A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg
“Santa Barbara needs a lounge where people can hang out and be off State Street and kick their feet up and be comfortable,” says Clay Lovejoy, who recently opened the Pickle Room, 126 E. Canon Perdido St. (805/965-3445), with the aim of providing that very thing. The spot is a reincarnation of sorts of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, a favorite local watering hole owned and operated by the Chung family in that spot from 1947 until 2006.
Lovejoy’s Pickle Room is also a family place, brought back to life by Clay and his father Bob Lovejoy, a longtime Jimmy’s regular. And it’s right next door to their Three Pickles Deli + Sub, which the pair have had great success with (along with their other Three Pickles Deli + Sub location at 420 S. Fairview Ave. in Goleta).
“This place was founded on the Mai Tai,” says Clay. “It was Tommy’s, the original owner’s, recipe, in fact probably his father’s recipe before that, because he was pretty young … our Mai Tai is our most popular drink by far.”
Luckily, he’s got an able hand behind the bar to mix that potent concoction of Myer’s Platinum Rum with an exotic blend of fruit juices splashed with dark rum and Bacardi 151 Rum. Bartender Willy Gilbert, a close friend of the Lovejoys who ran the place for 25 years, is back behind the bar to mix those yummy rummy Mai Tai’s, along with Singapore Slings, Moscow Mules, Hornito’s Margaritas and more.
“We hired him as a manager to come in here and help us out because we wanted it to run seamlessly,” says Clay. “He’s a huge part of making this a success. We’ve been actually very busy for the last month and have had great crowds. So with his help we’re learning along the way.”
The menu, which Clay describes as “Chinese Deli,” was created by executive chef Westen Richards (formerly of Restaurant Julienne and Wine Cask and currently earning kudos for his creative Spare Parts pop up restaurant). “The Reuben Egg Roll is our #1 seller and people just absolutely love it,” Clay says. “We were trying to think of something fun … we use our pastrami, our sauerkraut and Swiss cheese and we roll it in a egg roll and serve it with our Russian dressing, same as the other side. So that’s been quite a hit.”
And of course, with a name like the Pickle Room, there have to be pickles.
Clay laughs. “You know what’s been a really hot thing is—we have to of course tell people about it because they’re not used to it—but if you do a shot of whiskey and you do a pickle back shot … You take a little shot of pickle juice it and it knocks it out of your palate so fast and after people try it they just start lining them up … it’s been very popular.”
New to the menu this week is the Pickletini , “A little bit of pickle juice with gin or vodka and then a nice little pickle spear.” Clay smiles, perhaps at the skeptical expression on my face. “Everybody I tell about it, they’re like ‘that sounds terrible,’ but everybody that tries it is like ‘oh that is awesome I don’t even like pickles but I like that!'”
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When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”