Michael Cervin
Courtesy Photo

When it comes to beats, writer Michael Cervin covers all the appealing angles: food, booze, travel, and, yes, even fine bottled water are the focus of his colorful reportage, which appears in numerous publications both regional and global. Santa Barbara Know-It-All: A Guide to Everything That Matters is his fifth travel book focused on Santa Barbara, and he recently answered a few questions about the humorous guide.

Why write yet another Santa Barbara travel book?

I was on a yacht on Morro Bay harbor years ago, and I had this idea of writing a travel book that was fun, entertaining, and funny. I always wanted to write a travel book where everything was personally vetted by the author, not merely a list of hotels, restaurants, and tedium. So I came up with this book, which includes recipes, poetry, pictures of my cats, snarky comment ​— ​it’s pretty unusual.

<em>Santa Barbara Know-It-All: A Guide to Everything That Matters</em>
Courtesy Photo

Why do readers need a funny edge to be engaged?

Why shouldn’t a travel book make you laugh? I don’t think a modern reader needs “funny” to be engaged, but as a writer, there are two rules I try and follow with all my books: Entertain and educate. Let’s face it: We’ve got enough drama and mediocrity in today’s world ​— ​let’s laugh a little and learn a little.

What are some of your secret spots?

The Franceschi steps, the Frog Wall, Astronomy on Tap, the fact that the original location of The Habit in Goleta has a secret menu. Hiking and walking your dog in the San Marcos Preserve, the motorcycle museum in Solvang, a visit to BUNS to hang with the bunny rabbits and Guinea pigs, paragliding at Elings Park, to name a few.

If I were from Iowa and only had one day, what should I do?

Though my book doesn’t break down “itineraries,” I would suggest the following: Do a morning walk/run/rollerblade along the beachfront. Breakfast at Helena Avenue Bakery, then visit the Courthouse and Presidio for a wee bit of history. Stop in the Museum of Art, then lunch at Cold Spring Tavern on your way to wine country. Visit Figueroa Mountain Brewery in Buellton, then Dragonette Winery in Los Olivos. For the full wine experience, stop in at Rideau and Brander. Dinner at the Ballard Inn.

What if I were from San Diego?

If you’re from San Diego, what are you doing here? You’ve got a great city, but I’m guessing the water is not why you’re here. If you visit for a day, I’d suggest early-morning workout at the Franceschi steps, breakfast at Via Maestra 42, a leisurely walk/hike among the psychotic rocks at Lizard’s Mouth; then head to the Funk Zone for wine, beer, spirits. Dinner at Opal, then cocktails and music at The Red Piano.

Where is your favorite place to eat?

Right now, I’d say Blackbird at the Hotel Californian. It’s creative, slightly off-beat in that it’s not the traditional protein and two sides, and wonderfully fresh (loving the black-garlic-rubbed grilled octopus). It also looks cool inside, art-deco old Hollywood.

Which city in the world is most like us?

Of all the cities I’ve actually been to, the city of Kelowna in the central Okanagan Valley of Canada could easily be designated as our sister city. Our populations are about the same, and we’re both large tourist destinations. Whereas Santa Barbara has the ocean, Kelowna has Okanagan Lake, as well as stunning mountain terrain and heaps of outdoor activities. It was the birthplace of wine in British Columbia and has more than 50 wineries nearby, a strong farm-to-table restaurant movement, a vibrant arts scene, and a low-key vibe to rival our own.


Michael Cervin will be signing copies of Santa Barbara Know-It-All: A Guide to Everything That Matters on Sunday, August 19, 4-5 p.m., at the Healing Circle (3040 State St.).


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