February 12, 2019

Hotel Californian: in the heart of the Santa Barbara Funk Zone and steps away from the Pacific Ocean

The Hotel Californian is a recent re-arrival to the heart of the Funk Zone on the Santa Barbara waterfront. It flawlessly occupies 3 corners of a city block, in all it’s Spanish Colonial Revival architecture glory. The original Hotel Californian opened in 1925.

When we arrived, while being greeted by the wonderful staff at the valet, we were simultaneously in awe of the stunning modern Moorish themed interior décor, which we would continue to gawk over the entire trip — from the elevators, to the light fixtures, to the tile floors — every detail is exquisitely thought out.

The hotel is the only building around with a 4th floor, resulting in a stunning unobstructed panoramic rooftop view by the pool. Look one way at the Pacific Ocean and the opposite direction at the Santa Ynez Mountains. One of the many reasons I love California!

The property is perfect for anything from a weekend getaway to a full on wedding! The Ballroom is seriously stunning, nothing like those ballrooms you walk into for conventions and think, BLEH! There are multiple rooftops and restaurants, a courtyard and so many other gorgeous spaces ready for an event to be planned for it! We got a taste of the restaurants, Blackbird and Goat Tree as well as Djinn, the hotel’s cocktail bar.

Blackbird: Open for dinner daily. This restaurant serves up delicious cocktails and exclusive local wines alongside Mediterranean-influenced cuisine with an emphasis on Santa Barbara-sourced, hyper-seasonal ingredients. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy shared plates with a date or a group of friends and family!

Goat Tree: Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour daily. This gourmet café with al fresco seating offers fresh, local fare. Their entire menu is infused with a hint of Mediterranean culinary influence. If you’re not looking for a sit down experience, you can drop by for some pastries or other baked goods, cold-pressed juices and coffee or order a seasonally curated picnic basket for your day of beach or wine tasting adventures.

Djinn: Open Monday – Thursday at cocktail hour until late, Friday – Sunday at 11AM until late (closing a little earlier on Sundays)! The hotel’s cocktail bar, adorned with books and cozy couches to sink into while you enjoy your cocktails and conversations!

“In the simplest terms, Djinn are genies. However, to reduce them down to a cartoon image would merely scratch the surface of their role in Moroccan lore. Djinn are mischievous spirits – not necessarily good, not necessarily bad.” — from The Hotel Californian website

Our beautifully designed hotel room was complete with the comfiest cloud-like bed, a marble bathroom and a stunning view into the courtyard and of the mountains from our balcony. I was completely impressed by every detail — from the closet doors, to the light fixtures, and the velvet chair that matched a pair of shoes I packed for the weekend.

Onto the event of the weekend — Constellation Pop Up — curated by Chris Mangless and the entire Hotel Californian team, among so many more. Chris has a restaurant called Three Three Five in Green Bay, Wisconsin — open one night a week, hosting bands coming through town for dinner on other days and hosting dinner/concerts regularly, combining his passions for both food and music. Chris hits the road a lot, being nicknamed “The Traveling Chef” — putting events together like the one I attended. He has a lot in the works, but the next event is one in Paso Robles towards the end of March!

The Opening Night Reception was the perfect opening to the weekend with delicious bites by the hotel, cocktails by Bittercube (more on these guys shortly), and a beautiful selection of wines by Desparada Wines out of Paso Robles. The night ended with a beautiful sneak peek of the Pop Up concert scheduled for Saturday night.

The Artists: Boom Forest, Chris Porterfield of Field Report, Langhorne Slim, Stelth Ulvang of the Lumineers, and Arum Rae

I was grateful for the fact that the next shindig wasn’t happening until noon the next day — it was rough getting ourselves out of that cloud-like bed! 😉

Next up: 7 pillars of cocktails mixology class, by Bittercube

I’ll be honest, I was thinking “ughhh this is going to be so boring”, but it was the complete opposite and became one of the highlights of the whole weekend. Bittercube is a bitters company based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ira and Louie of Bittercube made the experience both educational and entertaining, which is basically the perfect balance! We learned the 7 cocktails that make the creation of cocktails possible — and got to taste through half of them. If you’re curious, the 7 are Sour, Daisy, Collins, French 75, Old Fashioned, 212 (Manhattan/Martini) and Stepladder (Negroni). I can’t wait to experiment with cocktails more confidently now! I even ordered a few Bittercube bitters variety sets to give to my cocktail loving friends.

Saturday night’s dinner was composed of six courses of food and paired wines. Chef Chris Mangless of Three Three Five, Sous Chef Blake Silberman of Blackbird, and Chef Justin Carlisle of Ardent in Milwaukee each made two of the six courses. The wines of the night were by Desparada Wines and Herman Story Wines out of Paso Robles and Potek Winery out of Santa Barbara.


Kampachi Crudo with Pepita and Blood Orange

Market Peas with Almond, 335 Cellar Ham and Duck Liver

Octopus with Gooseberry and sweet potato

Red Cabbage with Pear, Mustard and Speck

Carlisle Beef with Escarole, Spring Onion and Bernaise

Chocolate with Orange

The Pop Up concert was held in the gorgeous ballroom and was a perfect close to the evening!

The last hoorah was a Winemaker Brunch at Goat Tree on Sunday morning! I ordered chia seed pudding and a quiche. Everything was delicious! It was all paired with wines from Municipal Winemakers out of Santa Barbara.

I was so happy we had a touch of Spring weather while we were in Santa Barbara. I packed dresses and my boho best!

I wanted to leave you with some upcoming events at Hotel Californian, so you can get in on the fun too!

February 14 — Valentine’s Day at Blackbird – offering full menu, in addition to a 3-course menu

Monthly — Tarot Card readings and drink specials at Djinn for full moon

February 22 – March 3 — Participating in Santa Barbara Restaurant Week

March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day — likely in Court of Califia (the area by the ballroom and Goat Tree) with a beer garden and Irish bites

Easter and Mother’s Day — Brunches outside in Court of Califia

Memorial Day — BBQ with activities

May – September — First Fridays in Court of Califia — live music and food and beverage for sale

Still in the works:

March 14 — PI Day Pie Special at Goat Tree

May 5 — Street taco special at Goat Tree

Early Summer — Wellness/Lifestyle weekend — fitness classes, panels and other activities

Father’s Day & July 4 — Crab Boil and Chili Cook Off

Be sure to check The Hotel Californian website for more details and event details posted soon!

I am so grateful for my partner in crime for the weekend, Lily of AweSomm. I met Lily a couple years ago at an event I was cohosting with Livestrong at a restaurant in Los Angeles. She was pouring wines at the bar and I immediately knew had to be friends! It’s crazy how life works, especially with a little help from social media!

Check out my Santa Barbara travel guide, complete with more dining and activity options!

Happy Travels,

Corey, Miss Foodie Problems


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Born and raised in Los Angeles, I love to have a home base in such a food-focused city. Whether I am traveling out of the country, around the US, or exploring the culturally diverse expanse of LA I feel at home while meeting new people, eating new foods, and expanding my outlook!