Santa Barbara dining and Citronee
(Note: This thread was split from another at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7075... -- The Chowhound Team )
Citronee is where I go for good food and wine in Nevada City. Unfortunately, they are thinking of relocating to Santa Barbara because things are so slow in their area now. I hope they reconsider the move. Although I had good meals several years ago, "appalling" is the perfect descriptor for New Moon in its current incarnation.
Not sure there is a niche for citronee bistro in Santa Barbara or Montecito - there are already too many others pretty similar in price, style and choice.
And SB is more of a value-oriented meat and potatoes kind of town in a lot of ways. And tourists seem happy with less than stellar if the location is good.
One of the most popular recent entries into the SB restaurant scene is a solid ummpah German place which serves just the opposite end of the spectrum from the "finest and freshest" citronee bistro menu. There is some weird formula for restaurant success in this town. Some modest earnest ones make it, and some who try to hard do not.
One of the over-invested crash and burn stories here was a upscale fondue place -- more gimmick and frou frou than solid dining value. Carpinteria is the place now for a lot of new, young chefs because the rental prices are lower and they are still in decent driving distance once their local reputation soars mainly by word of mouth.
Plus every SBCC Culinary Arts graduate wants to open a business in town too. it is a tough place to break into with the standard higher end "freshest and finest" niche. It has to be something more. We are a tough crowd. We love our dollar tacos and our $50 prix fixe at Downey's. And lots in between, so you never know. But there are far more cold ashes of restaurants in this town lately than glowing new embers.
Brummi's and Jade remain among our favorites too. Both bring love of the art as well as food to the table. Maybe that is the secret formula. Other restaurants that don't work seem to only want to get into your pocket book, rather than your heart.
Have posted several times about Gianfranco's on Linden Street in Carpinteria - this is a worth a journey gem. Another one from the heart places in town - a family operation with inspiration and pride. That clicks.
Petit Valentin and Renaud's also fit that description as restaurants from the heart. Actually, so do most of the lingering SB restaurant success stories. Small operations who put their product first, the customers a very, very close second and the profits come quickly behind on their own, because the emphasis on the first two is the winning combination.
And that is why something red-booth solid like Harry's, Tee-Off and Joe's have solid futures in this town with a reputation for "fine dining" when they don't even come close to refinement, but continue to deliver their value with solid consistency. Sometimes we just like to get fed well, rather than dine well.
When I read a restaurant pushing themselves "finest and freshest" I run because this is what all good restaurants should be doing anyway. I see that as a way to jack up the prices and under-deliver anything special.
I can go to a premium deli or a farmers market or my own backyard for "finest and freshest". I don't need to pay some restaurant extra to put that on my plate. I want to go somewhere to get something that is too much trouble for me to get or make myself.
If you do a search of the board for Santa Barbara you will find a lot of our favorites that we keep repeating over and over again. And I'll add the Meun Fan Thai restaurant on the Mesa at the corner of West Carrillo and Cliff Drive and which we finally tried after hearing the good reviews and those are confirmed. Service was slow and the place was packed so go with a good attitude and try to hit an off hour, because the food is well worth it. Their special house fresh spring rolls with unique dipping sauce haunt me still.
Lots of organic farms right in the Santa Barbara/ Goleta area (http://www.fairviewgardens.org/) - and a farmers market almost every day of the week. The main ones are the evening on on Tuedsay on State Street and Saturday morning at Anacapa and East Cota street, one block off State Street, our main drag. That is where one sees just about everybody and acts as our town hall during election season if one wants to get the word out.
I'd also check out Giannfrancos in Carpenteria. And if you want to head up north an hour or so away there are some very good choices in both the wine country, particularly in the tiny town of Ballard, and a little old Hispanic town of Guadalupe. How about starting a separate thread on for your request and give us some direction to more of what you want and others can share their favorites too.
You might also want to drop in at the Santa Barbara City College School of Culinary Arts if the semester has started. (Giannfranco in Carpinteria is one of their graduates). Their senior class Gourmet Dining Room on Thurs and Friday nights at the college is often one of the best dining experiences in town. You even might enjoy poking around and seeing what their program has to offer and talk to some of the students to share your experiences being a personal chef.
We love Classic Organic Peace Barn- easy to access...its 25 minutes up the Hwy 101 from Santa Barbara- and if you continue on the hiway- you will reach the Santa Ynez Valley in 10 minutes! You will also pass Restoration Oaks blueberry farm while getting back on the 101 after Classic Organic!