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Jul 26, 2006 01:52 AM

Santa Barbara report & updates

Dining notes for:

Endless Summer
Tupelo Junction


Mousse Odile - closed, sidewalk entry concrete removed
L'Ombretta - wine bar/restaurant closed
Seattle's Best Coffee - in Borders Books, 900 block of State (not 808 as reported previously), also the little corner place below the hotel a block up State from Cabrillo (the beach) has SBC and makes a much better iced latte (reg or decaf) than the one in Borders
Shoreline Beach Cafe - no orange laced pancakes until 10am weekdays, 8:30 on weekends.

Question: Anyone tried the huevos rancheros at the Minnow Cafe (around the corner from Brophy Bros.)?

In town a week ago Sun-Wed, had a late lunch at Endless Summer above the Waterfront Grill at the harbor. Each ordered the poke salad w/ahi and calamari and shared the popcorn shrimp. Salads were as good as we remembered and the shrimp's thin spicy coating was perfect.

Looking for something on the lighter side we ended up at Cuzcatlan on de la Vina for a couple of pupusas, the revuelta (pork, beans & cheese) and the cheese w/loroco (1.99 ea). Probably the best pupusa's we've ever had, big bowl of curtido in the iced-down salad bar alongside a terrific salsa. Were told by the owner that everything is made in house. Spying Hot Dogs Salvadorenos on the menu, had to give them a try. Two dogs charbroiled over open flame, topped with a "Creamy Salvadorean cabbage salad" with a side of fries (soggy) (5.95). The buns were toasted and the dogs quite tasty, next time I would ask that they not put the little swizzle of catsup on the top, but found that liberally applying their hot salsa kicked it up perfectly. Sidenote: I'd mentioned this place to a local gal at the workshop I attended and asked about their specials (couple of fish dishes that sounded good) and other menu items. Her opinion was to stick with pupusas. All in all, a great meal for around $20.

Cuzcatlan, 2911 de la Vina, 805-682-5529

Monday evening was Lady PB's choice, Tupelo Junction. We'd only been for breakfast and lunch at their old location (Chapala?) years ago. Started with the shrimp fitters w/ tomato-roast corn salsa and spicy sauce. We thought they were too heavily battered, even though spiced nicely. The shrimp were fresh tasting and cooked perfectly. She ordered the fried chicken w/ sauteed greens, mashed potato and gravy, and was very pleased. I had the shrimp and scallops (six of each) w/ white cheddar grits and sauteed greens. Again, perfectly cooked and the scallops tasting of the sea. Washed it all down with a couple of glasses of Gainey Riesling that matched well. Total pre-t/t was about $70.

Tupelo Junction, 1218 State

Tuesday I managed to slip away from my workshop and take my lovely wife out to lunch for her other craving, Mexican. We noticed El Bajio was quite busy around 11:30, and figured Super Rica would probably be the same, so decided to check out Altamirano's that I'd seen mentioned on this board. We both loved it. She had a pork chop taco (sorry, can't recall the actual name), the meat was diced up and mixed with some cheese and served open face on a couple of homemade corn tortillas. I went with the Tacos Altamirano's, a roasted chile (pasilla or poblano?) stuffed with cheese, then chopped with al pastor, and served open face on three corn tortillas, outrageously good. I also got a fish taco that was quite large, generous amount of fish, and again very tasty.

Altamirano's, 422 Milpas, 805-882-1390

Dinner that night was my choice, having heard that Jade had retained some of the dishes from its former Aja menu, I had to go, since I never managed to make it to Aja. We started with the Indonesian Corn Fritters w/ sweet thai chili sauce (7), tasty and quite filling. We shared our entrees, Grilled Sea Scallops lemon grass and black pepper rubbed w/ a soy-cabernet reduction (15), and the Orange-Chipotle Linguini w/Shrimp, fresh vegetables and shiso leafs (sic) tossed w/ orange chipotle sauce. (11, add chicken or shrimp 15). Excellent scallops (six), not overpowered by the spicing or reduction sauce. The flavors in the linguini, though different, worked well. The wine list is mostly central coast (SLO south to Santa Ynez), about 20 whites and 20 reds, all availble by the glass (excl. two whites by the half-bottle). I had the Garretson "G-White" blend (6.50) to go with the scallops and a glass of the Brophy-Clark "Ashley's" Pinot Noir (8.75) with the pasta. IIRC, total pre-t/t was around $55.

Chef Dustin Green came out and introduced himself and related that he had bought out the owner of Aja, his former employer. Definately will return here.

Jade, 3132 State, 805-563-2007

The topper for the trip was at Chef Rick's in Orcutt for lunch on Wed. She ordered the Crab Cake Salad and was quite pleased. I went with the Prawn Quesadilla w/ tomato, mango, and red onion salsa. I immediately regretted my foolish agreement to share. It was simply one of the taste treats ever, don't recall tasting the crab cake salad, just hating having to give up a third of that wonderful creation. I ordered a glass of the house red on the waitress' suggestion, and was surprised at the generous pour. My first sip told me it had been opened for awhile, which she confirmed and graciously brought a fresh bottle. This time it was a standard pour, but displaying the fruit that was missing and none of the pruney notes from the bottle that had been opened for some time. It's called Baile Sabados y Domingos (Pinot Noir, iirc), made for Rick by Costa de Oro winemaker, Gary Burk, whose motto is “Everthing I do gohn be funky (from now on)!" You can check out his distinctive label at:

Also discovered that you lucky folks living on the central coast can see Chef Rick every Wednesday on “Thirty minute Meals with Chef Rick,” on KCOY-TV Santa Maria.

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  1. Great post, you have sent us to lovely meals in the past (Windows on the Water, Taco Temple) & we love Chef Rick as well. Will keep this for next Santa Barbara trip. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for the fabulous post! I recently drove through SB w/o doing Chowhound research before and regretted it. I'm printing this out for my next trip!

      1. Thanks for this great post. I'm going back through Santa Barbara restos for our trip this week--hope some of these places are still there. I know Altamirano's is still there b/c I just called them.

        10 Replies
        1. re: sibaik

          Wow, what a trip down memory lane because so many of them have gone.

          Just ate at Jade with some friends and that remains a solid and well-priced nice choice. Not perfection, but solid, fresh and creative. A local choice for no-nonsense but lightly gentile enough for out of town visitors. Brummis next to Jade is great for German, a new favorite in our town.

          Tupelo is open. Altamiranos, yes, Bahio, yes, SuperRica, yes. No more Cuzcatlan, I think. Defintely no more L'Ombretta but Hungry Cat which took over the spot worth a try when you want to spend some money and have snotty service, but good food.

          You might want to try Petit Valentin in the La Arcada courtyard on State Street near the Art Museum/Library block, especially if you want to dine outdoors and light and lovely fresh French.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            Thanks so much glbtrtr! I remember reading some of your excellent posts last time I was doing research on the area...

            1. re: glbtrtr

              You're correct, no more Cuzcatlan sadly. So glad all the others are still around, and yes we had a great dinner at Brummi's recently. I'm blanking on the name but there was a new Mexican place on Milpas that we tried that was very good and obviously quite popular. IIRC, posted about it not too long ago.

              1. re: PolarBear

                I'm blanking on the name too of the new Mexican restaurant on Upper Milpas near the High School - ate there a few weeks ago. Fresh and good like Los Arroyos, but no connection. One could easily do a "taco" crawl just up and down Milpas Street (and have a lot more than just tacos, but you get the idea)

                1. re: PolarBear

                  Just stumbled across the place we tried, now just wish I could recall exactly what we had. It was very enjoyable I recall.

                  Los Agaves
                  600 N. Milpas St,
                  (805) 564-2626

                  1. re: PolarBear

                    New and getting good reviews - fresh Mexican beyond the obvious standards and a passion for getting it from local sources. More full meal choices than La Superrica and Bajio, also on Milpas that puts "Mexican food" into a serious and varied worthy contender catagory.

                    Also stumbled there too shortly after it opened, it is pretty low key and slowing building a loyal customer base. If you go back, be sure to talk to them about how they started and what their vision is for their place. Thanks for reminding me of the name, polarbear.

                    1. re: glbtrtr

                      I really enjoyed exploring Milpas on my last visit, wish I'd taken more copious notes. There was a small little kitchen close to 101 on the west side of the street with a walk up window on the sidewalk and a patio area on the other side with batting cages beyond. Wondering if you local hounds have tried it? Looked quite interesting.

                      1. re: PolarBear

                        I went once and it was decidedly undistinguished. Never went back. I was hopeful and was encouraged by a local report but it just was not worth it. This was several years ago.

                        Here are some more recent local reviews so it looks like it is worthy of reconsideration:

                        1. re: glbtrtr

                          The thing that made me hesitant was the lack of foot traffic on Milpas south of the freeway. Spoke with two nice young ladies when I stopped to look at the menu but only saw a couple of customers one time on several passes. Made me think that the best time might be late afternoon and evening when there might be some activity from those using the batting cages.

                          Ran across this little gem of a list of restaurants and markets on the east side:


                          I see next time I'll need to venture up as far as the 800 block and off onto Haley and De La Guerra.

                          1. re: PolarBear

                            The Italian Grocery is worth a look see for products in kind of an old fashion Italian mom and pop market feel. Nothing pretentious at all, just a old market geared to the large Italian heritage here that came as stonemasons and fisherman in the late 1800's.

                            Arnoldi's is the center of their social activities and the infamous "Boot Club" which still carries on the old Italian traditions with a decidedly unchic bocce ball group. There is a great exhibit in town now featuring the work of the Italian stone masons who left a very signature look to many, many streets and passages in this town. Once can learn from looking now who exactly did the stone work as there are several obvious style differences .

                            Arnoldi's restaurant is a classic example of the plane sandstone block house - food not great but the feeling there is old time Santa Barbara and you will not leave hungry.