••• When the Dutch Garden closed in June 2020, I barely noted it: I had no idea it had even existed, let alone that it was an institution. And because I have no experience with the original, I can’t really tell you how version 2.0 compares. But it sure looks and feels like nothing has changed in decades. While I’d generally prefer to sit out on the appealing terrace, the restaurant was already packed when I arrived at noon, so I was grateful for any table I could get, even if it was in the deepest, darkest corner of the room.
The restaurant is still only open for lunch, and the menu is heavy, to say the least. Perhaps that’s why the crowd was almost entirely men of retirement age—i.e., with the bandwidth to take a postprandial nap. (Not a judgment! Just setting the scene.) My friend ordered the massive pork schnitzel, I got the bratwurst, and we split a pretzel. Entrées come with German potato salad, sauerkraut, and “seasonal vegetables” (boiled carrots, in our case), and there are jars of mustard (two kinds) and horseradish on the table, which go a long way toward quelling quibbles such as the sausage being barely warm. Plus, the staff was extra nice, even by Santa Barbara standards.
P.S. The parking situation is intense. I gave up on the spots behind the restaurant and parked in the El Mercado shopping center. As I walked toward the restaurant, a man asked if I was going to the Dutch Garden, and when I admitted I was, he sheepishly pointed out that El Mercado is private property and could I at least be quick? I agreed and said if it helped, I planned on visiting the Menchaca Chocolates shop afterward. (It did.) I’m only telling you all of this so you can allow for a bit of extra time—ands have a strategy in mind—in the likely event that none of the restaurant’s spaces are available.
••• After I posted that Little Alex’s is said to be opening at Five Points, Eric pointed out that the restaurant is included on a Regency Centers map of the shopping center.
••• Corazón Comedor is selling tamales by the dozen for Christmas: order by 9 p.m. tomorrow (December 20) for pickup on December 24. The three options are pork, chicken, and butternut squash, and a dozen costs $60.
••• When the Biltmore never reopened, owner Ty Warner claimed it was due to construction at the property, but none was ever visible. Now, however, something appears to be happening, and what’s more, it’s in the restaurant space, which really wanted updating. Thanks to J. for the photo.
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