After such a nice happy hour with Wayne, the tiki man, we all met up shortly afterwards at Sly’s, so we could proudly show off why this place has The Best cocktails in 805.
The boys drank loads, and I was designated driver. I didn’t get photos of most of their cocktails, but I was intrigued by the side-by-side comparison of two different preparations of a gimlet.
The far left photo is the standard gimlet, that the mainstream expects. When we first got it, we were surprised by the clarity of the cocktail. The bartender explained that it’s clear because it uses Rose’s lime cordial. And we went, “eeeeeeew!” So then he made us a “proper” one, in my minds, using real lime juice. Hence, middle photo of a gimlet with lime juice. The verdict: we liked the gimlet using real lime juice. Keep it real, guys.
Food was great, as usual. It all started with the usual hot bread, including the sweet dark rye. Ted wasn’t as hungry, so ordered a plate of spaghetti, with a chicken liver meat sauce. You don’t see that much these days. Why does the world shun liver unless it’s in pate? This spaghetti was great, with a deep rich flavor.
Wayne’s main dish was the French alpine equivalent of a mixed grill, but not grilled. It contained chicken breast, sausage, pork rib and tender vegetables in a stew, without having been stewed for ages. It looked amazing.
I first set foot in Sly’s when I joined some friends on a quest of good cocktails, and not only did we find them, but we also stayed for the food.
Sly’s pedigree includes Lucky’s for upper-end steak and seafood, but that should not turn off an average diner with an average sized pocketbook from exploring what’s there…as long as you are fine with trekking over to Carpinteria.
The back room does have a feel of a finer dining experience, with its linen cloths, quiet atmosphere and patient yet attentive wait staff. But the front bar and bistro area is casual and comfortable. I really enjoyed sitting at the bar, even for eating.
And I mentioned that my first reason for coming here was for the cocktails. Sly’s cocktails are among my favorite in this area, especially for the classics, like a Manhattan, Gimlet, Negroni, gin and tonic?or Moscow Mule. The Manhattans are made with real Marasca cherries; they make their own tonic water for the G&Ts, and the Moscow Mule comes in its traditional copper mug. And the prices are good for this level of quality. The Moscow Mule I had on this night was $7. Ted got a shot of the exquisite Maker’s 46.
The real special I want to focus on, though, are their prix fixe dinners. The menu changes about every three weeks to a region of France, and I recently got a chance to sample it.
For my meal, the prix fixe was based on the regional cuisine of the Brittany coast, known for savory buckwheat crepes, cream, and salted butter.
The price for each is $35, for a starter, a main, and a dessert. For wine pairings, the price is $55. I had the meal only. I was in a group that enjoys trying as much as possible, so we managed to order almost everything off the menu.
* Bisque of cepes (mushrooms)
* Moules frites – mussels and french fries
* Special gateau Breton
I had the cassoulette, which came in a cream and white wine sauce, and drizzled with lobster sauce. A good-sized portion, and the sauce was great for dipping with their fresh baked crusty bread.
My rack of lamb was prepared medium rare, and the diner specifies its doneness. It comes with a little wood toothpick labeled with the correct doneness. They’ll prepare it, or steak, well done if you desire, and not give you grief on that choice. But if you ask for their recommendation, the suggestion is medium, to medium rare. The dish came with the white beans, as listed. They were tender cooked flageolets. Also, fresh crisp-tender green beans with a light cream sauce.
I selected the special Breton cake for dessert, as I’d never heard of it before and didn’t expect to see anything like it elsewhere around town. The dough is rolled and folded, in a style similar to puff pastry, and layered in between with sugar and butter. If you can imagine a cake made mostly of butter and sugar, held successfully together by a little flour and egg, this is it. Baked as a pancake, the bottom was quite dense and needed a knife at times to cut it into bite size pieces and tastes sweet, slightly salty with a buttery chewy texture.
The salt in the caramel had one friend enjoying her crepes, saying it was very flavorful and not cloyingly sweet. And the bittersweet chocolate mousse was so rich and dense that it went a long way, even shared between several people.
The Brittany menu is wrapping up soon, and may have already completed. That is okay, because the next prix fixe is going to specialize in the cuisine of Provence!
Where the Carp elite greet in boofy hair for meaty treats.
There is something special about the Palms that residents of this area fiercely hold dear to their hearts. There was a time that the Palms was the best Carpinteria would muster up by way of a fancy dining experience. And by that, I mean Carpinteria firmly stood against all that was rootin’ tootin’ high falutin’. Those who didn’t like the combination of a casual yet exclusionary atmosphere quickly fled to bigger cities or to Montecito. Those who stayed, well, they liked Carpinteria just as it was. And so the Palms thrived.
With the Palms long established as THE dining spot in town, it’s easy to understand why Carpinteria has been dragged kicking and screaming into the “new era” of fancy restaurants they perceive as existing only for tourists and Montecito throwbacks.
Solid 3 stars for food, plus one more for being so darn kooky, and being a local business around since 1905.
Props for the building looking so old and elegant from the outside. The interior, however, is more like walking into a church parlor room-turned-cafeteria in the 1970s. That’s not bad, just set your expectations appropriately. The menu is printed on your paper placemat, okay.
As everyone has said before, the Palms’ unique selling point is having the option to grill the main course yourself. This is, like, Carp’s version of a fondue party, so jump in and join the fun.
I amuse myself with theorizing how this marketing came to be. Back in the day, maybe carp’s residents were such talented farmers on the range that they were constantly criticizing the Palms chef about how to cook the meat. And then, the chef finally went “FINE! You do it yourself!” and stomped out of the room in a huff. Thus the self-grilling was born? Ha ha, maybe.
The result is a fun family atmosphere that is by no means fine, but an acceptable and relatively fancy destination for residents. Plus, very affordable.
The salad bar option is $6.50. You can easily fill up on the salad bar, comprised of mostly iceberg, half a dozen crunchy additions like beets, chickpeas, cucumber, onion. All the standard dressings and the Palms special topping – deep fried croutons. Plus, baked potato, chili beans, salsa and bread. Did I mention this is not fine dining? No, it’s very standard and simple. This is why it’s $6.50!
Main course options already include the salad bar. So if you order a 10 oz ribeye dinner for $14, that’s downright, almost suspiciously, cheap.
If you have any grilling steaz, you’ll be fine. There’s an assortment of condiments by the grill to enhance your meat as it sizzles. I pre-seasoned my ribeye back at the table with salt and pepper, and once at the grill added seasoned salt, powdered onion, worcestershire sauce and my secret ingredient: butter pats from back at the dining table.
Extra tip, just cuz I’m nice: the grill is hotter at the top, cooler at the bottom. Leverage that knowledge!
Use some of the butter pats to lightly butter both sides of the bread for toasting on the grill. Sprinkle some of the garlic salt on one side. Toast it in the middle portion of the grill and if it soaks up some steak umami, even better.
The bread is white and doughy (like many of the Palms resident diners), that’s how it’s done. I’ll guess that some bright-eyed chef years ago tried to introduce something new or healthy as the bread and was run out of town on rails.
Cocktails: kitschy, but with no irony. I had the Lava Lamp and it was a bit too sweet and creamy for my dinner tastes. But I was the noob at the table, everyone else got vodka tonics or beer. Lessons learned.
Dining was a great experience. Now, finally, there’s time to look around the room. Screaming children throwing bread crumbs and cucumber slices under the table, elderly couples in their sunday best, a birthday party or two, and the crowning glories of gravity defying boofy hairdos that you know only a professional armed with a can of aquanet could have put together for this occasion.
Leftovers are expected.
I’ve been coming to Bill’s Surf Dog stand on and off for years, especially when I worked in the Carp area.
His business has probably gotten even better once the Carp bluffs got developed with better parking and trail information.
Surf Dog offers several kinds of boiled dogs: an all-beef frank, a classic (beef and pork), a dodger dog, a polish sausage, a turkey dog and a spicy dog (Italian, I think?). They range in price from $3-$3.50 and include free additional toppings: chili, sauerkraut, cooked onions. Plus condiments of relish, yellow and brown mustard, chopped onions, ketchup, spicy peppers and several bottled chile sauces.
I got the classic hot dog today, with spicy mustard, sauerkraut, relish and a little jalapeno. The hot dog itself not my favorite, a bit too soft and too thick for my tastes. Next time, polish, beef, or dodger.
The view, the good company, the price, it’s all hard to beat. Surf Dog’s a classic.
My first visit here was an experience in perfection. Nothing over the top, or wildly “foodie” innovative, just good classic food and cocktails, done right.
There are two distinct dining areas, to suit your mood. The front area is the bar and bistro area, for when you’re feeling casual or moody.
I went with four friends for a quiet weekend evening and the first thing we noticed on the menu was the cocktails, with dates next to them. The dates are the accepted years that each of those cocktails was devised. It was our first hint that this place had purist ideals.
* they make their own orgeat for mai tais,
We sampled more than this, but I do not want to appear like a total lush, so I’ll leave it at that. The bottom line on the cocktails is that Sly’s is serious about them, making sure they’re done proper. I have no doubt the other cocktails on the menu are just as good.
We stuck around for dinner, and remained at the bar. The bartender knew the menu forwards and back, including the specials, and could name the sources of all the dishes we inquired about, especially when they came from local businesses. I think it’s important to note here that the more questions we asked about the food, the more pleased they were to answer them, because I feel their knowledge of ingredient sources and preparation is what makes Sly’s different to other steak and seafood places. And it’s really something to be proud of.
I had the mussels, Spanish style, which came with firm chorizo, caramelized onions and a tomato-based sauce that was so delicious we used our hot bread to soak up all those good juices. I even resorted to scooping it up with a spoon since there was so much. The dish was also generously portioned, about 20 mussels, and it cost $14. There are several other sauce options, and they all range in price between $12-$14. So reasonable.
Nothing could top a meal that brought back those European memories like a round of profiteroles for dessert could. I swear I had no idea what was on the menu and when I was offered the dessert menu I flat out said I could not be tempted, unless there was profiteroles. And guess what was there, prominently displayed on the menu. YES! A handful of choux pastries filled with vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce and a warm pot of housemade dark caramel sauce on the side. The price on this varies, depending on the number of profiteroles requested. I selected 5, and that was $13.
There are many other items on the menu, different cuts of steak, bigger cuts, lots of fish and shellfish. The prices are generally on the upper end, as these are sourced from reputable specialty companies, not mysterious agri-beef businesses or large scale produce corporations. But still, the items we happened to order were very affordable, especially given the attention to detail and the quality of the ingredients.