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Matt Kettmann

Eat This: Shrimp Fest @ Beachside

34th Annual Seasonal Shellfish Soirée Runs ’til End of Fall at Goleta Beach


Classic seaside soul is soaked into the walls of the Beachside Bar-Café, which has been staring down the tides on the shore of Goleta Beach since the spring of 1985. Like countless casual eateries that cling to the California coast from San Diego to Santa Cruz, the Beachside serves familiar food at fair prices in an unpretentious atmosphere where floral prints and flip-flops reign. You needn’t go fancy or fusion or trend hunting when surrounded by sand, sea breezes, and shoreline scenes, it seems.

The Beachside’s owner Dave Hardy started riding this wave 33 years ago, and for the past 30 autumns, the former Gaucho football player, who once owned Jasper’s on Calle Real, has offered his patrons one of the best dining deals anywhere: Shrimp Fest. The meal deal started up again last week and will run through the end of fall.

“In the early days, it was by coupon only as a contest for the staff,” explained Beachside office manager Peggy Hardy, who is also Dave’s wife. “They would put their name on the back of the coupon cards and pass them out to friends, families, and local businesses. The coupons would be collected, and the staff member who had the most coupons redeemed won a prize and bragging rights for the year.” In recent years, Shrimp Fest was simplified into a daily special for lunch and dinner, no coupon required, though many still call the restaurant to inquire whether they need a special ticket to claim their crustaceans.

Today’s version, which costs $12.95, features two grilled skewers of five shrimp each designed by Chef Carlos Ramirez, who’s been with the restaurant for 21 years. “What makes the shrimp so tasty is the lemon butter and the smokiness of the grill,” said Ramirez, whose succulent shellfish — which would measure about two inches if unfurled — are interspersed with sweet red onion and colorful bell peppers. They come alongside a rice pilaf (with vermicelli, green onions, and buttery, Rice-A-Roni-like flavors), as well as another side, such as coleslaw, fruit salad, a side salad, or fries.

Altogether, it’s just the right amount of food, leaving the stomach stretched but not uncomfortable. Those seeking a bit more indulgence could start with an appetizer — such as the smoky, grilled artichoke with tarragon mayo — or a seafood bar option, like ceviche with mango coleslaw or oysters Rockefeller.

And for cocktail lovers, the Beachside just started a Build Your Own Mule program, in which ginger beer is mixed with a variety of boozes, flavorings, and garnishes of your choice. Not a bad pairing if you don’t go for the M.Special or Island beer on tap.

Said Dave Hardy, “It is a way of showing appreciation to the locals and saying thanks for supporting us year-round.”

5905 Sandspit Rd., Goleta; (805) 964-7881; beachside-barcafe.com

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