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SANTA BARBARA: Downey's back on top of my list

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Just had a 100% lovely dinner at Downey's in Santa Barbara (near Arlington Theater on 1300 block State Street). I always seem to qualify it when asked for the "best" restaurant in Santa Barbara. After last night's dinner, no more qualifications. it is and probably will remain my favorite choice. It is genteel and creative. They have now a $50 four course tasting menu which has slightly smaller main course portions which in fact were perfect when pacing one's appetite over all four courses.

We chose the crab costini with the curry papaya, apple grape, arugula garnish which was a haunting starter with a complex blend of flavors and textures. Then the chilled melon soup which had a touch of cayenne to make it a shade more interesting than simply fruity and sweet. I had the game hen and it was superd down to the last bit of swiped up sauce with their delicate breads. Partner had the duck which also reached perfection with fresh peaches that belong to a celestial hemisphere.

We sampled a wonderful 5 selection cheese plate as an extra charge off the prefixe menu and then made difficult choices from the dessert trolley as our final course.

Partner had the black and white ricotta cheese cake with fresh raspberry sauce and I had the fresh peach ice cream special with flaky crust and meringue. Just superb. I had the pre-fixe and partner ordered ala cart. We split a split of Veuve Cliqout for a special occasion so it did add up but it was just wonderful.

With the pre-fixe alternatives and less expensive wine there will be a lot more next times and not wait for special occasions. Santa Barbara dining has matured to grace and elegance and Downey's is the spot. There were both young and old diners so don't be put off by stuffy stories.

It is a lovely, very pleasant choice and the owner's wife understands the true meaning of hospitality . Consider yourself privileged to have the opportunity to dine at Downey's/

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  1. I've been going to Downey's since 1986, and the "worst" meal I ever had at this glorious place was exactly one night when the main course was not quite as warm as it should have been. If they hadn't replaced the dish immediately I might have refused to return for almost two days!

    It's a great restaurant run by two people who understand people and fine dining as well as food. The duck, the lamb, the home-cured salmon, the desserts, .... Speaking of desserts, I once tried to skip that course at Downey's so that, instead, I could have America's greatest ice cream (Turkish coffee at McConnell's). Later, I remembered that I was long past my 21st birthday, so now I have dessert AND McConnell's and make the long drive home in greater discomfort but, to use a word common in Heaven, happy.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Harry Nile

      I always just skip the after dinner cup of coffee and replace it with a double scoop of McConnel's Turkish coffee.

      1. re: PolarBear

        I have McConnell's Brazilan Coffee Chip ....... for breakfast (lunch and dinner) and sometimes in between as a snack. Harry, thanks for your nice follow-up on Downey's. Thank goodness for classics and Downey's and McConnells rank among the best.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          glbtrtr, McConnell's makes three or four coffee flavors -- be sure to try the Turkish if you haven't previously. The manager once told me that it's the only one that contains a significant amount of caffeine. Equally important, they stir (very fine) Turkish coffee grounds through the ice cream to give it a fabulous and unusual texture, as well as taste. If you like to finish a cup of Greek or Turkish coffee with a spoon, you know what I mean.

          The ice cream is a suitable follow-up to a great Downey's meal. Like PolarBear, I have a double scoop but have them put it in a chocolate-covered waffle bowl. (This is why I don't eat anything at all during the day before going to Downey's.)

          1. re: Harry Nile

            I struggle each time at McConnell's over ordering the Turkish coffee which I also know and love, but somehow the chocolate chips in the Brazilian win me over. But agree Turkish Coffee too is exquisite. Perhaps I should graduate to a double scoop.

            And then there is their Coconut. ....................