Solid. This is a very good business to bring to Goleta. I’m really glad it’s opened.
It’s not fancy or fine dining. It’s in a strip mall, so is subject to the usual plastic aesthetic, although they’ve added some fishnets here and there and buoys to give the impression of an old salty diner. It’s a valiant attempt, but it is still a strip mall.
The food is super fresh, that’s the important thing. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked beautiful, piled up on plates. Light, crisp looking batters on the fried dishes, baking sheets with crusty loaves of bread waiting to be broken apart and dipped into seafood hotpots, and nearly all the wall space near the counter scrawled with assorted specials of the day.
McMarko and I didn’t order any of the more traditional fish and chip items, we each had our own missions. I was on the seek for interesting fried chicken wings and sweet potato fries. My friend wanted to be healthy. We got:
* grilled fish with salad, rice, mango salsa.
The grilled fish was perfect. Nice char on the outside, beautifully fork-tender and flaky inside. The mango salsa was tangy sweet, a good complement, it cost in the $14-16 range.
As for my lunch, the wings are yummy! And unique to Santa Barbara’s chicken wing scene (as far as I know). Instead of the hot sour buffalo style, they’ve got a very light tempura batter with asian flavorings and dressed with some sesame seeds. It’s not spicy hot and it is sufficiently sauced, it doesn’t need any dipping sauce.
Nikka is also a fish market, providing sushi-grade fresh fish which you can pack up to go like a regular market, of they’ll grill your purchase to eat there for $5 extra (1 pound minimum purchase).
The music inside might be subject to the whims of its staff. I like my AC/DC, perhaps not so much over lunch with office-suit types.
Overall, I’m very happy with Nikka. If you’re used to paying $10 or less for a gut-buster lunch, you might find this expensive. But if you prefer quality over quantity, this satisfies. The Elder Jellies (my parents) dined here a few weeks after I did, groused that their meals cost a little over $25 (on par with my lunch experience), but did admit the food was very good and they were very happy with their fish.
Logistical note: Nikka Fish and Grill is tucked behind some pillars and well-shaded, it’s not easy to spot from the street. It’s also not to be confused with Nikka Market, which is across the street. Best landmark to use is Trader Joe’s because *everyone* knows where that is, and it’s almost directly across Calle Real from there.
I was sitting at a popular blue-collar bar a couple weeks ago, and the friendly woman next to me started chatting about food. She mentioned that the restaurant spot next to the Creekside (RIP JR’s BBQ I still miss you!!) was soon going to reopen, and the place would be called Meat n’ Potatoes, with a comfort food theme.
Well, she was right, so thank you for that, Friendly Bar Woman, and not only did it open, but the fellow who does the pizza there is none other than Rudi, the fellow who used to make the Deanos pizza. Y’ALL remember Deanos, right? That campaign to save the pizza shop on the Mesa from closing? Regardless of where you stood on the issue, and regardless of the quagmire it’s still in (apparently the owner skipped out on the lease and left a couple other holding the bill and a lawsuit, ouch), there’s a segment of town that loved the pizza there. And it’s here! I should note that Rudi has been making pizza at the Creekside for some time, serving it out the back window of the bar’s patio. But nobody seemed to be talking that up. Now that the restaurant portion is open with a larger menu, there’s more reason to pop by for a bite.
So now we have Meat n’ Potatoes, where the concept is simple, blue collar comfort food in a simple environment. It’s part of a suite of Red Star Restaurants who also have Alcazar on the Mesa and Milk & Honey downtown, the now-closed Chilango’s downtown, and the soon-to-be Pub in the Funkzone.
They have a “full” bar, in the sense that you can order cocktails and such, but do not expect to have a delicately muddled mojito. Think simple! Gin and tonic, vodka cranberry. But yeah, they’ve got a proper liquor license, and while I was there people wandered in and happily sat the bar to have a basic cocktail. I was also there when the Creekside was having some kind of cowboy night, so people came in all dressed up as well. And you know who else walked in? Friendly Bar Lady, who’d first turned me onto the place.
Foodwise, think sliders, pizza, steak, potatoes in assorted forms, basic salads. I got an order of sweet potato fries, because I missed the ones from Chilango’s. They came out piping hot with a side of chipotle mayo, just as I remember them. They cost about $5.
Then I had to try the pizza and see how much they were like Rudi’s when he was making them on the Mesa. I got the pizza with bacon, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms. Sure enough, the crust was the signature style where it’s rolled many times to have a crisp flaky texture, and the pizza was baked on parchment so the cheese that fell off the sides of the dough got browned and crispy. Uh, yum? The onions on this pizza, btw, were super caramelized, making the whole pizza rather sweet tasting. I sat at the bar chatting with my dining companion long enough that our pizza got cold and the crust lost its cripsness. That’s okay! They offered to throw the pizza back into the oven and warm it up again. Perfect!
Bonus: it turned out there was a Facebook promo going on, and the pizza that night was just $10! Normally this combination is $16. So, if you like deals like this, consider joining their facebook page where the offers will be pushed.
The final item on the simplicity concept: CASH ONLY. None of this nampy pampy plastic stuff. For someone like me, who has trouble faffing around with smelly green pieces of paper, it’s potentially a nuisance. But there’s an ATM in the restaurant and the fees are more reasonable than most others, at $1.95 for a transaction. ‘Sco.
But no matter the concept, Meat n’ Potatoes faces the same issue as all the places before it: parking is ass. If the Creekside is hopping busy, you’ll be hardpressed to find a place to park. So get there early, and carpool!
Meat n’ Potatoes
A quick lunch with Tom, while running errands. We were peckish, but not particularly hungry. We went to Kahuna Grill, I got an order of sweet potato fries.
It’s ample, but these are not my favorite. They are a bit too soft and mealy for my tastes. But I do like making a dipping sauce from 4 parts bbq sauce, and 1 part ketchup, both of which come from the condiment pumps.
There ya go.
I returned here with some friends for the happy hour specials, where appetizers are half off.
There are also deals on beer and house wines, $3 wells, and $2 off the specialty cocktails and specialty shots, which are normally $8.50 and $7.50, respectively. So, YES, Killer B’s now has a full liquor license.
I tried the Sunset cocktail, which seemed similar to a Cosmopolitan in ingredients. Vodka, lime, cranberry, triple sec I think. One thing that surprised me was the size. Elegant, no. Big, yes. Weak, probably, but not to me since I am a lightweight. I had to nurse my drink for nearly two hours. Serving it up in a pint glass is quite popular to the hungry crowds, the manager hinted. They also hinted of cocktail experiments taking place, trying to incorporate some of Killer B’s unique sauces with say, a signature bloody mary. Sounds good to me.
As for food, it was a share-fest. We shared a platter of sweet potato fries (yum!) and the slider trifecta, getting a chicken slider, a pork slider and a beef slider, all dressed with coleslaw and served on little toasted buns. Finally, we shared an order of deep fried mac and cheese balls. Deadly and delicious, thank goodness we were sharing.
With my cocktail, 1 well drink and 3-4 beers, plus sliders and mac and cheese, the bill was $25, quenching thee people. Not bad!
Now for other deal news: lunch specials!
I picked up a flier for their latest lunch deal, called the Express Lunch Menu. The dealio is that the food will come in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free. The fine print: valid Monday-Friday from noon-3 pm, excluding holidays. Does not include alcoholic beverages. Dine in only, and most notify server prior to ordering that you’re “in a hurry” ya know.
So what’s the food?
BBQ Chicken Salad
All meals include a soda and one side. Starting at $7.99 and nothing is over $10. Whattadeal, you penny pinchers, tightwads, frugal gourmets, and lunch rushers. Plus, BBQ!
Killer B’s BBQ and Bar
A small group came here after a fantastic show of Mummenschanz at the Granada. We were still riding high on the quirky creativity of the group and an unexpected visit backstage after the show where we met the performers and even played with one of their clay masks from the show.
This time, I got to try their highly touted mac and cheese. It’s good! The right amount of soft gooey cheese that shows it’s a homemade sauce that doesn’t clump up or get greasy. I do wish the top sprinkling of cheese got a little more time under the grill, to get the cheese golden brown, but there will be other opportunities.
Not to make the macaroni our only carb, we also got the sweet potato fries, as they are my personal favorite.
Alicia got the pulled pork sliders with cabbage, which looked fabulous. She also requested the “secret sauce” which is a sweet curry mayonnaise . Uh, yum!
I’m a fan!
Some parents must have finally kicked their 40 year old son out of their converted garage and made him take his record collection and vintage pinballs game with him. That guy then moved it all into Billies and bob’s your uncle. The interior totally feels like that garage hangout, with a half-spruced up concrete floor and a wall covered with 80s album covers. Test yourself and see how many you recognize, like the Loverboy cover. Oooh, caught! You liked Loverboy!
As far as diner food goes, Billies’ direction is right where I want to go – they grind their own beef for the burgers, their ketchup is housemade, the chili seems to be made of mostly chunks of tender pork shoulder. And the sweet potato fries are portioned and priced to share – a large amount with plenty of chipotle mayo to dunk. Big props for doing so much of the menu from scratch.
I had the burger, the sweet potato fries and a small bowl of chili. This came to under $20, feeding two. The burger is medium rare to rare by default, which imho they can get away with because they grind the burger meat themselves. If you like it more well-done than that, then just specify. But if you like it with lots of pink, you don’t need to say anything. The cheese options are cheddar or pepperjack, and the onions come grilled.
The SPF may seem expensive, at $6.50, more than ordering a cheeseburger. BUT, the portion is for more than one person. Share it with another and the price works out to be perfectly normal. This is the kind of place where you come in with friends anyway, so no big.
On another visit, we ordered the mac and cheese combined with their chili. Good stuff! We sat at the bar, chatted with ourselves and other diners who were eagerly chowing down the burgers. Much camaraderie…just like hanging in that converted garage after school.
Whether you like that garage feel is a matter of opinion, but one criticism I had of the interior is not enough seating for the space. It’s either half a dozen padded barstools at the front, which are usually taken, or sparse wobbly thin tables along the wall. Maybe this is appropriate for the late night crowd that just wants some hot greasy yum before stumbling out into the night. But sober me thought there was room to put in more tables and chairs, and sturdier ones at that. I should hope that Billies *wants* more people to eat at their place, right?
Now, I don’ t know if it was the game, or the player, but my friend had a go on the Star Trek pinball and won two free games. At one point he had to walk away, cuz his food was getting cold.
Bonus: open until 3 am every night. Got late night munchies?
A little bird told us that the food was actually good at Blush, just pricey and lost amongst the fauxhawks and cougers clamoring for steak and salmon fillets.
Case in point, they had a foie gras special running this weekend and on Friday not a single person had ordered it. At the same time, there was no promotion of the special outside of Blush that could actually entice a foie gras lover to it. But I got word of it, thanks to my little bird, and I went to try it on a Saturday night, way before the CDB crowds arrived.
We sat at the bar, and ordered some nibbles. First, a cocktail. All were pricey, but not as pricey as the “Treetini.” I also hate the overuse of something-tini. The only tinis around should be MARtinis. BUT…at $15, it was a good cocktail, and any purchase of the drink provided funds to plant a tree somewhere in some needy country. That made us feel better.
Also by recommendation, we tried the hanger steak bites. This was hanger steak with blue cheese butter, madeira demi-glaze, chive mashed potatoes and sauteed mushrooms.At $14 it’s not the best price in town, but it’s still hanger steak, which is a tender cut and never widely available. The sauces were great and I loved the mushrooms.
The foie gras was perfect! It was seared “rouge” foie gras, chocolate brioche bread pudding, brandy poached pear, brandy gastrique, $14. For what you got, this was the best priced item on the menu. But isn’t it sad that I was the first person to order it after two days of it being the appetizer special? Sigh.
I have no doubt that Blush is a popular place. They have nice lounge areas, two swanky bar areas, and people going out for a night on the town will find this to be an ideal spot for the best bachlorette party ever, or the best bachelor party ever, or the best omg Megan is 21 party ever. My issue is that it’s a bit douchebaggy, and that the price of things goes towards the quality of the atmosphere (not to my tastes) while the passion behind the food is woefully ignored by its patrons. With that, I want to say that Blush does not respect its chefs. Or maybe it wants to, but it doesn’t need to, because people are going for other reasons that are sufficient to keep the business afloat. I wouldn’t begrudge them for pulling specials like the foie gras off the menu, because they aren’t doing enough to promote it, and their clientele doesn’t care for it anyway.
If every relative of mine from South Dakota suddenly showed up for a reunion, I think I could safely take them to Venita Rhea’s and they’d find something on the menu they’d like. In fact, I suspect some of the people there probably share some of my South Dakota gene pool. I don’t know what else to say other than this was my last hot breakfast before heading off to the desert for some extreme camping.
Ted got something that looked like a pile of sick, I think it was a scramble and it was a very big portion. Bloorf!
This is one of those restaurants where anything goes, where the customer can decide exactly what they want. But should they? Left to my own devices of assorted choices and substitutions, I ended up with a toasted bagel, a poached egg in a bowl, and some sweet potato fries. Most unstylish breakfast ever. I’ll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking of eating the sweet potato fries and taking the rest to go. But I wanted boiled eggs, and it turns out they don’t actually have eggs in their shells in the kitchen. huh? So, boiled eggs aren’t possible, but I can have them poached! It defeats the purpose of me taking them in a doggy bag, but fine. And now that I have to eat the eggs, I may as well eat the bagel. I don’t know, the whole thing was odd. Win some, lose some.
Bonus: comic geeks can relish the mural on the restaurant walls that are embedded with iconic cartoon figures and analogies.
Envision a group of Santa Barbara natives as a brewery and what you get in Union Ale.
By that, I mean this is a place that seems to be built on a good foundation and privilege, but always feels a need to find itself. Unfortunately, this business can’t take off to Bali for a year, so it carries on awkwardly and unbalanced.
A place titled as a brewing company that doesn’t actually brew anything is confusing. If you can get over that, then the wide range of offerings on tap is commendable.
Also confusing is the ordering process. Food comes from the front bar. Beer comes from…the back bar? Or part from the front bar and part from the back bar? Or maybe it’s cocktails only from the front bar, and beer from the back bar? I never figured that one out. I just know that food is ordered at the front bar.
Next hurdle: the menu. The gestalt is good. It’s a snazzy design, almost a little steampunk. Then you start reading it and it all gets confusing. The font is BIG OVER HERE! And really really small over there! But no Tufte training will reveal the logic of why the design is like that. Good luck looking at the menu online. It’s a 5.4 mb pdf, as if I want to print it out in high-gloss and frame it on my wall. No, I’d rather have some simple text.
Someone had recommended that I try the sweet potato fries. But I can’t find them on the menu. Oh, they are listed as a side dish in the ribs portions of the menu. The staff don’t know where else it is on the menu, but sure they can offer it as a standalone item if I’m not getting ribs. How much? Only the register knows.
AND WHEN YOU ASK THE BAR GUY QUESTIONS, OR PUT IN YOUR ORDER, YOU HAVE TO YELL IT LIKE THIS BECAUSE THE MUSIC AND/OR TV IS REALLY REALLY LOUD.
That said, the food was good!
The order of sweet potato fries is $6 and enormous. A meal for 2 people. It comes in a bucket, with a side of ketchup and a choice of two other dipping sauces. We got the truffle mayo and buffalo sauce.
Our service, considering the noise levels, how busy it was, and the high douche bag atmosphere, was very good! The fellow who brought the food gave us updates on food prep speeds, brought napkins, checked up on my water, checked up on how we liked the food. We weren’t even in a high traffic and eye contact area, he really went out of his way. For all this attentiveness like a waiter, it’s confusing that this bar/restaurant doesn’t officially have waiter service.
So, Union Ale is four stars on food, and loses a star for not knowing itself and for its DB atmosphere and stoopid promotion of hemp ale which keeps the public assuming that hemp is the same as pot. And that damn menu!
Forgive me, I need to catch my breath after practically running back to my computer after having these at lunch time. Ok, I’m ready.
Sweet potato fries.
Now available. $2.75 for a very generous order.
Try them with the bbq sauce. Aw yeah. Kahuna has redeemed itself from the whulpable “Wipe Out” chili cheese fries.
This probably applies to the downtown location, too.