Santa Barbara Fishouse and Joe's Cafe

There is something about traditional reviews that makes me so annoyed.

I’ve decided to start “reviewing” things around town in Santa Barbara. I’m writing about the world but not about the place I live. That doesn’t make much sense given Santa Barbara is as good a destination as any.

And I’m sitting here trying to come up with a “good” way to tell you that I had a nice dinner with some friends at the Santa Barbara Fishouse on Saturday night, contemplating words like “atmosphere,” “décor,” and “succulence.”

You see, what I was doing was following the way they want me to do it. Then I remembered I’m writing this for myself.

I’m not denouncing my mentors – I’m not saying they are wrong. But I do not want to do it that way, at least not today.

Today, I only want to tell you that I went to the Santa Barbara Fishouse with some friends. It was an awfully nice-looking interior, complete with aquariums and what looked like a fun, lively bar (we were late, so we did not get to partake). My friends had specialty cocktails at the table, though, and they all drank them down rather quickly, not one mentioning a single complaint. Louis said the Mojito was making him feel fine, but I was not craving anything sweet so I had a vodka martini – Absolut (remind me to tell you my Grey Goose vs. Absolut story) – with green olives and it was very refreshing.

I really, really enjoyed my dish of macadamia nut encrusted halibut with pineapple sauce, white rice and veggies. It was totally cooked in butter – all of it, and I could certainly taste that – but I never use butter when cooking for myself at home, so it was a welcome treat. Health-related comments aside, it was wonderful. The halibut had a thick texture which made it easy to pile on the rice and sauce (as my father always said, it’s all going the same place). Still, I would say my favorite part of the meal was the Pacific oysters on the half shell, with a bit of horseradish, cocktail sauce and lemon. I am one who often thinks the term “fresh seafood” is a marketing tool – not so in terms of these oysters.

After, we went to Joe’s Cafe, which I will officially disclose as my favorite bar in Santa Barbara. In an area of town so riddled with awful collegiate bars (Sharkey’s, O’Malley’s), it’s nice to find a place that knows how to pour a drink. For once, it is four fingers of booze, one of mixer, instead of the other way around. I’ve eaten there before – the food is pleasing after a round of drinks (not to infer otherwise when sober, but I cannot comment). The way I describe Joe’s to my friends from out of town is that it’s like going to a wedding reception: there is a great sense of class, yet no one can seem to fully open their eyes. It’s a wonderful place to gather with friends. Although it will see its fair share of college students from 10-11 p.m., there is plenty of light and you can always hear what the person next to you is saying.


  1. I love the Santa Barbara Fishhouse! Excellent food and great service, it is always a treat to be there. I really enjoy their cooked salmon, always cooked to perfection. I went there the last time I was in Santa Barbara and I really enjoyed myself! I stayed at the Sandman Inn ( Very budget friendly and the location is the absolute best!

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