There’s always someone in the family who’s a bit more eclectic, offbeat, and quirky than everyone else, and in the case of the restaurant-running Perez clan — who’ve owned Santa Barbara’s Seagrass since 2010 — that would be son Ruben. “I’ve always considered myself to be the black sheep,” said Perez, who recently opened a 30-seat spot called Black Sheep (26 E. Ortega St.;  965-1113; theblacksheepsb.com) adjacent to Seagrass, which his dad, Robert, runs. “My concept was to be a full-service restaurant but expose a new generation of diners to great food at a great price — something fun and approachable.”
Perez and his “assistant decision maker” Nate Curteman credit the gastropub and tapas culture as influences and offer a menu that blends comfort and taste effortlessly, providing an intimate, casual, come-as-you-are hangout. Sourcing from such well-known purveyors as Shepherd Farms, Tutti Frutti Farms, and Santa Barbara Fish Market, the regionally driven menu will change seasonally.
Recent highlights included the Charred Little Gem Salad, with sweetbreads, creamy house-made ranch dressing, and kumquat relish; the delicate and light Scallop Crudo, with spicy candied carrot puree, garlic chips, and broccoli green blossoms; the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio “à la Phô,” with fish sauce, jus vinaigrette, mint, cilantro, Thai chili, and shallots; and Beef Cheeks Braised in Banana Leaves with ancho chili, annatto seed, tequila, lime, and tomatoes. Ramen fans can also rejoice via a big bowl of slow-braised pork belly, with roasted shiitake mushrooms, green onion, and cilantro.
“We don’t want to be labeled as fine dining,” said Perez. “We want people to come as they are. We accept everybody. Come hang out, listen to funky music, enjoy a good beer and great service.”
In the upcoming months, Black Sheep hopes to offer farm-to-table dinners centered around seasonal favorites, as well as their very own beer club. Rotating art and music will liven up the relaxed, bohemian vibe.
“We have this ingredient called love; we put a lot of love into our food,” said Perez. “My passion has always been for the people. I do this because I love it. ”