“In Montecito, what seemed to be missing most was something to do at night,” says Mike Sheldon, the owner of the new Coast Village Road eatery Local. As a music lover who played the drums in high school and college, Sheldon made sure that when they opened, Local would offer live music nightly. In fact, the music lineup is the first thing you will find when looking up their website. With the help of Executive Chef Jonathan McDermott, Sheldon’s love for cooking and live music have come together to create the perfect location for a summer evening, al fresco, in Montecito.
Sheldon has always loved cooking and eating. He was going to go to cooking school when he was given the opportunity to become CEO of Goleta-based tech company Curvature in 2004.
“In my years at Curvature, I traveled all over the place, so I traveled a lot and ate out almost every night, so I fell in love with cuisine from all over the world,” Sheldon said. When he got home, Sheldon frequented the local Santa Barbara markets and cooked every night.
Sheldon retired from his role at Curvature in 2017, and when COVID hit, he found himself in a position to make a change. When the space that was formerly Khao Kaeng became available, he jumped at the opportunity to open his first restaurant. Chris Chiarappa, Sheldon’s good friend and owner of such popular spots as Mesa Burger and Corner Tap, provided wisdom and support. Sheldon also put together a dream team of chefs to anchor the kitchen.
“One of the fun parts is that we have a great team,” Sheldon said. Executive Chef Jonathan McDermott, previously at Sear Restaurant in Solvang; Jason Carter from Pure Joy Catering; and Adam Sanacore from The Lark all play a key role in creating the dynamic menu and ensuring each dish is meticulously prepared.
Manager Romy Buhringer has a background in the wine industry, evident by the thoughtfully curated wine list. The selections are diverse and playful, with offerings like Dreamcôte’s sparkling grenache rosé and house wines created by artisanal winemaker Paul Lato, along with local favorites like Jonata’s velvety cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and petit verdot “Todos” blend. While Local’s list makes a point to features several local wines, they also delve into wines from all over the world, echoing the menu’s international flavors.
“Most of the dishes came out of my memory of eating somewhere or another,” Sheldon explained. “We’ve got fish and chips from London with a southern spicy twist; we’ve got fish tacos, which are local, but we also have crudos that you’d find in Singapore or Tokyo.”
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This world tour of tastes is not to be missed. The fried cauliflower florets nestled in an addictive garlic tahini whip and ladolemono sauce make a perfect starter. We also began our meal with the yellowtail crudo bathed in a bright broth of charred pineapple and Fresno chile, the perfect palate-primer. Their seafood sings of the sea, which is no wonder since they work with local fisherman and the Santa Barbara Fish Market to find their freshest catch.
“You can’t beat the fish tacos,” Sheldon said. “We use fresh Channel Islands rockfish, blackened.”
Their pan-seared salmon is also a tour de force, featuring a coconut curry broth, broccolini, fried leeks, basil, and mint served with a deliciously nutty black jasmine rice.
The citrus beet salad layered atop a bed of whipped ricotta and garnished with watercress, toasted hazelnuts, mint, orange, and ninja radish provides a mouthwatering example of what happens when fresh produce is placed in expert hands.
“There’s a lot of fun to be had with local ingredients,” Sheldon said.
The creative cocktail list complements each full-flavored dish and also aids in ushering in the dancing once the opening chords on the sweet baby grand piano are struck. Assistant General Manager Presley Marone hails from bartending at the Rosewood Miramar Beach and collaborated with Sheldon on creating a strong list of drinks.
“Fifty percent of the drinks came out of my COVID chemistry experiments,” Sheldon explained of his research and development of the menu. Spicy marg lovers will enjoy the Hot off the Plancha, a tasty concoction of jalapeño-infused Arette Blanco tequila, Grand Marnier, lime, Ancho Reyes, and blood orange puree. Local beers on tap such as Topa Topa’s Spectro Hazy IPA offer a little something for everyone.
If drinks aren’t your thing, the delectable array of desserts is sure to elongate the night. Linger over their silky peanut-butter pie or a seasonal cobbler topped with fresh ice cream, and get a little too comfortable on that cozy patio couch with cappuccino at your side.
Local boasts a large TV inside as well as two outdoor TVs, and they are looking forward to increasing their game-day festivities. Their Sunday jazz brunch pairs the sweet sounds of local musicians with brunch favorites like avocado toast as well as more exotic fare like the Santa Barbara Hot Brown starring sourdough bread, roasted turkey, thick-cut Nueske’s bacon, farmers’ market tomatoes, and sunny-side-up egg topped with Mornay sauce.
“We’re going to try and keep it light, have fun, and keep the character of the place,” Sheldon said. With the warm and bubbly service, convivial spirit, incredible food, and entertainment, Local is the perfect spot to breathe some (night) life into Coast Village Road.
1187 Coast Village Rd.; (805) 770-2269; localmontecito.com