Santa Barbara restaurateur Kelly Brown has debuted Café Blu on Lower State Street.
Brown, who owns Natural Café, Baja Grill and Kahuna Grill, opened the organic and fair-trade coffee house last Saturday at 506 State St., next to Natural Café. Three businesses have occupied that space in the past year — the Spirit’s Path, The Good Life Marketplace and, most recently, Bungalow Gift Shop.
“We hope that opening early and closing late will inspire a fun, alternative hangout to the bars and clubs that line State Street, which is something that’s missing from the downtown scene right now,” Brown said.
It will feature a full coffee and espresso drink menu, breakfast pastries, quiches, fresh fruit, paninis, salads, desserts, local art and live acoustic music. General Manager Johno Dunn said Café Blu’s food, under the direction of Chef Pete Clements, will set it apart.
“We’re trying to do things a bit more organic and natural. Instead of brewing our coffee, we will use a French press, which will give it a better flavor,” said Dunn, adding that they will buy their coffee from Adam’s Organic Coffee in San Francisco. “It will be richer and thicker but without the bitterness brewed coffee tends to have.”
While Café Blu just opened, Brown said the 500 customers who eat at the adjoining Natural Café will help get the word out. He said there was a need for a more sophisticated and comfortable coffee concept downtown.
“I wanted to create a nicer, upscale and clean space that has good service and servers who know your name,” he said. “This is my 13th restaurant, and I’ve been in the business for more than 20 years. I noticed that we have a more sophisticated pallet — look how beer, wine and coffee took off.”
Cindy Black opened Blue Owl’s sister restaurant, Blue Owl Café, on Tuesday at the former Bitterman’s Deli storefront at 5 W. Canon Perdido St. The French Press is opening a second location in September at the old WheelHouse Bike Shop spot at 528 Anacapa St. as well. Dunn said Handlebar Coffee Roasters is also in a unique position because it brews its own coffee.
“I have nothing against Coffee Bean and Starbucks, they created the market for us, but it’s nice to see independents do well,” he said. “I think Santa Barbarans want to support the mom-and-pop kind of operations.”
By July, Café Blu plans to roll out its full menu as well as its late-night hours and live music, to be offered Thursday through Saturday.