Santa Barbara’s red-tiled-roofed downtowners often deride Goleta’s suburban setting, where tract homes, strip malls, and office parks tend to trump cultural trendsetting. But if Kimpton Hotels’ latest hospitality gamble pays off — and those of us who live in said tracts sure hope it does — these cooler-than-thou sentiments may need to be reconsidered.
Last month, after a half-year of remodeling the old Holiday Inn on Calle Real, Kimpton opened the Goodland Hotel as a destination resort of sorts, with retro room décor (record players and Mexican Coca-Cola) and a party-ready pool scene, featuring yoga sessions, movie screenings, slushy drinks, and the occasional deejay. But the centerpiece — especially for those who live and/or work but really want to play in Goleta — is the indoor/outdoor Outpost at the Goodland restaurant and the adjacent, billiards- and backgammon-equipped Good Bar. By offering cuisine-crossing dishes, creative cocktails, and a stylish, surfy vibe, the Goodland Hotel is Goleta’s next best chance of converting downtown dwellers into suburban sympathizers, if not full-fledged fans of what’s happening in strip mall central.
At the helm of Outpost is Chef Derek Simcik, already a Kimpton veteran at just 31 years old, having helped open two properties in Washington, D.C., before taking the helm at the Atwood in Chicago in 2009, where he won wide acclaim in four-plus years of work. Born in Athens, Greece, as the son of a CIA employee, Simcik was raised all around the world, attending high school outside of Tokyo, dropping out of an arts college and then graduating from culinary school in the States, and working in Vienna, Austria, before joining Kimpton. His first taste of Santa Barbara came when he helped the boutique chain take over downtown’s Canary Hotel and rebrand the restaurant as Finch & Fork. With so many farms and fishermen so close, the chef fell in love.
“I let it be known with the people in the home office that I was really interested in transferring to California at some point,” he explained. “Then it was January, our first cold day in Chicago — it was negative 56 degrees; it really was — and we had to close the restaurant down because it was too cold.” Dreaming of warmer climes, he searched the company’s job postings instead, found the “Santa Barbara project,” and took the gig, even though he knew nothing of Goleta. “I knew it was very close driving distance, so I figured I would be getting a hold of the same produce as Santa Barbara, the same farms, the same seafood,” said the chef. “But as far as the market goes and what was needed, I wasn’t 100 percent sure of what I was getting into.”
Simcik spent the ensuing months figuring that out, learning that there are indeed quite a few youngish, well-traveled, educated, and properly paid professionals, especially from places like Citrix, Deckers, and Sonos. “They work and they live here, but they don’t have any place to really go and hang out without having to go to downtown Santa Barbara,” said Simcik. “They have families and are a little older and out of the whole party scene, but they want to go somewhere that has a really great product with a much more relaxed, casual setting. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
His interpretation is reflected on the menu, which ranges widely in cuisine, cost, and quantity. My friend and I recently plowed through the $12 yellow tail crudo (with grilled stone fruit), $8 queso fundido (with poblanos and chorizo), the $12 blistered brussels sprouts (with coconut, pine nuts, and Thai basil), $3 pork taco (with grilled pineapple), $4 mushroom bao-bun (with hoisin onion), and the $26 pork belly (with apple kimchi), among some crafty cocktails prepared under the supervision of lead bartender Chris Burmeister. The ethnically eclectic experience reminded us of cities much bigger than Santa Barbara, and Simcik later explained that our sense of the menu being a bit all over the place was part of the intent.
“It goes to any diner,” he explained. “You can have the four-course dinner, or you can share everything, or you can just have a bite. You can do what you want. You should give the guest an option for what they are in the mood for.”
Brunch will be one such option now, as that service begins on October 18, but locally sourced ingredients won’t ever change. “It’s always been one of my personal philosophies that there is no need to go to bigger companies if you can get the same thing from someone across the street from you,” said Simcik.
And yes, thankfully, Goletans are taking notice. “We’re already starting to gather a following of regulars, which is great,” said Simcik. “Everybody is just telling us, ‘Thank you so much. We’re so glad this is here.’”
The Goodland Hotel, Outpost, and Good Bar are located at 5650 Calle Real in Goleta. See thegoodland.com or call (805) 964-1288.