Reader Gary discusses the future of restaurants in Goleta:


With all the restaurants sitting or about to be empty in Goleta: [Sizzler, Elephant Bar, Holdren’s, Smoke N Barrel BBQ Shack, Natural Cafe (soon from Old Town), Takenoya, Cafe Zoma, “The Timbers“…], I would hope that property owners are looking for what the people here want.  It should be something different than Santa Barbara in order to draw business from both places as well.  I am very concerned that Goleta will become a ghost town of restaurants past.

Some places don’t make it here because they don’t have the magic formula.  A good example of one that does have that formula is Hollister Brewing.  Consistently good food, good service, a menu that changes with the seasons, outdoor seating, and great libation.  That is why it is always busy. It really doesn’t sound that hard, but there are really way too many failures to prove differently.

May I suggest that they try to attract restaurant chains to the larger venues such as Bubba Gump Seafood, Kings Seafood, Famous Dave’s BBQ, Bucca d’ Beppo, Garduno’s or Wood Ranch.  They would absolutely have no competition in Goleta or Santa Barbara, and would stand on their reputation.

– Gary

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59 Responses to TOPIC OF THE DAY

  1. Although I don’t live in Goleta I do remember a fantastic Caribbean restaurant that was in “Old Town” Goleta, in the 1980s and 90s. It closed and nothing has taken its place for jerk chicken and plantains, etc., since then. Also, neither Santa Barbara or Goleta has a real Jewish delicatessen with real borscht, hot pastrami sandwiches (on Jewish rye, with garlicky dill pickles, and so many other Jewish delicacies. I believe that restaurants, such as these, would go a long way to attract Goleta and Santa Barbara residents to dine in Goleta. For what it’s worth…

    • Charlotte says:

      Agreed! There isn’t one Jewish diner/deli/bakery here. How I miss Canter’s and Zucky’s (L.A.). The last good bagel I had was 2 years ago, when I was in L.A. at Fred’s Jewish Bakery. I’m not even Jewish and I’m appalled of the void.

    • Lily says:

      There are lots of restaurants that SB and Goleta do not have. A decent Korean restaurant (igrill was a joke and not surprisingly they closed), a ramenya, a Spanish restaurant (real Spain, not the Tex/Mex/fusion stuff they serve at Milk and Honey), or a Middle Easter/Turkish restaurant. I am relatively new to this area and it seems to me that people here have conservative taste, which is why there are so many burgers, pizza, and taco places. Restaurant owners are reluctant to gamble and introduce new concepts in this town.

      • JJ says:

        Lily: No, a wide range of ethnic has not done well. I think we’re back to two Vietnamese places now — one in Santa Barbara and one in Goleta in KMart plaza (actually another in Isla Vista).

        Zaytoon downtown is good for Middle Eastern in my opinion.

        I don’t know if there’d be community support but I’d absolutely welcome good Korean, Ethiopian (I have to try the lunch at Petit Valentien), Spanish, and Greek (though the cafe on Haley sputtered after a couple of years and high-priced Petros is out of my range if a plate of moussaka costs $23+).

        As others have said, this entire area seems to be a really tough restaurant market. I wouldn’t want to take a big risk with my savings or business loans if I were in that position.

        • Lily says:

          For Vietnamese, there is also noodle city in old town Goleta. They actually have pretty tasty bun bo hui. I have being to Zaytoon once and the food was not good, although the atmosphere was very nice. I agree that it is very difficult for a restaurant to succeed here. We have big city rent price and coupled with small town traffic.

          • JJ says:

            Up to you, but I’d give Zaytoon another chance — I tend to stick to the Meshawi Combo (meze variety) and I’m usually happy with the fried Halloumi and the Batata Harra as well. To be honest, I’ve never done the regular entree plates.

  2. JJ says:

    Ugh. Sorry, I know I’m sounding like the worst kind of Food Snob, but I find repulsive the idea of a Goleta dotted with corporate chain restaurants where next to nothing is prepared in the kitchen on site, so many dishes frozen, all sauces and dressings and such from jars, prepared from a formulaic corporate recipe with who knows how many food additives and “non-real” ingredients.

    Then again, Camino Real is already practically SFV or Orange County North (nothing to distinguish it from Anytown Plaza, Anywhere), maybe there’ll be no harm done. America’s corporate retail and restaurant parks have become practically indistinguishable.

    And if people really want to eat at Bubba Gump’s, Applebee’s, Joe’s Crab Shack and the like, I guess the market should serve them. Far be it from me to intervene when people want to imbibe chemically-enhanced garbage. And I say this as someone who actually does eat fast food and TGIF-type cuisine a few times a year. I just would never make it a staple and it’s sad if that’s the only kind of food/restaurant model that can succeed in today’s day and age.

    I’m afraid most of these older properties (Sizzler, Timber’s, even possibly E-Bar) will probably just remain vacant and eventually be condemned and razed or torn down for rebuild.

    I’m not saying everything needs to emulate SB’s The Lark, or Jane, or Sama Sama (or other possibly “hifalutin” properties) … but it would be nice to see at least one place like Zooker’s in Carpinteria fill one Goleta niche.

  3. Although I don’t live in Goleta I do recall a fabulous Caribbean restaurant that was in “Old Town” Goleta, back in the 1980s and 90s. It closed and nothing has taken its place to provide jerk chicken, fried plantains, Jamaican rice and beans, and pecan pie, among other delicious Caribbean foods. Also, neither Santa Barbara or Goleta has a real Jewish delicatessen that would serve real borscht, hot pastrami sandwiches (on Jewish rye, with sauerkraut and garlicky dill pickles) and other Jewish delicacies.

    I believe that restaurants such as these would attract Goleta and Santa Barbara residents to dine in Goleta. Just my 2 cents for what it’s worth…

  4. Jennifer says:

    I agree with JJ 100%! Goleta has too many chains and fast food type restaurants already… We need someplace like Zookers or Corktree cellars or Fishhouse… More fresh healthy food would be great… And someplace with a great happy hour even better!

  5. NB says:

    I would love Los Agaves to consider a Goleta location… Takenoya or the Old Town Natural Cafe locations would be excellent. Los Agaves is always INSANELY busy at lunch and dinner.

  6. Rex Of SB says:

    The problem seems to be that privately owned quality restaurants are dicey business propositions, with many going under within the first year. Sure, it would be nice to see a locally owned Goleta restaurant on the order of Harry’s Plaza or something, but the initial capital outlay for such an undertaking is huge. At least with a quality franchise, such as Dave’s Barbecue Appleby’s etc., there’s a very good chance it will be there for a long time.

  7. Jen says:

    I really hope they don’t put in a Bubba Gumps or Kings. We live in a beach community that has great local fish restaurants! I don’t see those doing well. Applesbees is too much like Chilis! I’m not opposed to chain restaurants, just hopefully good ones! A Yardhouse and Cheesecake Factory would be great for the area.

  8. David says:

    Everyone here wants local mom and pop type restaurants but let’s face it, the market doesn’t support it. Anytime something opens up, it lasts for a few years. What does do well? Well, Mexican food for some reason. I eat Mexican at least once a week but I don’t think we need any more of those places. I’d love for something like, yes, Sama Sama, Lark, C’est Cheese etc to open up but even if they do, they just won’t last. If you’re a “foodie” in Goleta (or I’d argue a lot of SB), you are going to be disappointed.

  9. Glenn says:

    Here’s my latest thoughts/wishes:
    Sizzler->Jack’s Bagels
    Elephant Bar->Root 246 equivalent
    Holdrens/Smokenbarrel->a combo red lobster/olive garden(always in twos) or one big Joe’s Crab Shack. Another option Wine Cask format.
    Natural Café->Mac’s Fish and Chips
    Takenoya->Zen Yai
    Café Zoma-> McConnells Ice Cream
    The Timbers-> McClintocks or Hitching Post III

    • Cris says:

      Red Lobster is being sold for 2.1 billion dollars. They won’t be in twos anymore after the deal is closed.

      • Christine says:

        Red Lobster sent me to the ER with anaphylactic shock from dirty shellfish. Please don’t bring one here to Goleta. Disgusting.

        • David says:

          Are you really that naive to think that one incident, in one restaurant, is indicative of all Red Lobsters?

          • Christine says:

            Not at all. Use the internet to find all the other reports of Red Lobster food poisoning. Oh yeah, and what the nurses and doctors in the ER told me when I told them where I’d eaten.

            And: if you almost died from your food once, would YOU ever go back? Didn’t think so.

    • Danny says:

      I’d be happy with Cheesecake, PF Changs, BJs, or Yardhouse.
      I’d be even happier with Wood Ranch.

      I’d be really disappointed with a chain seafood restaurant! We don’t need it! We have plenty upscale and causal restaurants that serve great fresh seafood.

      Same argument with Olive Garden….

      In my mind the best bet would be a Morton’s or Mastro’s. With the huge quality drop of Downtown Holdern’s and the Closure of Goleta Holdern’s. (Thankfully!!!!) It really just leaves Chucks (Good), Jill’s (Better), Lucky’s (Best)

      • Lynn says:

        I love Olive Garden…………..I don’t know if I love Wood Ranch – been there once. I think it has to be very ‘reasonably priced’ …………What every it takes, I will try it……….I want to support the Goleta restaurants……….not more pizza. It needs to be something substantial and reasonably priced.

        We are a;; looking at value…………times are tough.

  10. Papa John says:

    I would like to join Glenn and cast my vote for an F. McLintock’s. It’s a fun place for kids and adults alike, and my family always visits the locations in SLO or Pismo Beach whenever we venture up the coast.

    For sentimental reasons, I would also love to see an Islands Restaurant in Goleta/SB.

  11. mary says:

    What works in SB is NOT what works in Goleta. As a person in the “business” for 30+ years, Goletens are FAR more price conscious than Santa Barbarians. They generally live there to
    “save $” while still enjoying the area. That mindset along with prohibitive rents makes Goleta
    almost impossible to succeed in a food business that needs BOTH “traffic and decent profit margins
    to stay open.

  12. Cecilia Schneider says:

    Let’s bring back Jaspers!

    • Christine says:

      +1 -heck- +10,000 votes YES for another Jaspers!

    • Bill Yule says:

      You took the words right out of my mouth ( pun intended) JASPERS

    • Charlotte says:

      My favorite 70’s/ 80’s restaurant hands down! If only there were Abalone…they had the best I’ve ever had.

    • Chaz says:

      +1 for Jaspers.

      They moved their operation to LeMoore and I stopped there several years ago on the way to Yosemite. Don’t know if tyey’re still open.

      Entice them into the Elephant Bar space with some rent/tax incentives!

      • Whirl says:

        The odd twist here is that when Vons expanded, Jasper’s moved to the very new Camino Real in the Hollister Brewing location. They were called Boelter’s Grill because they couldn’t take the Jasper’s name there. It only lasted a year or so.

        • Christine says:

          Yeah, if I remember correctly, they tried to “upscale” everything which changed the mood and elevated prices. Don’t redo what’s popular!

  13. ahs says:

    A great idea…..another Hitching Post, like the one in Buellton! We drive there all the time.

  14. Tony from Goleta says:

    Well, most big chains have a minimum population number that an area needs to meet before they will consider the area (usually several hundred thousand residents), thats why you wont likely see a Cheesecake Factory or PF Changs type place here anytime soon and you don’t really see that many chains in the area. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no snob against chains and I’ve had great meals at both those places I mentioned but I really don’t see any chains being interested in the locations mentioned above. The secret to success IMHO is to have a great beer selection. Doesnt have to be a brewery but just a great selection of tap beers. Sure decent food is a given but frankly I know several folks who don’t care for the food at Hollister at all but go there for the beer. Personally I thought the food at the BBQ shack was decent but could never convince friends to go there because of their limited beer selection. If you think this is crazy just look at the crowds at Hollister any Friday or Sat eve! Their oddball eclectic menu can’t draw those kind of crowds, its the beer, trust me 🙂

  15. Whirl says:

    My group likes Hollister because we all like to watch sports while we chat & eat. They have the best views for all of us to watch various games and an interesting menu. Not big beer drinkers, unless they have the orange blossom beer. They are also smart and keep their menu at a decent size. Many places have too many things on their menu, not a good way to make money. I’m not a big chain fan, but the answer for Goleta probably includes a few, especially since that appeals to the students who know those places from home. Sizzler and E bar are probably good chain locations, maybe a Buffalo Wild Wings, who are growing and a great sports bar.

    • Christine says:

      Gee, EBar and Sizzler just left the area… Pretty sure they aren’t coming back. The space seems like a Buffalo Wild Wings size, unfortunately they don’t actually cook food in their kitchen – it’s all microwaved (and disgusting, IMO).

      • Whirl says:

        Maybe you should actually read something before writing a completely stupid response. Like everyone else, I was referring to the buildings and not those actual restaurants.

        • Christine says:

          I read and write for a living. Perhaps you should proofread what you write before you call a stranger “stupid”. What a mean thing to post to the world on the internet. Have a nice day.

          • Kay Lee says:

            What Whirl meant was, the buildings that previously housed EBar and Sizzler would be good locations for a chain restaurant. Whether or not Whirl used the best word arrangement in his/her sentence, I was still able to grasp his/her intended meaning. Everyone reading this blog knows that EBar and Sizzler recently left this area so I feel that it was fairly evident that Whirl was not suggesting that they return.

  16. Lee says:

    It’s a shame that these other restaurants are leaving/closing when Hollister Brewing is still around. Been to that restaurant a few times and each time the service was horrendous. Starting with the hosting staff that seems to enjoy just chatting with each other while making the dining guest wait and wait until a hostess/host finally decides to actually give attention to the guest. Followed by just as inattentive/lousy servers who are slow to take orders and provide refills in a timely manner. Guess many diners just want the beer and don’t mind the insipid “service”.

    • Christine says:

      I’ve been to Hollister more times than I can count and saw a lousy hostess maybe once. Always have great, attentive servers who are also knowledgeable about ALL that beer. Are you going during “off” hours? I’m sure they don’t stay in business with such lousy service… Right, because it’s not lousy.

    • Jen says:

      My husband and I were so excited to hear that a brewery was opening in the market place. We stalked Hollister every day to check on the progress. I can’t believe how disappointing it turned out to be. I don’t care for the food at all. The beer selection is crap and It is by no means a sports bar! It’s not a good place to go after work for happy hour with friends because the bar area is tight. So disappointed. Something must work because there is always a line, but I just don’t get it!

  17. Tony from Goleta says:

    OK, the perfect solution for the Holdrens/Smokin Barrels space!! Eureka Burger!! Why not , the downtown one is jammed most evening, the right amount of space and decent food. Recipe for success 🙂

  18. Rich says:

    I do think something like a Buffalo Wild Wings would be a great fit for either the Elephant Bar or Sizzler premises as there isn’t really a big sports bar in Goleta or Camino Real that caters in the same way. It might not be the most amazing food but for a few beers, wings and watching the game it does just fine.

  19. Glenn says:

    Or just a Wing Stop, been to the one in Santa Maria and it does well. Have never tried a Buffalo, don’t know how it compares.

  20. Hank says:

    Can a brother just get an Arby’s??!!

    • Glenn says:

      We had one where nugget is now in Goleta, I 2nd the motion but with a country meat market in the general area of where it was we probably don’t need it. I’ve got to hit country meat market more, good stuff. What is funny is a lot wanted a chik fil a but I wonder if anyone is still going to it?

  21. Marcia says:

    It would be nice to have something a little “nicer” like Beachside Cafe and then maybe a more family style restaurant with lower prices. Just something with good food and good service. Really, it’s as simple as that. Why complicate things?

  22. Lynn says:

    I (and others) would like to see an Olive Garden and a Red Lobster in the now closed Holdren’s space in Camino Real Marketplace. I’ve emailed Olive Garden my comments. We don’t like to have to go to Oxnard or “North” to get good Olive Garden food. Reasonably priced and the BEST salad dressing. Always busy.
    We also loved Jaspers when it was at Fairview location.

  23. Gerald Bostock says:

    I’ve never eaten at Red Lobster, or maybe never at a chain seafood restaurant aside from Enterprise Fish Co., but how does one suffer from anaphylactic shock from “dirty” seafood? Honestly curious. Maybe an allergy? I have gotten sick once from eating oysters, and once with campylobacter, probably my own cooking. I also found 2 pearls in one oyster at Guiseppi’s. Remember Guiseppi’s?! It’s Velvet Jones, no?

    • Lynn says:

      I’ve never eaten at the Red Lobster, but friends tell me it’s good. I LOVE the Olive Garden but don’t like to drive out of town. I understand they’re owned by the same company. Thought it would be a ‘fit’ for the Holdren’s in Camino Real Marketplace. One kitchen, 2 different restaurants. Reasonably priced – both of them.

    • Christine says:

      I was never allergic to seafood before the incident and I was tested after, again not allergic. The doc told me if shellfish isn’t cleaned properly and then also isn’t cooked thoroughly any bacteria that remains on the meat gets ingested and presents as the allergy and leads to anaphylactic shock. My first clue something was wrong was the hives, then my tongue started to swell. The ER doc and nurses that day were not surprised that I was sick from Red Lobster and to me that means it happens frequently. I won’t be going back.

  24. Lynn says:

    I think Los Agaves is coming to the Marketplace. Hollister has the ‘best’ macaroni and cheese I’ve had in a long time.
    Atmosphere must be a big factor. When Jasper’s was at Fairview – it was atmosphere plus food.
    When they moved it lacked atmosphere. I still want an Olive Garden in Goleta – maybe they should take the Ebar location.

  25. Kay Lee says:

    The food at Hollister Brewing is good, I feel it is a dollar or two overpriced, but it’s tasty. The service is so-so, I’d say that 40% of the time I am satisfied with the service and the rest of the time disappointed but not disgusted. I always get the feeling that we are bothering them by wanting to be seated and fed.

    Red Lobster is no longer affiliated with Olive Garden.

    The building that used to be Chevy’s then Holdren’s is not large enough for a Red Lobster or an Olive Garden. The building that used to house EBar would be large enough for either of them or a Buffalo Wild Wings or a Yard House.

    There should be an Arby’s somewhere in the Goleta/Santa Barbara area.

    The vacant Holdren’s location would be good for a gourmet burger place like Eureka, or Islands, or Ruby Tuesday, or a Cici’s Pizza, or a Chuck’s of Hawaii.