The Lark Santa Barbara restaurant is like an oasis in the Funk Zone with locally sourced seasonal ingredients.
After a day spent walking through town, looking shops on State Street and sampling different wines on the Urban Wine Trail, The Lark is a haven in the popular Funk Zone of Santa Barbara. A little ways from the fanfare of State Street, the Funk Zone is an area downtown where locals and visitors crowd on the weekends for wine tasting, music and for a bite to eat. There are a few places with various cuisine in the area and The Lark Santa Barbara (there are several Lark’s in other locations so lets not get confused) is more of a fine dining establishment with a focus on locally sourced seasonal ingredients, and although the price is slightly higher than you may expect in the Funk Zone, the food is worth is every penny and a contemporary sample of quality California cuisine with rustic elements.
The Lark restaurant is named after a train from the Southern Pacific Railroad that came through Santa Barbara from 1910 to 1968. This is Doug Washington’s venture that opened in 2013 and he also owns restaurants in San Francisco, the acclaimed Town Hall and Salt House. We are lucky that Executive Chef Jason Paluska relocated from San Francisco with his culinary expertise to bring the Lark kitchen alive.
The Lark Santa Barbara is located on a side street, Anacapa, that leads from the Funk Zone to the beach and upon first impression you may see a large parking lot in the front with some nice cars (I can’t help it, I like looking at cars) with an interesting structure beckoning you to cross over for a look. When you venture past the parking lot you find a hidden treasure with honeyed wood interiors and quaint outdoor dining. Repurposed and vintage materials make the space more casual, yet it has a stylish metropolitan feel reinforced by the clean lines of the tables and bar. As the sun sets the place begins to glow from a multitude of little lamps and becomes more magical by the minute when the wood takes on a deeper luster.
I ended up at The Lark Santa Barbara restaurant on a Sunday after exploring the Urban Wine Trail with friends. You can sit at tables, the bar, or choose to grace the long communal table, which I did since the restaurant was quite full and I was extremely hungry. I could not wait a minute longer! The meal is served family style and you may be tempted to share in with the person sitting next to you. I was eying the plate across the table and the gentleman thought I was smiling at him rather than at his plate of tender beef.
The staff was friendly and efficient and within minutes a little bowl of Spicy Herb Popcorn materialized on the table. That popcorn is tricky, it makes you thirsty and you may need a beer then or glass of wine….
I opted for a light beer since that spicy popcorn needed some taming and it had been a very hot sunny day. The beer was a Lux German-style Helles Lager brewed by Ninkasi Brewing Company from Oregon. This Bohemian Pilsner is crisp and refreshing with grassy notes.
To start I had part of the Grilled Spanish Octopus with Israeli couscous, guajillo chili, preserved blood orange, avocado, charred scallion and spiced peanuts “From the Ocean” portion of the menu. It was perfectly cooked and the flavors sung in harmony. Even the couscous was memorable and easy to devour.
Next was a platter of Grilled Prime Flat Iron Steak with duck fat potatoes, summer pole beans, anaheim chile, roasted tomatillo and corn relish, pickled carrots. It was the same dish I had eyed across the table and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the tender meat. It was not a very big portion, but the flavors were pure and divine. I could have forgone the pickled carrots, but I really enjoyed the tomatillo and corn relish.
The Lark Santa Barbara also has unique cocktails, like the Hummingbird made with Junipero gin, campari, grapefruit, rosemary, egg white or the Grand & Mulberry that has Buffalo trace, cynar, amaro, st. germain and of course a Seasonal Margarita. The wine list reaches from the Santa Barbara County to Ojai and from Portugal, Spain Italy and France.
Since the menu changes seasonally, you will find different specialties and right now those include the Ras El Hanout Spiced Zucchini (From the Farm) with Saffron aioli, preserved meyer lemon, crispy squash blossom, dill is a new addition. Their Ellwood Farms Red Oak Butter Lettuces with Fuji apple, gruyere, candied black walnut, maple cider vinaigrette, chervil sounds perfect for spring and the Cast Iron Roasted Arctic Char with Caramelized cauliflower, golden raisins, pinenuts, preserved lime, salmon roe, mint pistou would be my choice for the next time.
When I left the restaurant and headed out of the Funk Zone and back up State Street there was an incredible sunset that set the sky ablaze. The Lark Santa Barbara is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday and I hope to revisit this lovely destination for dinner again soon.
The Lark is the perfect setting for a gathering with friends after a day of wine tasting, for romantic dinners, or you can have a meal by yourself at the bar or communal table.
Healthy Menu Choices at The Lark
Spicy Root Vegetable Chips – Goat cheese and pumpkin seed dip, cilantro pesto and a little lemon zest $12 (a healthier version of potato chips)
Roasted Beets & Burrata – Roasted pistachios, fresh strawberries, hibiscus vinaigrette, mache and watercress $14
Yellowtail Hamachi Crudo – Navel orange aioli, marinated cucumber, pickled fennel plus chili flake $18 (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to lower cholesterol, Vitamin A and D)
Marinated & Grilled Hanger Steak – Charred broccoli, calabrian chile, crispy shallots and mint $19 (low-carb and Paleo)
Cast Iron Roasted Arctic Char – Caramelized cauliflower, golden raisins and pinenuts, preserved lime, salmon roe and mint pistou $32
The Lark Santa Barbara
131 Anacapa Street,
Santa Barbara Ca 93101
Open Tuesday – Sunday
Dinner: 5pm – 10pm
Bar: 10pm – close