Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dinner cruise service launched

Santa Barbara Water Taxi (the harbor’s passenger-carrying yellow tug boat, "Lil’ Toot") now offers a whole new waterfront experience in harbor dining. Teaming up with Fresco Cafe and Buttonwood Winery, Lil’ Toot now transforms into “Chez Toot” on weekend evenings. Lil’ Toot makes its sunset transformation into Chez Toot offering a sit-down dining experience with culinary selections such as grilled chicken breast with rosemary & garlic aioli or grilled shrimp with roasted red pepper sauce & gorgonzola salad with roasted beets.

While cruising the harbor, guests will enjoy dinner, sip wine in real glassware and watch the sunset in a comfortable, intimate, and fun environment. New clear glass windows allow passengers to dine in comfort out of the wind and cool night air or the windows can be raised to enjoy the warm, balmy Santa Barbara summer evenings. I am told that Lil’ Toot is the first commercial boat in Santa Barbara Harbor to make the conversion to non-polluting bio-diesel.
The price for gourmet dinner and wine is $55 per person. Chez Toot comfortably seats up to 14 for dinner. Advance reservations are required for open dinner seating or private dinner groups. For more information call 896-6900 or visit sbwatertaxi.com.

KOBACHI OPENS UPTOWN: Kobachi Izakaya Dining has opened at 4141 State Street in El Mercado Plaza, the former home of Kampai. Owner Kenichiro Soeda suggests you try the Gindara Nitsuke ($8.95, simmered black cod in sweet ginger soy flavored broth) and perhaps the Creamy Buna Shimeji Mushrooms ($4.50, boiled Shimeji mushrooms, served cold in sweet sour sesame saunce). Kobachi is a small-portions style of dining (similar to tapas) that will compliment drinking and a social atmosphere. Soeda tells me this style is the way people eat in Japan and that in the U.S. kobachi is primarily available in large cities. He says it is rare for restaurants in small towns to serve this style but it is getting more popular.
Restaurant hours are Tue-Sat 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. - 11:30 p.m. For more information call 692-0717 or visit kobachiizakaya.com

LOS AGAVES OPENS: Two years ago Carlos Luna moved to Santa Barbara from Guadalajara, the capital city of the Mexican state of Jalisco. And he’s been busy ever since. Yesterday was the grand opening of his first restaurant, Los Agaves, at 600 N. Milpas Street, the former home of La Tolteca. The interior is designed to have the rustic look of a home in Mexico. The eatery offers Mexican cuisine & seafood dishes from different areas of Mexico. Luna suggests you try the Chile Campestre with bell peppers, cheese & shrimp and a chipotle dressing. Los Agaves is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LA COLMENA OPENS: A new Mexican restaurant named Taqueria La Colmena has opened at 217 N. Milpas St, the former home of Cajun Kitchen and Pavlako's Eatery. Restaurant hours are Sun-Thu 11 a.m. - 9 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. For more information call 962-3705.

SPEAKING OF OPENINGS: August was a good month for the Santa Barbara dining scene with eight new locations opening. The last time we had this much activity was May 2007 when nine eateries opened. I started keeping restaurant statistics in 2005.

TASTE OF THE TOWN: This Sunday, September 7th, enjoy Santa Barbara's original tasting event, featuring samples from over 80 local restaurants and wineries. All proceeds benefit the Arthritis Foundation. The culinary event takes place at Riviera Park Gardens (2030 Alameda Padre Serra) from 12-3 p.m. Price is $100 per ticket ($125 at the door). Register in advance by calling 563-4685 or visiting tasteofthetownsantabarbara.com.

IPHONE: If you read last Friday’s Daily Sound you likely saw the front page story about the new SantaBarbara.com Restaurant Guide that has been created for the iPhone. This new guide lists 679 local dining locations and nearly 14,000 reviews. It takes advantage of many of the unique user interface abilities of the iPhone including the maps function. You can browse the entire guide with just your thumb and zoom in to photos by simply rotating the phone. Write a review while still seated at the restaurant! To view this new mobile restaurant guide, direct your iPhone web browser to: http://iphone.santabarbara.com

NEW DRIVE-THRU? On Sept. 9th a representative from McDonald's restaurant at Camino Real Marketplace will be making a presentation to home owners in a Goleta neighborhood about adding a drive-thru to their eatery. The restaurant was built with a drive-thru window already in place but it was never activated.

SPEAKING OF MCDONALD’S: Mickey M and Mickey D are parting ways. McDonald's eateries at Disneyland and at neighboring California Adventure have officially closed today. In 2006 Disney decided not to renew a cross-promotional agreement with the fast-food giant. If you don't remember seeing the Golden Arches in the legendary theme park, that's because there weren't any. The restaurants went by other names, specifically Burger Invasion, Conestoga Fries and Harbour Galley. But the menus included familiar McDonald's fare such as the Big Mac.

John Dickson’s column appears every Tuesday in the Daily Sound. E-mail your restaurant news tips to info@SantaBarbara.com

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