633 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-midnight daily
Restaurants are rated one to four stars. Price reflects a meal for one person, including appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage: $ under $25; $$ under $50; $$$ under $75; $$$$ over $75.
Head: Walking in Fess’ footsteps
After a multimillion dollar renovation, the Cabrillo Boulevard hotel that carried the Fess Parker name from its earliest days as a Red Lion Inn is now Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.
Nods to the late Mr. Parker, who Walt Disney cast as Davy Crockett in a 1950s TV miniseries that rocketed the actor to fame, can still be found on the property, including a tasting area serving wines from the Fess Parker Winery and its offshoots.
The Set, a full-service bar off the main lobby with commanding views of the Pacific Ocean, features photos of Mr. Parker and other Hollywood luminaries, but that’s, unfortunately, where any connection to the star ends, despite his kin still having an ownership stake in the property.
Start your meal with Bacon Wrapped Medjool Dates ($14), which may sound intimidating because of the jalapeno goat cheese filling, but are actually sweet and smoky thanks to the thick bacon. The side of lemon Greek yogurt is a cooling touch.
Leaner bacon would make these bites worthy of Hollywood royalty.
For the vegetarian, there’s two Portobello Mushroom Sliders ($16), with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato and garlic mayonnaise on brioche.
These tiny “burgers” have a nice balsamic flavor, the cheese is melty and the buns pillowy soft.
This is the way to eat your sliders and not feel guilty about it.
Truffle Fries ($10 appetizer; $6 during happy hour; $3 as a sandwich or entrée upgrade) are tempting. But here’s the problem: There’s not enough truffle oil. Stick with the regular fries.
A salad fit for a sunny day beside the sea is the Romaine Hearts ($13). Bacon, shaved Manchego cheese and roasted yellow tomatoes sit atop a handful of sturdy, crunchy lettuce, with a light drizzle of avocado vinaigrette that packs a lot of flavor.
Impressive in looks and taste is the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich ($17). This huge sandwich features a thick, juicy extra-crispy breast slathered in creamy traditional coleslaw. Dill pickle chips add more crunch and that zest of vinegar.
Like its little buddy the mushroom slider, this sandwich comes on soft brioche, only bigger.
High Points: The view. The patio. The Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich.
Low Points: Slow service — surprising given the place probably serves lots of business people and others on the go. Not featuring the Parker family of wine in the Mac & Cheese, which is billed as having “wine and four cheeses.”
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Bold in flavor and design, the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich.
Roasted yellow tomatoes and avocado vinaigrette make for a zesty Romaine Hearts salad.
The décor of The Set is understated compared to the resort lobby.
Dates wrapped in bacon, Greek yogurt for dipping. A satisfying appetizer.
Fess Parker, the man whose family still has an ownership interest in the hotel, is remembered through photos in The Set.