2000 De La Vina St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Sunday thru Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
(Breakfast, M-F, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.; weekends, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
(Lunch/Dinner, everyday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.)
The character and history of a restaurant is far underrated, particularly in Santa Barbara, where many haven’t had the longevity to actually formulate a history.
Derf’s Cafe is overrun with character, and it’s definitely one of those places where you need to know it’s there despite being on the corner of Mission Street and De La Vina.
You’re greeted by a cool outside patio area before walking down into the dining room that snakes around, allowing for a deceptive amount of inside seating.
The service is super friendly, prompt and genuine. There is a definite interest in making sure you want to come back.
Yes, you could classify Derf’s as a “hole-in-the-wall,” but it knows who it is and owns it. You feel like you can laugh and not stand out for being annoying. That’s refreshing.
Top that off with a trio of good plates, and The Fork will be returning (probably for breakfast that is served until noon!!!):
Chicken Fried Steak
Not many places in town where The Fork can get this southern standby. And, we’ll admit it, the thick country gravy is always in the back of our minds. And Derf’s does it well. The steak isn’t over-fried and the gravy has a nice texture to it. The side of mashed potatoes were a bit flat and runny, as The Fork likes them to be a bit thicker. The garlic bread is topped with flakes of cheese, in case you’re into that kind of thing. (The Fork isn’t, but no demerits here, we know that some people love it.)
Fish and Chips
Yes, we are a broken record about fish and chips here at Fork Central, but as we’ve stated before, it seems to be one commonality among many different restaurants in town. First of all, the shoestring fries are outstanding. Fresh, not too salty, and you don’t really need ketchup. The fish was fresh, with the batter a bit rubbery, but nothing that either tartar sauce or ketchup can’t help fix.
It doesn’t get more American than a slab of meat, topped by bacon, topped by cheddar. If you are like The Fork, you always want to have an old standby before trying anything, and this burger is safe and delicious. It isn’t huge, but it’s packed with flavor.
The atmosphere is very home-like, as is the inexpensive food. It’s comforting and inviting. You don’t feel rushed to get through your meal, can watch your favorite sports team and eat pretty much anything you like. Add in a wait staff that actually engages and talks to you, and you forget about the time.
The parking can be a nightmare. If you take one of the three spots to the left of the front door, it might take you 10 minutes to back out of the lot. And if those spots are taken, you might be in for a little bit of a walk. It’s a bit warm inside of the restaurant, so be prepared to sweat a little bit (burning calories while eating?!).