Tucked into a breezy little space on Carpinteria Avenue, Carp Kitchen & Grocery may seem unassuming, but their bold flavors, meticulous ingredient selection, and high-quality food speaks volumes.
“Everything you eat here — it exceeds your expectations,” Lark Cobb, a nurse who lives around the corner, eagerly told me almost as soon as I walked in the store. I didn’t fully comprehend her zeal until I tried the food. Now I want to return for lunch every day, just like Cobb, and profess my adoration publicly.
“I built this place for me, and I’m inviting everyone to this experience,” explained owner Deb Goldman. She’s crazy about everything they sell, from the black truffle chips, heirloom caprese, and compound garlic herb butter to rare French cheeses and organic Spanish and Portuguese wines. “There’s nothing in the shop that I haven’t tasted myself and said, ‘This is really good,’” Goldman said.
We’re all lucky that Goldman has an incredible palate, a desire to eat food that makes her feel good, and a passion to share it. The skilled chef got her start at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City.
“My background is actually in alternative cooking for health,” Goldman said. “I definitely believe that food is medicine, which is why we make things in-house and homemade. If we can make it, we will.”
Those who fear health food may involve a lack of fat or flavor are in for quite a joyous awakening at Carp Kitchen. Goldman’s menu spoils us with classics like the Italian Godmother sandwich and the mouthwatering Hot Chicken Club, made with grilled chicken breast, smoked cheddar, house-made bacon, avocado, pickled red onion, lettuce, and lemon garlic aioli on a sesame hoagie. That may not sound like the lightest meal, but Goldman’s attention to making everything in-house and sourcing the finest meats and breads allows one to feel delightfully full, rather than comatose.
“You can eat, and go to bed, and feel good,” Goldman explained of her food. “We are as organic as we possibly can be.” She has a close relationship with Tutti Frutti Farms, meats come from Newport Meat, Mary’s Organic supplies the chicken, and their beef is hormone-free.
Goldman honors her hometown with her favorite lunch item: the New Yorker. With one bite of the house-cured pastrami, coleslaw, and spicy mustard piled high between two tender slices of corn rye, it instantly became my favorite as well.
Everything on the menu shines, from the baby beets salad to the lemon chicken soup. Another favorite you don’t find every day in Santa Barbara — or even in California, for that matter — is the California Philly sandwich, featuring grilled marinated hanger steak, gruyère cheese, grilled red onion and tomato, chimichurri, and lemon garlic aioli on a hoagie.
“We chose the hangar steak because it’s actually known as the butcher’s cut,” Goldman said. “It’s the cut that the butcher would put underneath the cabinet and save for the family.”
Credit: Ingrid Bostrom
Goldman is especially proud of her take-home dinner menu. She’s a caterer and has had her own company called Savory Thyme Catering since 2016. In 2020, she had to do the omnipresent pivot and decided to go all-in to launch Carp Kitchen.
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“This concept is retail catering in my eyes, because we’re sending you home with food that’s been prepared,” Goldman said.
The dinner menu includes an incredible selection of mains portioned for two such as the Hangar Steak or Atlantic Salmon, sauce accompaniments like basil arugula pesto, and hot sides such as roasted Brussels sprouts or baked macaroni and three cheeses. Don’t miss another picture-perfect nod to N.Y. with their creamy vanilla cheesecake for dessert.
Goldman’s passion and care is palpable in every bite, sip, and warm interaction at this small but mighty gem of Carpinteria. “It’s a love,” she said. “We can’t help it.”
4945-A Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria; (805) 318-9400; carpkitchen.com