A massive new restaurant, wine and retail project is coming to Santa Barbara’s funk zone, the eclectic and gritty part of town known for its chic tasting rooms and art galleries dotted between industrial shops and warehouses.
The 131 Anacapa St. project has been in the works for more than two years and will open this June to debut two new restaurants and a wine bar in a 10,000-square-foot former warehouse building. The property is also the former location of the Santa Barbara Fish Market and has been owned by the Castagnola family since the 1920s.
“There’s just such a rich history here,” said Sherry Villanueva, managing partner of the restaurant venture. Villanueva is leading the venture, which is backed by several more silent South Coast partners and which is leasing the property.
The main sit-down restaurant will be called The Lark and will feature seating for up to 130 people and casual American-style food, served family-style. “We’re offering new twists on familiar food items that are intended to be shared with family and friends,” Villanueva said. The restaurant is named for the overnight Pullman train of the Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from 1910 to 1968.
A wood-fired pizzeria and casual dining restaurant called Lucky Penny will also call the former warehouse building home, as will Caveau Wine Bar & Merchant. Lucky Penny will be a free-standing restaurant that will offer take-away artisan baked goods, coffees and pizzas from a wood-burning oven, plus fresh-pressed juices and snacks. All can be enjoyed in an open courtyard or taken to-go. Menus for both The Lark and Lucky Penny will be locally and seasonally sourced.
The wine bar will add to Santa Barbara’s already extensive Urban Wine Trail with a retail selection of wines from small-batch and boutique producers from Santa Barbara County and Europe. “This area just has so much to offer in terms of wine and food,” said Villanueva, who previously owned marketing firm Twist Worldwide and worked for a number of years for Target Corp. on market research and product development.
Although she doesn’t have restaurant experience herself, Villanueva has put her business-development expertise to use to assemble what she calls a “world-class, rock star” team of chefs and restaurant experts.
The executive chef for The Lark and Lucky Penny will be Jason Paluska, whose resume includes stints under chefs and owners Mitch and Steve Rosenthal of Town Hall and Salt House. Paluska was most recently the sous chef at Michael Mina’s RN74 in San Francisco.
Executive Sous Chef Nick Flores is a pastry chef whose seven-year career includes time at Aqua, Fifth Floor and RN74.
Caveau Wine Bar & Merchant will be operated by managing partners Brian McClintic, who was featured in the documentary film “SOMM,” which chronicled his journey to the elusive Master Sommelier title, and Eric Railsback, winner of Wine & Spirits magazine’s Best New Sommelier award in 2010.
Overseeing operations for the two restaurants as general manager is Dan Russo, a veteran of the Levy Restaurant Group, Girl and the Goat in Chicago and most recently RN74 in San Francisco. Restaurateur and designer Doug Washington, owner of Town Hall and Salt House, led the design effort on the property, his first venture in Santa Barbara, and collaborated with Santa Barbara-based architecture firm AB Design Studio. Young Construction of Santa Barbara is the general contractor.
Villanueva said being a part of the funk zone, which has seen an explosion of new eateries, wine tasting rooms and coffee shops over the last few years, was an important part of the concept. “I love the authenticity of the neighborhood,” she said.
Villanueva was also formerly involved with the Alma del Pueblo food market and condo project on Chapala and Victoria Streets in downtown Santa Barbara. That project is currently deep into construction and is expected to open later this year, offering a Ferry Building-style indoor public farmers market showcasing artisan food producers from the area.
“That’s another fantastic project,” Villanueva said. “There are a lot of very exciting things happening on the food front in Santa Barbara.”
• EAT DRINK & BE MOVING: A new restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara brings Brazilian food and culture to State Street. Brasil Arts Café at 1230 State St. serves traditional Brazilian eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also has an attached Capoeria studio. The family-owned venture focuses on healthy eating and healthy living, with Brazilian menu items sourced largely from organic ingredients. The 1,400-square-foot studio teaches the Brazilian martial art Capoeira and will also host samba, Afro Brazilian dance, boot camp, kickboxing, forro (a Brazilian couples dance), and Brazilian Portuguese classes.
The family behind the venture started the restaurant after losing their house in the Tea Fire. Brazilian native and Capoeira instructor Daniel Yoshimi already had a small studio, started along with his wife, Jennifer. In 2008, they lost almost everything they owned in the Tea Fire. Deciding to take the tragedy as an opportunity to literally rebuild, the couple expanded the studio concept to the restaurant. The kitchen is led by Brazilian chef Lica Sfredo and is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.
• SURF ’N TURF: The Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard has reopened its restaurant. The new eatery is called Coastal Grill, and the hotel says the casual-dining restaurant offers a dramatic beachfront setting as the backdrop for classic American fare and locally brewed craft beers along with wines by the glass and bottle.
Tim Hulbert, a 25-year culinary veteran whose previous gigs include Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas, is the new executive chef.
• Contact Marlize van Romburgh at email@example.com.