Santa Barbara is hardly the cutting edge of food trends, we gladly take the spillover several years down the line. Food trucks are one of those trends I’ve been waiting for. In my impatience, I’ve gone to LA to explore them (and failed, thank you over-capacity food truck fest), and to Portland (big big big big win!!). They’re such a great way for small businesses to get running and provide a wonderful diversity of food treats.
But it’s now starting. And while some trucks in SB have been building up the marketing before they’ve opened, this truck sneaked right up on people, kicking off their first day unknown to anyone in my circle.
Culture Shock was set up at the Wheelhouse downtown. It was their first day, they were happy, enthusiastic, and definitely learning things for their next day of operation. Like…to bring some chalk to make the menu! Or more business cards because they’d totally run out.
They’re a husband and wife team, making street food with Sri Lankan flavors. I know nothing more of their background, because they were busy reading the menu, taking orders, cooking and delivering. But here’s what we got.
One organic chicken curry plate, with rice, dal, shredded carrot salad, and spicy sweet mango chutney, for $8 (their website says $8.50, note), and a $5 chicken bratwurst (made by the owners’ friends) with mustard and curry wrapped in paratha roti. That’s the layered flaky style roti. Very filling and the roti dog was our favorite of the two although definitely more messy.
We also had a mango lassi, which was lovely and thick and refreshing on this hot day, but there’s no photo.
It looks like their schedule isn’t solid yet, but with food trucks in SB, it’s always changing anyway. The Wheelhouse, however, appears to be the Saturday stop for Culture Shock, which is awesome since the farmers market is just around the corner and people can probably learn some new things about Sri Lankan flavors.
Back so soon? Yes! TAP Thai is totally kawaii and the food’s yummy. I talked it up to my parents shortly after my first visit, and we came here for lunch. On my birthday, no less.
Today the beverage selection was Singha beer, iced water with lemon and mint, and a Thai iced tea with lime. Whoa! I love the thai tea with lime! Really yummy and refreshing, I like it more than cream-based thai iced tea now. Thai tea with lime, Fo-Eva.
For appetizers, we got the corn cakes, which I’d had before, and tried the TAP rolls for the first time. These are fried eggrolls, but with with a twist on the fillings. These was the usual cabbage and seasonings, but also seaweed, which was new to me and I quite liked it. Both apps came with sweet Thai chile dipping sauce.
My father got the drunken noodles with tofu as the protein option, which he appeared to enjoy very much. This family is very much a fan of flat noodles, especially ones lightly pan fried.
My mother got the panang curry with chicken as the protein, which I’d gotten on my earlier visit for my lunch special. This a la carte portion is bigger than the lunch version, costs about a dollar more, but does not come with the soup or salad. It’s an ample portion, probably best shared. Much of this went home as leftovers since my mother picks at her food these days.
I went with something new, and ordered the Larb Gai, for about $9. It’s a bowl full of minced chicken, cooked with lots of fresh green chiles, onions, basil and spices. It’s really fresh tasting, with lots of zip from the chiles. This comes lettuce leaves to scoop up the chicken, so if you’re wanting a low carb option, this is it. Personally, I could have used more lettuce. Some of the larb went home as leftover too.
We also had an order of roti, and this was the only disappointing part of the meal. These could have been pan fried longer, as they turned out quite pale, limp, and greasy. We all agreed these needed to be a little more golden browned.
Overall, a very enjoyable meal. The restaurant wasn’t busy at all. Aside from a couple people coming in to pick up takeaway orders, we had the run of the place and my mother chatted up the nice ladies working there.
Ohmygoodnizz!! Why haven’t I been here before??
My friends and I really dragged our feet over this one, and now we must suffer through the knowledge that every day we didn’t eat here was a missed opportunity. Because TAP is hyper cute and the food is super yums.
TAP Thai has the kind of interior I like, it’s bright, tidy, with neat stencils on the wall. It has a lot of open space, which looks good, but also makes the acoustics bad. So if they changed anything, it would be awesome if they put in something to dampen the echo. TAP is an abbreviation of the three owners of the new Thai restaurant on de la Vina, and one of the owners is a designer of some sort, and did the interior. It reminds me of a little shop in Silverlake, sans hipsters, or closer to home it’s a bit like the Presidio Motel.
Ted and I went for a weekday lunch and enjoyed it so much my food got cold because I was too busy tweeting about it and posting photos online and answering people’s comments.
The weekday lunch special is just $9, for a main dish, soup and salad. We got the PCU noodles, and the panang curry, both with chicken.
Both were great. Perhaps I enjoyed the curry more than the noodles because I was the one who ordered the curry, and it was a generous enough portion that I took some leftover home and had it for breakfast.
Ted got the Thai iced tea that is traditionally served in these parts, with the cream. It came in a big ol’ mason jar with lots of ice. Earthy, fresh, and really good.
And omg, corn cakes! Served with some sweet thai chile sauce. It was Pink who turned me onto these ones, and incidentally, it was her glowing recommendation of TAP that finally kicked our butts into gear to check the place out.
We didn’t think the dishes were too spicy hot, though out tongues started tingling further into the meal. The focus seems more on fresh flavors than big heat. There is a selection of chile condiments served on the side to add extra spice if you want it.
Finally, dessert. Their most popular dessert is the fried banana and coconut ice cream. I’d actually prefer more of the wrapped and fried banana instead of the ice cream, but there’s no option for just fried banana. If I went again, I’d want to try the sticky rice (especially black sticky rice with coconut cream) with mango. That’s next on my list.
Parking only seems to be on the street, but it wasn’t a problem at all to pull up nearby. It’s about two doors up from Jedlickas Saddlery.
Naan Stop may be my favorite lunch spot in Isla Vista. The food is not the usual ginormo burritos for drunk people, it’s tasty, they serve it up quickly from a buffet style counter, and the price is right.
A two-item combo costs about $8, and includes rice, salad and naan. Here’s McMarko’s combination with chicken korma and saag tofu curry.
This was the third or fourth of the Saigon In and Out empire that started on Milpas. I’m all for more exotic cuisines in Santa Barbara, because they struggle hard and they are a breath of fresh air to the old standards of Italian, sushi (note: not Japanese, just sushi), Mexican places that we have so many of.
This Saigon was down in the bar zone, so I can guess it was meant to attract drunk hungry people. I like that more late night eats are available, too. But perhaps others preferred cheaper faster food items, because soon this business changed its game to Lam’s Vietnamese Sandwiches.
Huuuuuh? I love bahn mi!! I totally wanted to go! But then…sammies are, like $8. Ouch. TRUE: this is comparable to most sandwiches in Santa Barbara, and TRUE: everything here is more expensive than in LA or the bay area. BUT: when it’s 3-4 times the price, it just hurts. I never found the time to go.
And then, they changed their name again! It’d become Miss Saigon. I don’t know why. Maybe people are more attracted to feminine names and Lam seemed really boring? Some mysteries will never be solved.
Anyway, we were downtown for the grand opening party of a cool record store, that was well attended by every hipster in town. Eventually, we got hungry. We had been chatting with Jeff about meeting up for dinner and I suggested Miss Saigon. Done.
Everything seemed so normal when we arrived. The place was busy, but not full, we got seats immediately, and near the window. Jeff arrived. We hemmed and hawed over the menu and eventually settled on some items. Then things got weird.
For one, it got really busy. People just kept coming in. People were standing around the door. People were standing around inside. People were queuing up to get in. Everyone was staring at the television and no food was to be seen. More people were coming in.
Over 90 minutes later, we have some eggrolls with lettuce wraps and dipping sauce, and eventually our other items arrived, but we were faint with hungry, Jeff was hangry and had gone to the front cashier twice to ask for an update on food.
Finally, we tried the pork bahn mi. It was fine! But yeah, $8, ouch.
The reason the place was so busy was because the Pacquiao fight was on. It was crammed full, standing room only, people spilling out onto the street. History was being made and everyone knew who to cheer for. The staff had no idea it would be this busy, and had called in their friends and family to help deal with all the customers.
But really, how were we supposed to know that this restaurant would be the only one televising it on State Street? Once we got outside, all the other restaurants were dead silent!
Long story short, decent food, but bad bad timing.
Update: Dec 2010. This restaurant is now listed as CLOSED. I’m bummed. Santa Barbara really does need more diversity of ethnic cuisines.
Miss Saigon – closed
This is now a tradition. I’ve heard there are now a number of Ethiopian restaurants in San Diego, but my friends say this is still the top pick, best value for money.
As usual, Valerie orders. Two portions each of the veggie and meat combos, feeding five. And extra injera.
Differences to last year: no sambussas available (boo). And, I didn’t walk out leaving my expensive camera on the floor (yay!).
Red Sea (City Heights)
McMarko is not allowed to eat Indian food around his wife. There is something about the spice mixtures she finds unappetizing. So I am de facto Indian food lunch buddy.
The boys got two item combinations. I got the one item combination with chicken tikka masala.
All the combinations come with rice (choice of pilau or plain basmati), naan, and salad with a tangy tamarind and yoghurt dressing. I also got a vegetable samosa, which comes with its own tangy tamarind dipping sauce. One item combinations are roughly $6 and two items are around $8, give or take, depending on whether your selections are chicken or vegetables.
The one item combo was enough for me. I took my samosa and sauce home for a snack later.
As captives of the Rio and all its sad offerings, Gaylord was one of the few things we enjoyed during a stay at this casino. We were whisked out of the smoke-laden casino area into a tastefully decorated tranquil space.
Most other eateries were packed with 30 minute waits trying to handle the overflow of a conference held here. With about an hour left to find lunch and return to the conference, we poked our heads into Gaylord.
Talk about underappreciated, the place was nearly empty, with one waiter and one busboy. We scored, with $13 lunch combinations served as a thali with rice and naan. We shared the tandoori combination and vegetable curry combination.
Very full bellies, lots of leftovers, incuding that lovely naan that we snacked on the next day. Our favorite curry was the one with spinach, peas and paneer.
But we were lucky. As mentioned before, this casino was not prepared for the overflow of hungry conference-goers. We were seated immediately and our food came quickly, sizzling hot. But just 20 minutes later there was a queue out the door, and people waiting frantically to pay their bills and get back to work.
The Rio seems to attract the kind of clientele that wants burgers and shakes, or buffets. So it’s no surprise that Gaylord is staffed with an expectation of low patronage. But seeing how *all* the smaller restaurants in the casino seemed wholly unprepared for the streams of hungry conference attendees, I suspect Gaylord, as well as other places, should have gotten better warning by the casino management of potential increased business from the conference.
For all the harried customers and staff at Gaylord, our waiter took very good care of us, in a timely manner, even getting our leftovers wrapped up quickly and efficiently.
Photos by Ted Mills.
This was our last stop of the great LA food and fun trip. We weren’t going to make a dinner stop at all, and just drive back to Santa Barbara, but we could not turn down the invitation of a simple Japanese curry, and the Sawtelle area seemed to have a lot to offer.
However, we were not starving, so we ordered one simple chicken katsu curry, to share.
The chicken katsu was good – hot and crisp, with a spiceful curry sauce, rice and some salad. I’ve had katsu chicken curry in two other places this year, and this seemed to be typical for the dish.
This shop was the place we’d been saving our stomach space for. Ted had eaten here before, after a visit to the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It’s just across the street, and looks like a hole-in-the-wall. Inside is an Indian market and a food counter. Lunches are served up cafeteria style on paper plates, with several combination options to choose from. We ordered a set lunch and a thali set meal. All the food is vegetarian and we were salivating for it.
The lunch set was two curries, rice, naan and sauces. We got a vegetable korma and jackfruit curry. At first we were tending away from the jackfruit, but two men behind us in the queue insisted it was a specialty here and they were eating here just for the jackfruit curry. They were right, it was delicious, with a meaty feel to it. Like vegetarian carnitas. I’d only eaten jackfruit fresh and raw in the tropics, and at the time wasn’t terribly enthused for it. In a curry is fabulous.
India Sweets and Spices