The jaunty and sophisticated Sissy’s Uptown Cafe in Lompoc is, well, unexpected. Located in the old part of town in a 1942 building that originally served as the post office, even its exterior takes you by surprise with its bright blue awnings, pink-and-yellow trim, and a motif of painted palm trees adorned with lilac-colored coconuts and turquoise fronds. It’s a welcoming place that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but there’s nothing slapdash about the food. When the Springer family purchased the restaurant in 2002, their specific goal was to bring a bit of fine dining to Lompoc.
“We initially were greeted with some skepticism,” admits Steve Byork, whose wife, Janan Springer Byork, a graduate of the Westlake Culinary Institute, is the primary chef. “We were newcomers to this community, and folks didn’t think we understood the kind of business that would work around here. They’d seen plenty of restaurants come and go.”
To be fair, Lompoc is not a place one immediately associates with fine dining, but there is something to be said for having a vision and aiming high. The Springers proceeded with their dream, the locals were receptive, and word spread. Byork explained, “They loved not having to drive to Los Olivos or Santa Barbara for a more gourmet dining experience.”
But Sissy’s is gourmet with a playful ambiance. The high ceilings and big windows of the old post office building give the restaurant a spacious, airy feeling, and with its sunny yellow walls and framed paintings, there is something irrepressibly cheerful about it. At lunchtime, the menu features grilled sandwiches, salads, pastas, and homemade soup. The most popular sandwich is smoked turkey with bacon and Cotswold cheese served on sourdough with aioli, and there are daily specials such as a calzone with capicolla, pepperoni, provolone cheese, mushrooms, and marinara sauce. On the chilly-by-California-standards day when I ventured in, I enjoyed a savory cup of homemade lentil soup followed by a warm mushroom salad-a most satisfactory mix of shiitake, white, and oyster mushrooms on greens topped with toasted hazelnuts, blue cheese, and vinaigrette dressing, all served with an ample basket of fresh bread. It was an excellent repast, but Sissy’s also happens to have its own pastry chef, Norma Anderson, on the premises. Norma prepares pies and cheesecake daily from scratch, and I was not about to say no to her coconut cream pie. (Few can resist.)
Speaking of coconut, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, Sissy’s opens its doors for dinner, which is served in the pink and palm-treed Coconut Grove dining room to the rear of the restaurant at the end of a corridor once lined with postal boxes. Offerings vary with the season, but choices might include fresh salmon, herb-encrusted lamb chops with mustard cream sauce, or, for the ravenously hungry, an eight-ounce filet mignon with Jack Daniel’s sauce, oven-roasted red potatoes, and sauteed fresh vegetables. Vegetarians are not ignored either: How about a roulade of baked eggplant with ricotta, homemade marinara sauce, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese?
In addition to food, Sissy’s is becoming known for its impressive wine store and tasting room. The store is stocked with more than 250 different labels, including some limited production and hard-to-find bottles, most from the Central Coast. This is where Sous-Chef Jon Springer presides when not in the kitchen assisting his sister, although he claims that the gift shop portion of the store is Janan’s domain. “Just like when we were kids,” he joked. “There’s an imaginary line dividing the room.” Janan’s gift shop is crammed with goodies you never even knew you needed: Persian lime oil, pretzel dip, pear vinegar, and pinot grigio wine jelly, just to name an alliterative few, not to mention aprons, tea pots, and sweet pea seeds from a Lompoc flower farm.
While you’re in the neighborhood, if it is any afternoon but Monday, you might consider wandering over to the Lompoc Museum at 200 South H Street. Housed in a handsome 1910 Carnegie Library building, the museum has an extensive collection of Native American artifacts and a downstairs gallery of changing exhibits. Or simply take a stroll through the historical district and look around. Just like Sissy’s, Lompoc may surprise you.
Sissy’s Uptown Cafe is located at 112 South I Street in Lompoc. Call 735-4877 or see sissysuptowncafe.com.