A new restaurant has opened up on State Street in Santa Barbara, and boy is it a tasty one. Chef Ricardo Zarate marries the spices of his native Peru with locally sourced ingredients to create a unique Cali-Peruvian menu at Blue Tavern.
Dishes run the gamut from small plates to larger pasta dishes. Pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven behind the bar, and pastas are made in house. The steamed mussels are excellent, as is the pan-fried branzino, served over roasted vegetables with huacatay jalapeno sauce.
Enjoy the Peruvian flavors of a Pisco Sour and a bowl of ceviche. — Photo courtesy of Blue Tavern
Don't miss an opportunity to try the ceviche at Blue Tavern. It's not the mix of whitefish, lime juice and salsa fresca that you might be familiar with from nearby Mexican restaurants. Instead, ceviche here consists of large chunks of sea bass coated in a leche de tigre sauce that is both spicy and creamy. It's then topped with a generous helping of crispy calamari.
Do check out the cocktail menu when you visit. If you're the type who likes a proper drink but is perhaps a little tired of the standard margaritas and Old Fashioneds you can find everywhere, you will be delighted with the variety here. The Paper Plain is very good. It's an elegant mix of bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Campari and lemon juice.
There are also traditional Peruvian cocktails like Caipirinhas and Pisco Sours.
The atmosphere inside Blue Tavern is upscale and sophisticated. It's the perfect place to take a date or host a celebration dinner. There is also a heated patio out front with a view towards the ocean. The patio is ideal for lunchtime people watching in the Santa Barbara sun.
Sizzling hot, wood-fired Blue Tavern pizzas are just $10 during happy hour. — Photo courtesy of Blue Tavern
Blue Tavern's happy hour is also a standout, featuring $10 wood-fired pizzas, $5 Peruvian pilsners, $4 mimosas and so much more. Their tapas-style appetizers, like the crispy chicken chicharron or tuna crositini, are perfect for sharing with friends.
This is the fourth restaurant for Chef Zarate Restaurant Group. You can enjoy similar but different flavors at Blue Tavern's sister restaurants in Los Angeles, including Mo-chica, Picca and Paiche.
Blue Tavern is attached to Hotel Indigo, a modern boutique hotel near the Funk Zone, waterfront and the train station. The restaurant's open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, from 8 a.m. until roughly 10 p.m. Happy hour takes place between 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to close every day of the week.