It seems that 2013 has been the year of the motorcycle for me. It was 2011, though, that I finally got the nerves to even climb on the back of one. That was when my friend David scooted us around San Francisco, and it was perfect. Being able to go anywhere, in any traffic and always have a place nearby to park, that worked just fine. He understood that this was my first time, and he went slow and didn’t take any risks. Plus, the weather was awesome.
Maybe it’s because more of my peer group is in the mid-life crisis range, or maybe it’s because I’m finally noticing, but lately many of my friends seem to have motorcycles, and they seem open or even enthusiastic about me hopping on the back and going for a moto around places. This year I’ve explored some of the central coast, more of San Francisco, even a bit of Portland, on the back of a friend’s bike. For the Santa Barbara area, my friend Dan holds the medal of most times scooting around with me.
On this day, we went downtown to explore Focus on the Funk Zone, and the New Noise Music Festival. We grabbed some snacks and a sip of wine in the Funk Zone, but it wasn’t enough, and it was getting near evening. Both of us were keen to head south on the bike, so we took the winding backroads along the base of the foothills all the way out to Carpinteria. As with other motos, it was great to feel the wind and smell all the grasses and trees along the way until we reached the moist salty air of beachside Carp.
Dan is more acquainted with the brewery in the area, with no experience going to Sly’s. But that’s where I wanted to go, at least for a cocktail, and I was eyeing up a restaurant across the street for the meal if the offerings at Sly’s weren’t to Dan’s liking. But as it turned out, we walked into Sly’s exactly at Happy Hour! There were drink and food specials. We had no idea! Talk about hitting the jackpot.
Sly’s happy hour is 7 days a week, so yes, even on the weekends like when we were there. It’s 4-6 pm, in the bar section of the restaurant and people can either sit at the bar, or the tables in the front. There is one specialty cocktail at $8, and wells are $6, glasses of wine are also $6. Again, being lucky, tonight’s cocktail was the Whiskey Cocktail. I thought they were joking, since it’s my favorite cocktail from them, but it was real. I pinched myself.
The happy hour menu has a selection of bar nibbles available too. Shrimp cocktail, mussels, oysters, grilled cheese. Check out the photo of the menu just below, it’s probably easier than me typing it all out.
Immediately I ordered the Whiskey Cocktail, which went to Dan since it was his first and he needed to be a convert. For myself, I gave the Papa Doble a try, the Hemingway Daquiri. Recipes vary, the Sly’s version is noticeably low in sweetness, it tastes more like an elegant cocktail rather than a foofy drink. And no Papa Doble I’ve ever drank was a frozen concoction. After these, we took careful stock of our limit, and decided we could share one more drink. This time, Dan needed to experience their house gin and tonic. It turned out to be the perfect choice, since Dan happens to love this drink and, like many of us, was getting increasingly frustrated by the quality of mainstream tonic – too much high fructose corn syrup. He had started to shop around for making his own tonic. Well! Sly’s makes their own tonic, in the same way Dan was planning to. It was exactly what he wanted.
Note, though: if you want the housemade tonic in your G & T, you must specify and order gin and “house tonic.” The default is regular tonic water.
Pictured below, left to right: Papa Doble, Whiskey Cocktail, Gin and House Tonic.
Of course we ordered some food, there’s hot dogs on the menu! Turns out, Dan loves a good hot dog too, and rarely eats them for the same reason he was down on tonic – most of the stuff out there is pretty bad quality. But it’s Sly’s, sources are reputable here. We both got the “Odeon” French style hot dog. It’s two hot dogs on a thick slice of bread, broiled with creamy Gruyere cheese and mustard, $6.
I also ordered the chilled bay shrimp cocktail for $7, also delicious. This was enough to get us home, but if it hadn’t been we’d have been down for some mac and cheese. And Sly’s onion rings are also really good – really fine shavings lightly battered and piled high.
Needless to say, I was happy at Sly’s happy hour, and Dan was happy to have finally discovered Sly’s and the most awesome cocktails in 805. By now it was far into the evening, and we bundled up for the trip home. We took 101 this time, along the coast, and the last lights of the sunset were still glowing over the ocean for the whole moto to Santa Barbara, it was really beautiful. You know I’m not going to take a picture of that, I’m too busy clinging to the back of the bike.
Our desire to come here was driven more by our hunger than our desire for another cocktail. What are we on, a pub crawl? No.
Sabrina had planted the seed when she thought Coast had $2 tacos on Tuesdays. At the time I thought she was confusing it with Sharkeez’s tacos on Tuesdays (no thanks). But then I spied on the Canary Hotel’s twitter that there was a taco deal, all day on Thursdays. So she was close.
It was getting late, and this is a great option for a cheap and cheerful meal, while in an elegant surrounding. Of course this doesn’t beat the whole-in-the-wall taquerias on price and street food authenticity, but for a higher end hotel, I thought it was great.
There are very few hotels I dine in, mainly because I don’t ever need to stay in a hotel in Santa Barbara, but this is one I’ve been to a few times now. The chef participates in many food and wine fundraisers, so I get the skinny on his passion and creativity from there. I still can’t say I feel entirely comfortable there, I think that may be part of the hotel atmosphere where most people are passing through. The bartenders do double-duty as psychologists or buddies, with a patient ear for travellers’ woes. When the bill comes, the staff seem surprised to learn I’m actually just here for the food or a drink, I’m not staying at the hotel.
Still, I like it. It’s nice to detach myself from being a Santa Barbara local and drop into an interzone of sorts. And at $2 a taco, the price is right.
First, a beverage. The happy hour menu on drinks ran until 9 pm. We walked in with about 5 minutes to spare and got a pineapple margarita, $6. This was on the menu, but the bartender could have made one other flavors. Top shelf cocktails were $8, by the way, not including the fancy scotches.
The choices for tacos were chicken tacos, pork tacos (top row), and steak tacos and snapper tacos (bottom photo).
They are amply portioned, served on two large-ish corn tortillas with salsa and guacamole on the side. I thought the fish, beef and pork ones were delicious, while the chicken was okay. Really, that’s the chicken’s fault for being chicken. My top pick was the pork, which resulted in us ordered a second one, but the fish and beef were by no means worse. I really liked that the steak was clearly cooked as a larger piece beforehand to medium – with lots of pink in the middle – and then chopped for the taco filling. They were good mouthfuls and remained juicy and tender.
Each taco had a slight variation in filling, other than the meat obviously. The pork had grilled onions and corn, the snapper was creamy and topped with shredded cabbage. The chicken had grilled peppers and tomato, while the steak was garnished simply with fresh pico de gallo.
The taco deal is all day Thursday, from 11 am – 11 pm. It was a great way to end the evening. If only I lived downtown, I could spontaneously saunter over here for a late night snack more often. Maybe even dress up!