home of JoJo’s and L’Ombretta.
That first week I also wrote about some personal experiences at local eateries (which I don’t do as much anymore) including comments about Dargan’s Irish Pub, Arigato Sushi, Del Pueblo Café, Dish Café, Milk & Honey, La Super Rica, and, yes, McDonald’s. I was surprised to discover that it is impossible to order a double-hamburger at McDonald’s because it is not in their computer system. You must order a double-cheese burger with no cheese.