Before IHOP moved into 1701 State St. a restaurant named J.K. Frimples occupied that address. Before J.K. Frimples came along, a restaurant named Blue Onion called 1701 State St. home, back in the 1950’s & 60’s.

  • Reader Don has scanned the Blue Onion’s menu and put it online for you. Check out the prices!

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69 Responses to THEN & NOW

  1. John says:

    In the 50’s the “car hops” wore roller skates, and you ate from a tray that fastened on your car window.

  2. R says:

    Wasn’t it “Ryan’s” between JK Frimples and IHOP?!

    • John Dickson says:

      There was a brief appearance of a restaurant after Frimples, I couldn’t remember the name. Other eateries have lived there along the way as well.

    • John Roger Battistone says:

      Hello R, in my earlier comments I forgot to mention Ryan’s Restaurant. This was owned by Bob Rose and it was named after his son Ryan. Bob still has several restaurants in Visalia and and the surrounding areas. All of them used to be Sambo’s Restaurants and he changed the names to Ryan’s, and now Black Bear Restaurants. Bob used to operate the Sambo’s Northside when I operated Sambo’s Goleta. He later worked for Carrows Restaurants until he bought about 6 Sambo’s with Robert Elmerick. Bob was one of the hardest, and dedicated workers in the restaurant industry. Bob also was a champion water skier and boat racer. He also owned a Pollo Loco chicken franchise in Oxnard. Probably more information then you wanted, but it’s all great HIstory.

  3. JP says:

    My dad always talks about crusing at the Blue Onion. he said it was good times.

  4. Whirl says:

    I believe between the Blue Onion & JK Frimples it was called something like The Tree House, or The Fig Tree, probably late 60’s or early 70’s.

  5. SL says:

    Don thanks so much for sharing the menu! For some reason I really enjoy seeing old menus and this is a good one. The “Betty Co-Ed Salad” oh my! Pretty amazing to see those prices too.

    So looking at the map on the menu it appears there were two Blue Onions near the bird refuge? Were there were Stella Mare’s and Cafe del Sol is now? Seems odd there would be two so close together.

  6. Art says:

    after the Blue Onion it was called the Fig Tree and they had live wallebees in the area under the tree behind the glass. It was the Fig Tree all through the ’70s and well into the ’80s. The food was a lot better the Frimples which as I remember put powdered sugar on everything they served

    • Marie Breidenstein-DeBevoise says:

      Actually in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was J.K. Frimples. We used to sew cloth napkins for them, as well as for Heidi Pies in Goleta, to raise money for the DP Drill Team. I graduated in 1980.

  7. Darvene West says:

    I remember many years ago, my hubby and I always went to J. K. Frimples and so enjoyed the Morton Bay Fig Tree in the center of the restaurant. We always ordered the Belgiun Waffles with fresh apricot syrup. It was a highlight of our trip to California.

  8. Holly Rosenthal Lindenthaler says:

    There was nothing like a Basket Burger enjoyed sitting in
    the back seat of our 1950 Buick!

  9. Mario Vazquez says:

    I worked at J. K. Frimples from September 1977 through
    February 1979. It was agreat place to work. I’m from Uruguay, but
    in the back kitchen they were all from Mexico (Manuel, Javier,
    etc.). In the front line they were some Vietnam vets (Frank,
    Rick).., and Pedro from Portugal. Wes was the GM…, Ron owned the

  10. Eddie Gonzalez says:

    A friend of mine says that there were live wallabys in where the tree was.anyone else remember that?

  11. Holly Thrasher says:

    My father started J.K. Frimples when I was a young girl, early 1970’s. It had previously been the Blue Onion & The Fig Tree when he bought it. The J & K were my Dad’s initials (John Kingston) and my older sister’s initials (June Kristine). The story on the menu about my sister & I making desserts out of mud in our backyard was true. My older sister came up with the name Frimples for her mud dessert. Mine was Rubble Dubble Cake, both were on the menu and in the beginning, my mother made all the Frimples & other desserts from scratch. I remember watching my mom sew all of the cloth napkins that were used for years. There were Wallabees in the glass enclosed tree are for a bit, but they were making quite a mess & the window washer was bitten, so my dad donated them to the Child’s Estate, now the SB Zoo. Unfortunately, they were all killed when a pack of wild dogs came through the zoo one night. My Dad sold Frimples to Ron Larson around 1974 or so & it remained Frimples through the 1980’s. We still have the big commercial waffle maker from Frimples & it is a family tradition to have Frimple’s waffles on family get togethers.

    My dad, John Bishop, sold Frimples to focus on the Taco Bells he owned in SB. He built the Milpas TB in 1967 & then Isla Vista, De La Vina & Fairview followed. He later expanded his Taco Bell franchises to the Bakersfield area. After being a TB franchisee for over 20 years he sold off all the Taco Bells in the late 80’s when Pepsi announced they were eliminating kitchens in Taco Bells…yuck! He then bought The Good Earth Restaurant downtown on Canon Perdido. My dad purchased Bray’s 101 in Goleta in the late 80’s & put in The Good Earth after moving it from Canon Perdido when the Nordstroms was going in. He had it for 14 years until he sold it in 1999 and then passed away shortly after. My dad loved the restaurant business & our family has always missed J.K. Frimples!

    • Carolann Ruthenberg says:

      I believe your family had a beautiful large home downtown on the corner of Santa Barbara St. Or Garden St. I think I may have been your nanny for a short time too.

    • Robert says:

      I am so grateful for June’s name for your family’s signature dessert. I went to UCSB from 1976-1979 and JK Frimples was our standard place to bring our friends from out of town. I am 59 now and have back to Santa Barbara only a handful of times since I graduated (live in Monterey now). Though decadent, I am sad that my friends and children have not gotten to enjoy a Frimple.
      Thanks for the memories.

    • Marie Breidenstein-DeBevoise says:

      Hi Holly,

      Do you have any idea when the addition was put on the restaurant to enclose the tree? I see in the old Blue Onion photos that it wasn’t in the center of the restaurant as it is now.

      I remember sewing hundreds of cloth napkins for both Frimples and Heidi Pies as a fundraiser for the D.P. Drill Team in the late 70’s until 1980. I think they paid us 25 cents apiece for them.

      • Holly Thrasher says:

        I have no idea when the glass enclosure was built, it was there when my parents bought it. I also remember my mom sewing napkins for the restaurant. They used them for years! Thanks for sharing.

    • John Roger Battistone says:

      Dear Holly and Janice, just to fill in some of the history on IHOP, Frimples, Fig Tree and the Blue Onion. The Blue Onion was owned by Bud Bledsoe and he had 3 other Blue Onion Drive in restaurants in SB and in Las Vegas. I remember when Roger Larson owned this restaurant when it was named the Fig Tree, with the Wallabies in their enclosed glass room in the middle of the restaurant, where the large Moreton Bay Fig Tree stood. Henry Hinton, an art teacher at Carpinteria schools, used to bartend for Roger on the weekends. John Bishop purchased the restaurant and named it J.K. Frimples. I used to see John at his Good Earth Restaurant on Canon Perdido, with the ceiling fans all connected by one belt drive. Also used to see John working the Taco Bell franchises. John made a hit with his J.K. Frimples, Taco Bells and newly opened Good Earth Restaurant in Goleta. I purchased J.K. Frimples from John and then opened it up for 24 hour service. This was a bigger hit. Big breakfast, lunch and dinner crowd and by opening 24 hours, after 10 p.m. we would get the Westmont, UCSB, CCSB, and some High School customers. Then when the local bars closed after midnight, we would get the Bar Crowd and then after that, the all nighter’s crowd. At one time this was the busiest restaurant in SB. After 5 years I sold Frimples to two of my restaurant company
      employees. Ron Karcher and John Mangan. The Frimple was a huge seller, a scone/creme puff covered with hot fudge, boysenberry or strawberries. It was such a hot item, I sold them in all by other 30 restaurants. The Frimple was famous throughout CA., AZ., CO., and WY. All these restaurant owners were very hard workers with some great ideas. Best to All SB History Lovers. BTW, hopefully by April my book on the History of SB will be published. John Roger Battistone

      • Holly Bishop Thrasher says:

        Thank you John for the extra info. I remember my Dad, John Bishop, talking about the Battistones and Sambos when I was a kid. I think I went to your house for a party, I have a vague memory of it. My husband and I have fond memories of late nights at Frimples in high school. I loved Frimples and my mom, Carol Bishop, made them at home from scratch sometimes. I haven’t been able to find a Frimple as good as hers anywhere! I look forward to finding your book, will it include restaurant history? My dad bought Brays 101 from Benny Bray and then moved the Canon Perdido Good Earth out there when Nordstrom and the mall were taking the land. I still have all of the old Taco Bell and Brays recipes. Is your family still in the restaurant business? When my dad passed away in 1999, it was an end of an era for us and we remember it fondly! I think you and my older sister, June Martin, spoke sometime last year, I when you were both at an event, maybe at a Cottage Hospital event, as she works for Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital. I remember her mentioning your book. All the best! – Holly K. Thrasher

        • John Roger Battistone says:

          Hi again Holly, as I mentioned before your dad was a very innovative hard working restaurateur. Yes, Carol’s Frimples were the best. Restaurant work can be fun and profitable, even with the long hours of work. When a cook, dishwasher or waiter doesn’t show up you have to jump right in to take their place. Met a lot of great managers and employees working here in SB. Regarding the History Book, not too much mention of the restaurant business. Mainly a tribute to the the early people who helped build SB, and some of the famous places you can visit today. SB is a special place, and that is why my parents moved here, I was just lucky to be raised here. Even though there is more traffic and more people here today, it is still an all around beautiful place to live. BTW, my next book will be about restaurants, hopefully coming by next year. Best to All. Roger

      • Jody Cunningham says:

        I was a late-night Westmont student who loved the Frimple. Was so sad when I went back and it wasn’t there any more.

    • Cindy Brown says:

      I worked there and I miss it so much. Cindy Brown.

    • Bridget Myers says:

      Holly, Thanks for all the background info on JK Frimples. I absolutely loved JK Frimples while growing up in SB and it was a great place for us to eat and hang out after a movie as teen-agers. Wonderful place. Fun to hear what a business man your dad was. I loved the Good Earth Restaurant and frequented it many times when it came to Goleta. How fun those times were. Thanks again!

    • Heather Johnson says:

      My family and I had some great meals at Frimples in 1991, when we stayed in Santa Barbara for a few days (whilst touring the USA from the UK). We always recall Frimples with great fondness.

  12. Janice says:

    “J. K. Frimples” restaurant was the “Fig Tree” in the seventies. My dad Roger owned it along with another restaurant, “Lafettes”. The Fig Tree did have wallabies living at it’s glass enclosed base and I remember having a naming contest. We named one “Wally” and one “Bea”.

    “Lafiettes” was located across from the zoo, across from a big pond they have on their border. My brother and I would feed the ducks with left over French loaves.

    I see that this article was written three years ago and that someone just made an entry a very short time ago. I am visiting Santa Barbara in a few weeks and was researching my old haunts to revisit when I came across this article!

  13. Janice says:

    My dads Laffites restaurant is now the Montecito Athletic Club

  14. Ron Larson says:

    Hey Holly… how are you?

    My dad, Roger Larson, bought the Blue Onion after it closed and opened it up as The Fig Tree Restaurant. The restaurant was Australian themed, since Moreton Bay Fig Trees are native to Australia. My dad had never been to Australia, but that didn’t stop him. He bought a couple of Wallabies and put them in the glass enclosure around the tree. He printed up the menus on wood boomerangs.

    The restaurant also had a small bar on the side. He had a regular piano singer there named Ruthy. I don’t know her last name. She worked for my dad for years. She was black, had a big afro, and drive around SB in a pink Cadillac. She was very glamourous. I remember she lived up on the Riveria area.

    My dad also painted a Cadillac and a Dodge van shocking pink with advertising for The Fig Tree on the sides. I think that is why Ruthy drove it. We had the van at our house.

    My dad also owned another restaurant in town… over by the Bird Refuge, named Lafette’s. It was a New Orleans themed restaurant, named after the Jean Lafitte, the New Orleans based pirate. But that caught fire one night in the early 1970’s and had to be closed. It is now the Montecito Athletic Club.

    Around 1973 the stress of running two restaurants, plus Lafettes burning down, plus fights with the Cal. ABC about the Fig Tree Bar starting impacting his health. So he closed Lafettes and sold The Fig Tree and took a mid life retirement. But that’s another story.

    Holly is right. The Wallabys ended up at the SB Zoo.

    When my dad owned it, only one person could get close the the Wallabys. That was the teenaged daughter of the maintenance man (Hap something). I can’t remember her name. She was very nice. Her older brother used to drive around SB in a white full sized pickup truck with two enormous CB radio antennas bolted to the frame. I remember asking him why he had that. He said he just liked radios. Anyhow, she was the one that would have to treat them, and get them out for the vet.

    I think at one point we had about 5 of them in there. I do remember one of them had a joey.

    My uncle Chuck Jones was the main cook at the Fig Tree. Perhaps some people remember him. He was a bit of hell raiser.

    She is wrong that Frimples was sold to Ron Larson. That would be me. I wish. Holly, I think you mixed up the names.

    Sorry I don’t have all of the details. I was just a kid, and I only went over the restaurant on weekends.

    • Ron Larson says:

      I forgot to mention. My mom still has one of the Fig Tree Restaurant menus at home. It cracks me up to see it. The prices are so low! Seriously, like $3 for a NY Steak. I will have to photograph it next time I see it. I think she has it in storage right now.

    • Holly Thrasher says:

      Hi Ron, I’m doing great! Ok, we got it wrong. Both my parents are gone, so we were piecing the history together from memory, I was only 5 in 1974 around the time we think my Dad sold it. We thought he sold it to your Dad, but he must have bought it from your dad? The comment above by John says his Dad, Ron owned it, so that must be who my Dad sold it too. I always wondered where the Wallabees came from, I didn’t realize they were there when my Dad bought it. I love that you still have a Fig Tree menu, I have an original Frimples menu. Wiley & I live in Ojai now and own a small, nostalgic candy store, Kingston’s Candy Co. Ron are you still in SB & is Janice your sister?

      • Janice says:

        Yes, I am Ron’s sister. We also have a brother Tom

      • l coapstick says:

        My first trip to Santa Barbara was in 1985. I fell in love with SB and always remembered having a basque omelette at the restaurant with the tree. It must have been JK Frimples then. Holly, if you have the menu can you post it? Or at least let me know what was in the basque omelette? It’s a town, a restaurant and an omelette I will never forget. Ah, the good old days!.

    • Hi. I am Susann Marino married to a former Sambo’s man, Ron Marino ( My parents were the original owners of the bird refuge restaurant in the 1960’s named the Chalet Tyrol! I use to do homework in the back room while they ran the restaurant! Later, I met and married the love of my life, Ronnie Marino, and we owned and operated Sambo’s Phoenix on 27th and Camelback! Oh, the decades slip away… He became a district and territorial director for Sambo’s, and then went with Golden Corral Restaurants as a corporate Senior VP. We miss Santa Barbara, but now live in the mountains of beautiful North Idaho. Howdy Roger, long lost best man at our Santa Barbara wedding!

  15. Sam Mead says:

    Does anyone remember Frimples’ huge, delicious, cinnamon rolls? Omg, they were to die for. I was a student at Brooks Institute in late 70s and we frequently stopped by there for a cinnamon roll. Melted butter all over them. Wow! Loved them so much, I took an entire dozen home to my dad for Christmas that year (Missouri) so you can imagine the look I got from security at LAX! 😀

    • Christine says:

      I LOVED those cinnamon rolls. I’m sure the airport security wanted to help you eat them. What a treat for your dad.

    • Holly Thrasher says:

      My parents owned Frimples in the 70’s & my mother made the cinnamon rolls in the beginning, but with 3 small little girls & their popularity, she gave the chore to the baker. I remember them well, made from scratch.

      • Sandra Grossman says:

        We ate at Frimple’s in 1982, on our first trip to California – I still remember it – what a lovely place, good food, and the fig tree.

      • Jody Cunningham says:

        Does anyone have the recipe for the Frimple dessert? It was fabulous.

        • Holly Thrasher says:

          We have the recipe somewhere, but haven’t been able to locate it since my mother passed away. We have all been talking about Frimples lately, so I should see if I can find it.

          • Eric Tolle says:

            I remember Frimples. In high school in the early 80s, after plays we all used to end up at Frimples, having those huge dessert. I remember most people shared them between two people, and one guy on a dare ate two. H didn’t do much the rest of the evening.

            Does anyone remember what a Frimple was? I Just vaguely remember whpped cream, and a pastry? Maybe? Can anyone share memories of that dessert?

          • Holly Thrasher says:

            The Frimple was a baked cream puff, cut in half and then filled with either ice cream or pudding. You could also top it with cherries, chocolate sauce or whipped cream. Yum! Still can’t find my mom’s recipe.

  16. Jody Cunningham says:

    I loved the Frimple. I recall it having cherries.

  17. Gerald Bostock says:

    Holly & Ron, from someone who grew up here but is just past 50. it’s a true joy to read & witness SB restaurant history. Thank you.

  18. Beverly says:

    I lived in Santa Barbara in the early 70s, and to this day, regret that my twenty-something self moved back to the Bay area. During my time there, I worked at both the Fig Tree and Lafitte’s. I remember Wally and Bea very well. I started at the Fig Tree, and was “promoted” to Lafitte’s. I made great money, and loved working there. I was only allowed to serve cocktails, as the food servers were male, African Americans. I earned excellent money, ate like a queen, and developed a lifelong love of French Creole cuisine. I have never had a praline nearly as delicious as those at Lafitte’s.

    For those who may not know, Lafitte’s was very popular with many celebrities. Natalie Woods, Robert Wagner, Carole Channing, Fess Parker, Tab Hunter, John Boy (don’t remember his name) are just a few that I recall serving.

    Don’t we live in an amazing time? More than forty years later, I’m a retired educator living in rainy Seattle (go Hawks). This evening, I wondered if the restaurants were still in operation, searched Google, and within a few minutes found this excellent site. I love the information age. I regret I will never have another of those glorious pralines, however.

  19. Don Payette says:

    Ahhhhh memories of a Hot Fudge Frimple after rehearsal late night. Can’t be beat. I also remember an eggs benedict dish on an english muffin with avacodo and hollandise. Yummm. Seems to me they had an interesting name on that dish, but I can’t remember it. Anybody remember that one?

    • Charlotte says:

      I haven’t thought about a “Frimple” in years…late night after clubbing, yummmm.

    • Gerald Bostock says:

      THAT is the dish I remember. Did it have roast beef? I can’t remember the name either.
      That’s what I associate Frimple’s with, then and now, in memory. I know I ate a Frimple with chocolate sauce, I guess I prefer savory food.

  20. Kay says:

    I lived in Santa Barbara from 1972 to 1976 and loved to hear Ruthy sing and play piano at the Fig Tree Restaurant. Ruthy sang and played piano like one of the great jazz singers. I remember the Wallabies and the boomerang menus. Did anyone go to the Bluebird Cafe? That was a nice hangout to hear folk music.

    • Janice says:

      Ruth! I remember her…she was my God-mother…but I recall her playing the piano at my dad Roger’s restaurant Laffiets. My dad and I would dance together to her music, with me standing on his feet. I was eight years old back then.

  21. Jim says:

    I recall that in early 1952 my wife and I had breakfast at the Blue Onion on State St. Many times afterwards we both often said that it was one of the most memorable breakfasts we ever had. I believe this feeling might be attributable to the fact that we were on our honeymoon. Now that she is gone I still often think of the Blue Onion – – – it holds a special place in my heart.

  22. Hector Becerra says:

    I was a UCSB gaucho from ’75-’79 and worked downtown in social services for one year after graduating. We would lunch at Frimples at least twice a week and two people turned to ten or more ’cause everybody wanted to go. The menu was so good it was hard to select & the food delicious. Dessert always the famous frimples and the giant hot cinnamon rolls smothered with melting butter.(always took at least one to go & could feed two starving students). When ever we partied the downtown bars starting in lower state before it was redone up to Joe’s Cafe(cantina) ultimately ending up at frimples sobering up.Those were the days.

  23. Debi Hart says:

    Hope you’re still doing this…
    I vaguely remember going to a restaurant on State and I believe E. Victoria around 1957 or 1958. It may have become a book store or sports store later in the 70s. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the name of that restaurant. Would you have any records about 1956-59 restaurants in that area? It was definitely on the East side of State, and in that general vicinity. Thanks for your help. Maybe some of the older baby-boomers can remember.

  24. Tom Johnson says:

    I attended City College and UCSB in the early 1970s and of course dined at J.K. Frimples, but always wondered if that was the location of the Blue Onion, where I remembered going as a small child in 1956 or earlier. So great to see the photos and the menu. The first car in the picture looks alot like our car at the time.

  25. Julie Sweeney says:

    In 1976 and 1977, I was a teen and my favorite place was JK Frimples. If I had anything off the menu except the famous JK Frimple dessert, I don’t remember. After my husband and I married, we went there often to split the dessert because it was HUGE and such a fun thing for us! To this day, we tell our grown children of the famous JK Frimple that we so loved!

  26. Rich says:

    I know this is a long shot. But I’m hoping that Janice or Ron or Tom or any fans of The Fig Tree can help me out.

    As a child of maybe 8 to 10 years year old (roughly 1970 to 1973), my wife recalls her parents taking her to a restaurant that had wallabies. Most people she has since told this to, especially after moving away from Southern California (Thousand Oaks), thought she was insane.

    She has tried many times, and failed, to track down the details. But it sure looks like I found the right place.

    I would really love to put together a birthday gift for her for late October. I know she’d love a few photos of The Fig Tree, the wallabies (Wally & Bea and the rest), Ruthy at the piano, and maybe a photo of the boomerang menu. Any photos or trivia about the place (like names of any other wallabies) would be a great addition.

    As I said up front, I know this is a long shot. But I know this would make her incredibly happy. Please help as you are able.


  27. Rich says:

    Does anyone have a photo they could post of the wallabies and/or the boomerang menu from The Fig Tree?

  28. Christina says:

    One of my fond memories is stopping in at Frimples late night after partying at Joe’s or wherever on State. My go to menu item was always the cinnamon roll, big enought for two but I would never share it! Does anyone have access to the recipe for those massive disks of warm buttery heaven?

    Loved stumbling on to this and other nostalgic posts of Santa Barbara in its hayday before the chains moved in. So many wonderful memories of my college years and beyond in SB ’74-84. All the great student hang outs for cheap food or strong drinks.

  29. Linda Blair says:

    I’m just happy my memory is correct about the wallabies. Loved the Wallabies. Sorry to hear they were killed. Visited them on our honeymoon.

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