“I just wanted to make a good piece of food that I could put in someone’s hands and they would be like, ‘Wow this is delicious,’” explains Logan Jones of Tamar Central Coast Shawarma, his Middle Eastern pop-up at Third Window Brewing Company.
That goal may seem simple, but it’s exactly what I felt during my first experience trying his meticulously prepared food. With a wood-fired oven baking homemade pita, a spit roasting chicken to perfection, and an array of handmade sauces and farmers’-market-fresh vegetables generously enhancing each dish, the lunch-only menu at Tamar is more than delicious — it’s filling a major gap in the diversity of Santa Barbara’s cuisine.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Jones took the traditional path into the restaurant industry, working in fine dining around Los Angeles at such hotspots as Norah, Bavel, and The Tasting Kitchen in Los Angeles. Most recently, he served as chef de cuisine at The Lark in Santa Barbara, but he felt his real calling was in sandwiches.
“I always wanted to make food that was pleasurable to me, that I could eat again and again and really feel satisfied by it,” Jones said.
After meeting Third Window’s owner Kris Parker during a Priedite Barbecue pop-up at Bell’s in Los Alamos, Jones was offered the opportunity to make his lunchtime dreams come true. After months of R&D and help from his wife, who does all of the accounting, Jones went all-in on his concept. In April, he started popping up at Third Window for lunch from Monday to Wednesday, and quickly amassed a loyal following.
With one bite of his Central Sandwich — its wood-fired pita filled to the brim with crispy falafel, hummus, cabbage salad, tomato, cucumber, and amba tahini, served with a side of Iranian mixed pickles and a spicy herb sauce called zhoug — I was blown away. In the same way that a downpour of rain feels after a drought, this meal was full of exciting new flavors that refreshed and reinvigorated me. I immediately began plotting my next trip back.
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“It’s a small menu, so I’m able to focus on the individual things as much as I’d like to,” Jones explained. Ordering online is available, and options include sides of freshly fried falafel, pita, or hummus, as well as Logan’s favorite dish, The Istanbul. This satisfying creation consists of yogurt-marinated chicken shawarma, cabbage salad, tomato, cucumber, sumac onions, tahini sauce, and amba aioli, served with those zippy pickles and zhoug and wrapped up in that fantastic pita. Said Jones, “I eat it almost every day, and I crave it still.”
In addition to the regular items, Jones creates a “farmers’ market special” each week. “It’s a way to challenge myself and keep Tamar fresh and desirable,” Jones explained.
During my visit in late August, I indulged that week’s special of caramelized, last-of-the-season peaches nestled atop a gorgeous mixture of lemon, cucumber, whipped farm cheese, serrano chile, lemon basil, and orange blossom honey vinaigrette, served with that incredible pita. Actually, it’s the best pita I’ve ever had. I had to ask what his secret was.
“It’s a 72-hour process and, with that long fermentation time, the flavor really develops. The wheat flavor’s really pronounced,” Jones said. “The way we work the dough produces this really great crumb structure.”
In the future, Jones hopes to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant, which would serve both lunch and dinner. In the meantime, he’s enjoying seeing his dream become reality, working with his family and nurturing the mutually beneficial relationship with the folks at Third Window.
“I trusted myself that I would be able to figure it out,” Jones said of his uncharted path to opening Tamar. With one bite of his food, one can trust he’ll be able to make his other dreams come to fruition as well.
Tamar serves at Third Window (406 E. Haley St.) every Monday-Wednesday, noon-4 p.m. Call (805) 242-3894 or see tamarsb.com.