Monday, August 20, 2012

Santa Barbara: Brophy Brothers

A few weeks ago (I know, I know) when I did my initial write-up on Santa Barbara I promised to talk more about some of the food we ate while there. Due to its location on the coast there is, as you might imagine, some good seafood on menus.

If you take the State St. Trolley down to the end of the line (you'll be at a round-a-bout with a dolphin statue) you'll find several dining options. After speaking with locals The Wife and I had narrowed it down to two choices.  The Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. or Brophy Brothers we decided to go with the latter due to it's placement in the middle of the harbor.  The Shellfish Co. looked good but it's on the end of a long fishing pier with nothing really around it. Brophy Bros. seems to be a small local chain (OK, they have two locations), but it doesn't really have a chain feel when you're in the restaurant.  Their menu is here.

When you arrive at Brophy Bros. you have to go up a flight of stairs to get to the hostess' stand.  If there's a wait (and there's usually a wait as I understand it, at least on the weekends) then you're given a pager and invited to go downstairs to a small bar where you can wait.  The Wife and I decided to wait down there, me with a vodka tonic, her with a Bloody Maria.  After about 15 minutes, or so, we were paged, walked back up the stairs and were seated.

Since we live in Houston and oysters are off the menu for a few months, I started with 1 dozen on the half shell and my wife chose cold boiled shrimp.  There are no pictures of these because they didn't look any different than what you would think they would look like.  I chose, for my drink, a California beer called Firestone DBA (Double Barrel Ale) it turned out to be a hoppy, deep amber beer with some spice notes that lingered after drinking in a non unpleasant kind of way.  Besides this they had the usual run of domestic beers, of which the crowd inside seemed quite content to drink in good quantities.

Brophy dining room

FireStone DBA
For our entrees I chose crab cakes with rice pilaf and a cup of clam chowder(not pictured) and The Wife chose the celiac's version of fish and chips, broiled Mahi Mahi with fries. She had a salad (not pictured) instead of the chowder for obvious reasons.
Crab cakes w/rice pilaf and cole slaw

Grilled Mahi Mahi with chips and cole slaw
Both of us were very satisfied with our menu selections.  The clam chowder I had for the soup/salad course was served in a coffee cup with oyster crackers and was very good.  There's no chowder picture because when it got there I chowed down. If you have any question as to why I'm not a food blogger, part of it lies with my unwillingness to stop and take a picture of everything placed on the table.

The highlight of my meal was the crab cakes.  They were well seasoned and definitely contained more crab than filling. I appreciated the kitchen placing the dipping sauce on the side instead of pouring the ribbon over the top of the cakes as is the rage now.  The sauce was similar to a roumelade, but it was listed on the menu as a "roasted red bell pepper aioli".  The rice pilaf was OK, nothing special but certainly not bad.  My wife's Mahi Mahi was cooked well, lightly seasoned and the mango chutney that came with it was very good.  If I had to pick nits on her plate the fries were poor.  Mushy fries that tasted like they could have sat in the oil for just a bit longer.  Definitely frozen, not made on site.  If they were made on site then Brophy Bros. needs to work on that.

I want to spend just a minute talking about the cole slaw because it was the absolute best cole slaw I've ever had at a restaurant period.  The Brophy Bros. version is a cream style slaw, but it's obvious that they are making this in house because I could taste the fresh cabbage underneath the sauce.  Brophy Bros. is one of the few restaurants that don't over sauce their slaw.  It was outstanding, fresh tasting and my wife considered ordering a pint to go, but we didn't have a refrigerator in the room so she passed.

Above the food however, the best thing about Brophy's is the view:

View from front lower bar

View from front

View from upstairs dining area

Side view from upstairs dining area

View of beach on walk to Brophy's.
 As the sun is setting, during the golden hour, the view from Brophy's is probably one of the prettiest vistas up and down the California coast. The beach there is amazing, although not the white sandy beaches that you might think.  Oddly, we did see a few oil rigs off in the distance out in the water.  Certainly shallow-water wells on State lands.

I'm not in the business of 'rating' restaurants.  For one, I'm nowhere near a food critic, I'm also aware that my expectations and likes are going to be different than yours.  I will point out that the atmosphere at Brophy's is casual, and it's a very loud dining room, so it's probably not the place to take someone for a romantic evening out.  However, the customers that are there seem to be locals or people who spend a lot of time in Santa Barbara so you do get a pretty robust view of local culture.  The seafood is fresh, the service is pleasant if not formal/professional (most of the wait staff seemed to be local high school or UCSB students) and they did a good job keeping the drinks full and taking care of needs. I did notice a lot of them working together as a true team, running food to other tables, filling drinks at tables, bus-boys helping with water and tea refills etc. so that helps getting the customers (and tables) turned.  All in all a pleasant evening out with a good meal. 

Highly recommend.

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