Benchmark Eatery

Paul Wellman

Benchmark Eatery

Just Be at Benchmark Eatery

Brophy Bros.’ Bennett Family Resuscitates Corner of State and A

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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When Maggie’s at State and A closed after only 14 months in existence — didn’t it take longer to renovate the place? — the social mediascape was full of good-riddances for both the high-priced food and the restaurant’s out-of-place tapestries. Thankfully, the prime corner location is returning to a more down-home Santa Barbara vibe now that the Bennetts are in charge. The family, which also owns Brophy Bros., On the Alley, Arch Rock, the Cliff Room, and Farmer Boy Restaurant, just reopened the property as Benchmark Eatery, which is already attracting crowds for great people-watching and a wide variety of food and drinks.

“It’s just like the art wall by Arna Bee,” said owner John Bennett during a recent conversation on his lively patio, where the other tables dined happily on chicken wings. “I asked her to create a wall where everyone could identify with something. Our menu has the same premise.”

Approachability is key for Bennett. “Santa Barbara is misunderstood,” he said. “There are more normal guys getting by than the jet-setting community.” With the motto of “Just B.E.,” Benchmark is much more concerned with the latter folks, and the restaurant’s under-$10 burger stands as a sort of symbol to affordability.

So how does Benchmark compare with Brophy’s, the Bennetts’ longtime flagship? “This menu is a little more chef-driven,” said Bennett, giving a nod to consulting chef Jason Banks. “It’s not primarily seafood but has a lot of vegetarian dishes. It’s a lot more broad. It’s more metropolitan and not so beachy. Still, it represents Santa Barbara pretty well.” So along with the carnitas tacos and grilled ahi, you have veggie sopes and a kale antipasto.

<b>SUB-$10 BURGER:</b>  Benchmark Eatery's Allison Kearney presents the restaurant's affordable burger, which symbolizes the Bennett family's desire to serve all classes of Santa Barbarans. 
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

SUB-$10 BURGER: Benchmark Eatery’s Allison Kearney presents the restaurant’s affordable burger, which symbolizes the Bennett family’s desire to serve all classes of Santa Barbarans. 

One big similarity is that the location is perfectly designed for meeting new people, just like the ever-buzzing Brophy’s. “The double-sided bar — that forces interaction. It’s a key feature in this industry,” Bennett explained. “A lot of people are lonely, so if you put together a venue that helps them catch eyes and feel love, it makes a difference.”

Keeping it simple, fun, and delicious, though never precious, is the Bennett mantra. “We know what we don’t do — we’re not finer dining — but we know what we are,” he explained, and that also means catering to families. “We don’t want to make money off your kids,” said Bennett, whose kids’ menu items are in the $5-$6 range. “Every manager here has kids, and there aren’t enough restaurants that serve that market. If they take one bite and throw it down, you don’t feel hurt in the pocket.” Dulling such parental pains is also made easy by the numerous craft beers on draft and an “interesting enough but not über-trendy” cocktail list created by bar manager Randy Brown (formerly of El Encanto).

“We’re kind of simple people, and to provide a quality service, you have to be present,” said Bennett. “We aim for an honest and simple product. It’s not just serving food; it’s serving the customer’s needs.”


Get comfortable at Benchmark Eatery, located at 1201 State Street. Call (805) 845-2600 or see


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This place is awesome.. hopefully the next change will be to take the roof off the patio. Surprisingly SB has very few places to eat on an open patio. ( who knows, maybe the Bennet's predict a huge rainy season)

skaterspoint (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 1:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Obviously this family not only knows restaurant business but their local market as well. Can't wait to try under $10 burger.

calikid55 (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 11:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you Bennett family!

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 11:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"We don’t want to make money off your kids,”
Thank you John and the Bennett Family!
That philosophy is apparent at On the Ally and our family loves going there.
(when the wait is too long at Brophys of course)
Good luck and hope to see you there soon.

sbmiker (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 11:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yay Bennett family! May you live long and prosper.

onthecoast (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 12:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hallelujah, State & A is resurrected.

They published a statement a few months ago with the Restaurant Guy, I think, about how the roof has to stay on the patio because due to the previous remodel the plumbing and other stuff is now integrated into it structurally--the cost to rebuild it (and permit it) is prohibitive. Don't quote me on the details, but basically the cover has to stay.

Nitz (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 5:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Those idiots who ran Maggie's really knew how to destroy a good thing.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 13, 2014 at 5:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Damn, oh well.. the roof will stay.. They know exactly what type of place to put in. On paper the best place to put in an upscale place is in that theater district, but what is needed is a place like what 'State and A' was. Often times I will go looking for food in that area and my choices include McDonalds, fast food, subway or other places to go.. or nice restaurants that you cant leave without dropping 40 bucks for 2 people. A bar and grill offers the perfect casual medium, burgers and salads etc. Now i don't have to go all the way down to Kahuna or Eureka for casual sit down dinner.. or settle for Arlington and Tupelo happy hour food. I often contemplated how to remodel State and A.. turns out Maggies nailed my ideas with the indoor/outdoor bar, but killed it on the restaurant.

skaterspoint (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 11:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

They can put skylights or even solartubes in the patio roof and helfp that outsoor space a lot. Still looks dark and creepy which was a terrible Maggie's legacy besides her food, decor, menu, service and her husband's haughty attitude. Burn some sage and open that patio up pelase.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 3:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Was there Monday night. Service was terrible, like had to ask the manager about our drinks terrible, but the food was very good. Will go back as I'm sure it was just an off night. Looks like "Piano/The French Table/etc.," is now the only "when will it close up and change owners" restaurant in the area. Good luck.

hi5vonhayes (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 9:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I bet you still don't know where their water comes from :P

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 10:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Had a nice meal there. The service, food and drinks were excellent. Great patio fun, was had by all. Reasonable prices to boot. I think that they will make it.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 10:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

They should hang some repro tapestries on the wall and pretend their 13th century aristocrats.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 10:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

...they could have woodcuts.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 14, 2014 at 10:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)


I walked by their kitchen and it looked like they were just throwing a bunch of iodide into the air and then holding out buckets to catch the water. Very innovative indeed.

hi5vonhayes (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2014 at 7:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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