THE CRYSTAL BALL

After intense concentration and a wave of my hand over the crystal ball, my eatery oracle has revealed a list of food and drink locations appearing in your future:

  • Alma Fonda Fina, 1024 Coast Village Rd. (formerly Little Alex’s)
  • Best BBQ, 716 State St. (formerly Mokutan)
  • Bettina, 700 Linden Ave., Carpinteria (second location)
  • Blue Owl, 700 Linden Ave., Carpinteria
  • Buddy’s BBQ, Victoria St.
  • Chick-Fil-A, 4765 Calle Real, Goleta (formerly IHOP)
  • Clam Bar, 119 Harbor Way Ste. B
  • Clark’s Oyster Bar, 1212 Coast Village Rd. (formerly Cava)
  • East Valley Kitchen, 516 San Ysidro Rd. (formerly Montecito Wine Bistro)
  • The Ellwood, 5905 Sandspit Rd., Goleta (formerly Beachside Bar-Café)
  • Etty’s Jewish Deli, 524 Chapala St.
  • Everytable, 1001 State St. (formerly Saks 5th Avenue)
  • Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen, 6980 Market Place Dr. (formerly Hollister Brewing Company)
  • Happy Cat Eats, 23 E. Cabrillo Blvd (formerly Wheel Fun and L.T. Cinnamon)
  • Indian Tandoori Kingdom, 1026 State St. (formerly Oppi’z)
  • Jemma Montecito, 1801 E. Cabrillo Blvd.
  • Lama Dog, 3435 State St. (formerly La Rumba)
  • Lighthouse Coffee, Calle Real (formerly Outback Steakhouse)
  • Lilac Patisserie, 1209 Coast Village Rd. (formerly Mesa Burger)
  • Little Alex’s, 3987-B State St. (formerly Fresco)
  • Luna Grill, Isla Vista, Montecito
  • Nick the Greek, 508 State St. (formerly Natural Café)
  • Petra Cafe, 14 E. Cota St. (replacing Foxtail Kitchen)
  • Restoration Hardware dining room, 1486 E. Valley Rd., Montecito (old firehouse)
  • Santa Playa Mariscos, 1230 State St. (formerly Brasil Arts Café)
  • Seven Bar & Kitchen, 235 W. Montecito St. (formerly The Neighborhood Bar)
  • Shalhoob’s, 5112 Hollister Ave., Goleta (formerly Woody’s BBQ)
  • Silvers Omakase, 224 Helena Ave. (formerly Seven Bar & Kitchen)
  • Skyfield, 30 E. Ortega St. (formerly Black Sheep)
  • Starbucks, 120 State St.
  • Teddy’s on State, 3102 State St. (formerly Yanni’s Greek Deli)
  • Tyde’s, 1281 Channel Dr., Montecito
  • Trattoria Del Sole, 1027 State St. (formerly Tamira)
  • Wexler’s Deli, 38 W. Victoria St. (inside SB Public Market)
  • Wingstop, Fairview Ave.
  • Unnamed Cantina, Turnpike Center
  • Unnamed Italian, 413 State St.
  • Unnamed, 1800 E. Cabrillo (near Bird Refuge)
Posted in Restaurant News | 1 Comment

MR. SOFTEE GRAND OPENING

Last July readers helped me break the news that Mister Softee in Ventura County plans to open up a location at 935 State Street, the former home of Creamistry. The eatery offers soft serve ice cream in cones or cups in addition to sundaes, milkshakes, and coffee. Reader Steve H. says that the dessert destination will be hoding a grand opening on January 20th from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

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BRUXIE OPENS IN PASEO NUEVO

Bruxie, a “culinary casual” concept known for its menu offerings, including hand-crafted waffle sandwiches, chicken tenders and custard shakes, introduces its eighth California restaurant this month in Paseo Nuevo downtown. “Santa Barbara is a highly sought-after destination for tourists, thanks to its beautiful beaches, rich culture, and diverse cuisine,” says Bruxie CEO, Scott Grinstead. “Bruxie is the perfect restaurant for visitors and locals alike who are searching for a diverse flavor profile to add to their experience. We can’t wait to see how Bruxie contributes to the vibrant lifestyle of Santa Barbara.”

“Bruxie’s unconventional menu is sure to make waves in the restaurant scene in Santa Barbara,” says Bruxie Santa Barbara Franchise Partner, Scott Timpe. “We’re looking forward to serving the Santa Barbara community, as well as seeing how the locals embrace Bruxie as a new go-to spot.”

Founded in 2010 and continuing its expansion in California and Georgia in 2024, Bruxie’s next location will take the brand to Northern California, where it plans to open in Downtown Davis. Visit bruxie.com.

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GOLETA COFFEE BEAN TO CLOSE

Reader Primetime says that The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at 5745 Calle Real in Goleta is planning to close. Reader Nikki says their last day will be January 12th. Several Coffee Beans closed in Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria in the last few years. The Coffee Bean website says that the airport outlet is the last location remaining in our area.

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COSTCO FOOD COURT CHANGES

Costco is set to replace its $1.49 churros from its food court menu with other sugary treats. The company is discontinuing the cinnamon-covered, fried dessert and that it would be replaced with cookies. Rumors of the change first swirled around on the national Costco Reddit page earlier this month after a Reddit user said that their brother, who works at our Costco in Goleta, informed them of the news. Costco has found a company to make the cookies and agreements are finalized. They will be showing up in early 2024, along with chocolate ice cream which will appear before summer.

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RESTAURANT SUCCESS

Here is a question for you from reader Lawrence H.:

What are the necessary ingredients for a successful restaurant in Santa Barbara? Is it good food priced right ? Is it a favorable lease? Is it catching a certain food zeitgeist, the flavor of the moment? Is it good management? Is it a combination of all these things?

And what is the criteria for success? 5 years in operation? What are the chances of success in Santa Barbara? 1 in 5 (20%)? 1 in 10 (10%)?

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MORE TACO TOURS

Here is a heads-up from reader Evan about another local taco tour option:

Hi there! I am pretty sure we met YEARS ago when I was first starting my walking food tour business – Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours!

I have been meaning to reach out for so long and haven’t BUT I just read your article from The Restaurant Guy about a taco tour that is launching in February 2024 and realized I really really really needed to reach out about all our tours. I would LOVE to chat and invite y’all on all the tours!

I cannot wait to hear from you! THANK YOU!!!!

Evan
Taste Santa Barbara Food Tours
tastesantabarbarafoodtours.com

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OAKBERRY OPENS IN ISLA VISTA

Reader Brendan also says that, right across the street from the now-former home of Rockfire Grill, a new Oakberry location has opened next to the Six Pak Shop. Oakberry Acai Bowls opened in Paseo Nuevo in 2020 and this would be a second South Coast franchise location. Oakberry has more than 600 stores in more than 35 countries.

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ROCKFIRE GRILL CLOSES

Reader Brendan says that Rockfire Grill in Isla Vista appears to have closed. There is a “for lease” sign on the property and it’s marked as closed on Yelp. There is also some discussion on reddit. Given that Rockfire opened in December 2018, this new development suggests their five-year lease was up for renewal and that the business took a pass.

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METROPULOS TO CLOSE

There has been a heavy blow to SB sandwich lovers. Readers Brendan and Paris let me know that Metropulos Fine Foods Merchant at 216 East Yanonali Street in the Funk Zone is closing soon after 20 years in business. The owners are retiring. There is an active discussion about this on Reddit. Metropulos opened in 2004.

Here is a message to you from Metropulos:

The Real Story

Dear incredible wonderful customers, and everyone else lurking out there:No beating around the bush here, we’re writing to let you know that we have made the decision to retire from the food business, and to close Metropulos. Probably, you have already heard some version of this news. Here is the real story.

We have been trying to sell the business and/or the building for some time now, but to date have had no offers (although we are hopeful that we will receive an offer soon…and from a really great team of operators). For the past year or so, our homeowners association (we are located in a commercial condominium) has been demanding that we allow them to tent our building for termites, as we are attached to the residential units. We have been trying to postpone the tenting until we have sold our building, as it means we’ll have to empty the building of all foods, packaging, dry goods, etc, and start over. Unfortunately, the HOA has imposed a deadline, forcing us to consider all options.

After 20 years and into our 60’s, starting over isn’t an option for us, so we’ve made the decision to close while we decide what’s next for the space. If the offer we are expecting does not materialize, we will locate a great operator, and we will lease out the space until the commercial real estate market improves. Or who knows, perhaps we’ll reopen under some alternate iteration! As can be expected, many of our employees have started their journeys to new, long term jobs and have been slowly leaving us for their new ventures.

A HUGE shout-out to the remaining employees and all the great employees we have had the pleasure of working with over the years. If you thought opening a food business was hard, you should try closing one! This team is incredible.Here’s what’s next:We will continue to sell sandwiches and salads through this week, or until we run out of ingredients. Whichever comes first. As we run out of ingredients, though, some things will need to be substituted on our salads and sandwiches.

We will continue to sell breakfast burritos, gyros and deli salads through the weekend, or until we run out of ingredients. Pot pies in the freezer until sold out. Beginning in the new year, we will liquidate our remaining inventory of foods, wines, cheese and charcuterie, and overstock packaging, becoming a retail shop until our shelves are empty. This will be a liquidation sale with most items reduced in price; all sales final and cash is appreciated.Hours in the new year will be 11-3 Monday-Friday.We appreciate your business over the years.

You have been an integral part of our growth and success, and have enriched our lives in ways you cannot know.It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be a part of the Santa Barbara food community, to have earned your trust and respect, and won your love.The outpouring of kind words has been overwhelming; we are proud to have created this successful business, from scratch, in the time before Funk Zone was a thing, before YELP and before SB had a local Whole Foods, multiple Trader’s Joe’s, and Bristol Farms. We brought our vision to fruition, and did what many said was impossible.

On another note…if anyone needs an excellent executive level employee, be sure to send us an email.After a little down time, one of us will be looking for something part time, new and exciting to keep us busy, while the other one becomes a gentle person farmer. Yes, chickens and goats are in our future. We also have a couple outstanding members of our team who we would love to assist into their new roles. Please let us know if this is something you’d like more information about.

Onward and upward, ya’ll stay safe out there. Queue the sunset, and two marauders riding into it. Our time in the food business is coming to an….

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YONA REDZ EXPANDING TO UPPER DOWNTOWN

The owner of the popular Yona Redz Mexican restaurant at 532 State Street is opening a new eatery next to the Granada Theater. The dining destination will offer Mexican seafood.

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SB SUNSHINE CAFE OPENS IN GOLETA

Reader FR let me know that Santa Barbara Sunshine Café has opened at 5711 Calle Real in Goleta, the former home of Chicken in a Barrel BBQ (2018-2020), Petrini’s (2011-2016), and Luigi’s Pizza & Pasta. The flagship location on upper State Street has closed permanently.


Photos by reader FR

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BROPHY BROS. TAKING OVER SUSHI GOGO?

A rumor circulating around town suggests that Brophy Bros. at the harbor has purchased the neighboring Sushi GoGo space which “temporarily” closed recently. As always, this rumor might be completely false or a brilliant forecast of future events. Your call.

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HARBOR RESTAURANT UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP

Reader Lianne S. says that Attorney John Thyne III, Olesya Thyne, Gene Sanchez, and Carolina Jimenez have taken over ownership of The Harbor Restaurant and its sister eatery, Longboard’s. They plan to offer South American cuisine and add a coffee bar and an ice cream bar, among other changes.

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SANTA BARBARA SUNSHINE CAFE CLOSES

Reader Steve C. let me know that Santa Barbara Sunshine Café at 3514 State Street has closed. Fortunately, they are in the process of building a new location in Goleta at 5711 Calle Real in Goleta, the former home of Chicken in a Barrel BBQ (2018-2020), Petrini’s (2011-2016), and Luigi’s Pizza & Pasta (?-2010).

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2023 YEAR IN REVIEW

My foodie duties for the year wouldn’t be complete without summarizing activity at food & drink destinations on the South Coast:

THE BIG SLOW DOWN: I started covering the local restaurant scene in 1994 with the launch of the SantaBarbara.com Restaurant Guide but I only started keeping track of restaurant statistics when this column debuted 17 years ago, so that’s how far back my records go. While 2022 saw a near record number of openings (52), things dropped off dramatically this year with just 36 openings which is the second-fewest on record, only surpassed by 2021 (during the Covid-19 pandemic) when just 31 restaurants opened. On the bright side, the South Coast experienced a record-fewest closings with just 18, shattering the all-time record low of 30 that occurred in 2009.

FALLEN ICONS: We lost three long-time restaurants in 2023, including Natural Café at 508 State Street which fed happy customers for 30 years, Fresco Café which spent 28 years Five Points Shopping Center and then moved downtown for 7 months, and Hollister Brewing Company which spent 16 years in Camino Real Marketplace where it won the Santa Barbara Independent’s Best Goleta Restaurant award numerous times. Fresco’s hot mushroom sandwich was my #1 favorite in town and I am still in mourning that loss.

FLASH IN THE PAN: This section of the Year in Review is where I list restaurants that both opened and closed during the calendar year. “Juniper on Fourth” in Solvang had its grand opening last October and, sadly, served its last customer just 2 weeks later.

RESTAURANT OPENINGS: Asia 101, Azul Cocina, Beast Taqueria, Brass Bear, Cafe La Fonda, Crumbl Cookies, Dang Burger, Dave’s Drip House, Dawn Café, Draughtsmen Aleworks, Gala, Goodland Waffles and Melts, I.V. Pizza and Pub, Juniper on Fourth, Kaz ToGo, Kin Bakeshop, Kozy Craft Coffee, Linden Hall, Los Altos, Maiz Picante Taqueria, Maria’s Tacos, Mister Softee, Mollie’s Italian Deli, Pizza Mizza, Pokewaves, Pueblo Pollo, Rascal’s Vegan Food, Santa Barbara Fish Market, Santa Barbara Pizza House, Social Eats, Sweet Reef Boba, Taqueria La Unica, Terra at the Steward Hotel, The Kitchen at Calvary Chapel, Three Monkeys, and Three Pickles Deli.

RESTAURANT CLOSINGS: Bedda Mia, California Tacos and Taproom, Courthouse Tavern, Creamistry, Elena’s Kitchen, Fresco Café, Hollister Brewing Co., Juniper on Fourth, Mokutan, Mr B Restaurant & Café, Natural Café on State, Oppi’z Bistro, Pizza Online Company, Plaza Deli, Pueblo Pollo (moved to Isla Vista), Red Pepper, Santa Barbara Sunshine Café, and South Coast Deli on Chapala.

MOST READ STORIES: Based on the analytics from The Restaurant Guy blog here at SantaBarbara.com, the top-ten most read news stories of the year are: #1: “Who’s Serving Thanksgiving in 2023?”; #2: “Stella Mare’s Bistro Lease Not Renewed” (a later announcement said the lease was renewed!);  #3: “Hollister Brewery Company to Close”; #4: “Crumbl Cookies Coming to Calle Real”; #5: “Plaza Deli Closes”; #6: “Del Pueblo Cafe Changes Ownership”; #7: “Taqueria La Unica Opens on Upper State Street”; #8: “Sneak Peek: Shalhoob’s Goleta”; #9: “Mollie Ahlstrand Coming to Carpinteria”; #10: “Cat Cora Leaves Mesa Burger”

AND IN OTHER NEWS: Reader Steve C. let me know that Santa Barbara Sunshine Café at 3514 State Street has closed. Fortunately, they are in the process of building a new location in Goleta at 5711 Calle Real in Goleta, the former home of Chicken in a Barrel BBQ (2018-2020), Petrini’s (2011-2016), and Luigi’s Pizza & Pasta (?-2010). Reader Lianne S. says that Attorney John Thyne III, Olesya Thyne, Gene Sanchez, and Carolina Jimenez have taken over ownership of The Harbor Restaurant and its sister eatery, Longboard’s. They plan to offer South American cuisine and add a coffee bar and an ice cream bar, among other changes. A rumor circulating around town suggests that Brophy Bros. at the harbor has purchased the neighboring Sushi GoGo space which “temporarily” closed recently. As always, this rumor might be completely false or a brilliant forecast of future events. Your call.

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NEW YEAR’S EVE AT TERRA

Here is a press release from The Steward:

As 2023 comes to a close, escape to the central coast to ring in the new year at The Steward, Santa Barbara’s newest hideaway.

The boutique all-suites hotel will host a New Year’s Eve Soiree on Sunday, December 31 (kicking off at 5 p.m.), complete with a thoughtfully curated four-course meal from signature restaurant Terra, including a raw seafood bar, charcuterie, a variety of additional delicious seafood dishes, delectable desserts, and specially-crafted cocktails. Attendees will also enjoy live music, lawn games scattered throughout the grounds, and bubbly toast to 2024 at midnight! Tickets are priced at $95 per person.

The Steward is also offering a special New Year’s Package, which includes an overnight stay in one of the signature suites and two tickets to the New Year’s Eve Soiree. The package starts at just $190 and you can find additional details. Visit thestewardsb.com

 

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ISLA VISTA UPDATE

Reader SS asked me if Lao Wang restaurant in Isla Vista is closed so I stopped by and confirmed that the eatery is on a winter break and will reopen January 8th. A few other Isla Vista businesses appear to be taking a holiday breather as well including Blenders and Kozy Coffee.

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MISTER SOFTEE OPENS

Last July readers helped me break the news that Mister Softee in Ventura County plans to open up a location at 935 State Street, the former home of Creamistry. The eatery offers soft serve ice cream in cones or cups in addition to sundaes, milkshakes, and coffee. Reader Steve H. says that the dessert destination is now open!


Miss Softee. Photos by Steve H.

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

Hi, John,
Any idea what’s happening at the old Jenny Craig space in Ontare Plaza at 3414 State? Sign says “Bitar Restaurant Group Enotecan” on-sale beer and wine on premises Restaurant? Wine bar? Other?
Thanks,
GM

Hi GM,

It will be a wine shop/bar run by the owners of neighboring Via Maestra 42.

John

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TACO TOURS COMING TO SANTA BARBARA

Starting in February 2024 a new service called Santa Barbara Taco Tour is being launched at 321 Motor Way. “Taco Tour Santa Barbara is your premier destination for an unforgettable walking tour through Santa Barbara’s culinary delights,” says their website tacotoursantabarbara.com. “Immerse yourself in a journey, exploring the city’s scenic beauty while savoring the finest tacos at top-rated destinations.” Their dog-friendly guided tours offer a diverse range of options including vegetarian and gluten-free tacos. The lunch tour is available Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for $115. The dinner tour is conducted Friday-Saturday 4-6:30 p.m. for the same price. Both include two alcoholic beverages. Similar tours for those under age 21 are available for $99. Tours are 2.5 hours long and the walk is approximately 3.5 miles. Destinations include Beast Taqueria, Yona Redz, Sandbar, Night Lizard, and more. Call (805) 665-3725


Courtesy

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JANUARY OPENINGS

Bruxie, an up-and-coming “culinary casual” concept known for its hand-crafted waffle sandwiches, chicken tenders and custard shakes, is set to open its eighth California restaurant at the beginning of 2024 in Paseo Nuevo. “Santa Barbara is a highly sought-after destination for tourists, thanks to its beautiful beaches, rich culture, and diverse cuisine,” says Bruxie CEO, Scott Grinstead. “Bruxie is the perfect restaurant for visitors and locals alike who are searching for a diverse flavor profile to add to their experience. We can’t wait to see how Bruxie contributes to the vibrant lifestyle of Santa Barbara.”

Lilac Montecito is a new concept opening mid-January at 1209 Coast Village Road with full dinner service in a fine-dining setting offering European and Californian cuisine. Menu items include seafood risotto, steak frites, house made pasta, and a selection of salads, soup, appetizers, entrees, sides and dessert. Their menu items will be gluten free and also offer a number of vegetarian and vegan items. A full wine list with select wines curated by our in-house sommelier will be available. Dinner will be served daily from 5-9 pm.

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CHRISTMAS EVE AT CA’DARIO

Ca’ Dario Montecito and Ca’Dario Ristorante will be serving a 4-course prix fixe Xmas Eve menu for $95/person. It will include traditional Italian Christmas specials as well as some of Dario’s signature dishes. A children’s menu is available upon request. Ca’ dario Cucina Italiana in Goleta will be serving a similar menu a la carte with no prix fixe. Visit cadariorestaurants.com

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TILDEN’S DRY JANUARY

Tilden, a local non-alcoholic cocktail company, is gearing up for “Dry January” with the launch of its new hip flasks, available at local shops including The Eddy, Montecito Village Grocery, Il Fustino, Santa Barbara Company, SB Botanic Garden Gift Shop, and Macher. Launched earlier this year by Santa Barbara local Vanessa Royle and her co-founder Mariah Hilton Wood, Tilden set out to cater to people cutting back on alcohol consumption and seeking more adult non-alcoholic options. Tilden’s ready-to-serve cocktails have won awards in its first year, including Best in Show at the L.A. Spirits Awards, a historically liquor-centered awards competition. “January 2024 is expected to be a month unlike any other, with nearly 40% of Americans expected to forego alcohol for the annual Dry January challenge,” says Royle and Wood. “With restaurants starting to build out non-alcoholic sections, Tilden has been a welcome addition.” Tilden’s cocktails are served Barbareño, Bettina, Bell’s, Satellite, El Encanto, Terra (at The Steward Hotel), University Club, La Cumbre Country Club, Wine Cask and Corks N Crowns. Visit drinktilden.com.

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NEW YEAR’S AT HOTEL CALIFORNIAN

Here is a New Years press-release from the Hotel Californian:

Blackbird’s Indulgent Six Course Dinner 5:00 p.m. – Close

The evening kicks off with Blackbird’s exclusive six-course dinner, curated by Chef Travis Watson. The prix-fixe menu celebrates the culinary richness of the Central Coast, featuring delightful dishes from an amuse-bouche of roasted butternut squash with braising greens and crispy parmesan to the decadence of local lobster, sous vide filet mignon, roasted carrot Wellington, and roasted beet risotto, culminating in a dark chocolate gallet dessert. Optional wine selections are available to enhance the dining experience, along with inventive cocktails crafted by legendary mixologist Devon Espinosa. Priced at $150 per person, excluding tax and gratuity, reservations are available through OpenTable and require a $50 deposit. Explore the full menu here.

Santa Barbara’s First Fully-Outdoors NYE Celebration 9:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.

Hotel Californian’s groundbreaking New Year’s Eve celebration, the first fully-outdoors event in Santa Barbara’s history, will take place on the Serena Rooftop, overlooking the Court of Califia’s main stage against the breathtaking backdrop of Pacific palms and the majestic peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Headlined by Crush Club, the Los Angeles-based disco house dynamo, the event promises an unforgettable night of music and energy for attendees aged 21-and-over. Four ticket tiers are available, starting at $35 for General Admission and reaching $170 for VIP Lounge access, offering seating, premium views, and complimentary champagne. Tickets can be purchased here.

New Years Day Bloody Mary Bar at Djinn 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

On New Year’s Day, Djinn, the hotel’s vibrant library bar invites guest to continue the celebration with a hair-of-the-dog DIY Bloody Mary Bar from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Named after the mischievous spirits of Moroccan folklore, Djinn allows guests to personalize their drinks with a variety of spirits, mixes, and unique accoutrements. There is no charge to join; guests will pay per drink while enjoying the rhythmic vinyl tunes curated by Val-Mar Records. Reservations are encouraged and can be made here.

Please note that Djinn will maintain its normal service on New Year’s Eve with extended hours until 1 a.m.

For more information, visit HotelCalifornian.com.

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CHRISTMAS WITH FINCH & FORK

Finch & Fork at 31 West Carrillo Street will have a special menu for Christmas Eve, as well as a Christmas Day Brunch beginning with a wild mushroom bisque, a Raw Bar (fresh oysters, shrimp, ceviche + more), smoked trout, pork & truffle paté; featuring entrees such as Prime Rib and Salmon en Croûte, and ending with an array of sweets including Eggnog Crème Brulee, Frangelico Salted Caramel Budino & Chocolate Coffee Bread Pudding. Call (805) 884-0300

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SUSHI GO GO TEMPORARILY CLOSED

This just in from reader Tom S.:

Hi John,

Not sure if this has been reported yet, but I was walking at the harbor today and passed by Sushi Go Go. There was a sign stating they’re closed for construction Dec 4 -11th, but a “stop work” order was posted over that. Looks like nothing has happened since and it remains closed.

Thanks,
Tom

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SOFTEE SCOOP

Legendary reader Steve H. gives us a State Street update:

Hi John,

Mister Softee continues to progress. Countertops have been installed, equipment has been delivered, workmen are there almost daily, and a Mister Softee surfboard has appeared in the window.

Steve H.


Photo by Steve H.

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HOLIDAY TAMALE CLASS

This just in from the “Apples to Zucchini” cooking school at 2300 Garden Street:

Hey John,

Jeff King here from the non-profit Apples to Zucchini cooking school. Thought I’d mention a cool class we’re offering to everyone in SB: a holiday make-and-take tamale making class with chef Cris Garcia. Here’s the class info:

“On December 23 in the AtoZ teaching kitchen, Chef Cris Garcia will demystify the process of making tamales from scratch in this hands-on class. Students will learn how to make two kinds of tamales: vegetarian and pork. Then take them home to steam and share with their families for Christmas.”

(Students will make 8 tamales and can choose only vegetarian, only pork, or make and take 4 of each.) $85 per person / Open to families with children 10+ when accompanied by an adult. Call (805) 214-1213 or visit atozcookingschool.org

Thanks John!

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JILL’S PLACE HOLIDAY HOURS

Here is an update from Jill’s Place at 632 Santa Barbara Street:

“Hey John, we are usually closed on Sunday’s but this year we will be open Sunday Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, serving brunch and dinner. Hours are 11 a.m. brunch, dinner from 4:30 p.m. We are taking reservations now. Call (805) 963-0378”

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FINNEY’S TO REPLACE HOLLISTER BREWING COMPANY

Reader Cris S. let me know that Santa Barbara’s wildly popular Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen at 35 State Street is coming to Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace where Hollister Brewing Company used to be at 6980 Market Place Drive. “Excited to announce Finney’s is coming to…Goleta!!!” says the eatery. “Opening at the end of 2024. We can’t wait to join this amazing community.” Hollister Brewery Company, which opened in May, 2007, closed on September 18, 2023. Other locations in the works include Stevenson Ranch and Oceanside. Call (805) 845-3100 or visit finneyscrafthouse.com

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WHO’S OPEN ON CHRISTMAS DAY?

A few years back I broke from my Thanksgiving tradition and also posted a list of restaurants open on Christmas Day. I haven’t been making the Christmas calls this year (I still might) but I can let you know a rule-of-thumb I learned from that experience. If you are wanting to dine out on December 25th, think about visiting Chinese restaurants or eateries located on hotel properties. They are reliably open on Christmas Day year after year.

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BLACK SHEEP ANNIVERSARY

Santa Barbara’s beloved Black Sheep, that moved from their long-time home on Ortega Street to 18 East Cota Street on December 15, 2022, is ready to celebrate their first anniversary. “As some may know, we have been operating for quite some time now… almost 10 years!” says owner Reuben Perez. “Wow. With that being said, in honor of our first full year at our dream location…We decided to revert our price to the original when we first opened up Black Sheep. $45 Tasting Menu. Come on in and indulge in a mouthwatering four-course, nine dish dinner, complete with dessert!”

The eatery is also having a gift card holiday special: Buy $100 get $120, buy $200 get $240, buy $300 get $360, buy $400 get $480, and buy $500 get $600. Call (805) 965-1113 or visit blacksheepsb.com.

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HOLIDAYS WITH DRIFT

The South Coast’s downtown boutique hotel Drift Santa Barbara at 524 State Street will be kicking off the holidays with a lineup of festivities and holiday activities at their food and drink outlets including:

DAWN:
• Dawn at Drift is now selling Joe on the Go Boxes that include cream and sugar
• Buy a $25 gift card, get a free espresso drink on Dawn. Valid through 12/25.
• Dawn coffee beans in 10oz and 5lb sizes as a gift. Pick up hats, shirts and more.
• Dawn 101 classes will resume in January, keep an eye on their Instagram for release dates.

DUSK:
• ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, an experiential popup bar inside Dusk will be live from through 12/29, regular bar hours.
• Sunset Sessions: at Dusk every Tuesday from 4:307:30 p.m. for live tunes, drinks, and more.
• Dusk will be open regular hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Photo by The Restaurant Guy

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BUBBLE BASH

Wine enthusiasts are invited to indulge in an afternoon of champagne and other sparkling wines at the Bubble Bash, presented by Pico at 458 Bell Street in Los Alamos. This event will take place on Saturday, December 9th, from 1-4 p.m. , set against the backdrop of the Pico Garden. Bubble Bash is a holiday wine festival showcasing sparkling wine from around the globe including local wineries which produce sparkling styles from pet nat to methode champenoise. This event is an opportunity to taste sparkling wines to compliment your holiday gatherings. Pico will also be featuring a raw bar during the tasting event including oysters, caviar, and uni from Sea Stephanie Fish and other local seafood purveyors. Secure your place at this event by purchasing tickets for $40 per person online by visiting: https://www.exploretock.com/picolosalamos/event/444004/bubble-bash

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SUNDAY SUPPER AT PETIT VALENTIEN

Petit Valentien Restaurant at 1114 State Street #14 has resumed its 4 course Sunday supper from 5 – 7:30 p.m. It includes a pre fixe menu priced at $45 with a choice of 3 entrees. Call (805) 966-0222 or visit petitvalentien.com

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NEW YEARS WITH SCRATCH

For any roundups you’re putting together surrounding where to eat/drink/celebrate New Year’s Eve around town in a few weeks, I wanted to share details about a special dinner at Sushi by Scratch Restaurants: Montecito, offered on Friday (12/29), Saturday (12/30), and Sunday nights (12/31).

Guests are invited to round out 2023 with an exclusive, one-night-only sushi experience from the Michelin-Starred duo, Chefs Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas Lee. Celebrated for its highly curated nigiri tasting menu, intimate 10-seat counter, and dedication to a “from scratch” approach, NEW’ New Years Eve dinner will feature their signature 17-course, omakase-inspired tasting menu with limited-time-only caviar and truffle specials and a champagne toast; in addition to a welcome cocktail, farewell tea, and additional beverage pairings to choose from – including sake, whiskey, beer, wine, and cocktails.

Priced at $285/person, reservations can be made via Tock, with seatings available at 5 p.m., 7:15 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. Call 805-321-0005 or visit sushibyscratchrestaurants.com

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SANTA PAULA’S “BEST BBQ” COMING TO SB

Reader David P. let me know that Best BBQ is coming to 716 State Street, the former home of Mokutan and Choppa Poke. The eatery’s flagship location is at 915 East Harvard Boulevard in Santa Paula where they offer ribs, tritip, chicken, bowls, and catering. The Santa Paula location opened in July 2015 and the new Santa Barbara eatery is schedule to open in early 2024. Reader RexOfSB, also known as John Dell (and as Santa Barbara’s best-known BBQ critic), would most definitely have a lot to say here had he not passed away in 2020. We miss you my friend.

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SANTA COMES TO TOWN

Given our plentiful fair weather, and that our city name includes “Santa,” we are always (at least a little bit) in the holiday spirit here on the South Coast. But every year in December that kicks into high gear when there are marvelous displays of holiday lights in Santa Barbara where you and your family can have a wonderful time driving around seeing the festive decorations — if you know where to look.

This time of year I always visit local Harley Hahn’s Santa Barbara Holiday Lights Tour website at tinyurl.com/sblighttour which was just updated for 2023. It gives you turn-by-turn directions to see neighborhoods with the best holiday light displays. No tour bus needed!

The tour ends at 3729 Monterey Pines Street (near the YMCA on Hitchcock Way) where the real, live Santa will be waiting to greet children on Saturdays and Sundays from 5-7 p.m. including Christmas Eve.


Santa is ready to greet your children on Saturdays and Sundays from 5-7 p.m., including Christmas Eve, at 3729 Monterey Pines Street in Santa Barbara. Photos by The Restaurant Guy

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CAFE LA FONDA OPENS DOWNTOWN

Reader IMissRexofSB tells me that Café La Fonda has opened at 129 East Anapamu Street, the former home of The Courthouse Tavern, The Little Door, Piano Riviera Lounge, The French Table, and Elements Restaurant & Bar.

“At Cafe La Fonda, we bring to life traditional foods with customs of Hispanic heritage,” says their website cafelafonda.com. “Our menu offers a variety of dishes made with fresh ingredients and authentic flavors. From classic tacos and enchiladas to homemade tamales and churros, we have something for everyone.” Catering is also available. Weekday hours are 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (breakfast), 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (lunch), and 4-9 p.m. (dinner). Weekend hours are 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Saturday) and 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Sunday).

Photos by IMissRexofSB and courtesy

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