On September 3 in 1982, Downey’s Restaurant (1305 State St.) opened in Santa Barbara and quickly became one of California’s finest. Later this month, after proudly serving the community for 35 years, John and Liz Downey are closing its doors and retiring.
John Downey had always dreamed of starting his own restaurant, and pursued his passion by opening Downey’s in 1982. The restaurant immediately received accolades from both local and national food journalists. Downey’s is known for connecting with local farmers and fishermen to prepare exquisite meals. This reputation was established well before the widespread use of “farm-to-table cuisine” became fashionable. As one notable food critic wrote, “(Downey) has revolutionized the way people eat on the Central Coast. His restaurant has become an institution to fine dining.” Local and organic fruits and veggies, sustainable locally-caught seafood and naturally raised meats have always been at the heart of the menu’s carefully constructed dishes.
John began cooking at the age of 15 in his native England, and his career has spanned more than 50 years. During this time, he has cooked for countless celebrities, statesmen and even the Queen of England. John has incorporated all of his experiences from simple English fare, formal French training, New American cuisine and a love of farm-fresh produce to offer the finest cuisine to his customers. His wife and co-owner of the restaurant, Liz Downey, assumed the management of the dining room in 1992. She brings her warmth and charm to the Downey’s experience. The intimate dining room has an alluring ambience and Liz’s beautiful landscape paintings remain a focal point of the décor.
John and Liz are grateful for the opportunity to present the very best cuisine to the many guests and friends who have supported the restaurant over the years. Looking back on their successful business, they are also proud to have offered meaningful work to the employees who have helped make their dream a reality.
Santa Barbara Seasons thanks Downey’s Restaurant for their support of this magazine. Chef John and Downey’s Restaurant will be greatly missed.