Thursday, August 14, 2008

Boathouse replaces Brown Pelican


Tom White has poured his heart, spirit and wallet into the Boathouse. Now he can only step back and hope it sails.
As the longtime local restaurateur steps through the airy interior of his latest project, a complete overhaul of the Arroyo Burro Beach eatery, he glances around and grins.
“I think we nailed it,” he says.

Its glass-lined deck, its sail-white booths and its gentle curve that seems to jut out over the ocean all drip with the boating motif.
A handmade lifeguard boat hangs upside down in the rafters, built by a Finnish designer in Minnesota. Oars are bolted to the wall. Historical photographs of local lifeguards fighting through waves in lifeboats line a hallway.
“We just went all out,” White says.
He describes the tremendous pressure he felt after successfully bidding for a lease from the County of Santa Barbara, which owns the land where the restaurant sits — known locally as Hendry’s Beach.
Building something special for local residents has honestly been his intention all along, he says, admitting that working with such a prominent, well-known site comes with a certain degree of stress.
“In some ways, we feel like it’s not really ours,” White says.
He spared few details, tripling his initial budget to edge close to $1.6 million.
Hidden below the deck is a perforated channel and filtration system that cleans any water running off toward the ocean. White vinyl lines the ceiling as an homage to sailcloth.
David VanHoy, an architect known for his work on the Coral Casino, took time out of his busy schedule to mold the restaurant’s architectural features.
“It was all about doing it right,” White says. “Can we turn this into something that can make money? I don’t know. But that was never really the point.”
During a pre-opening celebration — the doors officially open this Saturday — friends and family mingle, looking over the seafood-laden menu and watching as White hoists a massive American flag to fly on a mast at the entryway, complementing a California flag and a long string of sailing flags.
The menu, which features fresh fish grilled with mesquite and oak, received a guiding hand from longtime chef Charles Fredericks, who teaches at Santa Barbara City College’s School of Culinary Arts.
White describes Fredericks as a “local kid.”
“He’s just one of us,” he says. “We’re locals and we just want to create something that the people of Santa Barbara will like.”
Seafood entrees generally run in the $18 to $24 range. But for those looking for something simple and inexpensive, the takeout window lives on. Soft-serve ice cream, hotdogs and burgers will be served at a walk-up window, along with hand-dipped corndogs made using an original recipe from the 1800s.
Continuing the glassed-in theme of the deck is a glass partition that allows guests to watch the chefs at work near the entryway.
“We like showing off what we’re doing,” White says.
And while the effort needed to put together such a show may have left his pocketbook a little black and blue, White says the result speaks for itself.
“When you come down here and have a meal, it’s going to be a special event,” he says. “It flat-out, straightaway will be a special event.”


Anonymous said...

News tips work! (?) Congratulations to the Boathouse crew! & Skyeline Const., great job (thanks for the deck sample John) To save parking (guests and Hendry's swimmere), as suggested to the chef, have a commuter van to Ellings park or somewhere.

Greg Nowak

Anonymous said...

too much glitter ....keep it real
Just says Manhattan Beach to me not Santa Barbara

Anonymous said...

Too much glitter and glass. Get Real
Santa Barbara is not Manhattan beach via Rodeo Drive

Anonymous said...

Hey, who cares about the decor: I hope that the food is better!


Anonymous said...

I love the new modern feel, feels like your on a boat. No better place to take a date or to watch the sun set. Can't wait to drink a cold beer and watch the surfers rip it up come winter time. Save me a seat!

Laura H. said...

Went for breakfast today 8/24; it took nearly an hour to be seated on the patio in the sun (not enough umbrellas to go around) and then took over an hour and a half to be served our food. I've never felt like a hostage at a restaurant before today. The worst thing is they continued to seat people only to inform them after they ordered a beverage that it would be 1.5 hours until they would see anything from the kitchen. Horrible experience -- Left this restaurant after 3 hours with a headache and a sunburn completely disappointed.