Eat For Good: The 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity Challenge

Take part in a delicious opportunity to help support worthy causes

It’s been quite a year, and the fact that 2020 is drawing to a close seems like reason enough to celebrate by dining at local restaurants in support of some worthy causes.
This issue marks the fifth 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity challenge, and a great selection of eateries in the region have agreed to participate once again this year.

Each participant has selected a favorite dish or created a special new one for the challenge, and for each and every one sold during the months of November and December, they have pledged to donate $2 to the charity of their choosing. Last year’s challenge raised more than $17,300 for 22 deserving nonprofits. Generous local restaurants have stepped up to the plate once again, even during this unprecedented time when restaurants themselves need support just like the charities they’re supporting.

This spirit of giving is so heartwarming, we hope that you too will be inspired to participate by dining at these community-minded venues.

This year, Acme Hospitality’s (acmehospitality.com) Funk Zone restaurants, Helena Avenue Bakery, The Lark, Loquita, and Lucky Penny have all chosen to support Know Your Rights Camp (knowyourrightscamp.com). “Acme Hospitality’s company ethos is greatly aligned with Know Your Rights Camp,” says spokesman Willie Simpson, adding “the equality and well-being of all employees is what builds a strong business and community. We know there is still much more work to be done in the fight for civil rights and equality for all Americans. We acknowledge our responsibility to be part of the solution. Know Your Rights Camp elevates a new generation of Black and Brown change leaders through education, self-empowerment and mobilization.” Details about the individual restaurants’ involvement follow.

Helena Avenue Bakery
SANTA BARBARA
helenaavenuebakery.com
Chef Isaac Hernandez’s Carpinteria Avocado on Sourdough Toast layers fresh local avocado, Persian cucumber, sunflower seeds, French feta, and sprouts on a toasted slice of Helena Avenue Bakery’s fresh sourdough bread; diners can further elevate the dish with a poached egg. Bakery manager Wyatt Davidson hopes the popular take on avocado toast will be a great selection to boost their donation.

The Lark
SANTA BARBARA
thelarksb.com
Executive chef Jason Paluska’s Hand-Cut Tagliatelle Pasta, made with grilled sweet corn, sungold cherry tomatoes, garlic, serrano chile, shaved bottarga, preserved lemon, and Old Bay–seasoned breadcrumbs, is a hearty fall favorite at The Lark. The popularity of this locally sourced, handmade pasta plate makes it a promising candidate for the charity challenge.

Loquita
SANTA BARBARA
loquitasb.com
For this year’s challenge, Loquita picked executive chef Nikolas Ramirez’s signature Mariscos Paella, featuring locally sourced fish, scallops, octopus, sobrasada (cured
pork sausage), manila clams, squid ink sofrito (a Spanish sauce made from onion, green pepper, and garlic), yuzu, and salmon roe. It was manager Stephanie Perkins who
brought Know Your Rights Camp to Acme’s attention. “I believe it is crucial for the younger generation to know their rights, to truly understand who they are, and to learn they have
the power to change future generations for the better,” she says.

Lucky Penny
SANTA BARBARA
luckypennysb.com
Chef Dante Bogan chose the Margherita Pizza for this year’s challenge, knowing its popularity among patrons getting takeout and eating on Lucky Penny’s new extended patio. A classic that appeals to many diners, including vegetarians, the wood-fired pizza is topped with San Marzano marinara, burrata, cherry tomatoes, and opal basil.

Bell’s
LOS ALAMOS
bellsrestaurant.com
At Bell’s, where the menu is “Franch-inspired” (borrowing from both French and ranch-style cuisines), chef Daisy Ryan’s Egg Salad Sandwich is an iconic selection. “We feel something as simple and satisfying as an egg salad sandwich really speaks to our collaboration with No Kid Hungry (nokidhungry.org), whose mission is to end hunger and poverty,” says Ryan, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, Gregory Ryan.

Belmond El Encanto
SANTA BARBARA
belmond.com
“While our doors were closed to the public due to the global pandemic, we partnered
with Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade (sbbucketbrigade.org) to make and provide masks for those in need, and we were able to provide hundreds of handmade masks,” says Belmond Encanto spokeswoman Julia Solomon. “We look forward to supporting them in their future endeavors.” To that end, the restaurant chose sous chef Carlos Ramirez’s Seared Wild King Salmon, caught fresh and prepared with herbs, spices, summer squash, shallot confit, and tomato jus, as its featured menu item to benefit the community crisis–response organization.


Bibi Ji
SANTA BARBARA
bibijisb.com
“As a Latino business owner, I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to La Casa de la Raza
(lacasadelaraza.org), an organization that helps educate Latino youth about their culture and build community,” says Bibi Ji co-owner Alejandro Medina. “I am hopeful that one day any of these kids may own a local business themselves and be able to do the same.” The restaurant’s designated dish is Chicken Tikka, which Medina’s business partner Rajat Parr grew up eating at his home in Kolkata, India.

Cello Ristorante & Bar
PASO ROBLES
allegrettoresort.com
Chef de cuisine Ben Drahos opted for Cello’s Certified Black Angus Filet. The oak pit–grilled steak is served in a red wine demi-glace with horseradish mascarpone and seasonal vegetables. The dish will benefit the nonprofit Bailliage de Central Coast Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs (centralcoast.chaineus.org). Currently overseen by Allegretto Vineyard Resort food and beverage manager Thomas Humphrey, the organization supports the development of young chefs and recently raised money for the culinary program at San Luis Obispo’s Cuesta College.

Chulo’s Cafe & Cantina
TEMPLETON
chuloscafecantina.com
“The Huevos Rancheros is our signature dish,” says Chulo’s executive chef Luis Ruiz. It “speaks to our Mexican heritage, and we love sharing our delicious culture with our patrons.” The menu item will support the anti-racism organization R.A.C.E. Matters SLO (racemattersslo.org). “We are so grateful to have a local charity on the ground here in SLO doing the work and fighting the fight for equality and justice for people of all colors, religions, histories, and sexual orientations,” he says. “We love to support them in any way we can.”

Finney’s Crafthouse
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, VENTURA,
SANTA BARBARA, SAN LUIS OBISPO
finneyscrafthouse.com
“My family has supported this amazing charity Support for the Kids (supportforthekids.org) for many years,” says Finney’s owner Greg Finefrock. Dedicated to providing educational enrichment and comprehensive services to underprivileged and foster children and their families in Ventura County, the organization provides essentials like food, clothing, and school supplies. For this year’s challenge, Finefrock has selected a new menu item: executive chef Eric Bosrau’s Bison Burger, made with bison sourced from Flocchini Family Ranch in Wyoming.

Goat Tree at Hotel Californian
SANTA BARBARA
goattreecafe.com
“In the wake of the current pandemic, it has become more important than ever to feature whole-animal butchery,” says Goat Tree executive chef Travis Watson. “The Braised Oxtail Tagliatelle features an often-overlooked cut of beef in a dish that nurtures the soul as we welcome the cooler seasons.” The pasta entrée is earmarked to support the Dream Foundation (dreamfoundation.org), which helps realize the dreams of terminally ill adults
and provides emotional support to them and their families.

Lido Restaurant & Lounge
PISMO BEACH
thedolphinbay.com
Lido’s picked Crab Cakes, a favorite starter among locals. “Being nestled along the Central Coast and having the privilege to sit and watch the sunset while dining on these tasty morsels is the perfect recipe for a truly breathtaking experience,” says spokeswoman Christina Stieb. “That wouldn’t be possible without our beautiful Pacific Ocean. That’s why we chose the Ocean Conservancy (oceanconservancy.org) as our charity, to protect and conserve the very thing that gives us the main ingredients of the dish and many others.”

Little Calf Creamery
THOUSAND OAKS/WESTLAKE VILLAGE
littlecalfcreamery.com
“We are creating unique spins on a frozen dessert classic just in time for the holidays,” says Little Calf Creamery owner Scott Levin, whose two new treats will support Special Olympics Ventura (sosc.org/ventura), an organization that enriches the lives of nearly 600 athletes who have intellectual disabilities. For the November Mud Pie, a graham cracker crust is filled with Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream topped with an oatmeal crumble. For the December Mud Pie, an Oreo cookie crust is loaded with peppermint-stick ice cream
sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy.


Los Agaves Restaurant
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, OXNARD, GOLETA, SANTA BARBARA
los-agaves.com
Los Agaves Restaurant’s Land & Sea Molcajete, a hearty stew with steak, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, and grilled nopal, is the ultimate Mexican comfort food and a cult favorite, especially during the cold season. “We serve you so we can be of service to others,” says owner Carlos Luna. “For every dish sold, Los Agaves will donate $2 to the Santa Barbara Zoo (sbzoo.org) to support and sustain a beloved community treasure that educates so many children, families, and visitors in the region.”

Milk & Honey Tapas
SANTA BARBARA
milknhoneytapas.com
“Burrata is always in season at Milk & Honey, so this is our nod to the cheese we love so much and the earthy flavors of fall,” says chef-owner Alvaro Rojas of the Falling For Burrata plate he designated to support the Organic Soup Kitchen (organicsoupkitchen.org), which produces and delivers soup meals to the elderly and
low-income cancer patients. “ ‘Take your food as your medicine or your medicine will
be your food,’ is a quote that resonates with me, given that my father, grandmother,
and uncle all died of cancer,” says Rojas, who admires the nonprofit’s nutritional
approach to treatment.

Oku Restaurant
SANTA BARBARA
okusantabarbara.com
Oku executive chef Koji Nomura happily created a new dish for this year’s 805 Living
challenge to support the work of CADA (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse; cadasb.org), which provides addiction prevention, education, and treatment services to teens and adults in Santa Barbara County. The 805CADA Roll is as delicious as it is beautiful, says co-owner Tina Takaya. Featuring fresh wild-caught salmon, crispy shrimp tempura, avocado, and cucumber, and a sauce made from fresh shiso leaf, miso, and yuzo, the roll is finished with flying fish roe and served with a side of sriracha aioli. “We enjoyed creating a special sushi roll for an amazing cause,” Takaya says.

Olio Pizzeria
SANTA BARBARA
oliopizzeria.com
“Our Umbra pizza is a signature favorite,” says Alberto Morello, executive chef and co- owner of Olio Pizzeria. “You may need to order an entire pizza just for yourself, it’s so addictive.” Morello selected the dish, which showcases Umbrian black truffles, to support
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (teddybearcancerfoundation.org), an organization that provides financial, educational, and emotional support to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San
Luis Obispo county families with a child who has cancer.

Opal Restaurant & Bar
SANTA BARBARA
opalrestaurantandbar.com
Since they opened Opal Restaurant & Bar 20 years ago, owners Tina Takaya and Richard Yates have been deeply committed to supporting the Arthritis Foundation (arthritis.org) by
participating in and often chairing its Taste of the Town fundraiser, Santa Barbara’s oldest wine and food event. That event could not be held this year, but Takaya and Yates offer their continuing support to the organization that provides assistance to people living with the disabling disorder by taking part in the 805 Living challenge with a riff on a local Opal favorite, the Chicken & Wild Mushroom Chipotle Pasta Charity Special.


Pico Restaurant
LOS ALAMOS
losalamosgeneralstore.com
Earmarking Pico’s donation to the Save the Waves Coalition (savethewaves.org), a nonprofit founded by the restaurant’s co-owner Will Henry to protect surf ecosystems across the globe, executive chef John Wayne Formica designates his Crispy Viet Brussels, made with garden herbs, carrot, red onion, chilis, fried shallot, and coconut-chili-lime agrodolce (sweet-and-sour sauce). The starter manifests the chef’s desire to share his experiences while traveling.

Santo Mezcal
SANTA BARBARA
santomezcalsb.com
Santo Mezcal executive chef Ricardo Garcia picked Enchiladas Verde—two chicken or beef enchiladas topped with special house-made verde sauce and served with rice and pinto beans—to support the Santa Barbara Zoo (sbzoo.org). A cause that’s close to
owner Carlos Luna’s heart, the zoo relies on donations to provide the best possible care for its resident animals and to impart conservation education.

Vina Robles Vineyard & Winery
PASO ROBLES
vinarobles.com/visit/bistro
“Our communities rely now more than ever on the support of food banks for access to wholesome nutrition,” says spokeswoman Catherine Jaeger. “Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery supports the SLO Food Bank (slofoodbank.org) to raise awareness as it works to meet the increased demand in our communities.” Served at the winery’s alfresco bistro, the Vina Robles Burger—made with grass-fed beef and topped with roasted portabella
mushrooms, garlic aioli, arugula, and red onions sautéed in a rosemary-infused reduction of Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and balsamic vinaigrette—is the dish designated for the challenge.

Water’s Edge Restaurant & Bar
VENTURA
watersedgeventura.com
“It’s an ode to our local strawberries,” says Water’s Edge executive chef Alex Montoya of his Straw-Brie Crostini, which he says has “bright and light flavors, each with a different texture for you to enjoy in every bite.” The starter will support Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties (tri-counties.wish.org), because he says, “being able to make a child’s wish come true or to even be a part of that process has always been a dream of mine.”

Wood Ranch
AGOURA HILLS, MOORPARK, CAMARILLO, VENTURA
woodranch.com
The rich, decadent WR Butter Cake is a proven favorite at Wood Ranch. Served with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh raspberries, and raspberry sauce, “it’s popular beyond all our expectations,” says director of culinary development Alejandro Benes. The dessert will benefit Happy Trails Children’s Foundation (happytrails.org), a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the prevention and treatment of child abuse and provide fun activities and support for foster children.

To see more 805 Living Dishing It Out For Charity challenge chefs and dishes, visit 805living.com.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Local Dish: Santa Barbara Restaurant Week

Courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

Courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

Experience and explore the best of Santa Barbara’s food scene at a great price during the second annual Santa Barbara Restaurant Week from February 22-March 3. This ten-day events will showcase the vast culinary world of Santa Barbara with restaurant options ranging from Asian to Farm-to-table to Vegan and more. Prix-fixe menu options include a $25 two-course lunch and a $40 three-course dinner option. In addition, some local wine tasting rooms are offering special tasting experiences.

Sama Sama, courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

Sama Sama, courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

The list of participants include:

Lunch

Bluewater Grill

Tyger Tyger

Jane Santa Barbara

Jane at the Marketplace

 Helena Avenue Bakery

 Convivo (at Santa Barbara Inn)

 Due Lune Cucina

 Tre Lune Ristorante

 Olio e Limone Ristorante

 Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore

The Middle Child

The Monarch (at Montecito Inn)

Lucky's, courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

Lucky’s, courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

 Dinner

Blackbird (at Hotel Californian)

 Joe’s Cafe

 The Brewhouse

The Monarch (at Montecito Inn)

 Sama Sama

 Jane Santa Barbara

 Jane at the Marketplace

 Roof Top Bistro & Bar

 Smithy Kitchen & Bar

 The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto

 Les Marchands

 Loquita

 The Little Door

 Bella Vista at the Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore

Tre Lune, courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

Tre Lune, courtesy Santa Barbara Restaurant Week.

 Convivo (at Santa Barbara Inn)

 Due Lune Cucina

 Olio e Limone Ristorante

 Toma

 Tre Lune Ristorante

 Cava

 Los Arroyos Montecito

 Los Arroyos Goleta

 Bluewater Grill

Chuck’s Waterfront Grill

 Lucky’s

 Wine Cask

 Corktree Cellars

Santo Mezcal

The Middle Child

Tasting Rooms

Jamie Slone Wines

Grassini Family Vineyards

Cebada

Visit SBRestaurantWeeks.com for more details. 

This year, proceeds from restaurant registration will help support ProStart, a two-year culinary arts and hospitality management program developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and run by restaurant associations on a state level. Over 127 public high schools in California use this curriculum reaching 9,000 students. Santa Barbara Restaurant Week’s donation will specifically go to the California Restaurant Association Foundation’s ProStart  program.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on February 20, 2019.

Cocktail Corner: Mixologists Compete for “Official Drink of Santa Barbara” Title

Puesta Del Sol cocktail by finalist Loquita, photo by Loquita, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

Puesta Del Sol cocktail by finalist Loquita, photo by Loquita, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

 A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

Last year’s winner was “Ginspiration Point” by Alcazar Tapas Bar—a delicious homage to Inspiration Point, one of the most popular hiking trails in Santa Barbara’s foothills. Who will win bragging rights in the Second Annual “Official Drink of Santa Barbara” Cocktail Contest? 

Visit Santa Barbara hosts this fun and lively competition on Thursday, June 21 at El Paseo Mexican Restaurant (813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara) from 5-8 p.m.

Biltmore Fuerte cocktail by finalist Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, photo by Four Seasons, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

Biltmore Fuerte cocktail by finalist Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, photo by Four Seasons, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

“We invite the public to sample the drinks of some of our region’s most creative mixologists, root on their favorites, and raise a toast to our community’s extraordinarily gifted food and drink professionals,” says Visit Santa Barbara President/CEO Kathy Janega-Dykes.

Local restaurants and bars were once again invited to develop a new, unique signature mixed drink that celebrates the distinctive attributes of The American Riviera. The creation must include a spirit from Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, a locally owned small-scale craft distillery located in the Funk Zone. Contestants were encouraged to use at least one local ingredient and take inspiration from Santa Barbara’s dramatic landscapes, architectural landmarks and culinary scene.

The Drive Home cocktail by finalist Finch & Fork, photo by Finch & Fork, courtesy Visit Santa Barbara.

The Drive Home cocktail by finalist Finch & Fork, photo by Finch & Fork, courtesy Visit Santa Barbara.

The finalists were selected by the public. The winning cocktails include: “Biltmore Fuerte” by Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, “The Drive Home” by Finch & Fork, “Riviera Hermosa” by Santo Mezcal, “Puesta del Sol” by Loquita, and “The American Riviera” by Santa Barbara Brewing Company

Riviera Hermosa cocktail by finalist Santo Mezcal, Photo by Santo Mezcal, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

Riviera Hermosa cocktail by finalist Santo Mezcal, Photo by Santo Mezcal, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

The live competition is emceed by Gabe Saglie, television personality and senior editor for Travelzoo. The cocktail judges include: food and wine author and columnist Michael Cervin; writer and publisher of Unique Eat and Eateries of Santa Barbara Geneva Ives; senior editor for the Santa Barbara Independent, Matt Kettmann; and “2017 Official Drink of Santa Barbara” winner and owner of Alcazar Tapas Bar, Alvaro Rojas. In addition, Santa Barbara Independent contest winner Gina Andrews was also selected as a judge. 

I got to be a judge last year and I can tell you, these guys are in for some tough decisions. I’ve already sampled both the Biltmore and Finch & Fork’s entries and they’re both excellent.

The American Riviera cocktail by finalist Santa Barbara Brewing Company, photo by Santa Barbara Brewing Company, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

The American Riviera cocktail by finalist Santa Barbara Brewing Company, photo by Santa Barbara Brewing Company, courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

Tickets are on sale now. The cost is $25, and includes two glasses of wine, appetizers and a sample of the five finalists’ entries (while supplies last). Casa Dumetz Wines and Margerum Wine Company will be pouring wine. Beer and cocktails are available for purchase at the bar. Click here to purchase tickets and for more information. Must be 21 and older to attend. 

Cheers!  Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie believes variety is the spice of life. Send your suggestions to Leslie@sbseasons.com.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 16, 2018. 

Cocktail Corner: Sweet Summer Sips

Eureka's new summer cocktails, courtesy photo.

Eureka’s new summer cocktails, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Santo Mezcal's Margarita Jamaica, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Santo Mezcal’s Margarita Jamaica, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Nothing says summer like sipping a Margarita on the rocks on 4th of July weekend, as far as I’m concerned, but if you want to mix it up a bit, there are lots of great cocktail options around town.

Switching out Tequila for Mezcal is one way to change things up, and Santo Mezcal (119 State St.) has some delicious options in that regard. Try the Margarita Jamaica with Mezcal (or Tequila) and spiced hibiscus syrup, lime and hibiscus flowers for a drink that’s as pretty as it is tasty.

Sama Sama Kitchen (1208 State St.)  is always coming up with interesting cocktail concoctions, and right now they’ve

Sama Sama Kitchen's Cherimoya Daquiri, courtesy facebook.com.

Sama Sama Kitchen’s Cherimoya Daquiri, courtesy facebook.com.

got a seasonal Cherimoya Daiquiri on the menu, made with white rum, spiced liqueur, cherimoya juice, orange blossom honey and lime. Yum!  

Alberto Battaglini, the talented Mixologist at  S.Y. Kitchen (1110 Faraday St., Santa Ynez), has a delicious Watermelon Cooler on the menu right

S.Y. Kitchen's Watermelon Cooler with gin, watermelon, lemon and gomme syrup, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

S.Y. Kitchen’s Watermelon Cooler with
gin, watermelon, lemon and gomme syrup, photo by Elisabetta Antonacci.

now, made with gin, watermelon, lemon, gomme syrup. This is summer in a glass! 

And what could be more summery than a cocktail called Tan Lines, new on the menu at Eureka! (601 Paseo Nuevo) and made with vodka, Chareau Aloe, lemon, mint, watermelon and sparkling wine. 

Bar 29 (1134 Chapala St.) is a fun, newish place to do some summer sipping. New to their menu this month is The Arlington, made with Bourbon, White Peach, Grapefruit, Lemon and Honey.

The Arlington at Bar 29, Courtesy photo.

The Arlington at Bar 29, Courtesy photo.

Sweet and summery!

Viva!  (1114 State St.) has an extensive Margarita menu, including  a delicious Blackberry Margarita made with fresh lime, agave, and Combier blackberry liqueur.

And of course, we can’t leave out the Blood Orange Margarita at the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach (2981 Cliff Dr.), made with Mastero Dobel Blanco, blood orange, lime and  Triple Sec served with a salted rim. (Add fresh jalapeno for some heat!) Your cares will melt away as you watch the sunset over the water and sip this refreshing treat.

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 30, 2017. 

 

Cocktail Corner: Cheers to Santo Mezcal!

Santo Mezcal's Margarita Jamaica, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Santo Mezcal’s Margarita Jamaica, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

Like its cousin Tequila, Mezcal is made from agave, which, contrary to popular belief, is not a cactus but is actually a relative of the yucca plant and Joshua tree. While tequila is only be made in the Tequila region (similar to Champagne, vs. sparkling wine labels), Mezcal is usually produced in Oaxaca (it can legally come from anywhere in Mexico) and can be made from many types of agave, some of which only grow wild.

Santo Mezcal's Santo Margarita, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Santo Mezcal’s Santo Margarita, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

With a name like Santo Mezcal, I was expecting an impressive array of Mezcal cocktails to be available at Carlos Luna‘s new restaurant, (119 State St.) and thankfully wasn’t disappointed. The new restaurant combines the modern Mexican flavors we’ve come to know and love at Luna’s Los Agaves locations with some more sophisticated menu items and an impressive cocktail program.

As you enter the restaurant, the sleek bar and a vast Mezcal and Tequila collection take center stage. Led by local mixologist Sean Sepulveda (of Cadiz and Nuance, among others), the cocktail menu includes house-made infusions and house-made fresh pressed juices from seasonal Farmer’s Market fruit, as well as beer and wine lists that are predominantly from Santa Barbara County, with standouts from across the globe. 
Santo Mezcal's Margarita Picante, courtesy photo.

Santo Mezcal’s Margarita Picante, courtesy photo.

We worked our way through much of the Margarita selection, particularly enjoying the Margarita Jamaica, made with spiced hibiscus syrup, lime, hibiscus flowers and—like much of the cocktail selections—your choice of Mezcal or Tequila. The spicy Margarita Picante was excellent too, as was the Santo Margarita. We also enjoyed La Mermelada (the marmalade), a seasonal cocktail made with your choice of Whiskey or Tequila (we chose Tequila), seasonal jam, lemon, agave nectar, seasonal fruit and mint.

Santo Mezcal's La Mermelada, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Santo Mezcal’s La Mermelada, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Another really interesting choice is the Snow Pea Smash, with snow pea infused Gin, basil, Benedictine, pineapple, lime, hellfire bitters and micro cilantro. I’m also intrigued by La Flor Ahumada (the smoking flower), made with Mezcal, honey-lavender syrup, lemon and lavender bud, and Senora Rosada (pink lady) with Rum, raspberry gomme, pineapple, lime and Einstock white, powdered raspberry. All of the cocktails are in the $10-12 range.

The food, spearheaded by Executive Chef Ricardo Garcia, has a focus on seafood. We loved the Camarones Al Mezcal, Mexican shrimp served in a creamy mezcal sauce; Pulpo a Las Brasas, octopus marinated in a special adobo served with house-infused chile oil; and Enchiladas Cabo Azul, stuffed with fresh crab. My favorite thing was probably the Ahi Tuna Ceviche and Ceviche Pulpo, two beautiful dishes combined into one plate for review purposes, that really highlighted the flavors and spirit of Santo Mezcal and Santa Barbara itself.

Santo Mezcal's Ahi Tuna Ceviche and Ceviche Pulpo, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Santo Mezcal’s Ahi Tuna Ceviche and Ceviche Pulpo, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

I think this new hot spot at the hub of the ever-evolving Funk Zone and Waterfront area is definitely here to stay.

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on June 23, 2017.