Cartas- Letters from Home

Food and Drink Feed

Savoy Cafe - Figueroa Street, Santa Barbara

Savoy 2

The Savoy Cafe is a true locals' treasure.  Owners Paul and Kathy, both Santa Barbara natives,  have created a comfortable, casual, chic little cafe right downtown, on Figueroa Street, just half a block from State Street. 

Whether you dine inside the cafe and people-watch from tables by the window, or eat in their lovely little patio area out back, you are sure to enjoy your meal, prepared from lots of fresh, organic ingredients.

They open at 9:00am, Monday through Saturday. 

Breakfast includes fresh Eggs Benedict for about $12, breakfast burritos, a citrus-french toast and other morning treats, while for lunch or dinner, you can order sandwiches and soups, or build an organic salad, creating your meal with any of the 40 organic ingredients that are offered daily.

Savoy 1

In addition to their breakfast, lunch, and dinner  menus,  you'll find specially-prepared items in their hot case , like, wild Salmon with Pineapple Salsa, Pasilla Turkey Cakes, Teriyaki Tofu, Beef Stroganoff, and a delicious list of sides, as well.   Side dishes include grilled organic vegetables, rice, mashed potatoes, squash gratin, macaroni and cheese.

Savoy 4

And their desserts?  Well, they are truly fresh, home-baked, and inspired.  You'll find traditional items, like chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake and lemon bars.  But be prepared for the unusual: lavendar cupcakes, pomegranate cupcakes, Savoy brownies with mocha ganache, lemon-blueberry bread,    Cakes, cookies, muffins, dessert bars, and other sweet treats are made fresh daily, with organic eggs and flour, real butter, and other natural ingredients which may include organic agave, honey, or pure maple syrup in place of refined sugar.  They also make  a variety of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian or vegan selections.  

The Savoy Cafe also offers catering services.   They love special requests, so if you're dreaming of a healthful, nutritious, delicious menu for a special event, give them a call - they'd love to discuss it with you.

But don't wait for an occasion.  Be spontaneous -  stop by the Savoy Cafe and Deli   to enjoy a cup of specialty tea and a bakery treat, or to create the salad of your dreams, or dine on cuisine that is made from fresh and organic ingredients, created with a distinctly Santa Barbara flair.  You will be delighted.

Open until 7pm Monday through Saturday.

Santa Barbara Fishermen's Market - Fresh Seafood Available at the Santa Barbara Harbor

Harbor Statue


Santa Barbara has the longest coast line of any county in Southern California, exceeding even San Diego in this respect.   Its area is 1,450,000 acres,  a large portion of which is composed of rugged mountains....The population of the county in 1890 was 15,754.   The narrow strip along the south coast,  sheltered from the north winds by the Santa Ynez Mountains,  has a most delightful climate which attracts health- and home-seekers of wealth and culture from all parts of the world....

As an indication that Santa Barbara does not live on climate alone,  the following statistics of shipments from the county in 1891,  the latest complete returns obtainable are given:  Beans, 6,744 tons;  barley, 4,000;  wheat, 2,975;  butter, 505;  walnuts, 260;  dried fruit, 60;  green fruit, 237;  asphaltum, 1,000; tallow, 300; hides, 400; wool, 400; corn, 150; dried abalones, 30; abalone shells, 50; dried fish, 10; oranges, 6,000 boxes; lemons, 10,000 boxes; hogs,  9,500; beef cattle, 5,000; sheep, 20,000; lobsters 20,000 sacks....

~ Land of Sunshine:  Southern California, 1893

Fishermen's Market Saturday Harbor 7

Santa Barbara, always a veritable "Land of Sunshine",  continues to offer the world some of the freshest, most beautiful provisions found anywhere - from land or sea.  

Every Saturday morning throughout the year, local fishermen offer seafood so fresh, it is still slick with the cold Pacific water from which it was plucked - only hours before you arrive at the Santa Barbara Harbor.

Fishermen's Market Saturday Harbor 5

The Santa Barbara Fishermen's Market takes place Saturday morning, from 7:30am - 11:30am.   Here, on the docks of the harbor, you will have the opportunity to meet with some of the Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara, our local experts and adventurers who ply the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and bring to land an abundant harvest from Neptune's depths.

Fishermen's Market Saturday Harbor 3

Last Saturday, I met the captain and crew of the local fishing vessel, Mysteri - Sam, Brian, and Sheri - who offered freshly-caught spiny lobster, sea whelks, and rock crab.   The crew were generous in sharing information about how the crabs, lobster, and whelks live, where they are harvested, and how best to prepare them.

I learned that the crew cuts the claws from their crabs - with a quick, almost surgical snip - which does not harm the crab in any way.   Rather than inflicting a mortal wound, they simply divest the crabs of their succulent appendages....and release the creatures back into the sea.  These filter-feeders  are dropped back into the briny depths after having spent only a couple of hours away from home.

Santa Barbara's commercial fishermen are passionate about maintaining sustainability - of ensuring the ocean's vitality and health, as well as the fishermen's way of life.  The fishermen are not only our direct link to obtainin fresh seafood, they are experts who share information and insight about our local waters and the creatures who live upon, around, and within the blue Pacific.

Fishermen's Market Saturday Harbor 6

You can meet the crew of the Mysteri  at the Santa Barbara Fishermen's Market every Saturday.  The crabs are available year-round, but the lobster are only in season through the middle of March.   Depending on the season and the luck of the day, you will meet other fishermen who bring their catch to the docks. 

Even if you can't make the early Saturday dock-side market, be sure to visit  the Santa Barbara Fish Market , also located at the harbor.

Santa Barbara Fish Market

The SBFM is the local direct outlet for Santa Barbara's commercial fishermen, and they, too, are happy to make recommendations, and offer recipes and ideas.

Santa Barbara's fishermen are local stewards of California's fishing heritage, they are partners in improving and maintaining the health of our ocean, they are a strong community in their own right, and a vitally important part of our community as a whole.

Fishermen's Market Saturday Harbor 8

To learn more about the Santa Barbara Harbor and Waterfront, visit their website.  

Visit the Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara website, to learn more about these oceanic ambassadors.  

And - be sure to try the Commercial Fishermen's recipe for Lobster, Shrimp and Rock Crab Creole - before lobster season ends for another year....

Fisheries 1899

San Marcos Cold Spring Tavern

Cold Springs Tavern 1


Far back in the Santa Barbara Mountains, California, is a snug little mountain camping ground called San Marcos Cold Spring.   Above the welcome watering trough useful alike to man and beast, is a small wooden box nailed to a tree.  On it is written "Wanderers' Library".   

Smallest Lending Library 

A seat by the side tempts the weary wayfarer to pause and let his horse rest and drink whilst he dismounts and sits down to enjoy the lunch he invariably carries for the long ride.  After taking a drink from the cold spring using the bright tin cup provided,  he can enjoy a feed for his mind till the horse is ready for a few more mountain miles.

Cold Springs Tavern 3 

Departure is often delayed for an hour if the news be of the latest, or of a specially interesting quality.   There was quite a variety of literature when I was there,  including a Bible and papers not a week old, and some magazines -amongst them being a Strand - from which I took my idea to send this for a Curiosity.  ~ Mrs Helen C Sexton,  Box 221,  Santa Barbara, California

The Strand Magazine, Vol. 31, 1906

Cold Springs 8

There are dozens and dozens of natural cold water springs in the vicinity of  "San Marcos Cold Springs", in the mountains above the City of Santa Barbara.  Although I have never seen any evidence of the charming "Wanderers' Library", described above,  I can direct you to another treasure located there:  the  Cold Spring Tavern.

The Tavern, located just off the San Marcos Pass,  is surrounded by tall, sinuous trees, mossy paths, and sandstone boulders;  it seems there is always a mountain breeze to ruffle the chimney smoke in the afternoon.  At once, you will feel that you are in an ancient place, a place where history seems to collect and merge into the present.

Cold Springs 9

 Although San Marcos Pass is now a scenic and very modern highway, it was, for thousands of years, a footpath originally created by the Chumash, Santa Barbara County's indiginous people.  Near the summit of the pass, and scattered through the vast landscape, are sites deemed as holy by the Chumash.  Painted Cave, a California State Park site located at the top of the San Marcos Pass, is one example.

In 1846,  Col John C Fremont  led hundreds of men across the storm-shrouded San Marcos Pass on a mission for the United States of America - to take Southern California from the Mexican government,  who had possession of it.   They arrived safely in Santa Barbara on Christmas Day of that year.  A treaty was signed on January 5, 1847, making California an independent republic.

California joined the United States in 1850, and with the westward expansion of the United States, came stagecoach travel.  The Pass was recognized as a very useful route in transporting travelers from the coast to the valley.

In 1868, local Chinese laborers built the San Marcos toll road to accommodate the stagecoach travelers who rode between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.  It was at that time that the first buildings on the Tavern site were erected.

Cold Springs

Stage travel was a trecherous, rugged, ardous business.   The conveyance used locally was called a "mudwagon".  There was no glamour implicit or implied.  The roads were either slick with mud, the way clouded by fog and rain, or it full of dust and heat in the summer months.  Robbers and banditos were all too real - and frequently the stagecoach journey was interrupted by armed bandits. 

Cold Springs Tavern 2

Stage drivers and their horses, as well as the passengers, were delighted to catch view of the little mountain retreat - the tavern that is nestled back into the mountainside, next to the creek.  It was a place of respite and comfort, a moment of ease before the journey north to the Valley, or south, to the coastline was resumed.

Eventually, the stagecoach era passed, and horses were replaced by horsepower.

With the coming of the automobile, California was discovered to be the ideal place for pleasure drives.

San Marcos Pass 1917

The scenery of Southern California, and the consistently beautiful weather created opportunities for day-long events, perfect for the tourists who began to flood into Santa Barbara County for vacation and leisure.  

 On a clear day there is no mountain trip in Southern California to give more sheer delight than a ride over San Marcos.   Turning and twisting up the steep south wall of the range,  the road rises so fast and the valley and ocean fall so sheer below,  that it is almost akin to airplaning.  

Directly below are the orchards and fields of Goleta,  eastward, Santa Barbara's roof tops shine in the sun,  and beyond is the vast and wonderful shimmering blue sheet of the Pacific,  broken only by the rugged purple peaks of the Channel Islands....

Hundreds of motorists from Los Angeles and vicinity now seek Santa Barbara as an ideal place for a week-end outing,  and hotel accommodations in Santa Barbara late on Saturday evenings are difficult to find as a rule.  When it is possible for the motorists of San Francisco and vicinity to tour down over splendid roads all the way,  Santa Barbara folks realize that they will get the benefit of a doubled travel.   And,  with El Camino Real complete from end to end,  the winter motor travel up and down its length is going to be a factor of importance that it is hard to estimate.

~ Motor West Magazine, January 1, 1918

 Time has marched forward, and San Marcos Pass is now a busy highway used by commuters, tourists, trucks, and anyone wishing to utilize the quickest route between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley. 

The Cold Spring Tavern is located on Stagecoach Road, below the San Marcos Pass.  Stagecoach Road is narrow, shoulderless, and it scissors back and forth below the sandstone peaks and lacy trees that hover over the road. 

Cold Springs 11 

The primitive road serves to transport you back in time, slowly, as you wind lower and lower into the little valley.   From the busy highway above, it seems that bits of history and time mingle and float down together, settling here in this little, secluded, shady nook.  They dust the air with magic.

Cold Springs Tavern 6

The location, and the Tavern, are charming, rustic, romantic, and beautiful.  The windows of the Tavern always seem to cast a golden glow.  In the winter, the little creek rushes over tumbled sandstone boulders, where in summer,  only shadows play. 

Every Sunday, hundreds of people descend on the little log enclave, enjoying live music, cold beer, and barbequed tri-tip.  On winter days and evenings, you may have much of the Tavern to yourself as fewer people venture here in the cooler weather.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  In addition to traditional fare, the tavern also offers more exotic options - such as buffalo steak, venison, duck, rabbit - and Wild Game Black Bean Chili.  

Cold Springs Bridge 2 

If you want to leave the present behind and dip into an earlier time - for just an afternoon or evening - drive up San Marcos Pass, and pull off the modern highway at Stagecoach Road.  Once you leave the highway, you begin the trip into the little valley of history and romance.  It seems that not much changes at the Cold Spring Tavern.  And that is exactly how we like it.

Visit the Cold Spring Tavern website - sign up for their newsletter, check the music schedule (they have live bands this New Year's weekend), and peruse the menu, and plan your trip to Cold Spring Tavern.