719 Paseo Nuevo
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday
CPK is A-OK
This column is normally reserved for the ultimate local spots, but every once in awhile, the Undercover Fork needs to check out a chain, to see if it’s up to snuff and worthy of some of the premier real estate in town.
California Pizza Kitchen has been a staple of Paseo Nuevo in downtown Santa Barbara for many years, and there is a reason they’ve had staying power — the food is downright good.
Can you find a better pizza in town? Sure. A better pasta? Absolutely. But, not without a significant wait. At CPK, you get the ability to fit in a meal around shopping or other activities.
The UF calls it convenience eating, and CPK is at the top of the list of Santa Barbara options. Here are a few items that stood out:
Asparagus + Arugula Salad
Fresh, green, gone in the matter of a couple of minutes. The side vinaigrette should remain on the side, as it is better for dipping than to smother what is otherwise a light and fulfilling appetizer or small meal.
Lunch special: Pepperoni pizza & Mediterranean salad
A great combo here, pizza and salad. Great smell and taste to the pizza, as it is cool to see it get pulled from the oven. The salad can be adjusted to your liking, you just have to ask — CPK is very good at adjusting menu items to make sure you’re happy, which isn’t as common as it should be.
Jambalaya Linguini Fini
Make sure to have a tissue ready, as this one has a little bit of a kick that will get the senses going. This is a hearty plate, with generous portions of shrimp, blackened chicken, Andouille sausage, ham and crawfish — all doused in a Cajun sauce that is quite tasty. Savor every bite, you won’t want the experience to end.
The food is downright fresh. The open kitchen concept is a cool one, because you can literally watch your food being made. There is something satisfying about that. The service is always impressive, with the staff waiting on you usually not limited to one person, allowing for drinks to be refilled more often and for your food to arrive fresh.
It’s a bit pricey for a chain restaurant, as the prices should reflect the lack of charm. The sun can get pretty heavy coming in from Chapala Street, so ask the staff to either lower the curtain or be seated in the bar area. The only problem with the menu is the portion sizes with the lunch specials are a bit too small, leaving you hungry within an hour.