Alex Noormand and Tracy Clark, who have been friends since age 7, could never quite find a restaurant that had both tasty food and a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere. “There are so many cool places in Santa Barbara,” said Noormand, “but we never found that exact place.”
The solution? Opening their own restaurant called Yellow Belly (2611 De la Vina St.; (805) 770-5694; yellowbellytap.com) earlier this month, and it’s quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite for craft beers, filling eats, and a friendly vibe.
The name was inspired by the yellow-bellied sapsucker, a bird native to Yosemite, and was going to be Yellow Belly Tap Sucker until they shortened it. Both Noormand and Clark believe that outdoor seating is necessary, so the location — next to Jedlicka’s and former home of TAP Thai — boasts a large back patio and newly built front patio along with plenty of places to sit indoors, too. The menu relies on fresh, locally grown ingredients and hometown vendors, including coffee from Handlebar, ice cream from McConnell’s, and beer from Telegraph. The fare is heavy on comfort foods with modern additions, and the options for mains and beers are at almost a 1:1 ratio.
“We’ve created a pretty small menu and really perfected each item rather than doing a large menu,” Noormand explained. “We’ve put a lot of time and thought into each menu item.” Clark interjected, adding, “And beer and cheese and love!”
It’s true. With 10 beers on tap and a menu full of items smothered with cheese, Yellow Belly is already filling excited bellies every evening. And if you find yourself hungry during the day, the space also doubles as a Crushcakes Café and Tasting Room, serving breakfast, cupcakes, and coffee 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Here are some menu favorites:
Baked Mac and Cheese: This classic dish is offered as a starter and baked in the oven with a hearty mixture of what Clark calls “delicious cheeses”: gruyere, jack, sharp cheddar, and parmesan, with a finishing touch of bread crumbs sprinkled on top. “It’s super tasty,” she said. Portions are generous enough to be a main.
The Black and Bleu: A good burger needs two things: quality ingredients and a nice char, and this — with balsamic caramelized onions, bleu cheese, tomato, arugula, and a garlic aioli on a lightly toasted, buttery brioche bun — excels at both, offering the right amount of juicy and crispy in one bite. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can add bacon, a fried egg, or avocado.
Telegraph California Ale: Telegraph’s flagship beer is a classic Belgian pale ale made with only American ingredients. Medium-bodied and malty with a touch of tart and fruity notes, it pairs well with the Black and Bleu Burger.
Chocolate Chip Cookie with McConnell’s Ice Cream: You know when someone’s ordered this by the intoxicating smell of fresh cookies, which are cooked to order in an iron skillet, wafting through the air. “We throw a big scoop of ice cream on top,” said Noormand, who offers vanilla bean, double peanut butter chip, or Turkish coffee flavors. “We both grew up here, so we love McConnell’s.”