Santa Barbara is blessed with many colorful restaurants steeped in history. None is quite like La Paloma Cafe, a downtown classic with the feel of your favorite neighborhood hangout. You might remember La Paloma as what used to be the Paradise Café, but it has resurfaced with a talented chef and a new dedication to quality cooking. We dropped by recently and were impressed with the food service and atmosphere. We have admired Executive Chef Jeremy Tummel for years and here he and his team will please you with “the old way of California cooking” and a bright young team will wow you with honest hospitality.
All La Paloma dishes are made from scratch and inspired by California’s historic ranchero style. The chef likes to keep things simple, believing in a flavorful approach to cooking that’s not heavy or fussy. The accent is on fresh natural ingredients, oak-grilled meats, and hearty cocktails. The comfy bar here is an active one, usually populated by regular locals tasting margaritas by the pitcher ($54), some creative cocktails and Mezcal flights. The beer and wine selection is varied and well-priced.
The menu beckoned with some alluring starters like crispy brussels, seared white and bluefin tuna and salads, and mains like oak grilled black sea bass, pork shoulder carnitas and Santa Barbara Mission chicken so we needed a drink to think about matters properly.
After a prompt proper Tanqueray and tonic, we munched on nicely-done Shishito peppers, admiring the crowd. Bobby, the manager endeared himself to us by quickly bringing a bottle of Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir to the table. It was served considerately at the proper temperature and went very well with the juicy Santa Maria tri tip and grilled immaculately fresh albacore. Sides of cilantro slaw, red rice and hominy casserole were delicious. Considerate service by the delightful Kaila added to the evening’s feast. Sadly, there was no room for dessert although flan, bread pudding, a seasonal cobbler and chocolate tart were tempting on offer. A spacious patio is comfortable and romantic for year-round Santa Barbara outdoor dining and there’s plenty of room to gather with friends or host a relaxed special event.
The comfy and colorful bar is a good bet for a happy drink or two, maybe even a snack. La Paloma is open for dinner and brunch on the weekends, with one of Santa Barbara’s best weekend brunches. They succeed masterfully in their mission to honor the area’s culinary history in a way that’s approachable and memorable. La Paloma, 702 Anacapa Street, (805) 966-7029, https://lapalomasb.com. We might add that the group that runs and owns La Paloma, Acme Hospitality, also operates the highly popular Lark, Loquita, Pearl Social and Lucky Penny.