The Tavern at Zaca Creek Opens on Historic Buellton Property

The Tavern at Zaca Creek Opens on Historic Buellton Property
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Source: The Tavern at Zaca Creek

On Saturday, August 22, 2020, the Santa Barbara County wine region will receive a new restaurant and bar, located on a historic Buellton, California property, as the team behind The Tavern at Zaca Creek (zaca-creek.com) throws open its ornate, hand-crafted wood and wrought iron doors with a public grand opening. The “new” eatery and tavern, which sits on a locally revered hospitality property with roots in the Central Coast ranching community, will launch with daily lunch and dinner service. The establishment is just one part of the Zaca Creek property – an expansive event venue, inn, and all-inclusive wine country destination resort which will be opening in phases in the coming months.

The new venture, brought back to life by a collaboration of long-time Santa Ynez Valley locals, will highlight the best produce and proteins being harvested and raised by some of the most dedicated California Central Coast farmers, ranchers, and fisherman, as well as global selections to match the caliber of the locally-sourced foodie finds. The property’s culinary program will include on-site Fullblood Wagyu butchery, and an educational caviar platform, partnered with a deep wine list curated by an industry insider, an elevated craft cocktail program, and an extensive spirits and liqueurs inventory of 250+ bottles.

Helming The Tavern at Zaca Creek is a Buellton native, Executive Chef Kaitlyn Paul. Chef Kaitlyn returns home after more than a decade spent bolstering her expertise in kitchens along the Central Coast and beyond. Chef Kaitlyn most recently called Jackson Hole, Wyoming “home”, having worked in the area for four years as a chef with the prestigious, multi-restaurant enterprise, Fine Dining Restaurant Group, where she successfully launched one of the group’s restaurants and coordinated their charity food delivery services. Chef Kaitlyn is an outdoors enthusiast with a passion for travel, and both facets are reflected in the contents of her culinary quiver. At Zaca Creek, Chef Kaitlyn has created a menu which centers on her search for the finest resources for each dish, and her utilization of skilled techniques in execution, brought to light in her whole beef program being built around 100% American Fullblood Wagyu cattle.

The Tavern at Zaca Creek’s opening menus feature whimsically-named sections of shareable appetizers, including “Drunken Mushrooms” (tequila glazed exotic mushrooms with lime and bottarga), a Mezcal-infused Shrimp Cocktail, a “Boeuf de Rêve” section featuring assorted house-cut Wagyu steaks and ribs butchered daily, and a local greens offering in the form of salads and other vegetable-based dishes, like “Flowers & Peppers” (roasted onion flower with blistered shishito peppers, sea salt, a charred Meyer lemon aioli, and shaved bottarga). At lunch, diners will also find a Zaca Creek rendition of Crab Louie, a ladies-who-lunch classic of crab salad done Zaca Creek-style with local little gem lettuces and pickled quail egg, as well as a sandwich list to include such items as a Maryland-style shrimp and crab roll or a “Wagyu Steak Sandy” with house-smoked tri-tip.

Dinner menu sections will include “Beasts & Barnacles”, with items like rack of lamb, “Roast Beast” (all Wagyu cuts), or “Mixed Shells” (steamed cockles, New Zealand green lip mussels, Venus clams, and uni, in a lemongrass beurre blanc). A “Fins & Feathers” menu section will display locally-caught fish and seafood like a Basque Chorizo-Stuffed Squid, as well as a slow-smoked and grilled, lemon and herb Jidori chicken. Lunch and dinner menus will offer a handful of desserts, with regularly-changing items including a goat cheese cheesecake with a gluten-free graham cracker crust, “Birthday Cake” of rotating flavors, and a chocolate Bundt cake with vegan chocolate ganache.

Prominently-featured on both lunch and dinner menus, is Zaca Creek’s collaborative duet of carefully-curated caviars and vodkas, which will serve as an educational platform for all things “roe”. Two seasonal types of caviars will rotate, each paired with two different vodkas. Featured selections might include rarely tasted roe varieties such as pearlescent white escargot or sapphire blue scampi, in addition to the more traditional sturgeon.

The Zaca Creek property has a decided place in Buellton’s history; the property’s original proprietor boasts a family lineage which stretches back to the founding of the community. Originally a tavern and restaurant built by Jim Buell (as in "Buell"ton), Zaca Creek is being resurrected after nearly two decades of dormancy. The new Zaca Creek ownership is staying true to the history of the locale, with the reclamation of the property carefully centered on the founding principle of combining timeless resources of the highest quality, with custom craftsmanship built to last. Blending the “then” and “now”, pieces of the property’s original design and architecture elements have been maintained in the revamp.

The transformation of the landmark establishment – from the remodel and landscape, to menu design and layout – focuses on the simple and time-tested philosophy of world-class materials and attention to detail in every aspect. The culmination of this thought process is a masterfully-reimagined establishment exhibiting nuanced flavors and old-world techniques, but with definitive nods to the historical property’s spot on the California Central Coast and the surrounding environs’ influence on the region’s culture and cuisine.

Stephen Villa – Zaca Creek’s general manager and wine director – was also born and raised in Santa Barbara County. Villa’s life pursuit has been in the wine world, with the past 14 years spent in the cellars and vineyards of the region’s wine country. Villa has worked alongside some of the most inspirational winemakers in California, learning the craft and developing his own palate which continues to drive his beverage program picks. Using finely-tuned skills acquired through years of rigorous tasting, he has crafted for Zaca Creek a dynamic and well-rounded selection of the finest wines, spirits, and cocktail options available in the Santa Ynez Valley.

As part of Villa’s beverage program, the Tavern will offer a rotating cocktail menu with signature drinks and variations on classics. Zaca Creek cocktail creations might entail the “Camaleão” (Novo Fogo Cachaça, Spirit Works Sloe Gin, demerara, lime juice), the “Negroni D’Or” (Malfy Gin Rosa, Kina L’Aéro d’Or, Carpano Bianco Vermouth, topped with Prosecco), the “Mosaic” (Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Cointreau, lime juice, matcha powder, citrus syrup), or the “Coraggio” (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Contratto Aperitif, strawberry, hibiscus, lemon juice), plus Zaca twists on a Vesper, a Sazerac, a Singapore Sling, and more.

Zaca Creek’s wine cellar showcases, among other fine wine specimens, rare wine verticals from the finest local producers. The venue will also offer wine flights, mezcal tastings, and vertical-style spirits tastings pulled from the top-shelf spirits program’s limited-production inventory. Villa’s industry background has provided the team with access to collectible bottles which the public normally would not be able to obtain.

Upon opening, The Tavern at Zaca Creek will accommodate approximately 56 diners on the restaurant’s enclosed and covered 1,000-square foot outdoor patio, with all COVID-19 safety and sanitation measures in place. Once the indoor dining room and main bar can seat customers, another 46 guests may be added to the mix.

The Tavern at Zaca Creek will feature regularly-changing and seasonal food and drink specials which will be posted at the restaurant and on Facebook and Instagram: facebook.com/ZacaCreekTavern and @Zaca_Creek_Tavern.

The Tavern at Zaca Creek is located at 1297 Jonata Park Road (just off of Highway 101), Buellton, CA 93427. The restaurant and bar’s initial opening hours will be Sunday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM; Friday and Saturday, 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM; with an early Happy Hour menu offered daily, from 3:00 PM-5:00 PM (initial opening hours subject to change). The Tavern at Zaca Creek space will be available for private events and catering, in part or in whole. Lunch and dinner reservations are preferred; walk-ins will be accommodated as space permits. To reach the restaurant directly and for reservations, please call 805.688.2412 or email [email protected].

Zaca Creek’s six boutique Inn suites, each with luxury appointments and destination-worthy shower and bath areas, will open to guests as of August 21, 2020.

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