Walking into The Project — the hybrid hangout of Captain Fatty’s Brewing Company and Corazon Cocina — is a feast for the senses. The patio, filled with happy folks wielding margaritas, hums with a light breeze; arrays of fresh chips and salsa adorn tables. Peek around the corner to find a long bar featuring friendly folks pouring a variety of Goleta-made brews and Central Coast wines, with wide-open windows showcasing palm trees and mountain views.
“We wanted to create a place that allowed for our creativity to flow,” explains Matt Minkus, co-owner and creative director of Captain Fatty’s, of this new symbiotic place on the edge of the Funk Zone.
In a space best known previously as Union Ale, The Project opened in July after much anticipation. Chef Ramón Velazquez of Corazon Cocina knew the owners of Captain Fatty’s from doing pop-ups at their Goleta brewery, and they decided to join forces for the ultimate group project. Explained Minkus, “A bigger kitchen allows him to do more experimenting.”
The menu features many favorites from Corazon, such as the norteño tacos and mercado quesadillas, but there are plenty of new delicacies to discover, such as the Birria.com tacos. A succulent combination of braised short rib, onions, and cilantro, these heavenly creations are served with a delicious birria jus on the side for drizzling, dipping, or even drinking, if one is so moved.
“I wanted to make a menu that would pair well with beer or mezcal and tequila,” said Velazquez. “I get inspired by places in Mexico. Markets, streets, fishing villages. I love to get lost in the streets of Mexico. Usually, I just follow the smell of good food or the clouds of people.”
For a classic burger-and-beer pairing, take Captain Fatty’s West Coast–style Blue IPA and pair it with The Project Burger, which gets the Corazon treatment via house-made chorizo, melted Oaxaca cheese, farmers’ market fixings, and chile toreado mayo. For the more adventurous, the Octopus Burger is a must. The combination of seared Spanish octopus, tomatoes, grilled red onion, lettuce, salsa verde, and chile toreado aioli on a brioche bun blew me away.
“I love seafood,” said Velazquez. “We are next to the ocean, after all. I like to use local and Baja California sustainable seafood.”
The big-eye tuna tostada is a perfect example of that straight-from-the-sea freshness, artfully prepared with citrus, soy, avocado, and chicharrón. For dessert, do not miss the coconut rice pudding topped with pineapple salsa.
The Project can whip up a variety of inventive margaritas and cocktails, while Captain Fatty’s features your favorite brews from their Goleta brewery on Calle Real near Los Carneros. The main difference between those headquarters are the guest taps, such as The Apiary’s crisp Drink Your Flowers mead and wine from Samsara, their Goleta neighbor.
“With the recent explosion of growth of the craft-beverage market along the Central Coast, there is no shortage of local breweries that have outstanding and unique products,” explained Preston Angell, head brewer and co-owner of Captain Fatty’s. “It is our desire to showcase our brethren in the industry that produce a product locally or use local ingredients.”
On Thursday nights, Party Proper’s Andrew Elia (DJ Persian House Cat) spins vinyl, and they have plans to open for breakfast soon, so you can pair Sunday football with fresh chilaquiles.
“It’s all about just being social,” Minkus explained. Whether you come for the beer, wine, the game, cocktails, fantastic food, or the convivial scene, The Project is sure to satisfy on all accounts.
Open daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; 214 State St.; 869-2820; theprojectsb.com