pita-pit-1Reader Eric tells me he dined at Fire & Ice Cafe that opened recently at 971 Embarcadero del Mar in Isla Vista, the former home of Pita Pit. The business is a coffee shop, smooth & juice bar and Internet cafe and describes itself as follows: “Our Mission is to provide the best boba drinks, freshest boba pearls, brewed with real tea leaves, and no chalky powders.” Hours are Monday-Thursday 3 p.m.-midnight, Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-midnight. Visit

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160310-pieology2xReaders Cris and Annie passed word that a new pizza place named Pieology has signed up to be a tenant in Hollister Village Plaza at 7000 Hollister Avenue in Goleta, joining current and future tenants Smart & Final Extra!, Sno-Crave, Zizzo’s Coffee, Dickey’s BBQ Pit, Pickles & Swiss, and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos. Pieology, which has 102 locations across the U.S., offers more than 30 different topping choices at a fixed price which results in hundreds of pizza combinations that can be custom-made for each customer. Menu options include sauces such as herb butter, red sauce or olive oil as well as a variety of cheese choices including mozzarella, parmesan or gorgonzola. Toppings include a range for meats such as chicken, sausage or meatball to a variety of vegetables or unique items like jalapeno or pineapple. Pieology also offers “after bakes” that can be added after the pizza such as roasted red peppers, dollops of red sauce or pesto. Gluten-free crust is also available. Visit



taco-bell-north-fairview-1Readers Rachel, Cris, Matt, KD and Annie tell me that the wrecking ball swung down and smashed to pieces the structure that was Taco Bell at 140 North Fairview Avenue in Goleta. The building will be replaced with the standard Taco Bell design rather than the square-UFO motif.



vons-deli-turnpike-1Readers Barry and Annie let me know Vons has reopened at 163 South Turnpike Road in Goleta, putting an end to the failed experiment that was Haggen.

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chefRestaurateur Larry Mindel and Chef Peter McNee will be opening Convivo restaurant and bar this spring at the newly remodeled Santa Barbara Inn, 901 East Cabrillo Boulevard. Convivo, whose name means ‘to come together’ and is the root word for the Latin term for ‘feast.’ McNee describes his style of food for Convivo as ‘Nomad Italian.’ “The foundation – our soul – is Italian but our destination is Santa Barbara and the menu draws from different styles and traditions along the way,” said McNee. His menu will feature cicchetti (small plates served in bite size portions), shareable antipasti, house-made pasta, wood-fired pizza and a bounty of seafood and meats roasted over a wood fire. Many dishes are served family-style and everything can be shared. “Great meals are ones shared with friends and family. Conviviality is a central theme of the restaurant and the seasonally changing menu,” said McNee.

A full bar featuring craft cocktails and local brewers will anchor the 62-seat restaurant. A brick outdoor patio offers al fresco dining with a view of the Channel Islands. An extensive wine list including wines on tap will draw primarily from the Santa Barbara AVA. Located just steps from the ocean, Convivo will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the 70-room Santa Barbara Inn and provide catering services for the 80-seat banquet room. “Santa Barbara’s bounty of ingredients rivals that of the Bay Area,” said McNee. “It’s a special place, rich with wonderful artists, small independent farmers, ranchers, fisherman and vintners. You don’t have to go farther than the Santa Barbara farmers’ market to see why I’m excited about opening Convivo. This community of artisans is a big reason my wife and I want to live in Santa Barbara and raise our young son here.”

After graduating college, McNee left his home state of Minnesota for California to pursue a career as a chef in San Francisco. While attending culinary school he worked at famed Stars and later at Tra Vigne in Napa Valley. Not satisfied with his stateside teachings, Peter embarked on a yearlong culinary pilgrimage to Italy to cook with the ‘nonna.’ While living with host families, cooking and traveling throughout the country, he fell in love with Italian food and culture. Returning to the Bay Area, he was drawn to iconic restaurateur Larry Mindel, the founder of Il Fornaio restaurants, and his shared passion for Italy. As Executive Chef at Poggio, McNee and owner Mindel formed a lasting friendship and partnership. The restaurant has earned multiple 3-star reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle and placement within the coveted “Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area” rankings each year since 2008. Poggio recently was included in the 2016 Michelin Bib Gourmand list for the San Francisco bay area.

Santa Barbara Inn owner Richard Gunner and Mindel opened an Il Fornaio restaurant together some twenty years ago at the Pine Inn in Carmel. “When Richard showed me what he and his family were building along the Santa Barbara waterfront,” Mindel stated, “I knew I wanted to be part of this beautiful property and I knew exactly who my partner would be.”

Chef McNee was Mindel’s one and only choice to helm the kitchen at Convivo. Mindel and McNee envision Convivo as a gathering place where fellow Santa Barbarians and guests from around the world can do just that – come together to catch up on life, grab a drink and share a meal while watching the sunset. As Mindel puts it, “The really great restaurants are both a destination for the weary traveler and a place for locals to meet and unwind.”



This just in from reader Jennifer:

Hi John -

Yesterday, I noticed some patio work being done in the location where The Fig Grill (old Fresco Goleta) used to be…and the for rent sign is now gone. Any update on what’s going in there? It’s so exciting to see all the new places opening up here in Goleta!


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North and South American/Asian fusion restaurant Yankee Noodle has opened at 214 State Street, the former home of Union Ale, offering a variety of Ramen bowls and more. “It’s North American and South American,” says owner Matthew Jameson-Chrestenson. “We are playing off of places like Mexico, offering tacos, quesadillas, in a fusion style. Then for Asian we’re doing Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Mongolian. We’re kind of mixing them all together.”

The main menu includes Base Ramen Bowl with rich savory pork broth served with fresh made noodles, Chashu (pork), Fishcake and Scallion. Optional Ramen additions include extra Chashu, Bean Sprout, Fresh Corn, Fried Tempura Bits, Fried Egg, Mixed Mushroom, Perfect Egg, Curry Paste, Miso Butter, Garlic Bamboo, Crispy Bacon, Chinese Broccoli, and Bak Choy.

The cold menu includes Edamame with Shishito and XI’AN Ceviche, while the hot menu offers Fried Chorizo Dumplings with Kimchi Nachos, Kalifonia Mushroom Wontons in Spicy Peanut Sauce, Crispy Fried Honey Sesame Shrimp, and Umami Fresh Corn Off The Cob.

The Pushcart Eats menu lists Spicy Dan Dan Three Cheese Beef with Pork Mazeman Ramen, and Nam Nam Smashed Meatball Lamb Burger. For the Lam Burger you choose your style (Rice Bowl, Seoul City Tacos, Kimchi Quesadilla, or Beijing Drunk Burrito) then you choose your protein (Short Rib, Pork Belly or Chicken). Call 845-8243 or visit




This just in from Finch & Fork restaurant, 31 West Carrillo Street:

ReneClementeRene Clemente has been appointed Director of Food and Beverage at Finch & Fork Restaurant

Santa Barbara, Calif.— Finch & Fork, the bustling corner eatery in downtown Santa Barbara, has appointed industry veteran, Rene Clemente, as its new Director of Food and Beverage. With an extensive background in hospitality, Rene brings more than 11 years of experience with some of the finest restaurants and hotels across the country. In his role at Finch & Fork, Rene will oversee all food and beverage operations of the restaurant and Canary Santa Barbara.

Prior to joining Finch & Fork, Rene served as F&B Director at Colorado’s Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa. His previous roles include Director of Banquets at the 5 Diamond St. Regis in Atlanta, and F&B Manager at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel where the team ranked #1 in the company.

“Finch & Fork and Canary Santa Barbara cater to a variety of clientele, from intimate dinners and beautiful weddings, to tasteful private events,” said Rene. “I’m looking forward to working with the talented culinary and events team here to deliver an excellent guest experience set to the highest of standards.”

Rene was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. When he isn’t busy maintaining the level of service and reputation Finch & Fork and Canary Santa Barbara are known for, Rene can be found spending time with his wife Katie, son Gavin and adorable cocker spaniel Sadie.

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This just in from reader Elaine:

I would like to make a suggestion to the restaurants of Santa Barbara and you may be the appropriate one to propose this.  As a senior couple who enjoys dining out, I would appreciate a Senior Second Plate.  One day a week perhaps on slow days and at slow hours, seniors order anything on the menu and it is served with a second plate.  We don’t enjoy wasting food, we don’t have a dog, and we don’t enjoy restaurant left-overs.  Splitting salads, entrees, and desserts is a much better option.  We can enjoy several courses that way.  Since we usually order wine with a meal, I think the check would stay about the same.  What do you think?



This just in from the Bacara Resort:

3rd Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend returns to Bacara Resort & Spa on April 15-17, 2016

Richard Blais and Zoe Nathan join an all-star lineup of chefs, winemakers and artisans in celebration of Julia Child’s legacy

Santa Barbara – Together with The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, Bacara Resort & Spa is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend on April 15-17, 2016. Set within the luxurious surroundings of Bacara, the three-day event will once again showcase the distinct tastes, sights and sounds of Santa Barbara and feature culinary talent from across the country.

Headlining this year’s festivities is chef, restaurateur, author and television personality Richard Blais. Most recognizable as the winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars,” Blais has trained at some of the world’s most esteemed restaurants, including The French Laundry, Daniel and Chez Panisse. He currently owns and operates two restaurants in San Diego, Juniper & Ivy and The Crack Shack.

Weekend goers will have the opportunity to experience Blais’ refined approach to American cuisine during a Chef’s reception and four-course Grand Dinner on Saturday, April 16. “I had the pleasure of meeting Julia while working at Daniel, and grew up with her on my grandmother’s black and white TV she had in the kitchen,” says Blais. The Grand Dinner menu will pay tribute to Julia, America’s most beloved epicurean, while still reflecting Blais’ distinct style.

Additional highlights of the 3rd Annual Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend include:

  • A Central Coast Farm-Style Lunch crafted by Chef Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb, the Los Angeles-based masterminds behind Cassia, Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Café & Bakery, Sweet Rose Creamery, and Milo and Olive
  • Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association wine tasting reception and video tribute to the late Julia Child, featuring special guests John Gray, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and former Los Angeles Times Food Editor and Julia Child Award Juror Russ Parsons
  • An exclusive The New York Times Cooking section conversation with The New York Times food writers Kim Severson and Julia Moskin
  • Cooking demonstrations with celebrated chefs and cookbook authors, including Pastry Chef Jim Dodge and The New York Times bestselling Paleo cookbook author, Danielle Walker
  • Neighborhood Market Tour that explores Santa Barbara’s top up-and-coming food regions, including Los Alamos, Arts District and the Funk Zone
  • Restaurateurs’ panel discussion about national and Santa Barbara’s own dining trends including a special preview of Bacara’s new oceanfront restaurant, Angel Oak

“Santa Barbara has always been recognized for our beautiful beaches, but it’s our culinary community that is now drawing national acclaim,” said Shashi Poudyal, general manager of Bacara Resort & Spa. “This weekend is designed to showcase all that makes Santa Barbara County’s food and wine so unique.”

“The Foundation is delighted this year’s Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend presents another dynamic line-up of top national culinary talent like Chefs Richard Blais and Zoe Nathan in addition to the best Santa Barbara has to offer.  Year three continues to capture Julia’s lifelong spirit of learning mixed with food and fun.” – said Todd Schulkin, Executive Director, The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.

Tickets are available at Advanced reservations are recommended as events do sell out but same day tickets will be available for events which have greater capacity such as the Neighborhood Market Tour. Bacara is offering a room package which includes a two-night stay on April 15 and 16, two All Access VIP Passes for the Weekend and valet parking.

For tickets, a complete list of events and more information about the Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend, please visit Weekend proceeds benefit the Foundation.

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Reader Ben tells me that Brass Bear Brewing and Bistro opens this week at 28 Anacapa Street #E in the Funk Zone. Here is a description of the business from their web site:

Brass Bear Brewing now open and located one block from the beach inside the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara, CA. We will be serving high quality craft beer (including our own), wine and sparkling wine. Food will consist of charcuterie boards, meat and vegetable plates primarily sourced from Santa Barbara and surrounding counties.

Brass Bear interior design, reflects the hip upcoming funk zone and surrounding area while also paying attention to Santa Barbara’s laid back life style. Come in for a cold beer and hot food on our deck or take it to go to one of the many tasting rooms around us…or even better a beach picnic!

Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, closed Tuesday.  Call 770-7651 or visit



Reader Annie tells me that Restaurant Connection is now delivering from Caffe Primo (516 State Street) and that they will start delivering from Gandolfo’s Deli (718 State Street) within the next week. Visit

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This just in from reader Annie:

“Hi John: Next month (March) will be Happy Harry’s Produce Market 7th year in business, however, I have spotted a “Change of Ownership” notice on the front window of the store. The store is located at 7020 Calle Real in Goleta, off the Glen Annie and Storke Road off ramp from Hwy 101.”

Further word coming in is that gas station ownership guru John Price is buying Happy Harry’s and plans to increase its food selection for that neighborhood west of Glen Annie. This has not been confirmed.



luna2-logoReader Annie let me know that Five Points Shopping Center has announced that San Diego-based Luna Grill, offering fast-casual Mediterranean cuisine, will be occupying half of the retail space at 3925 State Street, the former home of Carl’s Jr. that closed in January. On January 25th I wrote that Blaze Pizza is coming to this location as well and the Five Points announcement confirms that Blaze & Luna will be sharing the building.

Luna Grill has a menu that focuses on grilled chicken kabobs, and also offers beef, veggie, fish and lamb options. You choose a grilled protein and whether you want it served as a wrap, salad or signature plate. Your meal includes choice of sides such as hummus, falafel, spinach pie, spicy feta dip or fries. Meats at Luna Grill come from animals raised without growth hormones or antibiotics and the company avoids genetically modified or artificial ingredients. The average meal costs about $12.

“We want to be more in between fine dining and fast casual,” said Sean Pourteymour, who co-founded Luna Grill with his wife Maria in 2004. “Chipotle is fast casual, but it’s more go down the line, get it quick, eat and go. At Luna, you order at the counter, but you can sit down with your kids. There are people on the floor to refill your drinks or bus for you. We’ve really tried to raise the bar on the guest experience.” Luna Grill will have 40 locations in Southern California by the end of 2016. Visit




Word on the street is that Chef Derek Simcik moved on from the The Outpost at The Goodland Hotel last Friday. I have not confirmed this.

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pigTaqueria El Pastorcito has opened at 4427 Hollister Avenue in Noleta near Modoc Road, in the former home of Wings Restaurant. Taqueria El Pastorcito opened their first South Coast location in September 2014 at 2009 De la Vina Street near Mission Street. Tacos al Pastor (marinated pork) originated from Puebla, Mexico and is their signature dish. Chicken, beef and vegetarian dishes are also available. All tortillas at the eatery are handmade from scratch. Hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 967-9824 or visit Thanks to readers Brendan and Eric for the tips.

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This just in from reader Wade:

I just learned as I returned from picking up lunch at Cantwell’s Market at 1533 State Street on the corner of State and Arrellaga that they too changed ownership just recently. This also verified by the cashier in front and was told they are hoping that no changes will be made to the operations of the business that is frequented by so many who work and live in the area. We are all hoping that they will continue their mesquite barbequed meats on the weekends both Saturday and Sunday as well as other special dates/events in their parking lot.

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Last December I wrote that Pickles & Swiss restaurant is listed as a future tenant in the upcoming Hollister Village Plaza in Goleta where Smart & Final recently opened. Earlier this month I wrote that Pickles & Swiss had been removed from the list of future tenants. I spoke to the owner of Pickles & Swiss and was told that they still have plans to open in Hollister Village, even though the plaza’s web site no longer mentions them. This will be the second locations for Pickles & Swiss which operates a restaurant at 811 State Street in the Paseo Nuevo mall downtown.

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Owners Alex Noormand and Tracy Clark let me know that Yellow Belly at 2611 De la Vina street is now open for brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. In addition to new brunch items Yellow Belly offers mimosas, Bloody Beers and more. They continue to be open everyday from 5-10 p.m. for dinner as well.

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This just in from reader Wade:

John, just wanted to let you know that there was a change of ownership sign posted at the Neo Chase Bar and Grille on State and Carrillo Streets next to Montecito Bank and Trust. The sign is now down and I spoke to an employee there last week and indeed a change of ownership did take place recently.  He indicated that the menu would stay the same or similar. The restaurant was previously owned by the late Madame Roskinka, Barbara Sonia Adams. After her death the restaurant landed into the hands of her son, George who has now sold it. George was also linked to a new eatery that opened sometime back in the former Don John‘s location and the building next to Don John’s. Word of mouth is that is no longer has ties to that venture.



This just in from reader Cris:

Hey John,

Was grabbing a coffee today at Starbucks and saw the “Transfer of Ownership” on the door of the former Fairview Haggens, as well as permits posted for (what I believe is) construction to begin for Sprouts.


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This just in from reader/owner Ruben:

Hi everyone,

Black Sheep restaurant is pairing up with Alvaro Rojas @ Milk & Honey/ Alcazar and Julian Martinez @ Barbareno restaurant

To have collaboration 5 course pop up dinner with all proceeds going to a local charity.

The event will be called “Bring Your Best Game”. Each chef will have their own course and then two collaboration courses, all the courses will have some game element in it.

Event details:
Date- Monday, February 29th 2016
Where- Black Sheep restaurant, 26 East Ortega Street, 965-1113
Time- arrive for apps and drinks @ 630pm dinner starts @ 7pm
Price- $79 with all proceeds going to charity




This just in from reader Jenny:

Hey John,
I sign in window at Montecito bank and trust center on Casitas Pass road in Carpinteria announcing “coming soon.” Yahoo, I love all our Mexican restaurants here in Carp but this will offer a much needed dining diversion!

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This just in from Julienne restaurant, 138 E. Canon Perdido Street:

Hello Everyone!!

I am really excited about this email! This morning we are writing to invite you to attend a pop up dinner with Chef Diego Felix, hosted by us here at Julienne.

Diego works with us down at Wildwood Kitchen and we are so lucky to have him down there.  He just recently moved to Ojai from Buenos Aires, Argentina where he has been operating the internationally acclaimed, closed door restaurant, Casa Felix. Here in the states he operates Colectivo Felix, a culinary project lead by himself and photo journalist Sanra Ritten. Together they create spaces for celebration and nourishment in the form of creative, artful cuisine through the simple yet monumental acts of cooking and eating with an appreciation of vibrant Latin American culture. This dinner is gonna be awesome and it is sure to sell out quick!!

Colectivo Felix will create a culinary performance in the form of a Four Course Tasting Menu inspired by the goodness of Santa Barbara County. The title of this dinner is “From The Sea to The Hills”.

Sunday, February 28, 2016
Price is $70 per person with Wine
$50 Per Person without Wine
All Reservations are being booked through Colectivo Felix at this email address;

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Jim Dixon and his son Michael both passed away of natural causes. Jim and surviving son John Dixon have owned and operated Tri-County Produce since 1985. A celebration of Jim’s life will be held Saturday March 5th, 2016, 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, 21 East Constance Avenue. The public is invited and a reception will follow. Visit for more information.




This just in from reader Katie:

Rumor is Carp is getting a Pho place- any news on this?



This just in from reader Rudy:

Hi John

We will be celebrating National Margarita Day this coming Monday, February 22, in a big way at Paloma Restaurant & Tequila Bar with $5 margaritas all day, $2.22 soft tacos, and live mariachi from 6-8 p.m.

Thank You,
Paloma Restaurant
5764 Calle Real, Goleta

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A “guilt free, comfort food and matcha bar” eatery named Green Table has opened at 113 W. De la Guerra Street, the former home of Boochies. Owner Rebekah Winquest, a nutritionist who runs Green Table, was also the owner of Boochies. I am told that her menu from Boochies has returned along with a variety of new offerings including fresh almond pasta.



Reader PrimeTime tells me that KEYT has a story about candy store Rocket Fizz on State Street reopening after suffering major water damage from recent rains.

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Reader Brendan tells me that he drove by the former Wing’s Restaurant at 4427 Hollister Avenue near the the State/Hollister/Modoc junction and saw a sign on the window that says Taqueria El Pastorcito (which already has a location at 2009 De la Vina Street near Mission Street) is “coming soon.” Reader Eric says the restaurant will be open on Friday, February 19th.

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