The Dish On Local Santa Barbara Seafood
Have you ever wondered why more restaurants in Santa Barbara aren’t dishing up local-caught seafood? Oh there’s fish on the menu, but where did it come from? If you haven’t heard, we live in an idyllic fishing village that sits along one of the most biologically productive ecosystems found on Earth. To put it in layman’s terms, the Santa Barbara Channel is full of seafood! Combine that with an intelligent and vigilant community that’s mindful of sustainability and you’ve got a winning combo for a local-caught, guilt-free meal! Which brings me back to the original question; where’s the local seafood on the menu?
Oh, I know that I was one of the lucky ones. Growing up in paradise with a local fisherman for a dad, we were eating seafood nearly every night. Back in the good ‘ole days it was fried abalone with fresh veggies from the garden in our yard. Then came the delicious days of rock crab…my favorite! Nowadays, my family and I are fortunate enough to dine on local spiny lobster at a moment’s notice. Not to mention the spot prawns, mussels, rockfish and oysters, but I digress. In knowing what a special privilege it is to dine on such delectable seafood, I am adamant that these local options should be available to all restaurant-goers. We shouldn’t be settling for “fresh-frozen” options that have traveled from afar. When sold locally, our seafood passes through at most 1 or 2 hands before reaching you, and you can know exactly what you are eating, where it came from, who caught it and how it was caught. This process trumps any seafood that is sold to a distributor, put on a big rig or flown on an airplane, covered in dry ice and may not reach your plate for days or even months.
Don’t worry, there’s still hope! There are a few gems out there that get the idea of local supporting local. A handful of spots regularly offer Santa Barbara seafood including Downey’s, the Boathouse, Santa Barbara FisHouse, Seagrass and Hungry Cat, to name a few. My hope is that more restaurants will follow suit in the near future.
Even if you’re not a restaurateur there are still amazing, local-caught seafood options for all of us. Every Saturday morning from about 7:30am to 11:30am at the Santa Barbara Harbor you can stop by the dock-side Santa Barbara Fisherman’s Market for fresh fish, crab, urchin and lobster sold right off the fishing boats. Just head to the first pier inside the harbor and you can’t miss the action! These local fishermen are always happy to tell you a story, share a recipe or answer your questions. If you’re not a weekend early bird, you can always visit the Santa Barbara Fish Market, which is also located inside the harbor, for fresh local fare every day of the week. Nowadays, you can even create a seafood subscription that will have fresh, local seafood delivered right to your front door!
Living in such a beautiful town certainly has its perks, fresh seafood merely being one of them. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to enjoy one of these many options for dining on local seafood, it’s time to eat up!