Cocktail Corner: The Pickle Room

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

“Santa Barbara needs a lounge where people can hang out and be off State Street and kick their feet up and be comfortable,” says Clay Lovejoy, who recently opened the Pickle Room, 126 E. Canon Perdido St. (805/965-3445), with the aim of providing that very thing. The spot is a reincarnation of sorts of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, a favorite local watering hole owned and operated by the Chung family in that spot from 1947 until 2006.

Lovejoy’s Pickle Room is also a family place, brought back to life by Clay and his father Bob Lovejoy, a longtime Jimmy’s regular. And it’s right next door to their Three Pickles Deli + Sub, which the pair have had great success with (along with their other Three Pickles Deli + Sub location at 420 S. Fairview Ave. in Goleta).

The Pickle Room's Reuben Egg Roll (courtesy photo)

The Pickle Room’s Reuben Egg Roll (courtesy photo)

“This place was founded on the Mai Tai,” says Clay. “It was Tommy’s, the original owner’s, recipe, in fact probably his father’s recipe before that, because he was pretty young …  our Mai Tai is our most popular drink by far.”

Luckily, he’s got an able hand behind the bar to mix that potent concoction of Myer’s Platinum Rum with an exotic blend of fruit juices splashed with dark rum and Bacardi 151 Rum. Bartender Willy Gilbert, a close friend of the Lovejoys who ran the place for 25 years, is back behind the bar to mix those yummy rummy Mai Tai’s, along with Singapore Slings, Moscow Mules, Hornito’s Margaritas and more.

“We hired him as a manager to come in here and help us out because we wanted it to run seamlessly,” says Clay. “He’s a huge part of making this a success. We’ve been actually very busy for the last month and have had great crowds.  So with his help we’re learning along the way.”

The Pickle Room's Clay Lovejoy (Leslie Dinaberg photo)

The Pickle Room’s Clay Lovejoy (Leslie Dinaberg photo)

The menu, which Clay describes as “Chinese Deli,” was created by executive chef Westen Richards (formerly of Restaurant Julienne and Wine Cask and currently earning kudos for his creative Spare Parts pop up restaurant). “The Reuben Egg Roll is our #1 seller and people just absolutely love it,” Clay says. “We were trying to think of something fun … we use our pastrami, our sauerkraut and Swiss cheese and we roll it in a egg roll and serve it with our Russian dressing,  same as the other side. So that’s been quite a hit.”

And of course, with a name like the Pickle Room, there have to be pickles.

Clay laughs. “You know what’s been a really hot thing is—we have to of course tell people about it because they’re not used to it—but if you do a shot of whiskey and  you do a pickle back shot … You take a little shot of pickle juice it and it knocks it out of your palate so fast and after people try it they just start lining them up … it’s been very popular.”

New to the menu this week is the Pickletini , “A little bit of pickle juice with gin or vodka and then a nice little pickle spear.” Clay smiles, perhaps at the skeptical expression on my face. “Everybody I tell about it, they’re like ‘that sounds terrible,’ but everybody that tries it is like ‘oh that is awesome I don’t even like pickles but I like that!'”

Cheers! Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 1, 2013.

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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.”

Cocktail Corner:’s Excellent Libations

Wildcat Farm to Bar Mixologist Patrick Reynolds (John Blanchette photo)

Wildcat Farm to Bar Mixologist Patrick Reynolds (John Blanchette photo)

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg

Traditionally, devotes the entire month of October to celebrating the best of Santa Barbara’s cuisine with a bountiful menu of foodie fun.  This year’s epicurean excitement truly has something for everyone; including this lovely line-up of libation-related events and activities.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Elkpen‘s beautiful, handmade chalk mural in the Funk Zone’s AVA Santa Barbara tasting room (featured in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine last spring), October’s a great time to visit. AVA (116 E. Yananoli St.) offers Harvest Bites (Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30), including fresh grape samples, winemaker’s comments and hearty small bites paired with Santa Barbara County wines.

As local farm-to-bar aficionados know, Wildcat mixologist Patrick Reynolds (formerly of the Hungry Cat) is a whiz with farmers’ market-fresh ingredients, creating clever craftsman cocktails with whatever looks the most appealing that day. Typically this happens on Tuesdays, as soon as the downtown market closes, but this 1st Thursday (Oct. 3) my little birds at the CVB tell me that his extra special cocktail list will be themed around sense memories of Santa Barbara. I can only imagine how the tantalizing tastes of The Goodland and Tangerine Falls will taste—until Thursday that is! Come early, these puppies are bound to be popular. Farm to Bar at Wildcat (15 W. Ortega St.) starts at 4 p.m. (goes till 9 p.m.), and these spirited specials are just $8 a pop.

Always a fun stop for foodies, at Isabella Gourmet Foods (5 E. Figueroa St.) The Great Gatsby Goes Gourmet on Oct. 7 and Oct. 21, as a master mixologist crafts specialty elixirs combining local spirits with artisan mixers from Isabella’s shelves. Get out those beaded flapper gowns because 1920s attire is encouraged, and you want to look your best in case Leonardo DiCaprio decides to show up!

On October 8, our friends at Cutler’s Artisan Spirits (137 Anacapa St., Ste. D) and Spare Parts will be Distilling the Spirits and Tastes of Santa Barbara, joining together for a one-of-a-kind evening that infuses the witty, guerrilla dining of SB’s oldest supper club with signature Cutler Cocktails made by the founder of Santa Barbara’s first legal distillery, Ian Cutler.

Experience harvest firsthand with Margerum Wine Company as you help with hand sorting and crushing grapes, yeasting and inoculating ferments, laboratory analysis, plunging and punch down ferments. As Winemaker for a Day (59 Industrial Way, Buellton) (available Oct. 11 and Oct. 25), you’ll end the festivities with barrel tasting and the opportunity to blend your own wine—and take home a bottle to show off to your friends.

Whew … believe it or not, this is a just a taste of all of the fun has to offer. For more details, click here.


Photo Credit: Wildcat Farm to Bar Mixologist Patrick Reynolds, photo by John Blanchette.

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

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.”