While there are many settings that beer goes well with, it is on the dining table that beer feels most at home. Whether it is a quick lunch on the weekend or grabbing dinner with friends, there are increasingly more opportunities in Santa Barbara for diners to have a great meal alongside great beer. Here are a few locations to look into the next time you are planning on dining out.
Beer and basil at Barbareño
Located on the corner of De La Vina and Canon Perdido, Barbareño is a little off of the beaten path but still centrally located, making it a nice location for a date night or when you are looking for a more intimate setting. It has a warm, contemporary interior with soft, low lighting and modern central coast cuisine. While the beer selection is not enormous, it is well-rounded and consists of several bottles and rotating taps. Many of the beers there are food friendly and work well with their intricate dishes such as Channel Sea Urchin. The delicate pieces of urchin come on top of a squid ink capellini with black garlic, enoki mushroom, and chili adorning the dish. Modern Times Black House Coffee Stout makes a perfect pairing for the plate. It is light enough to not overwhelm the sea urchin and has a roasted character that melds with the briny, earthiness of the dish.
For an enthralling end to the meal try the Basil Ice Cream with Pêche Affair from Third Window Brewing Co. Small mounds of house-made ice cream are placed atop lemon curd and garnished with candied pine nuts and Thai basil seeds. The perfume of basil rises from the dessert and laces its delicate scent throughout the dish. The silkiness of the ice cream contrasts with the crunch of the pine nuts and basil seeds. Pêche Affair is a brisk witbier brewed with coriander, tangerine zest, and fresh peaches, giving it a robust fruitiness that combines with the basil to form a complex fragrance. The intricate flavors of Barbareño’s menu will leave diners pleased with a memorable meal.
Sheep and Beer
Since opening over two years ago The Black Sheep on Ortega St. has been satisfying the tastes of foodies and beerdoes alike. When co-owner Ruben Perez first started the restaurant he was setting out to create a modern gastro pub that offered high-end food but at approachable prices. The interior is warm with bold colors and has open, airy dining spaces with additional rooms that serve as a private dining areas for larger parties, making it a fun spot for hosting your own private fête. Although they do not have any draft beers, their diverse bottle list of over forty selections can quench any beer drinkers’ palate. The range of small and large plates lends itself to family-style dining and The Black Sheep is a great place to start the night off with friends, either to grab a few tapas or a full meal.
The food is Californian fusion and features dishes like a Sauteed Sweetbreads with bacon and a curry tomato sherry sauce or Scallop Crudo with a spicy candied carrot puree and white soy vinaigrette. One of their star dishes is the White Anchovies Crostini with Orange Zest. Citrus flavors fill the palate as you bite down on these delicate canapés. Pair this dish with a witbier like Telegraph White Ale or Avery’s White Rascal. These effervescent brews accent the dash of salt from the anchovies and contribute a toasty malted wheat character that soothes the crunchiness of the crostini.
Although The Black Sheep is best enjoyed with a group of people, the menu is well suited for lone diners as well. A rotating risotto highlights seasonal flavors and makes for a hearty meal. Their Shoyu Ramen features slow-braised pork belly, roasted shiitake mushrooms, an ajitama egg, and traditional adornments of green onions and bean sprouts and makes for some heartwarming comfort food. This substantial dish goes best with a dark, malty ale like Oskar Blue’s Old Chub Scotch Ale or Ommegang Three Philosophers Quad Ale. Old Chub uses a touch of smoked malt, adding a woodiness that highlights the mushrooms and pork belly. Three Philosophers is brewed with cherries which gives it a deep fruitiness that enriches the salty broth.
Reuben recently expanded into the location next door (formerly Seagrass Restaurant) to establish Oveja Blanca (The White Sheep). The Black Sheep’s counterpart has a warm, Spanish-themed interior and focuses on global Latin cuisine with dishes like Yucatan Style Pork Belly Taco or a classic Cubano Sandwich although they have more exotic offerings such as braised rabbit, deep fried frog legs, or banana leaf beef cheeks. The two restaurants share the same beer list so you can order any beers at Oveja Blanca that are available at The Black Sheep. The extra use of chiles and spices in the dishes of Oveja Blanca generally lends itself to hoppier beers. Try the Boulevard Calling IPA alongside the Seared Yellowtail with Yam Puree for a stirring, flavorful pairing, or taste the Mesquite Grilled Wagyu Skirt Steak Taco with Xocoveza Stout from Stone Brewing Co. for a richer, warmer meal.
Enter the Garden
The Garden in the SB Public Market is one of the more recent additions to the beer and food scene in Santa Barbara. The restaurant stands at the entrance of the public market and offers family-style seating with long flowing tables and wooden décor. With over forty beers on tap, The Garden invites guests to keep coming back and see what is new. The beer selection covers both craft breweries and quintessential European beers like Liefmans Goudenbrand. This Oud Bruin from Belgium is an iconic example of the style and features flavors of brown sugar and tart cherries with an earthen, leather-like undertone. The menu is American-themed with full-sized salads to sandwiches like their Fried Chicken Sandwich. This decadent dish is delivered to the table with the chicken still sizzling and topped with coleslaw. Try it with a pilsner or other light lager for a tasty lunch. The Garden makes for a good weekend lunch spot and if you are looking to take a bottle home with you there is always Wine + Beer right around the corner. This bar and bottle shop offers a full range of local and interesting brews available to drink there or take to go.
Wherever you end up, beer and food are a perfect pair and fortunately for the diners of Santa Barbara, there are plenty of restaurants that offer the two under the same roof.
Photo by Fran Collin
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, October 4, 2016