Best of Santa Barbara 2012: Falling in Love

Man (author D.J. Palladino) meets flower at Victor the Florist.
Paul Wellman

Place to Buy Intimate Apparel

Victoria’s Secret

651 Paseo Nuevo, 962-1023

London in Love, Bombshell, Angels, and, it almost goes without saying, Very Sexy: These are just a few of the bra lines served up by a place whose name implies just the right balance between repression and reveal. How else would this American company survive now for 35 years’ worth of stand-up comedians’ jokes and clearing, according to Wikipedia, five billion dollars a year? That’s a lot of money for very little lace and, we suppose, such stuff as dreams are made on.



Pure Joy Catering

111 E. Haley St., 963-5766

“We’re doing really good!” insisted Pure Joy owner Lynette La Mere, who, like others, felt the economy’s chilling effect for the last few years, though never in a dire sense, and is now marking 11 years at their Haley Street kitchen offices. “And it’s so exciting that the Santa Barbara Independent readers voted for us. We bring Pure Joy to the celebrations that we cater. We love what we do, and people can taste that.”



Victor the Florist

135 E. Anapamu St., 965-3075

At 82 years, Victor the Florist is second only to White’s Pet Hospital in longevity of excellence. But the remarkable aspect of that is the business they are in. In 1930, Victor Sourmany opened a store dedicated to that most transient (and therefore most highly prized) of gifts, a flower in bloom. Today, the shop with the prettiest neon sign in town is run by his granddaughter and, in an age of online shopping and jet-fast delivery, still manages to make flowers speak the immediate language of emotions clear and lasting to the people lucky enough to receive them.


Bridal Shop

Ana Maria’s Bridal Boutique

3891 State St., #107, 687-5054

“Maybe it’s the service,” said Ana Maria Vera, owner of a boutique that has been arraying brides for the last 15 years and carries eight lines but puts an emphasis on individuality. “I’m not sure, but our customer service is so good. I want to see them happy, so they look beautiful, so they look their best.”


Confronted by wedding cake at Wayne Kjar Cakes, author D.J. Palladino bravely takes up his fork.
Paul Wellman

Wedding Cake Shop

Wayne Kjar Cakes

2018 Cliff Dr., 845-5519

“We win because we have good customers like you,” said Wayne Kjar, and then promptly recalled exactly what it was that I had ordered last time we fell under his confectionary spell. Maybe this commitment to what he does and who he creates his dazzling cakes for has something to do with his popularity, you think? The son of Henning Kjar, who sweetened the mood of the last entire generation of Santa Barbarans, Wayne comes by his bakery skills honestly. But his people skills are all his own.


Tuxedo Rental

Mission Tuxedo

136 W. Mission St., 569-3334

Since the mid 1980s, this store — which has satellites in Oxnard and Ventura — has been making the Santa Barbara male of the species at least externally more presentable for those few occasions (like getting married) when shorts and a T-shirt jut won’t do. “It’s quality service and quality products,” said owner John Murray, explaining why the town comes up to Mission Street to be suited. “We have three or four designers and our own brand, and despite the bad economy, we’re still doing alright.”


Place to Buy Jewelry

Bryant and Sons

Two locations

For almost half a century, the Bryant family has sold Santa Barbarans the rich stuff used to festoon body parts and represent fidelity’s commitment. Luckily, they are a lot more poetic than that, offering an aesthetic of design and treasured gems, stones, and precious metals that borders on fine art: from black Tahitian pearls to round-cut diamonds in prices that span the universe, too. Bryant and Sons also sells watches from the most prestigious makers in the world like Cartier and Patek Philippe. What lasts forever and sounds like a bell? Bling.


Romantic Restaurant

The Stonehouse

San Ysidro Ranch, 900 San Ysidro Ln., 565-1700

Clubby, intimate, and secluded, The Stonehouse at the San Ysidro Ranch offers an indoor fireplace and outdoor twinkly lights dining with very friendly staff and a seasonal menu with features like tomato water consommé with lobster or veal cheeks with cumin-scented carrots in a mild curry reduction. It is not likely that your date will be able to resist you after dining in a place this embroidered with sumptuous pleasures. And the hotel is nearby, too.


Bed and Breakfast Inn

The Upham

1404 De la Vina St., 962-0058

“We’re delighted to win again,” said general manager Jan Martin Winn. “Our main focus has always been keeping the guests comfortable, while our main challenge is trying to keep this old historic hotel up to date.” They do it well, with cable, Internet connections, and an excellent restaurant inside a building that predates Stearns Wharf. “It’s completely unique here in Santa Barbara,” said Winn.


Limo Service; Taxi Service (Driving category)

Rockstar Transportation


“Hopefully they voted for us because of the service and not just the color of the cars,” laughed owner James Houseman, who began the cleverly labeled cab and car line nine years ago when there were only nine cab companies serving the greater S.B. area. Today, Houseman is proud to get the readers’ votes with 75 companies running taxis and limousines. “We do always have good music, and we do our best to make the ride fun.”



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