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Neighborhood Series: Barbareño

“When people come together to improve or protect their neighborhoods, they are participating in a civic engagement process that strengthens the entire community. Our neighbors are part of our tribe – they are the first line of support and defense and our greatest partners in making change happen.” – Sharyn Main, Senior Director of Community Investments

Previously in the Neighborhood Series, we talked to SlingShot and learned that local restaurant Barbareño often partners with them to cater fundraisers and events. So, we decided to ask Jesse Gaddy, General Manager and Co-owner of Barbareño, what neighborhood means to him and his team.

“Neighborhood is community,” said Gaddy. “It is to be there for each other, communicate effectively and just saying a passing ‘hello’ on the street.”

Gaddy and his business partner Julian Martinez met while attending Claremont Colleges near Los Angeles, where they both were managers at a student-run restaurant called Shakedown Café. Sharing a similar passion for Santa Barbara and its local history, the two started forming the business plan for Barbareño before they graduated from college. After graduating, they set out on a culinary research trip throughout Europe, where they explored regional cuisines and found inspiration in the successes of other organic restaurants around the world. In 2014, they secured their location in Santa Barbara on the corner of De La Vina and Canon Perdido and welcomed their first customers.

“It took us a while to secure our location because we wanted Barbareño to be a true neighborhood restaurant that primarily caters to locals, not tourists, and is unique among other restaurants in Santa Barbara,” said Gaddy. “Everything from our menu to our physical building is meant to embody the local history and tell Santa Barbara’s story.”

Barbareño’s menu has a strong local focus, with some of its most famous dishes being its Santa Maria tri-tip and its Eggamuffin, which is a higher-end version of McDonald’s Egg McMuffins that originated on Milpas Street. To honor the Chumash, the Native American people of Santa Barbara County, the kitchen also incorporates acorns in its dishes, which were a predominant ingredient used by the historic Chumash people. In fact, even the name Barbareño pays homage to the Chumash language, as it was one of the tribe dialects.

“Even our use of avocados, which are everywhere in California, has local historical significance,” said Gaddy. “The first commercial avocado trees in the United States were planted on our corner and, in that memory, we keep two potted avocado trees on our patio.”

When not tending its avocado trees, Barbareño partners with local organic farms and organizations, such as Fairview Gardens and Pilgrim Terrace, to obtain produce. The chef and kitchen staff use the crops to whip up delicious meals for local patrons and corporate and charity events, such as those hosted by the Santa Barbara Police Foundation, Braille Institute and EcoFriendly Cleaners.

“We have regulars, who are our neighbors and form relationships with our staff, and this transitions the restaurant experience from a business transaction to a community,” said Gaddy. “We had some regulars move out of town a few months back and then actually ended up taking in our wine director and her husband when they evacuated in the Thomas Fire. I believe that demonstration of friendship and kindness not only embodies the strength of Santa Barbara, but the essence of Barbareño as well.”

Stay tuned for the next article in the Neighborhood Series as we continue the conversation with Fairview Gardens, a nonprofit partner of Barbareño, and find out what neighborhood means to them.

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