A business meeting at the Starbucks across from Paseo Nuevo led to one of downtown’s newest eateries, Hoffmann Brat Haus. John Mullen, one of seven partners in the business, noticed the Snack Shack had already closed after only two months — turned out its owner had planned to move to Santa Barbara from Napa, and despite investing much money, his wife decided she didn’t want to leave Napa. “I think this is one of the best properties in Santa Barbara,” Mullen, former owner of Northstar Coffee, claims. “So within 10 days, I had an offer accepted.”
Mullen and his wife, Kim, along with Rob and Nancy Dayton, Natalie Claxton, and Joel and Josie Hoffmann (chef and sausage designer) all wanted to “come up with something no one else has hit on in Santa Barbara,” Mullen says. “We wanted a place that feels like a family restaurant … to be simple and go after niche and a competitive price.” After a “vibe check” to Los Angeles (and indeed the Brat Haus menu can seem like a Wurstküche North), they settled on a German/Belgian focus — beer, Belgian fries, Belgian waffles, and most importantly, 23 kinds of sausage, from traditional brats to vegetarian chipotle to an exotic, very popular (if a bit hunter-and-the-hunted) rattlesnake and rabbit with jalapeño.
The group is particularly happy with the renovation of the space that also housed Rocks. The upstairs brick wall was hidden beneath plaster and turned out to be the original from the Piccadilly Square days, and taking out the false ceiling revealed the rugged, attractive beams. “We thought it was a depressing place, but we started opening things up and realized it could be great,” Mullen enthuses. “We ended up going for an industrial rustic look.”
And, as of last week, the Brat Haus has the only food kiosk in the mall. “We’ve really thought about scents,” Mullen says. “You’ll walk by … and want an amazing waffle.” It also has a new happy-hour menu, from which, in addition to brat skewers and large Bavarian pretzels and more tasty treats, you’ll be able to order a St. Bernardus Abt 12, one of the best-rated beers in the world, for $6.
Mullen looks forward to the Brat Haus, with one of Santa Barbara’s largest outside dining spaces, both upstairs and down, becoming the spot for Solstice and Fiesta, “and we plan to do an Oktoberfest,” he says. And while eyeing the future, Mullen can’t help but look to the past: “Beer and sausage goes back to probably the 12th century. Anyone who says they invented something is mistaken. Here’s hoping … we’ve made something unique to our city.”
Get the lead out of your lederhosen and try Hoffmann Brat Haus (801 State St.). Call (805) 962-3131 or visit hoffmannbrathaus.com.