The Shop: Santa Barbara Comfort Food + Collaboration

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Restaurant Sign Santa Barbara

If you want proof that Santa Barbara is still a small town, look no further than The Shop. I learned about the eclectic cafe from Julienne chef Justin West, who was grabbing coffee with his kitchen crew at Handlebar Coffee Roasters and used to work with The Shop co-owner Chris Vigilante at San Ysidro Ranch and Wine Cask. Yes, you’ll find a lot of interconnectivity along the American Riviera, and The Shop, which opened on December 13, 2012, thanks to Chris Vigilante, his wife Amy, Dudley Michael and Scott Manser, is no exception.

Restaurant Santa Barbara
The Shop occupies the former home of Taqueria El Refugio, next to a tire shop. Order at the window and proceed to either a sun dappled outdoor patio with picnic tables or dining room with painted whisks, skillets, ladles and silverware. No matter where you sit, expect to hear songs like Stealers Wheel “Stuck In The Middle With You” and Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But a G Thang.”

Head chef Richie Maxwell presides over a menu that includes breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and “shopmade” pastries, which are tantalizing impulse buys when standing at the window. Nobody’s from the South, but Southern influences seep into specials like the shrimp po’ boy, shrimp and grits, and Yolo, a sausage gravy, fried chicken buttermilk biscuit. There’s even a General Sanders fried chicken sandwich. Apparently the Colonel got a promotion.

Hamburger Santa Barbara
Shop Burger ($9) is 1/3 lb, and an 80/20 beef blend from Santa Barbara’s Shalhoob Meat Company, bound with light breadcrumbs. Tangy bread and butter pickles, crisp shredded iceberg lettuce, green goddess dressing, and spicy horseradish cheddar join the meat in a waffle batter bun that demonstrates sweetness similar to Hawaiian bread.

Salad Santa Barbara
Cecilia ($10) is a well-balanced, gluten free salad containing squash, quinoa, shaved almonds, red bell pepper, earthy black eyed peas, sweet corn kernels, hearty kale and savory feta. The name came about because Cecilia sounds better than Celiac, victims of which for who the salad is intended.

Banana Bread Santa Barbara
The Shop bakes everything in-house, including chapati – a wheat flatbread – which Chris Vigilante and another partner learned about while working on a charitable well project in Uganda. Chapati now factors into breakfast wraps like the ironically unglamorous Rolex. We scored a slab of banana bread ($2) which was well spiced and sported supple fruit.

It’s no secret that locals have a handle on what’s new and fresh in town, and when those locals are also talented chefs like Justin West, take heed. There may just be another Shop around the corner.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

[…] An easier lunch commute is the short to my fave restaurant on Milpas street, The Shop. The Shop has a big menu or delicious foods, like fish tacos, a GREAT avocado wrap (my regular order), burgers, salads, a tri-tip sandwich, all in addition to a breakfast menu. My only complaint is that the food takes a little long to prepare, so I definitely advise calling ahead. The wait is worth it though because of the high quality of the food. There is indoor and outdoor seating that always fills up quickly because The Shop is so popular. It only opened earlier this year! […]

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