My foodie duties for the year wouldn’t be complete without summarizing activity at food & drink destinations on the South Coast. Undoubtedly this was a nightmare year for local restaurants because of policies enacted in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. In 2020 there were 38 openings and 53 closings. The most openings were in November (7) while the most closings were in March and May (8 each). 2020 was tied for fewest openings in the 14 years that I have been keeping dining statistics (38 restaurants opened in 2007) while this year experienced the second-most closings in that time period (58 restaurants closed in 2015). Most restaurants are still experiencing extreme difficulty and the full picture of what really happened in the year-from-hell will come in 2021. The SantaBarbara.com Restaurant Guide experienced its highest visitor traffic in 25 years when I launched a takeout and delivery guide in mid-March just as the first COVID-19 lockdown began.

OPENINGS: Hustle & Grind Coffee Company, Aperitivo Wine Bar, Bristol Farms, Ca Dario Montecito, Cafe Lido at Mar Monte Hotel, Caje Coffee Roasters, Cheese Shop Santa Barbara, Chomp on the Rocks, Coast & Olive at Montecito Inn, Costa Kitchen & Bar at Mar Monte Hotel, Crazy Jim’s Tacos y Mas, Dean Coffee Shop, Insomnia Cookies, Kaiju, Kyles Kitchen, La Paloma Cafe, Little Dom’s Seafood, Lokum Turkish Coffee, Lost & Found Cafe, Mercado El Rey, Mesa Burger Montecito, Noemi Pizza Romana, Oakberry Acai Bowls, Olio Bottega, Poke Theory, Red Pepper, Revolver Pizza, Rusty’s Pizza Summerland, Salty at the Beach, Santa Barbara Wood-Fired Pizza, Sprouts Farmers Market, Taqueria Santa Barbara, Teru, Thai Kitchen, Wing Drop, Wingman Rodeo, and Yona Redz Queso Tacos.

CLOSINGS: 212 Hot Pot, Aladdin Cafe, Ana’s Taco Bar, Cafe Ana, Cajun Kitchen (1925 De la Vina St.), Campus Point Coffee, Casa Blanca, C’est Cheese, Challwa Peruvian Cuisine, Chicken in a Barrel BBQ, Chocolats du CaliBressan (1114 State St.), Choppa Ice Cream, Chuck’s Waterfront Grill, Coffee Bean (811 State St.), Coffee Bean (3052 De La Vina St.), Coffee Bean (4961 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria), Crushcakes & Cafe (4945 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria), Dawn Patrol, Due Lune Ristorante and Bar, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dutch Garden Restaurant, eBar Coffee at Nordstrom, Endless Summer Bar Cafe, Enterprise Fish Company, Fosters Freeze, Jeannine’s Bakery (15 E. Figueroa St.), La Cocina, Lemon & Coriander, Lilsey’s Wood-Fired Pizza, Lucky Dragon, Marketplace Cafe at Nordstrom, Mosto Crudo, Neighbor Tim’s BBQ, Olio Crudo Bar, Onus Donuts, Paradise Cafe, Petros Kafe, Pieology, Pizza Hut, PizzaRev, PokeCeviche (313 Paseo Nuevo), Romanti-Ezer (now a food truck), Roost, Root 246, Rose Cafe (424 E. Haley St.), Sides Hardware and Shoes, Silvergreens, Subway (5146 Hollister Ave.), Subway (1021A State St.), Tamira, Treehouse Restaurant, Wetzel’s Pretzels, and Zizzo’s Coffeehouse & Brew Pub.

COMING SOON: Alessia Patisserie & Cafe, 134 E. Canon Perdido St.; Dutch Garden, 4203 State St.; Everytable, 1001 State St.; La Sirena, 1118 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; Leadbetter, 23 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; Mangione’s Italian Ice, 1222 State St.; Tondi Gelato, 723 State St.; Unnamed Brewpub, 434 State St.; Unnamed, 129 E. Anapamu St.

FALLEN ICONS: We lost six restaurants that have been serving locals for more than 30 years: Rose Cafe, 424 E. Haley St. (83 years); Dutch Garden, 4203 State St. (75 years, might reopen in 2021); Fosters Freeze, 5205 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria (59 years); Treehouse Restaurant, 3860 State St. (~50 years); Enterprise Fish Company, 225 State St. (42 years); and Paradise Café, 702 Anacapa St. (37 years).

ON THE MOVE: Scarlett Begonia restaurant moved from its longtime location in Victoria Court to 21 West Victoria Street, the former home of Locavore Kitchen, The Nugget, Arlington Tavern, Hobnob Tavern, Epiphany Restaurant & Bar, Blue Shark Bistro, SOhO, and Mandalay.

MOST READ STORIES: Based on the analytics from The Restaurant Guy blog at SantaBarbara.com, here are the top-ten most read stories of the year:

#1: “New takeout and delivery guide” in March
#2: “Dutch Garden restaurant to close after 75 years in business” in June
#3: “Enterprise Fish Company in Santa Barbara closes permanently” in May
#4: “Dutch Garden to reopen in September” in August
#5: “Mercado El Rey coming to Montecito Street” in June
#6: “Sides Hardware and Shoes closes” in March
#7: “Paradise Cafe closes for good, new concept coming” in September
#8: “Question of the Day: What’s happening with the Treehouse Restaurant?” in September
#9: “Return of Dutch Garden?” in July
#10: “Paradise reopens” in January

ALWAYS REMEMBERED: Long time Restaurant Guy commenter “Rex of SB” died in November. John Dell last commented the day before Thanksgiving about the opening of La Paloma Cafe. Under his Rex of SB alias he frequently talked about his love of barbecue restaurants and sent numerous tips to me over the years. He had a very entertaining wit and a passion for life. He will be missed here and elsewhere.

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5 Responses to 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW

  1. Jenn Miller says:

    Hi. I was in Calibressian on State Street this past Saturday, 12/26. I know they were closed a few weeks ago for a COVID scare but they have been open again since.

  2. Bob says:

    Looks there’s a banner at La Cumbre Plaza about a Wingstop opening soon. I don’t see that name among the restaurants opening soon. Is that no longer going to happen?

    • El Guapo says:

      They’ve been looking for a spot all around town, if they do open up at La Cumbre that’s great news since I live right over here. Been to a few Wing Stop’s in the past, they’re really good (for what they do).

  3. Gerald Bostock says:

    So sad, so painful. RIP, Rex/John, whom I “met” on Edhat. 🙁 And so much else to miss and mourn. But thanks for the acknowledgment and history.