5 Aug,2016 By Jagabond
“To me, a critic is some loser who has no idea… someone with an opinion. We all have opinions. No offense, but what makes them dictate what is cool and what is not.” – What infamous person said that? You’ll have to read to the end for the big reveal!
I decided to play food critic with this blog entry. I selected three restaurants to visit during my time in Santa Barbara, deciding on a sampling of Greek, French and German cuisine. They were all located on State Street, the main drag of the city that contained most of the laid-back nightlife. I’m winging this, having not ever done restaurant reviews before, but I love food so how hard could it be?
1. Petros – 1316 State Street
I was instantly taken in by the blue and white entrance, which reminded me of the buildings on Santorini.
I must say the service here was outstanding, with an all Greek staff and their matter-of-fact way of speaking…friendly yet succinct. After a relatively average dose of bread and hummus, the real treat was the multi-dip sampler. My favorites were the fava, a tasty blend of yellow split peas and onions, and the olivada, a delicious mixture of chopped Greek olives with sun-dried tomato.
I’ve always loved spanakopita as a nice and simple vegetarian option. Petros didn’t disappoint with these feta and spinach stuffed pastries, but calling this an appetizer is a stretch, as one of them was the size of my fist. At first I thought the giant kalamata olives were seedless grapes, so I was lucky I didn’t break a tooth!
The entree salad I selected was an interesting mix of onion, oddly-sliced cucumber, and avocado. The salad looked better than it tasted, but not by much. I remember the ‘Greek salad’ being the entree of choice for vegetarians in Europe, and after so many they became rather ordinary to me…at least this one was unique.
My only real disappointment here was them being out of the Santorini wine…this was better for my wallet since it was 13 dollars per glass. I instead selected another dry Greek wine that I must’ve liked since I had a second pour. The atmosphere was also pretty and welcoming, as the main eating area had an outside-feel to it even though it was indoors, and reminded me of the restaurants in Rhodes. The dip was incredible, but the rest of the food was just ‘very good’. I give Petros 4 out of 5 stars!
2. Petit Valentein – 1114 State Street
Tucked away in a tiny shopping square that was littered with artsy and unique statues, it was like cutting down a side street in a mid-sized French town and finding a lonely restaurant begging to be tried. The atmosphere was similar to the casual dining in France, where you could wear anything from t-shirt and jeans to a full-on suit with tie.
I started with a delectable glass of rose from Provence, which made me a happy man!
The appetizer was the onion soup, which was cooked in a vegetarian broth not beef. This was very good, but it probably could’ve used a bit more salt. Unfortunately, this was a classy restaurant with no shakers at the table, and asking would’ve been an offense to the chef, so my blood pressure thanked me as I enjoyed the lower sodium.
My main course was an amazing penne with artichokes in a vegetable slurry. Typical of French food, both the soup and penne were cooked heavily in oil, thus putting this meal definitely in the ‘not healthy’ category. Somehow the food didn’t taste overly oily, however, and the artichokes were grilled to perfection. This was better than most pasta I’ve had at fancy Italian restaurants.
The waitress was very nice…she was a student at the local university who had fallen in love with Santa Barbara. This restaurant was exceptionally good, and brought back dreamy memories of France. I give it 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5!
3. Hoffman Brat Haus – 801 State Street
Why did I pick this restaurant? As a former resident of Belgium, the sign caught my attention. The ‘pink elephant’ is the symbol of the Delirium Café, a place I frequented anytime I was in Brussels…they win the award for ‘best beer selection on the planet’, with over 2,000 to choose from.
They weren’t lying about the beer. The menu had a vast, international selection of brands, including a mouth-watering Belgian blonde…
…and a fabulous Icelandic ale that deserves to be mentioned among the world’s best.
The food was impressive, as I’ve never had a vegetarian bratwurst before. It was actually really good, with the exception of the cold sauerkraut…the warm stuff was cooked in bacon, so not appropriate for the meat-free eaters.
I had a slight problem with the frites. In Belgium, these are practically a way of life. I used to see lovers on dates sharing a container of fried potatoes as they stared longingly into each other’s eyes. This was the americanized version, and they tried to do too much…spicing them with garlic and other herbs, thus making the accompanying sauces insignificant. I greatly enjoyed the beer here, but the food could’ve been better and/or more authentic. I score this 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5.
So three restaurants, and three unique meals satisfying my food addiction. Going back to the beginning of the post, the quote was from none other than Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice…and I won’t pollute my blog by posting his video here. I will, however, post this amazing parody done by Jim Carrey!