It’s not like many hipsters are roaming the streets of Santa Barbara, but if there were, they’d inevitably eat at The Blue Owl, which has clearly captured the imagination of USCB students and twentysomething “townies.” During my recent dinner at Cindy Black’s “Asian American eating house,” a concept that sprouted from a late night pop-up at a nearby Thai restaurant called Zen Yai, young people were spilling from picnic tables into the street. Yes, The Blue Owl is a nocturnal hotspot, and Black has also installed a distinct daytime menu, since people can’t survive on porducken alone.
The Blue Owl space is very simple, with an open kitchen, a blackboard menu that advertises different menus for day and night. Seating consists of the aforementioned picnic tables, and decorative flair includes colorful art, a record player, and songs like “Talking In Your Sleep.” I hear the secrets that you keep, in case you weren’t sure.
Since The Blue Owl has an erasable blackboard, expect dishes to go by the wayside. Unfortunately for us, the night’s primary casualty was Porducken, a play on turducken featuring pork, duck and chicken adobo. However, they still had Spicy Black Bean Pork ($10), pulled pork lavished with savory fermented black bean sauce and served over a heaping portion of steamed white rice in a a Chinese takeout container. Scallions and cilantro were the only garnishes, and the pork to rice ratio needed some work, but this was a fun dish that even would have played well during daylight.
The Blue Owl features two different grass fed-beef burgers folded with green curry, and while the version with peanut butter and tamarind sauce sounded like a stoner’s dream, I was more interested in the Thai Basil Burger ($8). A juicy patty formed the core of a unique patty melt that also incorporated toasted white bread, Thai basil mayo and caramelized vegetables like onions, red pepper and chilies. The Blue Owl offers the option to add an egg. do it!
Even though owls thrive at night, The Blue Owl also has a Day Light menu that includes a Duck Croissant with duck pork sausage and kimchi; and Wake N Bacon with creme brulee waffle, poached egg and bacon. The implication with that last dish is that you’d have to be stoned to enjoy it, but I’m willing to take on the Wake N Bacon with clear eyes, and to face The Blue Owl when the sun’s still in the sky.