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Chef Spencer Johnston Takes the Helm at Wine Cask

San Luis Obispo Native Brings Decade of Experience To Rebuild the Restaurant


Much like producing fine wine or making a house feel like a home takes lots of “TLC,” Doug Margerum and Mitchell Sjerven’s mission to bring back the Wine Cask has been a labor of love. Their passion for great food, the highest caliber of service and bringing back the comfort and nostalgia of one of Santa Barbara’s favorite restaurants was inspired by the Santa Barbara community… because they get that restaurant reviews only go so far.

Spencer Johnston
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Spencer Johnston

As part of their master plan to bring the Wine Cask back, Margerum and Sjerven are proud to announce Spencer Johnston as their new Executive Chef. Chef Spencer Johnston, born and raised in San Luis Obispo, combines the sensibilities acquired from being raised on California’s Central Coast with a decade of experience working in the Southern California food scene, delivering a fresh take on the classic menus of the Wine Cask. The duo are also enthused that the beloved Intermezzo has once again returned as a favorite local spot, offering small plates and comfort food, in one of the most comfortable and accessible bar spaces, perfect for friends gathering for drinks any night of the week.

Johnston is an advocate for cooking with the freshest, most sustainable, locally sourced ingredients that represent the rich bounty and harvest that the Santa Barbara region has to offer. Johnston has spent close to half his life in professional kitchens, most recently serving as the Executive Chef at The Pearl Hotel in San Diego. Prior to The Pearl, he strengthened his culinary skills under Chef Antonio Friscia at Stingaree and Chef Christian Graves at Jsix, both in San Diego.

Being back on the Central Coast has been amazing – our access to the freshest ingredients from local farms and purveyors is unbeatable, and I’m lucky enough to be able to hit the Farmers Markets just a block from my new kitchen,” said Johnston. “Creating meals to satisfy cravings for delicious food is what I love the most. At the Wine Cask, we describe our style as ‘American Riviera Cuisine’, because Santa Barbara is a very special place that deserves it’s own label. Much like ‘Provencal cooking’ or ‘Tuscan Cuisine’ warrant recognition, local chefs are gravitating towards a style here that is putting Santa Barbara on the culinary map.”

Highlights to look forward to from the Wine Cask’s all-new menu include Roasted Heirloom Beets & Baby Carrots Salad with Goat Cheese, herbs and a tarragon vinaigrette, Goat Cheese-Stuffed Tempura Squash Blossoms with romesco & pesto sauces, and Pasilla and Rock Shrimp Mac & Cheese white cheddar fondue, bread crumbs for starters. Indulge in hearty, mouthwatering entrees like Oven-Roasted Whitefish with Spanish Chorizo and Manila Clams, Seared Sea Scallops with Fava Beans, Pancetta, Mint & Shaved Fennel Salad and don’t even try to resist The Cask Burger on a toasted focaccia bun, white cheddar, caramelized onions, and house aioli, served with Cask fries & house pickles. Johnston has also had fun creating a line-up of amazing flatbreads guaranteed to be crowd pleasers — try the “Thai-One-On” with fresh local rock shrimp and Thai coconut sauce or “Nectar of the Gods” with nectarines and St. Andre triple cream.

If you’re in the mood for wine tasting, stop by the Margerum Tasting Room next door, where Doug Margerum has recently opened up shop, offering tastings from Margerum wines, in addition to a highly-edited selection of hand-crafted, small production wines – local and imported – all made at wineries committed to the philosophy of making wines with place and personality to them, and those that abide to high standards. All are available for sale in the tasting room.

The Wine Cask is located at 813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. The restaurant is open Monday - Saturday for dinner from 5:30pm and Monday – Friday for lunch from 11:30-2:30 pm. Intermezzo Bar Café is open nightly from 5 pm. The Tasting Room is open daily from 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

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Doug Margerum and Mitchell Sjerven’s newly reopened Wine Cask, located in downtown Santa Barbara in the historic El Paseo complex, offers the best of all worlds to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner in a stylishly relaxed setting. Their passion is serving great food, providing the highest caliber of service and bringing back the comfort and nostalgia of one of Santa Barbara’s favorite restaurants to their patrons. Indulge in great dishes featuring the freshest local ingredients, and select from the best wine list in town, not to mention signature cocktails that change regularly. Whether you’re looking for a casual drink and shared plates al fresco on the patio lounge or nestled up in front of the fireplace, or feel like a lively dinner in the main room - you’ll find what you’re craving at the Wine Cask.

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