Café Del Sol—Santa Barnara, CA

994619_10151655041966860_1581017101_n

The decision to eat here came sort of on a whim. Nathan and I wanted to take my parents out to dinner and this place sort of just came up as the top contender for a place that was relatively new but safe enough that nearly all of us had tried it. So we were in that weird, “well—we sort of remember it and the memories aren’t terrible so let’s give it a shot!” Usually this is the beginning of a terrible foodie-experience. However, I think we were all pleasantly surprised with the exception of my father who ordered the shrimp-scampi. The plate just seemed to be lacking, but in the end I think it all worked out for the best because he ended up sampling food from all of us!

I love lamb. I love lamb shish kebabs—so I took a leap of faith by ordering the lamb shanks. This was some of the most tender and delicious lamb I’ve ever had. Unfortunately I didn’t know what the heck to pair it with so I went with the French fries and grilled veggies. My mother, who is normally not a big fan of beef, had the filet mignon with shrimp and extra veggies, and Nathan got some enchiladas. This restaurant is on the price side, but my parents ended up paying so I was a happy camper! But regarding the price? I think it’s definitely worth it.

Things started out a little rough, but once everything was settled the atmosphere and the food were amazing. We had to wait around a bit before anyone noticed we were standing around waiting to be seated. Then, when we were noticed the service was phenomenal. We got to sit outside in the patio, and with it being late summer, it was the perfect temperature. The air was a little warm and there was a swirling cool breeze blowing over us from the beach that was maybe a mile or two away.

We all had drinks but what I thought really set this place apart was the fact that our waiter overheard my father talking very fondly about a drink he had once—a long time ago—which he couldn’t find again. It was something very silly called a “Loco Coco” and after finding a recipe online our waiter promptly took my phone and carried it off to the bartender. The resulting drink was not a true “Loco Coco” but we weren’t really holding our breaths. The drink requires some pretty unique ingredients. Best part? We weren’t charged for it. The waiter urged us to find the right recipe, bring in the ingredients, and if it worked they would add the drink to their menu. It seems like a little thing, but the reality is that having that extra drink gave us all an extra hour to sit around the table and enjoy each other’s company.

1236242_10151655070006860_129923337_n

Food is obviously the most important aspect of any restaurant but I think atmosphere definitely counts for something. And here in Santa Barbara, sometimes it feels like you have to pick between the two—either a place with great food but with a lot of noise or that’s overcrowded or a lovely place with subpar food options. Café Del Sol most definitely delivers on all fronts.

-Gabi

Tupelo Junction Cafe – Santa Barbara

Tupelo Junction Cafe in Santa Barbara is great.  I came here for weekend breakfast for years when I lived up the road, and it never disappoints.  The only downside is that the secret is definitely out, and the place can get busy some days on the weekend; but if the waiting list is too long, there’s no shortage of other options within walking distance.

The pumpkin waffles here are unique, and a must-try even if you don’t usually like waffles (which I don’t).  My favorite, though, is the bacon-spinach-gouda scramble — I really like how they make this, somehow with the perfect blend and texture.   It comes with these herbed potato things, and a choice of breads (banana bread, biscuit), any of which are delicious.  I can also vouch for the drinks here — I usually get the OJ (top notch, fresh squeezed) and/or the mocha (above average for breakfast places, not too sweet).

I recall this place as being on the pricey side, but it’s maybe a bit cheaper than I remembered.  We spent about $65 + tip for three, and that included going a bit overboard with drinks and appetizers on top of everything else.

Santa Barbara’s State Street and vicinity is loaded with awesome breakfast places (no surprise there, everyone nursing a hangover needs somewhere to eat), but Tupelo Junction Cafe is easily one of the best, if not the best.

-Nathan

Muldoon’s Irish Pub–Newport Beach

ImageThis is a place that Nathan and I have frequented quite a few times. We usually come here for lunch because it’s close to his work, offers a great outdoor seating area, and the food never disappoints—sort of. We always tend to order the same thing when we come here. I love the fish and chips and Nathan gets the Irish Stew—an amazing stew with carrots, peas, adorable baby potatoes, delicious tender bite sized pieces of beef, and a dollop of mash potatoes right in the middle. Both of these two options seem to be the staple plates for this restaurant. Tonight however, after going to Luna Rosa for happy hour and Nathan getting denied a drink because he forgot his ID, we decided to head over to Muldoon’s for yummy drinks and a yummy dinner.

Funny little fact—we didn’t get carded at Muldoon’s, whereas in Luna Rosa (regardless of the fact that we have been there a number of times) they still refused to sell Nathan a drink. I am even pretty sure that the waiter is the same one who has helped us before. We even asked to talk to the manager; we figured we could plead our case being that Nathan seriously doesn’t look like he’s under 21. The manager wasn’t in, we were told she had stepped out and would return in 20 minutes, but by that point we were thoroughly frustrated and just decided to go somewhere else and swing by the apartment to pick up Nathan’s ID.

Back to the food! As usual, Muldoon’s was pretty busy, which is always a good sign in my opinion. We seated ourselves and our waitress was super attentive. Our amazing fennel infused soda bread was brought out along with our drinks—I got an Emerald Drop and Nathan got a little three sample beer thing (the beers were pretty meh—but I am not a big beer fan).

Tonight we were feeling particularly brave so we decided to pick some new stuff on the menu. Nathan ordered the New York Steak and I got the Irish Stew (I figured it would be good to order one thing that we were sure we liked). The stew, as always, did not disappoint. This has got to be one of the densest dishes I’ve ever had, but it’s just absolutely delicious.  The steak looked great but didn’t really taste amazing. The sides were really disappointing, some pretty flavorless mashed potatoes and their summer grilled vegetables which consisted of a stack of red pepper and a few pieces of zucchini.

With one hit and one miss we decided to go for desert and ordered the Mint Chocolate Chip Mud Pie. It was described to us as Oreo pie crust with mint chocolate chip ice cream inside, fudge poured over it, and whipped cream. It wasn’t all that great. It sort of tasted like something store bought rather than something they make themselves, which is pretty disappointing for the sort of establishment that this is. The fudge sauce that got poured over it was light brown, almost looked like caramel but tasted way too strong and sweet (and not in a good way). The whip cream was just this huge spoonful on the side of the plate. In fact, the whole thing didn’t look very appetizing. I think presentation and plating is very important.

Overall—I am pretty sure we’ll wander back in here at some point, maybe for lunch again. After all, their fish and chips are still hard to beat and their Irish Stew never disappoints, but I think we’ve definitely learned our lesson about being adventurous with this menu.

 

-Gabriela

Lumberyard Restaurant Review—Laguna Beach, CA

Image

The Lumberyard in Laguna Beach is kind of amazing — one of my favorite restaurants.  We’ve been here twice now, and while the first time was great, the second time stood up to the scrutiny of our expectations.

Almost everything we’ve ordered here has been surprisingly good.  This time I got the red house cabernet – it was smooth in a kind of understated way (it didn’t insist upon itself) - and then the filet mignon with asparagus and three-cheese potato gratin (was as good as it sounds).  The way they present the steaks on the menu reminds you of a steakhouse; I was afraid to go for it, for fear it wouldn’t live up to that billing, but it did not disappoint.

One thing about the Lumberyard is that it has just made me happy to be there.  I’m not sure why, but maybe sitting out in this little courtyard with its funny odd-bricked chimney in quiet Laguna Beach is very relaxing.  It’s the kind of place where everything feels carefree and the conversation flows.  We were feeling so good that we went for the dessert, the funnel cake, which was also amazing.  Shockingly, even the fruit on the dessert (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) was excellent – have you noticed that fruit in restaurants is awful almost without fail, for whatever reason? The Lumberyard seriously knows how to pick its produce.

And while it’s maybe a bit on the pricey side – we passed $100 including the tip this time with the steak, drinks, appetizer and dessert – it was worth it.

http://www.lblumberyard.com/

-Nathan