Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson expanded Handlebar Coffee Roasters from Downtown to Midtown in September 2017, taking over Santa Barbara’s original Safeway market. The airy brick building debuted in the ’30s and features a towering ceiling with bow truss beams and plentiful seating. The space now houses a 1961 Probat coffee roaster, custom four-group Keys Vanderwesten Spirit espresso machine, and upgraded food and pastry program from Chef Sandra Adu Zelli.
Handlebar was already one of Santa Barbara’s best coffee options, and the investments that Olson and Anderson made have paid off with even better results. Barista training was also evident during my visit, and in my textbook Gibraltar ($3.50). This espresso drink with minimal steamed milk, which Steve Ford developed as a quick-hitter at Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco, is typically available off-menu, though Handlebar lists Cortado / Gibraltar on their overhead menu. The vessel is the primary difference. A cortado comes in a 4-ounce ceramic cup, while the Gibraltar comes in a 4.5-ounce glass tumbler called a Gibraltar. Handlebar’s version was well balanced, with impressive artistry.