Walking along State Street, we hopped onto an electric trolley to take us to Wildcats. This Eco-friendly shuttle is part of Santa Barbara’s car-free initiative. For 50 cents the trolley takes residents and visitors from Sterns Wharf up to the Arlington Theater. It then goes to the Santa Barbara Zoo and back to the wharf.
On Tuesdays, part of State Street is closed for the weekly Farmers’ Market. One is bound to find the charismatic Patrick Reynolds purchasing fresh produce for Wildcats. With approximately 350 restaurants in a 3 mile radius in Santa Barbara, Wildcats is a fun spot to dance and hang out with the locals, while drinking healthy libations.
We walked into the eclectic bar for a lesson and tasting on Farm-to-Bar cocktails. Many restaurants offer Farm-to Table menus, but at this popular night spot, the bar is where this creative chef resides, when he is not at Hungry Cat restaurant in Santa Barbara.
The handsome Reynolds greeted us inside the swanky red lit bar with red and black checkerboard flooring, lava lamps and red Christmas lights strung above.
Reynolds uses fresh squeezed organic fruit, vegetables and nuts to win “Best Drink in 2011” and “Best Bartender in 2012.” He showed us his recently purchased fresh strawberries, peaches and pineapple guava. Thyme and hickory smoked pistachios peeked his fancy.
Cooking his own simple syrups, he adds fresh lime juice. The owner of Wildcat Lounge gives Reynolds freedom to concoct and use his creativity to make award-winning libations.
For our group, he asked us to shout out our favorite liquor. I shouted “Tequila,” another yelled “Southern Comfort and Gin.” Reynolds made a “Smokey and the Bandit” with the hickory smoked pistachios he purchased at the market. His “Lambs Club” is similar to a strawberry gimlet, with muddled strawberries, simple syrup and gin. The juniper notes accentuate the berry flavor.
His pineapple express cocktail is made with muddled pineapple guava and tequila. Reynolds dusts the rims of his cocktail glasses with various sprigs of herbs to tickle your senses when you put the drink near your nose and mouth.
His Wed. night Happy Hour is from 4 to 8 p.m. with $6 creative libation cocktails.
If guests get hungry, he brings out a Caprese salad or a Charcuterie board. “Sometimes, I make a big pot of crock-pot chili,” he says with a smile. 95% of the patrons are locals, yet tourists will get a kick out of this place.
As a trained chef from the Culinary School at Santa Barbara City College, Reynolds got tired of the routine in the kitchen and prefers to be out in the bar educating guests about farm fresh cocktails.
Next time you visit Santa Barbara, visit Wildcat Lounge at 15 West Ortega (805)962-7970. Tell Patrick that Jill sent you.