One thing that most people would probably agree on
is that a popular
feature of seacoast towns is restaurants close to, or on, or underneath
the water. Especially when the town in question is a tourist mecca.
The flip side of that is that when you live
in such a town, you should be
familiar with those restaurants so that you can have a great
time at one
when you have guests in from out of town. Having lived in
Santa Barbara, California for 14 years now, I haven't quite gotten
around to all of them yet (not that I have a lot of guests).
Today that was remedied a little bit when I went to
lunch with panamaus at The Brown Pelican.
Many of Santa Barbara's restaurants that are right on the water (there
are many that are on the street next to the water) are clustered
in the tourist area at the foot of State Street, or on the pier that
juts out from there. It's quite unlikely that a tourist would find
The Brown Pelican by accident.
It's situated off of Cliff Drive, immediately
before the street begins its
steep ascent into Hope Ranch, at the very edge of the shallow Arroyo
Burro beach. Parking is free and shared with beachgoers.
The inside is quite nice, if small. There is seating for perhaps twenty
people, half of them next to the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that
cover the entire span of the side facing the ocean, and all tables have a good view. Tables
and chairs are beautiful wood, matching the paneling. It doesn't scream
out seashore, but it's closer to that than foresty.
There is actually a bit more seating outside on the concrete patio
where perhaps thirty to forty can dine. The patio is to the side of
the main building, but even though it is outside, the view is diminished.
The whole side farthest from the building is lined with bushes,
presumably because the main view in that direction otherwise would be of the
parking lot. Furnishings are considerably different outside. Faux-granite
looking tables with plastic wicker chairs are scattered under big, yellow,
standard issue restaurant umbrellas and entirely too many
gas heaters. I
don't think I would want to be there when they turn those on. Nonetheless,
the patio, where we ate, is pleasant enough during the day.
Two turnoffs were apparent early on. I was a few minutes late for my
one o'clock date with Maus, and when I arrived he'd already gotten us
a table and learned that they were still serving
breakfast. That's fine,
many restaurants do accomodate late breakfast plans, but it was pretty
ridiculous that they refused to give us a lunch menu until the clock
struck the half hour. While we were waiting, the waiter offered us a
drink. There is a full bar inside, and I asked for Amaretto with
lemon juice. He claimed they had no lemon juice, and instead suggested
that I try their Almond Lemonade, a standard drink listed on the menu.
Well, on the lunch menu. It contains Amaretto, vodka, and lemonade. I
poltroonishly acceded to his substitute, minus the vodka.
They didn't take overly long to arrive, and while we sipped, we noticed
that new arrivals were being seated and presented with lunch menus.
Eventually, Maus went and rounded up two menus and
brought them to the table.
The selection, naturally, was tilted toward
seafood. It all sounded
good, and many of the dishes appeared more creative than the norm. Maus
chose grilled salmon and I went with a grilled ahi burger.
The salmon looked good, and came with well done steamed vegetables. The
tuna was ground (I've never seen ground tuna before, though it was not
a surprise because the menu mentioned it), but nonetheless dense and not
too different from a steak. The sandwich wasn't bad, though the "focaccia"
was herbless and treated to an overly buttered grill. The onion
rings that supposedly accompanied it turned out to be what some places call
"onion straws", and somewhat greasy besides.
I would put the prices in the "high, considering" range. Most of the
lunch choices were US$15 to US$20 with a few on either side. Our drinks
were listed as $9.50 on the menu, though we were charged $13 for two of
them, presumably for omitting the vodka. I'm hoping the
prices don't change at dinnertime.
On the whole, I'd guess The Brown Pelican might be good for dinner,
if you sit inside (which I rarely want to do if I have a choice),
stick to pure fish dishes, and are the type that looks at the descriptions
first rather than the prices. But if you have relatives coming, I'd
suggest Brophy Bros. on the pier if they really want seafood (and don't
mind waiting), or the little known but quite good Beachside Cafe ten miles
further up the coastline, on Goleta Beach.
By the way, if you want to see a brown pelican, don't bother coming here.
All such denizens of Santa Barbara are to be found swooping around and
over and under the pier.
December 22, 2005 I thought I was going to be able to report on the dinner aspect of the restaurant. I took Edward there for a nice pre-Christmas dinner, but when we got there, the gates to the parking lot were closed and padlocked. We could see cars down at the beach-and-restaurant end (they have a one-way exit available to them).
Next to Cliff Drive is an illuminated sign for The Brown Pelican, and under it is a neon sign that says Open. I called the restaurant and had the following conversation with the person who answered.
The gates to the parking lot are locked. How do I get in?
Oh, we're closed.
Well, the sign here says you're open.
Oh, that sign is permanently on.
What a ridiculous situation.
And remember that the parking lot is shared by the restaurant and by a state beach? There's a sign just inside the gate that says the park is open until 11:00 PM. We were there at about 8 o'clock. Sheesh.
February 25, 2006 Okay, I can now make a dinner report. My brother was in town, and I was going to take him either to the Beachside or the Pelican. We went to the Beachside, but it had a very long wait, so off we went.
We ate inside at the Brown Pelican. It was about 90% full at 8 PM (and as I said, it's not that big). The staff were attentive and friendly. Some of the items on the menu seemed a bit weird; e.g., a seafood brocetta. It mentioned shrimp, mussels, and some other things. I didn't see how that could work unless it was chopped into little bits. Inquiring of the waitress, I found that it was. And the little bits were all mixed together.
I gladly went with the grilled ahi. I asked for it seared, which to me means cooked about 1/4 of the way through from each side; it was more like 1/10 of the way, but it was still good. The vegetables et cetera on the side were good, and with a full stomach I took away half of the whole plate.
Gary had a walnut and pecan salad, which he said was quite good.
We each had a drink, and he had dessert, and the whole thing came out to $65. No problem there at all.
So, it may be possible to have a good lunch at the Brown Pelican, but I'd skip it and have dinner there instead. I can definitely recommend it.