Despite being flush with food options, downtown Santa Barbara was apparently lacking in the gourmet burger/craft beer/small-batch whiskey category. Just walk along Paseo Nuevo’s Chapala Street backside around lunch or dinnertime, and witness the hordes waiting — with excited smiles no less — for a seat at Eureka!Burger, a small California-based chain that’s dialing in a formula proving popular from Fresno to La Jolla.
After being stifled with a long wait the night before, I lucked into the last seat at the bar on Friday around 1 p.m. and ordered the Black’s Dawn Imperial Stout, made by the little-known (to me, anyway) Cismontane Brewing Company in Rancho Santa Margarita. A few sips of 8-percent-ish coffee-caramel excellence later, I ordered the Fig Marmalade Burger, though I easily could have chosen options featuring fried egg and jalapeños, ground lamb and brie, buffalo mozzarella and basil, or wild mushrooms and chipotle ketchup. Mine came fast, loaded with gooey goat cheese, crispy bacon, sweet fig jam, and spicy porter mustard. Almost too fast — I barely had time to order the Shallow Grave Porter by Heretic Brewing Company in Pittsburg, California, a fine complement to the fries, the only not-stunning-but-perfectly-okay part of my meal.
Better yet, upon simultaneous requests for more napkins to manage our messes, I met the woman seated beside me; it turned out she’s a wine distributor. So as I finished digging to the bottom of my Shallow Grave, the rest of my lunchtime conversation involved the intricacies of selling fine wine. That meant, as someone who writes about such intricacies professionally, I could write off the $30 tab, for my midday escape had become a business lunch. Eureka indeed.