Former site of Paradise Café returns to its roots
The grand opening of La Paloma Café on the corner of Anacapa and Ortega streets officially took place on Tuesday.
After the closure of Paradise Café, a classic American restaurant that sat in that spot for 37 years, Acme Hospitality brought it back in hopes of returning to Santa Barbara’s culinary history.
The legendary neon sign will again glow, reading “La Paloma Café,” and the institution will be a tribute to the cuisine of the Californios, early California settlers who incorporated Spanish and Mexican influences into indigenous ingredients cooked over fire.
The menu reflects the past and present of the region in honor of the age of the ranchero.
The Café uses barbecue traditions of Santa Maria along with inspiration from Baja from the mid-1800s, including fiestas put on by vaqueros who ran the local cattle ranches.
Executive Chef Jeremy Tummel will lead the café’s culinary team. Chef Tummel is well-known throughout the Central Coast from his time at Wine Cask, Bacara Resort & Spa, Pebble Beach Company, the Rosewood Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara City College Culinary Academy and The Bear and Star in Los Olivos.
He’s a third-generation Santa Barbara native and part Chumash Indian.
“I feel really great about it,” Chef Tummel told the News-Press. “It’s been a very smooth launch. The team’s great, I love the food, the restaurant is beautiful — everything just feels really, really positive and I couldn’t be happier right now.”
He added that he hopes there won’t be any further closures in Santa Barbara due to COVID-19.
“I’m very impressed with Acme’s courage throughout this whole adventure,” he said. “It’s been kind of a rollercoaster of uncertainty, and at one point they had the decision to pull the plug or move forward and they chose to move forward and be 100% invested.
“I feel that we’re taking all our precautions and that we’re safe here,” Chef Tummel said. “We have lots of outdoor dining… Between the outdoor dining and the takeout menu program, I think we’ll be OK and we’ll weather the storm.”
General Manager Christy Guzman oversees the front of house operations at La Paloma, and has experience hosting, bussing, running and serving at places such as The Mandarin Oriental Miami, Conrad Miami and Waldorf Astoria Park City. She’s also held leadership roles at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, The Carlyle in New York City and Rosewood Washington, D.C.
She comes from the opening general manager position at Caruso’s for the Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito.
The featured food items at the new café include: Oak Grilled Nopales with red onion, cotija cheese, radish, corn, jicama, avocado and lemon dressing; Vegetable Pozole Verde with organic hominy, green chile-tomatillo, oregano, cabbage, sweet onion and radish; Santa Maria Style Angus Tri-Tip with Santa Maria salsa, horseradish, and BBQ pinquito beans; Santa Barbara Mission Rotisserie Chicken with lemon peel, rosemary, pink peppercorn apple sauce and rotisserie potatoes; and Capirotada “bread pudding” — a beloved specialty of the original La Paloma Café — with golden raisins, almonds, Jack cheese, cream and date syrup.
In addition, pescatarian and vegetarian options are available on the menu, along with support for local purveyors.
The beverage program also features many classics, but with new twists. Some of the featured drinks include: the Paloma with layered elements of ginger-infused blanco tequila, bitterness from Aperol and champagne simple; the Chido Sangria; the Hibiscus Margarita, a classic margarita inspired by the hibiscus bush in front of the Café; and the Single Village Fix, with a rich pineapple taste and the mezcal smoke with a hint of agave.
The wine list focuses on wines from the New World, with both local and far away selections, and wines from Spanish-speaking countries.
The interior and exterior of La Paloma was designed by a local, Stephanie Greene Fuller, and Acme’s Sherry Villanueva to reflect the historical lifestyle of the Santa Barbara ranchero.
The café boasts rich oak floors and tables, warm white walls and cast-iron details, along with the mural commissioned in 1940 by Jennie Luera, which was restored by local artist Jeffrey Skyles.
Bar stools purchased by Ms. Luera in 1938 still line the bar, upholstered in cowhide, along with holophane and vaseline shade lighting from the early 1900s illuminating the bar.
An extended garden patio outdoors allows for social distancing.
Acme Hospitality hopes La Paloma Café will pay homage to the restaurant’s stories past, retain its familiar old-school vibe and celebrate its long history serving Santa Barbara.
Dinner reservations and take-out are available from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (to accommodate the recent 10 p.m. curfew) Thursday through Monday. Brunch and lunch services will soon be added.