Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV title=
Natural Cafe at 508 State Street in Santa Barbara (file photo)
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By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

Two local eateries will be featured on national television and the Natural Cafe's downtown location will close citing untenable conditions on State Street.

Let's dive in.

Natural Cafe Closes Downtown Location Due to State Street Issues

After 30 years at 508 State Street, the health-focused eatery Natural Cafe will close in March 2023 after the lease expires.

Owner Kelly Brown penned an open letter to the landlord, Jim Snell of SIMA Corp, stating things have taken an "extreme turn for the worst the last few years."

He cited the increase in homelessness creating a criminal environment of flagrant drug use, outdoor defecation, aggressive panhandling, camping, and misusing their restrooms on a daily basis.

"The rat/vermin problem, which starts with the city and their lack of any program to address this has, in the last few years, become intolerable. Look under any parklet and you will find rats nests. Food is just falling on them from above," Brown stated.

Other than being rat infested, Brown states the parklets were a good alternative for a while but now they diminish the beauty of State Street and should be removed.

The Natural Cafe still has its location on Hitchcock Way, another in Goleta, and others throughout Southern California.

Los Alamos Resturant Featured on CBS Morning Show

CBS Morning Show featured Bell's in Los Alamos on Saturday morning interviewing Food & Wine “Best New Chef” and Santa Ynez Valley native Daisy Ryan with her husband Greg.

The family-run bistro opened in early 2018 at 406 Bell Street, the former home of Bell Street Farm, in the town's old bank building. 

The menu is French-inspired, or "Franch style" to the owners, featuring Santa Barbara Sea Urchin, vegetables and fruit from Finley Farms, and Wild Burgundy Snails, all of which helped earn them one Michelin star.

Check out their menus here.

Brass Bear to Take Over Le Cafe Stella


Adieu Le Cafe Stella (courtesy photo)

Le Cafe Stella closed its doors last month after 22 years. The local's hideaway at 3302 McCaw Ave will be taken over by the popular Funk Zone brewery Brass Bear.

"We thank our staff for their dedication and hard work in making Le Cafe Stella so successful over the years. We will miss all of your familiar faces and remember all the events and gatherings held at Le Cafe Stella," wrote owner Philippe Rousseau.

The Brass Bear Team, headed by couple Lindsay and Seth Anderson, said it brings joy to their hearts to think about all the baby showers, rehearsal dinners, and birthdays hosted at Le Cafe Stella over the years and they hope to carry on the tradition. 

"Full details of the menu and hours of operation are still to be decided but rest assured you will see some familiar faces when we open back up as Brass Bear. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments at info@brassbearbrewing.com," the wrote in a note to the Restaurant Guy.

New Tequila Bar Opens on State Street


(courtesy photo)

In the building that always seemed to be under construction comes a new restaurant/bar by Chris Chiarappa, the guy behind Lighthouse Coffee, Mesa Burger, Corner Tap, and other ventures in the works. 

Augie's Tequila is now open at 700 State Street, the former home of Panera Bread, Ma Dolce Vita, and Left at Albuquerque. 

The restaurant features a wide selection of agave beverages, craft cocktails, and unique spirits and wines. The food, led by Chef Eduardo Gonzalez, features three types of moles, octopus, and oysters as well as traditional Mexican fare. 

Learn more at augiessb.com

Vega Vineyard & Farm Opens at Historic Rancho La Vega


(courtesy photo)

Hospitality entrepreneurs, Karen and Jimmy Loizides opened Vega Vineyard & Farm last month. The working winery, farm, and event venue, located on historic land most recently home to Mosby Winery & Vineyards, has been renamed “Vega” in honor of the ranch’s initial identity, Rancho La Vega.

Vega Vineyard & Farm started life as Rancho La Vega in 1853, when Dr. Roman de la Cuesta, the first doctor in the Santa Ynez Valley, and his wife Michaela Cota, the daughter of Francisco Cota of neighboring Rancho Santa Rosa, constructed the property’s original 13-room adobe house along the south bank of the Santa Ynez River. Dr. Roman de la Cuesta, known as Don Roman, was born in Spain and arrived in California in 1849. When he married Micaela Cota, he was gifted Rancho La Vega as part of her dowry. The couple’s son, Don Eduardo, lived and grew wine grapes on the land for many years with his wife, Eleva Pollard, a granddaughter of Captain William Henry Dana and great-granddaughter of Carlos Antonio Carrillo, patriarch of Santa Barbara’s Carrillo family. Don Eduardo de la Cuesta would become instrumental in getting Highway 101 routed through Buellton in 1927, and a portion of an original Highway 101 bridge still exists on the Vega Vineyard and Farm property.

The 212-acre property comprises 21 acres of vineyards, currently covered in Italian varietals, as well as a winery and tasting room. The tasting room, situated in a barn which was once the land’s circa-1880s carriage house, joins the likes of other historical structures on the ranch including the original adobe home, dating back to 1853, which continues to greet guests with a new garden and VIP area. Sitting atop one of the highest points of the mountainous parcel of land, a 216-square-foot adobe-style chapel, built in 2014 with pews salvaged from an Ohio church. The chapel is adorned with stained-glass windows and an expansive outdoor patio with endless views of the Santa Ynez Valley. A newly-constructed barn, organic farm and farm stand will soon offer produce from Vega Farm as well as other produce and baked goods.

“This property has an incredible, tangible history, and such energy of its own. But it was in need of some love, and we are overjoyed at the chance to be the people who inject new life into this important place,” said Jimmy Loizides.

The next phases of Vega Vineyard and Farm include the introduction of an event series, such as outdoor concerts, as well as the evolution of the property’s private event menus and offerings. Learn more at vegavineyardandfarm.com

Checo's Opens in Isla Vista


(courtesy photo)

A new Mexican restaurant, Checo’s in Isla Vista, opened earlier this month at 6578 Trigo Road. The former home of a gazillion previous things but most notably Mojo and Cafe International. 

The cuisine is Central Mexican, according to the owners, and everything is made from scratch. Including a tortilla machine to ensure every tortilla is fresh.

The owners also have another restaurant in Santa Ana named Checo's Bar & Grill. 

Little Dom's Seafood Brings Back Deep-Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving

Little Dom’s Seafood is bringing back its Deep-Fried Turkey Thanksgiving tradition for the second year in a row.

Available for pre-order beginning on November 1st at 10:00am, Little Dom’s Seafood’s co-owner and executive chef, Brandon Boudet, will offer his deep-fried turkeys and holiday side dishes with take-out. In addition, Pastry Chef Ann Kirk will be offering a scrumptious spread of desserts to complete the perfect Thanksgiving feast.

A 12-14 pound deep-fried turkey will feed six to eight people and runs $100. Side dishes include roasted brussel sprouts, homemade fennel sausage and mushroom stuffing, yam puree with coconut cream and toasted pecans, and more. Dessert offerings feature twists on pumpkin cheesecake, apple crisp, and gelato.

To view the full menu, click here. A festive selection of assorted cocktails and wines will also be available for pre-order.

Orders can be placed by calling (805) 749-7400. All orders will be ready for pickup on Thanksgiving morning. When picking up their order, guests can enjoy complementary spiked coffee while watching dozens of turkeys be deep-fried in the restaurant’s parking lot.  


[Ed Note: An earlier version of this article featured The Blue Owl filming for a television show. At the request of The Blue Owl's owners, that section has been removed until a formal announcement can be made.]

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Basicinfo805 Oct 30, 2022 02:25 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

This and the preceding Noozhawk article about Natural Cafe say a lot about the City of SB, and by that I’m talking about the city employees that are in charge of this stuff. Sounds like ineffectual complacency to me. Wasting our tax dollars on various consultants to tell them how they might want to do their jobs. And yes it’s also City Hall, the Mayor and the rest. Currently, I don’t think there’s ANY accountability for the behind the scenes desk player City employees. Get your act together guys and gals. When Kelly takes off after so long, it’s for a good reason.

And for those who don’t prioritize laws and the local police, well, you reap what you sow.

NotReallyDave Oct 30, 2022 03:09 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

The expression used to be "Just vote 'em out of office", but that does not work. Such a waste of money to not want to do a job and hire outside "consultants", oh yeah, Fridays they don't work. And when City employees actually violate the ordinances and regulations themselves, and then get away with it, it is not a government for the people anymore.

ZeroHawk Nov 02, 2022 12:53 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

he successfully ran the business for a very long time there. this has nothing to do with him as an owner, and he even has several locations. downtown is a joke. crap restaraunts, crap retail, and now another hotel! Awesome, that's just what us locals need, less places to shop and dine and more hotels.
back to the parklets. you want to go sit on top of poorly constructed plywood and 2x4s with rats under your feet? Have at it. I won't spend a dime downtown until they clean this place up.

millimesa Oct 30, 2022 02:37 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

The inside of Natural Cafe hasn’t been touched since 1986 , except for the paintings. I’ve ate there, left my plate on the table, walked to the pier and back, and cut through the restaurant to use the bathroom and go out the back door to the parking lot, and my same dirty plate is still on the same table. Some businesses just can’t accommodate the service required for a developed outdoor seating area. And some businesses take 60 minutes to pick up a plate from a table.

RHS Oct 30, 2022 06:08 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

Re Natural Cafe: It is constantly amazing that people who are so hostile to government find it appropriate to blame government when they cannot compete. They wanted the "parklets" and built them but do not think it their responsibility to control the vermin under them? The taxpayers should put up the money for this? ad naseum As noted this restaurant is bar minimum comfortable and not attractive to the general public, it simply failed in the competitive world of food provision. Move on.

haskelslocal Oct 31, 2022 07:20 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

I agree RHS for sure for individual concerns, but if you look at the entirety and escalating creep taking down multiple storefronts and restaurants, then you're faced with a systemic problem. It can not be overly reiterated. City has more then enough employees and staff in place to find solutions. Yet if it's going to be left to chance via the invisible hand of market environments, then it's time to stop glad-handing a bloated bureaucracy that's doing little more than collecting a paycheck.

ZeroHawk Oct 31, 2022 08:57 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

RHS, agreed, but....do you know if the owner of Natural Cafe asked for a parklet? Does he still have one in place (not that i've seen and i just rode past it). He's 100% correct. It's filthy. While I championed for the opening of State to a promenade, this isn't what I hoped for. It's digusting. I don't see homeless and junkies shooting up, pooping and all of that and I am downtown A LOT....but i'm also not looking for that scene, so maybe i intentionally missed it...

haskelslocal Oct 31, 2022 07:09 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

Unfortunately market forces that determine lease obligations (rents paid) are detached from similar market forces that determine REIT investment returns (investor profits). Until these are in alignment it's only going to get worse. Local government is the regulator. They hired a $250k employee who everyday should be working on these economic disparities and finding solutions that give small businesses the chance to succeed. It's already enough that tax incentives afforded land owners allows them to hold the upper hand. Some cities have attempted to alleviate discrepancies with rent controls but it's flimsy at best. But that there are not weekly conversations and workgroups and troikas and any other method of finding ways to meet in the middle while taking both short and long term perspectives is preposterous. If not? Then why did we hire a $250k employee to manage the economics of the State Street corridor (there are other employees as well) but we've goose egged the results? Right now you can make 9.62% on a long term iBond through the US Gov. So why would anyone want to open a restaurant where maybe you make 5% working your butt off? Something has to give.

Stray Oct 31, 2022 09:28 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

With the COVID era upon us indefinitely, like it or not, the market forces are changing. Large walk-in department stores are becoming extinct. Pedestrian zones with trees, music, cafés, outdoor restaurants and bars serving tourists and locals alike will proliferate. More housing units and office space will attract residents and promote public transit and bicycles downtown. Pedestrian zones successfully operate in Times Square NYC, Boulder CO, Charlottesville VA, and Santa Monica CA. Check them out. Surely the warm climate and ocean/mountain views can promote a successful pedestrian zone in Santa Barbara. Don't go back to the past with cars on State Street....that model was dying before COVID hastened its demise. Lastly, the City of Santa Barbara's weak form of government, i.e. the mayor is no more powerful than a councilperson, begets in-fighting and equivocation. A strong leader is needed to see this vision through to success.

haskelslocal Nov 01, 2022 07:45 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

I totally agree with your enthusiasm of direction yet the caveat is how best to keep pedestrian flow without ease of autos. You mention Santa Monica. The place can be desolate weekdays because nobody on the go wants to get out of their cars to grab a coffee or pick up a quick present if they're heading somewhere. Ease of access is a huge consideration/offset for foot traffic only promenades. With State Street there are the backside lots that might offer solutions for easy in/out. Really, it's not about just solving it but to at lest think about solving it. Brainstorming even the crazy things. Like, what if you parked in a lot and could easily hop on an electric bike to jet on over to your favorite store and come back? Get some fresh air, a nice little ride and get to visit your favorite store. I am not saying this would ever work. But idea spawning comes from the crazy stuff said in a room.

Gimli Oct 31, 2022 10:09 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

I'm not quite the fan of the Natural Cafe. I have been to the one on 508 State St. a couple of times some years ago, and few times out on Hitchcock with a lady friend that she likes to go there ever so often. But it is very sad for those who enjoy the Natural Cafe on 508 State State St. that have been going there for many years is closing down due to the rats and the homeless. Many of the homeless are no different than the rats on the lower downtown area. When I was homeless I did not live like a huge rat. I looked like and behaved like an average everyday person. As a matter of fact when I started receiving my Social Security Disability Insurance (now my regular Social Security Retirement). There were times I would go to my favorite bars & restaurants and enjoy myself and meet people. It was very embarrassing for me to tell the restaurant owners my situation but they welcomed me as well as their staff. So I also strongly believe that all the parklets should be removed on State. St. and go back to normal for indoor dining, open it up for vehicle traffic and for the city to get rid of the rats. The four legged kind and the two legged kind. - "Down in the sewer! Going to make love with a water rat or two, and raise a family." By The Stranglers from their 1977 debut album 'Rattus Norvegicus IV' - It's on YouTube.

a-1667303525 Nov 01, 2022 04:52 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

"...open it up for vehicle traffic and for the city to get rid of the rats. The four legged kind and the two legged kind."
Gimli, you've just equated human beings with rats. That's a dehumanizing technique that has come back into use recently. It's offensive; it's terrible -- it is unacceptable.
I hope you can rethink your use of such language.

a-1667303954 Nov 01, 2022 04:59 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

Ah, I see; I think you mean they welcomed you as an *employee,* thus you had to give to tell them your situation." But if you had a mailing address, a friend's or a rented PO box, you really didn't have to tell them more.
I was misled because you wrote this before talking about restaurant *owners*:
"There were times I would go to my favorite bars & restaurants and enjoy myself and meet people."
No truly poor people I've known go to bars and restaurants, except for one friend who was an alcoholic.

GF Jones Oct 31, 2022 10:23 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

A big improvement that would be a first step in helping the impression of downtown and perhaps help the morale of businesses, is to CLEAN the sidewalks. It is truly distasteful to walk over such dirty bricks and it reflects on the city. I wouldn't accept any protestations from the city management that they don't have the money--stop paying consultants--a group of citizens could tell you what needs to be done.

ZeroHawk Nov 02, 2022 09:06 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

GF they clean them every morning with pressure washers and also they clean the streets. they also hose it down as well as pressure wash. they also rake and use leaf blowers. EVERY morning. Also the police truck drives up and down state waking up the homeless population and scoot them out. yes this is every morning. i work on state, and am watching them right now....

bosco Oct 31, 2022 02:01 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

The promenade is here to stay, as it should be, but we need the city to act faster. That said, the Natural Cafe wasn't failing because of rats and homeless people. It's an outdated business model in a destination location. No one wants to go downtown (locals and tourists alike) to eat bland health food.

bosco Nov 01, 2022 03:26 PM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

People voted with their pocket books. The promenade saved State street (it's obvious to anyone that's been around pre and post Pandemic). I don't know anyone that wants State to go back to the dying days of 2019. We can have a vote and you will find yourself in the minority. Sorry to the old timers here but the golden days of cruising are over, no one needs/wants cars on lower State. It certainly needs some work, but there's no reason to go back in time.

ZeroHawk Nov 02, 2022 09:04 AM
Restaurant Roundup: Downtown Restaurant to Close and Two Eateries Featured on TV

Bosco, no it's not here to stay. I've chatted with several folks on the committee. This is still temporary. These businesses thrived perfectly fine up to the pandemic. that is now gone...lone gone. There is no more restriction for eating at a distance. These businesses are just grabbing public land that isn't theirs. I know that's a bit over the top to say, but it's factual. I work on State. You want to tell me that two parklets on one block constitute a full street closure? Two parklets at a business that has two buildings and then sticks 4 tables on the street, while the tables inside are vacant (talking about Figueroa to Carrillo). Yeah that's a reason to close down a road. At this point, i feel they should reopen State street from Victoria to Cota Street Saturday and Sunday. Keep two blocks closed during weekends, but open it all up during the week days. There is no reason for this any longer. I've talked to 5 business owners/managers that have parklets and even they agree this is gone on too long and definitely isn't sanitary.

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