Words by Aviva Goldfarb, The Washington Post
Santa Barbara, California’s chefs have the natural advantage of an abundance of fresh produce from the Central Valley, a robust wine industry and a nearly perfect climate.
These attributes have lured restaurateurs from San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles to the city’s thriving dining scene, but natives tend to prefer spots with deep roots in the community.
Some of the most innovative and popular places to eat and drink have cropped up in and around the “Funk Zone,” a buzzy development of wine bars, breweries, restaurants, warehouses and shops between Highway 101 and the beach off lower State Street. Within that three-block radius, locals and visitors can dine and drink alfresco with time for a stroll.
At a breakfast spot, you’re usually lucky if you get a satisfying hot breakfast, flaky pastries or palatable coffee; you’ve hit a windfall if you get all three. So it is for the hungry morning visitor at unpretentious D’Angelo Bread just off lower State Street.
Dietmar Eilbacher and his team produce about 20 types of bread and more than a dozen pastries that nourish not only the steady stream of breakfast and lunch patrons at D’Angelo, but also customers at Montesano’s other popular local restaurants, Lucky’s, Tre Lune, and Joe’s Cafe, and a number of restaurants and supermarkets in the area.
In a town that treasures its tacos, Mony’s stands tall. Mony’s is a sweet, friendly, funky little “mama and papa” taco shop in the Funk Zone with a vast, hand-chalked menu of 19 tacos that can be ordered with corn, flour or hard shells. It also serves quesadillas, burritos and tortas and larger platters of enchiladas, fajitas and slow-cooked or grilled meats such as barbacoa and carne asada. Mony Diaz develops all of the recipes for the tacos and eight signature salsas, including innovative flavours such as pistachio, peanut and avocado.
Loquita – which loosely translates as “party girl” – celebrates Santa Barbara’s Spanish roots. Loquita is the brainchild of six-time restaurateur and Funk Zone mastermind Sherry Villanueva.
It’s hard to say which I loved more: the bold yet balanced small plates such as the albondigas (beef and pork meatballs with preserved meyer lemon ricotta and basil); remolacha (roasted baby beets, cara cara orange, pistachio dukka meringue and Purple Haze goat cheese); and carpaccio de carne (Wagyu beef, manzanilla olive, pickled mustard, sherry vinegar, and arbequina olive oil).
And then there are graceful cocktails such as the Ibiza, citrus-infused vodkas, spiced honey, mezcal mist and firewater bitters, topped with a micro marigold.
Featured Image: Denys Nevozhai, Unsplash