Viva La Paloma
It was back to the past when my trusty shutterbug Priscilla and I attended the opening night celebrations of La Paloma, on the site of the former Paradise Café owned by Randy Rouse and Kevin Boss for 37 years.
The wonderfully reconfigured eatery, a tiara’s toss from the Santa Barbara News-Press HQ on Anacapa Street, is the latest culinary outpost of Acme Hospitality owner Sherry Villanueva, owner of The Lark and Loquita in the Funk Zone. It is her eighth eatery in our Eden by the Beach.
The original La Paloma Café ran from 1940 until 1983 when it was founded by Jennie Luera and run by her daughters and grandchildren, and the new menu pays tribute to the cuisine of the Californios, early California settlers who incorporated Spanish and Mexican influences into indigenous ingredients cooked over fire.
Leading the talented culinary team is executive chef Jeremy Tummel, a part Chumash Indian who has worked at the Wine Cask, the Bacara, the Rosewood Miramar, Santa Barbara City College Culinary Academy, and the Bear and Star in Los Olivos.
Overseeing the eatery is general manager Christy Guzman, who has worked at The Mandarin Oriental Miami, the storied Carlyle in New York, the Rosewood Washington, D.C., Caruso’s at the Rosewood Miramar, and The Peninsula in Beverly Hills, where I would lunch on occasion at the Belvedere when I lived nearby in Hancock Park.
From the small, but concise menu we dug into the crispy Brussels sprouts with Syrah porcini reduction and pomegranate; JT’s Caesar salad with charred corn; the Santa Barbara Mission chicken with lemon peel, rosemary, and pink peppercorn apple sauce; and oak grilled flat iron steak with a white sage mezcal marinade and avocado epazote chimichurri, washed down with Notary Public cabernet.
The delightful repast concluded with Capirotada bread pudding and abuelita’s chocolate pot de crème, all ably served by our knowledgeable and enthusiastic waiter Louis Echeverria.
The interior and exterior design was created by local Stephanie Greene Fuller and Villanueva to reflect the historical lifestyle of the Santa Barbara ranchero, with rich oak floors and tables, white walls, and cast-iron details.
In the bar, a mural commissioned in 1940 by Jennie, the family matriarch, has been meticulously restored by local artist Jeffrey Skyles. Holophane and vaseline shade lighting from the early 1900s illuminate the bar.
A delightful epicurean hotspot from day one!