Lunch with Louie at Paradise Café
Santa Barbara food reviews with Louie the pessimist food critic
Sep 8, 10:09 PM (PT)
Best French fries in California - The Rio Café in Carmel. The best French fries in America - The Palace of the French Fries in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From thin anorexic ones - you can pick up a dozen of them in just a forkful - to fat chubby overweight ones. There are also flat crispy ones, inflated full of air and light as dove feathers. Papas souffle.
I needed to have some French fries urgently, but without the knowledge of Dr. Vogel. And so, with my friend Ed as an accomplice, we went to the Paradise Café. The Paradise is known for good to pleasing fare, lovely surroundings and pretty good fries. The patio is lovely but so very hot, as the sun touches every table even ever so lightly. We choose the “veranda”, slightly above the patio. It was enveloped in shade but still outside in the open. The veranda is surrounded by planters full of flowers and a banana tree. The tree I used as a blind from which I could ogle the action below on the patio. There is always somebody beautiful on the patio to inspire my imagination and stimulate my appetite.
We ordered the grilled salmon and a turkey burger with 2 orders of French fries.
It was hot and humid, but that somehow matched with our lunch on the veranda. I felt as if I was on my plantation in Georgia, sitting in my wicker chair under a Magnolia tree, savoring a mint julep and waiting for my beignets. Well, instead of that mini version of Gone With the Wind, I was waiting and drooling profusely for my French fries to make their appearance. I was not disappointed. There was not the familiar smell of Chevron Supreme SAE 40 weight Motor oil that usually accompanies French fries. Instead, they were neutral in their aroma, chewy but not mushy, and a complete, pleasant and delicious surprise. The turkey burger was probably one of the best in town. The crowning achievement however, was a small but wonderful salmon steak cooked on the Paradise’s famous oak grill. It was slightly charred on the outside, and bright red and marvelously tender and flaky on the inside. A little smoky flavor made it even more delicious.
The Paradise Café accomplishes, to its fullest, what it intends to do. They present an uncompromisingly good lunch, using fresh and healthful ingredients, at a very reasonable price. All this combined with beautiful, classic Santa Babrbara-esque surroundings. It is unpretentious and pleasant to the eye as well as to the taste buds. The service was impeccable and courteously casual.
On our way out, we stopped by the adjacent cocktail lounge to have a look at a mural behind the bar that dates back to the forties. It depicts an Aztec warrior with his dead lover lying at his feet, on a very small islet in a beautiful lake. His bow and arrow are notched and pointing at the sun god, who is apparently, the reason for the beautiful princess’ demise. Judging from today’s weather and the very hot and sunny conditions, he must have missed. However, it is still a very beautiful and striking mural.
The cocktail lounge was apparently the original restaurant that was called La Paloma. Romantics, poets and dreamers say it means, “the dove”, but La Paloma is just your common variety pigeon. Sorry.
Following the footsteps of his master and daddy, my dog Buster has taken a liking to reviewing the fauna that populates our back yard at night. These being June bugs, moths, potato bugs, flies and an occasional bee. Trying to discourage such distasteful and classless activity, the other night I offered him a grape, which he promptly spit out. I was amazed, considering how much I love the sulfate-bathed fruit. And so, remembering that deliciously sexy song by Diana Krall, “Peel me a Grape”, I proceeded to do just that. I peeled him a couple of grapes and watched in wonder as he promptly devoured them. It is now a nightly occurrence in my house. Show your pup how much you love him and peel him a grape. It makes for happier families and incredibly fast moving tails.