A co-worker recommended Range, for being affordable and Michelin starred. I’d forgotten about it until the topic of dinner came up and we were thinking dinner in the Mission area would be most suitable for us to rendezvous with James.
Apparently seats here have traditionally been highly sought after, James said he went once before and gave up on subsequent visits because the reservation list was always too long. But today we gave it a short with just a few hours notice and got an 8:45 pm seating for four.
Bonus: great parking karma! We got space just across the street. Becca insists her parking karma comes because she’s drives a banged up old car – as soon as she upgrades her karma will go away. Meanwhile, we still reap the benefits of her amazing luck of parking in the city.
Seating was efficient and prompt, and we were in a small wing with two other tables. And those two other tables were filled with hip arty types talking about hip arty things. It’s intimidating to take a photo of my food when the person whose elbow I was accidentally touching was a professional food photogarpher, and ditto for the others at his table. But I learned: spraying scotch guard on a glass, then misting with water, will give the appearance of a big refreshing perspiring glass. So take note, oh food photographers.
The other table spoke of dating Christians. I didn’t get the details. But I did get details of the cocktails! All their speciality cocktails are $9.50.
Becca: Napoleon Complex – fair vodka, torres 10 year brandy, satsuma, mandarin napoleon, vanilla, lemon.
My drink was very nice, and if it was a little weak in spirit as reviews I’d seen often complain about, it was just right for me. I picked it because of the Encanto Pisco, an artisan spirit distilled in San Francisco but in the style of authentic Peruvian pisco. Plus, bitters!
For food, we all tried different things. Becca had the parmesan custard with endive, cara cara oranges and caper vinaigrette. She loved it, describing the balance of custard with savory as pleasantly unexpected. It was a beautifully plated item and would have been one of the favorites at the table…except that everyone else loved their appetizers, too.
Damon had the wild nettle stuffed pasta with goat cheese, lemon and almonds. He noted that the nettles didn’t sting at all! I also got no photo of this, as he was the farthest away at the table and I was intimidated by the professional food photographers right next to me (not working, just judging, I feared).
James ordered the item most reviews rave about: steamed savory clams with fennel sausage, fresno chiles and garlic toast. He said it was delicious, and I believe it. The clams were lovely and delicately small, the bread was perfectly toasted. He looked like he was enjoying this playground of seafood and sausage in his bowl.
I went with the raw Massachusetts day boat scallops with shaved fennel, marinated beets, blood orange and crème fraîche. I wanted seafood, and I wanted beets. Damn, I love beets! And maybe I was still disappointed by the small portion of beets were in my lunch salad. This was a wonderful dish, very fresh tasting yet tangy, sweet, bitter, creamy, crunchy, just all round awesome.
By now I was thoroughly intimidated by the professional food photographer talk next to me, so the only photo of the main dishes I got was my own. And it’s not even a very good one! I had the coffee rubbed pork shoulder with creamy hominy and collard greens. James had the same. This dish is described as the signature item of Range, the main dish that should be a part of anyone’s bucket list. It was insanely tender, holding shape on the plate until touched with a fork when soft strands would pull away like a dark rich butter. The coffee flavor was strong, and the meat in general had that intense slow-cooked taste. I might almost say it tasted a little tired, from being so strong tasting. James agreed.
Damon had the green lentil and portobello stuffed pan di zucchero with butternut squash puree, onion rings and yogurt. He seemed pretty happy there were onion rings on his dish! From my point of view, his dish looked like a piece of raw flank steak, rolled around some filling. It turned out to be the pan di zucchero, which is a kind of chicory, looking a bit like radicchio. That was the red lettuce with white veins that looked like meat with heavy lines of connective tissue to me.
Becca picked the winner, being the person at the table who figured out the appetizers were the way to go. She had whiskey and brown sugar glazed pork spare ribs with a carrot slaw. It was the perfect portion for someone not starving, and the pork shredded off the bones in fine thick pieces, and Becca found even the pork marrow bones were soft, edible and delicious. This spawned a whole new conversation about how everyone at the table – minus the vegetarian – loved roasted marrow bones. Yes yes, it’s good stuff.
For dessert, Damon had an espresso coffee, Becca had the blue cheese plate with honeycomb, and James and I shared a bergamot and bittersweet chocolate soufflé with earl grey ice cream. The texture of the souffle was perfect, warm, fuffy, chewy on the edges, creamy at the bottom. The bergamot and bittersweet chocolate was perhaps a little too bitter for me, and I feel that’s entirely a personal preference rather than a criticism of the souffle. Pairing it with the ice cream was a good balance, but I would have liked a little more ice cream to cut the bitterness of the cake.
Foodwise, everyone loved their appetizers. Mains were a mixed bag. None were bad, of course, but didn’t seem as interesting or innovative as the appetizers. And being a main course, they were decent sized portions, which was overly filling. If given the opportunity again, everyone agreed it would be better to order everything on the appetizer menu and skip the mains. I’m down with that, I love variety.
Range – Mission neighborhood
I don’t know about you, but I’m still a little upset over JR’s BBQ closing several years back. JR’s turned beef ribs into tender meat velvet on a bone and they had great sweet potato fries. But I’m at a good point in my grief cycle and it’s time to move on.
A good way to dabble in what they offer is sampling the happy hour menu. Appetizers are half off up until 7 pm, and you can try the trio of sliders for about $3.50. That’s what we got, and it includes a bbq brisket slider, a pulled bbq chicken slider and a pulled pork slider. They come on lightly toasted rolls, with a generous dollop of cole slaw sweetened with pineapple. They were all good, but with the sauces dominating the flavor spectrum it’s hard to tell which is which.
Speaking of sauces, most items already come seasoned and lightly sauced, but you can add more bbq sauce and there are several to choose from. A sweet sauce, a honey chipotle and a habanero sauce. I’m like goldilocks, I like the one in the middle.
Another item ordered from the appetizer list was the deep fried mac and cheese balls. If you’re a deep fried fan, this is a fun one to try. The cheese has a good tang to it. It comes with a spicy mayonnaise for dipping. Normally $5, and $2.50 at happy hour.
We also tried a half rack of baby back ribs, which were great, very tender while still holding structure on the bone. These came with two sides and I went for the deep fried goodness of sweet potato fries and onion rings, all tasting fine. It’s $11 for the half rack and two sides.
This was a lot of food for three people, so it’s not surprising we had some leftovers, which the folks at Killer B’s were happy to provide a takeaway box for. Aw, what a cute little slider in a big cavernous box.
People who’ve had Memphis style bbq, or Kansas City bbq in Memphis or Kansas City grouse that Killer B’s is not either, but I doubt that Killer B’s is trying to be just like those places. Hey, I don’t say your fried rice is bad because you don’t make it like my mom’s fried rice. The guy working the smoker has his way of doing things, and the fact that there *is* a smoker on site to barbeque the meat is pretty cool, and I like the food that came out of it.
At the time I visited, Killer B’s could serve beer and wine. But soon they’ll have a full bar license with proper cocktails. Technically, they consider themselves a sports bar, which isn’t really my thing, but the convenient location, the access to bbq made on site in a large smoker and the temptation of a cocktail would keep me coming back.
Killer B’s BBQ and Bar
We came here on a whim while in the area. My own town’s bbq is slim pickings, most don’t even qualify as bbq, it’s more grilling.
It looked to be run entirely by two fellows who moved back and forth between the firepit grills and the service counter. Plus the queue for Just BBQ is the longest of any vendor in this food court, and that’s a testament to the business’ popularity, not just because the second wait to pay for the meal is stacked with patrons while the bbq guys leave the counter to tend to the grills.
My issue is mainly the sauce. We ordered one mild sauce, and an extra serving of sauce as hot. Just to try both. What we received may have been two hot sauces, because I could not for the life of me discern a difference – they’re just, simply, ridiculously hot. The kind of hot that masks any potential flavor because all there is is hot. Someone out there can proudly piss the farthest, and eat the hottest of hot sauce because it provides a sense of self-fulfillment, or pride, of WINNING, I guess. But maybe, just maybe, someone would like to eat without burning their face off – myself perhaps – so please, make a mild sauce actually mild.
Maybe they gave me the wrong sauce. However, there’s a sign posted claiming the hot sauce is hot, and if you get the hot sauce and find it too hot, you cannot exchange it for the less hot. So, first, I’m giving the benefit of the doubt that what I ordered was indeed what I received – in which case the mild sauce is too hot and no dangling carrot of cheap eats will compel me to return for another round of that. And second, what’s a girl to do upon finding the hot sauce is too hot.
It’s also pretty easy to grill a tri-tip and babyback ribs. When the bbq style can turn a pile of beef ribs into some kind of fall-of-the-bone tender goodness, that will get my attention. Unfortunately these beef ribs required enough gnawing with strings of connective tissue stuck to my teeth it was almost like I was back in junior high with braces. Not pretty.
Anyway, Just BBQ was also lots of grilled bread, and beans, and big cups of coke, and macaroni salad, coleslaw, potato salad and sweet potato pie. It’s a gutbuster of a meal and its patrons spill out across the entire food court as much as they spill out of their own chairs. It’s really popular and cheap, absolutely devastating the competition in the florescent-lit food court.
The Far Western holds a special place in my list of food favs. It takes effort to get to, and that greater efforts yields a greater sense of reward.
My family started coming to the Far Western since childhood, on the yearly camping trip to Los Osos. The annual trek has fallen to the wayside, but when the wanderlust to Central California picks up, this is the place I feel drawn to.
To me, this is one of the benchmarks of the central Californian steakhouse, second only to HP1 because it opened 6 years later in 1958. But it goes a step further by providing two distinct dining areas – the saloon and the dining room, and providing all the detail of meatlover’s restaurant down to animal skin curtains and booths, and rooms wallpapered with cowhide.
Meals, unless ordered a la carte, come with many little side dishes. It’s a gut-buster, yes, but it’s all so good that it’s hard to pick your battles. Just nibble on little bits of it all and put together a doggie bag.
First, crudite and salsa, or maybe it’s called a relish tray. The platter has radishes, pickles, carrots, celery, peppers and spring onions. Much crunching to keep your mouth busy while perusing the menu. There is also a bowl of salsa, for dipping, or for adding to other parts of the meal.
Then, your choice of soup or salad. Go with the soup unless you love roughage of any kind because the salad tends toward the simple iceberg although the croutons look housemade. If you’re with someone, get both. The soup that day was beef and vegetable and I thought it was lovely. Good chunks of smokey flavored and extremely tender beef. The vegetables were sturdy and not overcooked.
The main course arrives with a bowl of Santa Maria’s own pinquito beans and a basket of garlic bread. If you really need to ration your stomach space, pass on the bread, but it’s really good to dip it into the beans and hard to resist.
Our main courses were the ribs and the 8 ounce portion of the cowboy steak, medium rare. The ribs were grilled and slicked with a citrus bbq sauce. I really liked the flavor for not being overly sweet and the ribs were good to gnash the teeth on. Not falling off the bone like traditional bbq, but it’s still possible to clean up those bones properly. The ribs are two 10 ounce racks, price is $35.
The cowboy steak in the 8 ounce portion was $25, cooked right to our specifications, very juicy and tender.
The main dishes come with a choice of starch, we got a baked potato and the grilled polenta. The polenta was very simple in flavor, which was good to soak up the steak juices. The baked potato came with a pot of sour cream and sliced spring onions.
The Tavern serves up a lot of local wine, and the server came make recommendations. The wine prices are quite decent, with a push to order a bottle rather than a glass. The price of a glass is roughly half the cost of getting the whole bottle. We had a generous pour of a Malbec. And after the meal, some coffee.
There are other steakhouses within 30 miles that have a similar menu, down to the crudite and shrimp cocktail, but I like Far Western because of its authenticity without being pretentious, but still having an atmosphere of dignity where you can feel comfortable dining in boots and jeans, or in your Sunday best.
Parking’s a snap. The city is a bit of a ghost town to begin with, so if there isn’t parking on the street, there’s plenty in the public lot just across the street. And there you can admire some of the fine murals of Guadalupe.
One thing I can say with mild conviction about Goleta is that it’s no culinary mecca, and Goletans seem to like it that way. Serve up a big meaty portion and don’t charge much for it, and there’s the general formula for restaurant success. If it’s a local business makes it even better.
This is the second Nugget, with the first so unbearably far away in Summerland that this part of town can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing it’s no longer necessary to drive through downtown or the dreaded Milpas bottleneck.
Most of the offerings of this Nugget are based on the Summerland restaurant. I’d like to highlight what few items are different. For one, the bartender and his unique specialties. I went with some thirsty friends and we sat at the bar. There we learned that this Nugget has a big ol’ container of pepper infused vodka: sweet peppers, jalapenos and habaneros. The vodka has some kick to it and it’s served in the Bloody Caesar cocktail. I especially liked the pickled green beans in this drink.
The bar also brings the Mud Slide Cocktail to the table. Think of it as a milkshake for adults. It’s a nice way to wrap up a meal of a juicy burger.
I also tried the pomegranate cocktail. A bit sweet for my tastes, and I am a girlie that likes sweet things, but perhaps the portion will appeal to some. Not just a cocktail glass, but a full pint, which is poured in portions into a cocktail glass. Oof.
The Nugget also has a sort of special dish menu, perhaps for lunches, or a portion that’s not a full blown gut-buster main. It seems to contain items of good value. We learned that the crowd favorite was the beef stroganoff, coming in at $9. Someday I’ll try it, but it was not for me that night.
Instead I ordered a meal that the Summerland Nugget does not offer: baby back ribs. A full rack, with a side of vegetables and starch, for $20. The meat was falling off the bone and wasn’t overly slathered in sweet sauce. It turned out my thirsty friends were also a little hungry, and we all dug into them and there was still some left over.
I’d put the food at 3 stars, A-OK. Plus an extra star comes from improving the Calle Real strip mall with one more local business.
So much for trying to eat at Edomasa this evening. I even had some notes of friends recommendations. Soon, I hope. Soon!
Instead, it was a Kobachi evening.
Top row, left: iced green tea, ordered by both Drew and Laura. I had hot green tea.
Middle row, left: a plate of BBQ beef ribs. Very tasty, but I was the only person at the table that would eat the gristle and pick the bones clean. It even threw off the waiter, who initially hesitated on clearing the plate as he thought we weren’t finished. Then he saw the gnaw marks. Wasteful Americans!
Bottom row, left: Pork kaku-ni, the tender cooked pork belly. Delicious and fatty, we couldn’t finish it and took a piece home.
The surprise of the night was dessert, it came to the table after we’d settled up the bill. Normally it’s a little mochi ice cream, or a little black sesame flan, but today we got some yummy jelly roll and a melt-it-in-your-mouth dessert I can only describe as a chocolate mousse yorkshire pudding. Want more, please!
Side note: a recent visitor of Japanese descent translated “kobachi.” It means “small dish.” Makes sense.
Kobachi Izakaya Dining
The Hitching Post got a bum deal.
People who’ve grown up in nearby cities hear of it and go, “Casmalia….the DUMP?!”
People who’ve grown up in the era of Sideways hear of it and go, “I thought it was in Buellton.”
The Hitching Post just can’t win. But those who bite their tongue when they’re about to screech, “the DUMP!?” (that’s me) and forge on to this location do win.
Nothing fancy and hoity toity, no cloying bbq sauce on their ribs – just delicious slabs of meat.
Casmalia itself still has that ghost town look, but inside the Hitching Post is dark, lively and inviting. Watch the guys searing away at the grill while you nibble on your platter of vegetables or your little cup of shrimp cocktail. Eat your steak. Feel smug that you’ve transcended the first tier of chowhounds diverted over to the HP2.
And you really can’t smell the dump at all!
The Hitching Post
Decent and very cheap meaty treats for the working class. I don’t go here for anything fancy, just piles of bbq ribs.
Standard orders of ribs (beef, pork, pork babybacks) or bbq chicken hover in the $10 range. A basket of fries is ginormous and spiked with a chile salt. I feel full everytime I look at my photo.
You order and pick up at the counter, everything’s fairly self serve
This is not the place to come on an intimate quiet date, the Main Street Grill is one big open space with simple booth and barstool style sitting. It is loud and energized indoors, what with all the sports showing on the big screen tvs and red meat umami pervading the room.
Vegetarians will shake and quiver uncomfortably in the corner.
Main Street Grill