Santa Barbara was the first stop the “Guy and Rach do the California Coast Because Yay Marriage” tour. We pulled into town pretty much starving but me being me, I wanted to wander around and look at the menus at fifteen different places before settling on the place I had found on Yelp two hours prior. Cajun Kitchen Cafe in Santa Barbara is just one block off State Street, the main road that goes through most of the city . The building itself is unassuming and looks straight out of the 70’s. Before we even opened the door we were hit with a wave of nostalgia for those little old diners that are few and far between and the amazing smell of fresh Cajun food. The interior matches the exterior. Clean but out-dated and somehow fitting. There wasn’t a wait but most of the seats were filed even though the time for a lunch rush had long past.
The menu is a mix of Cajun, American, and Mexican. We saw all three types of dishes walking by as we waited for our food and everything looked good but nothing looked quite as amazing as the food they brought to our table. We decided to go full Cajun for this meal and started with an order of the beignets for $3.75. Guy has this on-going love affair with donuts which piques at beignets so there was no way we were going back out the door without an order. They arrived first and were so hot we actually had to wait to eat them which was pure torture. Served with a side of syrup for dipping, they were slightly denser than other versions I’ve eaten before but perfectly crunchy on the outside and pillow soft on the inside. This was how excited he was before trying them…
…And this is the after. Can you tell he was a happy boy?
I’ve mentioned before that we are sharers. We eat off each other’s plates and often make plans to go-halfsies on stuff just so we can try more of the menu. This was one of those meals. Guy ordered the Seafood Gumbo ($11.50) and I ordered the Crawfish Etouffée ($12.50) . Both came with a choice of bread so Guy got the biscuit and I got the cornbread.
These bowls came out steaming hot and it was hard to sit and look and not taste. The gumbo was full of rice, a really tasty flavorful brother, shrimp, scallops, crab, and a few different kinds of fish. Nothing was over cooked which can be a problem for soups with seafood. I like my gumbo with a thicker broth so I was happy I ordered what I did but the flavors and spices were so perfect my usual preferences didn’t keep me from eating my half . Between the two of us we were able to mostly polish off the bowl and part of the biscuit which was crunchy and flaky on the outside but nice and soft on the inside.
The Crawfish Etouffée is a much simpler dish with a little more spice than the gumbo had, but I ended up using one of their many available hot sauces to heat it up just a little more. This bad boy was so filling we couldn’t finish it and since we already had dinner plans and lunch plans for the following day we had to leave it behind. The creaminess was just what I was looking for. It’s a pretty simple dish that can truly be a hit or a miss. This was a hit.
The Cajun Kitchen Cafe isn’t as fancy as many of the surrounding restaurants but what it lacks in ascetics is makes up for with the attentive service. Established 30 years ago in 1984, this place has earned its stripes by serving amazing, fresh, hot, yummy food to travelers and locals alike. It’s a little something different in a sea of New American restaurants and nation-wide chains. If you are in the neighborhood, shoot up a block and try this place.
Cajun Kitchen Cafe
1924 De La Vina