Touring the Santa Barbara Public Market
Steel and glass and succulents outline the Santa Barbara Public Market, a paradise of flavor that opened its doors this April 14th. The well-lit market greeted me with wafts of desire. Upon entering, I thought I had been transported to Manhattan’s Eataly or some futuristic iteration of the Reading Terminal Market I grew up salivating over.
I passed by a glass case of fresh pasta – squid ink strands and striped torteloni, hand-formed orichiette and bands of papardelle. To my right was a bank of tinted glass barrels full of golden green olive oils, all harvested in California, sat ready for tasting. Passing by Culture Counter I learned about Brillant Savarign cheese, how to pronounce it and the about the eponymous general from a consummate Frenchman with sophisticated glasses frames. Cases of aged beef and whole corvina cradled a busy noodle bar and a wine bar that displayed the distinct passion Santa Barbarans have for all things vino. The schmoozing hit a fever pitch even as the market was beginning to shut down; the counter people smiled as they tucked away breads and chocolates for tomorrow.
Like a game of communal switcheroo, I see many limbo-ing neighborhoods re-establishing themselves with various creative development schemes. The tired term gentrification barely stretches itself to the myriad of transformations I witness as I mingle with the West Coast.
The Santa Barbara Public Market is located in a diverse area where there is a distinct personality change every few blocks. Historic homes mingle with low-lying apartment buildings and a new swath of pricey condos. Streets are lined with fragrant purple acacias and desert palms. There’s a mix including multi-generation families, transient students…
It is an area near the Arlington Theater, not a particularly large one, that has attracted this foodie project, and a new moniker – the ‘theater district.’ It’s been admitted to me by more than one local that they’ve been several times in its opening week. The contrasting space, full of epicurean delights of the highest quality, draws those who live nearby. It may in time change who that is, but I tend to see change as a constant from which no region can go untouched.
When you go:
-Find a spot at the tasting tables inside Wine + Beer and be sure to sample something unique like a local Gruner Veltliner or something from ampelos, one of my personal favorites introduced to me by wine-loving locals
-Once you are primed, take a stroll around the outer rim of the market stopping at Crazy Good Bread Company for a seasonal pistachio loaf and a hunk of some sharp cheese from Counter Culture.
-Snag a seat at Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar to tour the world via pasta
-For an at-home feast select meat from Belcampo. If fish is your mood the array at Santa Monica Seafood is easy to ogle. (They also make a tasty menu from their daily catch and some counter seating.) Take home a good olive oil to poach your fish in from il Fustino.
Current hours (subject to change) 7am to 8pm daily, 38 West Victoria Street at Chapala Street. 805-770-7702