Though she grew up the child of “really bland eaters” in Sacramento, Geneva Ives is now one of Santa Barbara’s most experienced and exploratory diners. The UCSB College of Creative Studies grad (class of 2004) relays her favorite insights in this new guidebook published by Reedy Press, which features about 80 restaurants and food purveyors described in Ives’s chatty, easy-to-read style.
Her first foray into downtown dining was from the decade she spent working at A Tropical Affair on East Cota Street. “When you live and work downtown, you end up hanging out with the server and bartender crowd, and that becomes the winemaker and chef crowd as you get older,” said Ives, who met her husband, the filmmaker and barbecue master Aron Ives, when he worked at The Palace Grill. “He was really into food, and it just evolved from there.”
She started writing “10 Best” articles for USA Today a few years ago, and then her friend Tara Jones Haaf, who wrote 100 Things to Do in Santa Barbara Before You Die for the same publisher, suggested Ives do this book. Initially, she thought she was too busy, with a full-time marketing-writer job at Yardi and lots of side gigs. “But then I thought, ‘Someone is gonna write this book; it might as well be me,’” said Ives, who also got pregnant along the way.
She sees the book as great for both tourists, thanks to handy guide boxes that explain cost and must-get items, and locals, who can find inspiration when looking for a new restaurant. “You can get stuck in a rut and go to the same 10 or 12 restaurants,” said Ives. “This is organized alphabetically but also indexed by food type and neighborhood, so you can find something new in Goleta or try a new Mexican restaurant.”
Though she knew a lot about many of the restaurants already, she visited them all for fresh content. “Every interview in here is unique,” she said. “That’s what was fun, to sit and talk to chefs and hear their stories.”
Despite the effort, she was only able to cover a fraction of the 500 restaurants in the area. “Honestly, I could have gone on and on,” said Ives, and she might get that chance: This is one of the first books in the publisher’s new series, and they are planning to update it every two years.
Unique Eats and Eateries of Santa Barbara is for sale at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.), the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State St.), and Diani Living (1324 State St.).