“About a year ago, when we started seeing new businesses opening up on State Street, Chris and I would say, ‘How crazy people are!’” said Derrick Melton, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Mimosa with his pastry-chef wife, Chris Melton. But that’s exactly where he is today, many blocks from the corner spot on De la Vina Street where the longtime French restaurant lived for its first 28 years. The new Mimosa’s only been open since November, but it already feels like home, said Melton, pointing to a new feature in the remodeled location, formerly home to Piranha, Matador, and Chino’s Rock & Tacos. “My wife wanted it, so I etched a compass rose into the concrete floor,” he explained. “It’s symbolic of how this place feels like home.”
That change didn’t come easily. Restaurant Mimosa was originally founded by Camille and Ann Schwartz in 1983. Chris and Derrick worked there in 1995, and then, after a sojourn in the Bay Area, they returned to town in 2000 and bought the establishment in 2005. The move to State Street started innocently enough, by viewing a classified ad in January about the previous tenants looking for someone to take over their lease. “We came to the place, and it just kind of felt right, so we started thinking about opening a second location,” Melton explained. “We figured we could open on a pretty tight budget, but then things started to get drawn out.” The deal almost fell apart in the summer, then started to come back together just in time. “Things started to get complicated at the old location,” said Melton, referring primarily to maintenance issues. “It just sort of seemed the world was spinning around to us having one location. Plus, we were discussing how we would have no personal life running two businesses.”
So far, the menu has remained relatively similar, beyond some seasonal shifts, but that will evolve. “We envision moving to more of a colonial French as opposed to the current more classical French,” said Melton. “We feel people will be more open to that here on State Street as opposed to across town.” That might mean a bit less frogs’ legs Provençal and a bit more Southeast Asian, African, and perhaps even Louisiana influence.
But if you want to see Melton at play, eat from the small-plates menu, which is getting increased attention due to more walk-in traffic and a prominent bar. “It’s my palette for creativity,” he said. “It allows customers to try things they may not be willing to try in larger portions. If I had the time to work a new small-plate menu every day, I would.” Recent highlights included duck confit crêpes and a savory Stilton and lavender “cheesecake” on arugula.
“We’ve always been overjoyed to carry on the traditions of a long-standing restaurant in Santa Barbara,” said Melton. “Now we get to carry it on State Street, and it feels like a new chapter for us. We’re happy we can service a whole new generation of regulars.”
Meander over to Restaurant Mimosa, 714 State Street, (805) 963-2272, or check them out on Facebook.