Since the sputtering economy makes an expensive night out too much of a splurge, it’s great so many places opt to appeal to both our appetites and bank accounts by going bistro. They might not be truly Parisian, but their efforts to be homey and not budget-breaking are greatly appreciated. Here are three such places in the news of late:
Bistro 1111: As you should know, the Mar Vista is now a Hyatt, and that means the oomph of a big chain’s revamp skills and resources. Having worked at both the Hyatt Regencys in Irvine and Long Beach, new chef Martin Alcala cooks up a menu they bill as “contemporary American cuisine with California flair.” That means everything from Baja fish tacos to petite filet mignon, with stops at happy hour in between. 1111 E. Cabrillo Blvd., (805) 730-1111, santabarbara.hyatt.com.
Los Olivos Café & Wine Merchant: This venerable spot hasn’t changed of late, it’s just won quite an award: Open Table users named it as one of the top 50 “Most Notable Wine Lists” in the country for 2011. That’s no surprise, since the place has been an open secret since its appearance in Sideways, but Wine Director Jon McDaniel deserves the praise, particularly for putting together a list that goes so well with Chef Chris Joslyn’s menu. A lamb shank “gyro” calls for a luscious red wine, no? 2879 Grand Ave., Los Olivos, (888) WINES4U, losolivoscafe.com.
Montecito WineBistro: Pierre Lafond has taken over the old Piatti space in the Upper Village and named the new spot the very direct Montecito WineBistro. Chef Nathan Heil, recent winner of the Downtown Organization’s Chocolate Taste Off for his salted-caramel chocolate tart with Chantilly and caramel-Oreo popcorn, will be overseeing the kitchens at both locations, so that’s delicious news. Then there’ll also be special cocktails like a lemongrass-Peppadew pisco sour, too. 516 San Ysidro Rd., Montecito, (805) 969-7520, pierrelafond.com.