Dutch Garden restaurant to close after 75 years in business

The South Coast is about to say goodbye to another local dining icon. Last month we lost Enterprise Fish Company, a Santa Barbara institution since 1977. This weekend the Dutch Garden restaurant, which has been dishing up German cuisine to area residents since 1945, will be serving its last meal, the restaurant confirmed today. “Unfortunately Saturday the 27th will be the last day for us. Sad 😢 ,” said head server Leslie Walbridge.

Dutch Garden restaurant opened in 1925 as Poppy Cafe. In 1945 the eatery changed hands and the new owners originally wanted to call it the German Gardens but sentiments surrounding World War II were such that the euphemistic name Dutch Garden was used instead. German food used to be plentiful in this town but I believe it disappears locally when Dutch Garden departs. Thanks to readers Steve W. and Primetime for the tips.

Update: the restaurant ran out of food and closed their doors for good on June 25th.

Photos by The Restaurant Guy

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22 Responses to Dutch Garden restaurant to close after 75 years in business

  1. Ljplay says:

    So sad!! I love that place

  2. Richard says:

    This is such a shame. What an iconic restaurant with excellent cuisine and beer. How I will miss their schnitzel, sausages, and patio dining. Or sitting inside to hear the rain patter on the metal roof during a winter rainstorm. So many good meals to be remembered. I hope someone can come in and rekindle the delights.

  3. Parm Williams says:

    The Dutch Garden will be missed. I was so appreciative when owner would call me when he was making Jerusalem Artichoke soup (to go with all the wonderful choices in the menu). I wish all the staff the best of luck.

  4. Craig R Cummings says:

    So sad. A sign of the times: The Dutch Garden closes while Denny’s re-opens.

  5. Loric Labourot says:

    These days it’s hard to find an eatery that has consistent quality in it’s menu products and has old world atmosphere and ambiance.

    I will truly miss being able to enjoy a great meal with my friends and family at the Dutch.

    I was born in Santa Barbara on Oct 3,1945 the same year the Dutch opened and have enjoyed every meal that I have eaten at the Dutch.

    Happy retirement and best wishes to Ken and Laura Leutjen.

    Ich danke dir sehr
    Loric Labourot

  6. Landon Guelff says:

    This is such a bummer.. why wasn’t a godundme started? The Dutch garden can never be replaced.. it is a Santa Barbara icon with German food..

  7. JB says:

    I had dinner in fall of 2009 with the late Rick Majerus at Dutch Garden. He befriended me after I shared in a coaching clinic that my father died of cancer as his mother battled cancer for many years. His cardiac surgeon was in Santa Barbara and any time he came to town, he called me, never texted. One day he called and said, where can we go that no one will see me but the food is great. I suggested Dutch Garden and we enjoyed a great meal. Thank you for so many memories. DG was an institution and I will cherish my last meal there of sweet bread.

  8. Arthur Merovick says:

    The best roast beef sandwich on the planet. We will miss Ken, Lori and his outstanding staff. Truly grateful for years of delicious food and friendly times.

  9. Rich scholl says:

    The eisbein or schnitzel while quaffing a Klokke Roeland or Aventinus In the real gasthaus ambiance has been my most enjoyable eating experience in the USA and my most frequented restaurant. I hope someone will take it over and not change it. Remember the sound of rain on the tin roof?

  10. Tina Hasche says:

    i am just so saddened to hear the news, although inevitable. Ken and Laurie are only human! Masters at what they have accomplished though, the Dutch Gardens is irreplaceable as Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, the two Gardens that have been paramount in my dinning experience. I will always remember loving sitting at the bar with an attentive and gently staff, enjoying those old swivel bar stools at lunchtime, a schnitz and salad and salivating over the Duck with a good German beer at night. Thank you both for all the years of delightful and friendly service and delicious food!
    now, please…a cookbook?
    Forever in Appreciation…

    Tina Hasche

  11. stephanie says:

    We are so sad to lose another Santa Barbara classic. We have been dining at Dutch Gardens since 1978 and will miss its unique atmosphere and fabulous German food. Our son, who now lives in Northern California, has made Dutch Garden his first destination when he comes to visit….Santa Barbara will miss this iconic restaurant as will we!

  12. Nancy Nufer says:

    The Dutch Gardens has been the treasured spot for my natal day dinners for many, many years. And, in spite of the fact one had to arrive early if you wanted a shot at a bar-side seat, I believed it was a ‘hidden treasure’ and I was ‘in the know’ to have discovered it.
    Ha! Me a few thousand other Santa Barbarians.
    Ken and Laurie always made one feel welcome and as if we’d stepped into a slightly different universe. A gentler universe. A friendlier universe.
    The food was exceptional – every single time. And the memories are thick and sweet and will live on.
    And although I’ll miss our salad days, I wish Ken and Laurie the happiest (and most deserved) of retirements!

  13. Aj says:

    This is so sad. I’m driving up from LA on Saturday to hopefully get one last meal from them.

  14. Trevor says:

    This place was perhaps my favorite restaurant of all time. So many great memories here with family and friends both inside the restaurant and out on the patio. I felt like I was taking a step back in time (in a good way) when I walked in the door. Delicious dishes and beers you can’t find anywhere else. This is place was a treasure and it hurst deep to see it go. I really hope they can leave it ‘as is’ in the hopes it can be revived some day.

  15. Tlachiquero says:

    A favorite of mine for nearly 50 years. Really sad to see it go.

  16. Robin Young says:

    Happy Early Retirement Ken and Laurie, God bless you both.
    Your sweet faces, sense of humor and always delicious meals and pies will be missed immensely.
    Another one of Santa Barbara’s classics gone forever along with the Glock Rollins beer…One of my favs.
    Take good care and thanks for the memories.

  17. Monica says:

    I don’t know where to begin, other than my parents were friends with original owners, the Duwell’s. We met them and became family friends in 1962 when I was 4yo. I played in the train car and loved the swivel blue bar chairs. As an adult loved connecting with all I grew up with there, the kids and aging parents. Great great memories, so sorry it’s closing down, a true icon of SB.

  18. LF says:

    Please make a come back!! So many of us regret not going more often. Wonderful food and beer along with the uniqueness of the whole ambiance… you will be missed!

  19. ROBERT and Sarelyn says:

    What a sad moment. We just drove up from Los Angeles where we still keep a condo and read in last Thursday papers about your closing. I guess for the time being at least no more reserving an eisbein for the weekend, which has been our habit for the past 20+ years each time we’ve come to a real home, Santa Barbara; And your restaurant help make it just that. You’re goesthaus reminded me of my several years in Bremerhaven In the early 50s.The black forest chocolate cake à la mode was a wonderful end to all my great meals I think the restaurant should be preserved as a historical monument and a smart restauranteur like you, Ken, keep a good thing going.

  20. OkayThen says:

    My favorite restaurant in SB. I loved the schnitzel.
    Does anyone know who baked the light colored bread?
    It’s moist and chewy.
    I can try and make my own schnitzel, but I can’t make that bread.
    If someone in wide world of web knows the name of the bakery, then please post it here.
    Thanks Ken and Laurie

  21. Thanks for all the great lunches and dinners.. always the best. Come to Ojai and pick some oranges from our orchard and most of all enjoy your retirement. xxoo your friends George and Patty

  22. Jud Norrell says:

    Ken, thanks for many Saturday mornings at the counter, talking with you and the regulars as I enjoyed the Bratwurst Plate or the Schnitzel Plate. Best homemade mustard ever, also!! Last March 14th, you told me your J.D. Souther story. A classic! I wish you a fun retirement. It’s been great being a Dutch Garden customer. I will miss John L. Sullivan and the other guy named John who shared the Saturday mornings with me and you at the left side of the counter, near your grill!