Rooftop Bar & Bistro Fills Goleta Niche

Views, Chews, Brews, and More Atop the Hilton Garden Inn

Manager Kacey House and Chef Michael Blackwell combine creative dishes and great drinks on a hotel roof in Goleta
Paul Wellman

Goleta lives up to its “Good Land” moniker with a burgeoning brewery scene, impressive cocktail spots, and tasty bites. But it can be difficult to find all of those things in one place. That’s where the new Rooftop Bar & Bistro atop the Hilton Garden Inn comes to the rescue, offering all of the above with an exciting wine list, expansive mountain views, and live music to boot.

“That’s a niche we’ve been able to fill for the community,” said the bistro’s food & beverage director, Kacey House, “providing a full experience for guests.”

Relaxing in their elegant yet comfortable rooftop lounge feels like sitting atop a cloud. The cozy couches and fireplaces, festive string lights, friendly service, and enticing menu could transport any UCSB grad student, start-up employee, or weary traveler far above the stresses of the day and into a heavenly respite.

“Because it’s an independent concept up here, we have a lot of freedom to do what we want,” House explained. Putting that freedom to great use is Executive Chef Michael Blackwell, formerly of the Montecito Country Club, who’s cooked up a delicious menu of shareable plates, snacks, and entrées.

During a recent visit, we started off with the crispy brussels sprouts topped with crushed pistachios and tangy Peppadew peppers, which were scattered atop a bed of curried yogurt for a refreshingly unique take on this modern favorite. The fried chicken and waffle sandwich featured Lay’s potato-chip-and panko-crusted chicken wrapped in a cheddar-thyme waffle, with jalapeno jam, arugula, and maple-bourbon bacon served with a side of perfectly done fries. And the empanada trio proved a very fun and shareable plate, showcasing a rotating selection of meats and vegetarian fillings wrapped in house-made dough and complemented with the flavor kick of a fresh chimichurri. That sauce is so good that I recommend slathering it on anything from the menu.

Their extensive cocktail list features the expected classics, as well as custom creations such as their Piñas y Piñas, an original take on the “spicy marg” with tequila, fresh pineapple, lime, jalapeno, and agave syrup. I was entranced by the wine list, a thoughtful exploration of wines mostly created within 150 miles of Goleta. I highly enjoyed Brave & Maiden’s Union red blend from the Santa Ynez Valley and also tried Aaron’s Sand & Stone Rhône blend. Thanks to their Coravin system, the Rooftop staff can pour pricier wines without pulling the cork. Said House, “We can access what would be really expensive wine by the glass.”

Their craft beers are mostly from California, featuring neighborhood favorites like M.Special and Captain Fatty’s, and happy hour is becoming quite popular, as are the live music nights on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. “This has definitely turned into a locals’ hangout,” House said.

As I sipped my wine, the sunset lit up the mountains in a dusky glow, friends got up to dance to the bluegrass tunes of the Bryan Titus Trio, and others snuggled closer to the fireplaces. I couldn’t help but plot my next trip back into the dreamy realm of The Rooftop.

6878 Hollister Ave., Goleta; (805) 562-5996;


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