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Zal's Museum Cafe
[closed, no longer in business]

1130 State St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 884-6487


Reviews by the General Public

a gem downtown
Reviewer: lemonjelly from santa barbara
I do wish this cafe had longer opening hours, because at lunchtime the place is packed (so service is likewise slow), and for good reason. The sandwiches and salads are fresh and delicious, the tea comes in beautiful blue and white ceramic teapots, and the desserts cannot be missed. The lemon chess pie and the flourless chocolate cake are my favorites.


best, freshest, most reasonably priced meal in town

I hesitate to even tell anyone about Zal´s, since it is small and always packed at the lunch hour, but I have been eating there for five years now, and I still haven´t found anything that can rival the freshness, tastiness, and creativity of its food. The chef, Zalitha Smith, prepares everything herself from extremely fresh ingredients--from the best soup you could find to the quiche and the amazing desserts. The choices haven´t changed in five years--it´s still the same selection of wonderful salads and sandwiches--but she offers daily specials and rotates the soups. There´s enough variety in the menu that even a fishatarian like myself finds plenty to love on repeated visits, and I have never been disappointed in the specials she dreams up. Be sure to save room for dessert, if you can. Not only are the prices amazing--usually around $4 for the best pies and cakes in town--but the quality and finesse she puts into everything will impress you. No entree is ever over $7, a true marvel for Santa Barbara´s lunch scene, especially considering the quality of the ingredients and the preparation.


Zal´s Rules
Reviewer: Lisa Burns from Santa Barbara, CA
the best place for lunch in Santa Barbara is Zal´s at the Museum of Art at the corner of State and Anapamu. Zal´s cooking is an art. I always order the grilled vegetable sandwich which comes with either a farmer´s market side salad with homemade vinaigrette dressing, or homemade (and I mean home made) soup for $6.50. Since you go to the counter to order, and bus your tray after you eat, you save $$ on tip - although Todd and Zal work very hard and deserve a standing ovation for having an adventurous menu that reflects Zal´s Asian background. Try the Gado Gado salad for example, or the mulligatawny soup. I made the mistake of telling a first timer to avoid the french dip sandwich, and ignoring my advice, it was wonderful. Thinly sliced roast beef with au jus dipping sauce. The "specials" always sell out early - by 12:30 p.m. The specials are inspirational, like curry empanadas or traditional Scottish Shepard´s pie. I like the modern, cosmopolitan atmosphere of the place, that makes me feel that I have escaped the red tile ghetto known as the El Pueblo Viejo District. Zal´s isn´t the easiest to find. It is located behind the museum gift shop, just off the back entrance to the City parking lot and library. Seating is limited, so sometimes there is a line, but it moves fast. When I see tourists on State Street looking for a place to eat, I always direct them there. Zal´s also offers the best pies and cakes if you just want to have a slice with cappuccino or pot of tea up until about 4 p.m. when they close. It´s absolutely the best place for a bowl of soup at $3.50 including a nice bread roll and butter. They even have a half orders for kid meals.


What a gem!
Reviewer: Arlene from Santa Barbara, CA
Wow, what a treat! Amazing food at great prices. Plan lunch a little early or late, as it gets busy quickly. And definitely save room for dessert!!!


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