There are few places I would rather be at the end of a workday than sipping a mango mojito at the relatively new Milk and Honey on West Anapamu Street. I realize that sentence makes me sound like I’m carrying a Louis Vuitton bag and talking on my cell phone as I write this – but get over it. Milk and Honey makes a damn good drink.

I admit it was not until several months after Alcazar’s downtown incarnation was opened that I let myself experience the swanky glory of Milk and Honey. Even though the decor appealingly evoked Alcazar’s modern intimacy, the place also wafted the pretentious L.A. air of – at this point – nearly all downtown Santa Barbara eateries. I also committed the fatal flaw of believing the numerous lukewarm or downright nasty reviews of Milk and Honey scattered about the glorious World Wide Web, which turns even the most casual diner into a seasoned food critic.

Well, after several divine happy hour experiences there, I don’t see what you all are complaining about. Yes, it’s expensive – with tapas in the $10 range – and yes, they sometimes play loud music (appropriately musty stuff, I must add, like Thievery Corporation), and yes, it’s dark. None of these things were a surprise to me. It’s a chichi tapas bar in downtown Santa Barbara; the walls are covered in contemporary art involving swirls of deep reds and golds; the bathroom looks like it could easily double as a steam room at a luxury spa. It’s probably not going to be the best place for fast service and a cheap meal of hearty portions.

What it is (and what it promises to be) is a wonderful place to have an unusual cocktail and some artfully prepared snacks. I literally dreamed about the chipotle tofu last night. And I have become every bit as obsessed with the avocado hummus as my friend who harassed me into accompanying her to Milk and Honey until I gave in. But Milk and Honey’s forte is undeniably its beverages: coconut and mango mojitos served in tumblers with sticks of sugar cane; sage and lychee martinis, better known as “blackout drinks” due to their deceptively sweet flavor; sangrias and margaritas that taste like they’ve been made-to-order with fresh-squeezed fruit.

Finally, a word on the waitresses: adorable. Though good-looking, well-dressed bartenders and servers are a dime a dozen in this town, the ones at Milk and Honey are somehow more authentically so. Then again, it could just be the mojito talking.


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