“Where else do you get a lunch for under $10 where the food is made with such integrity?” said Dominic Shiach, co-owner of the Book Ends Café located on the rooftop of Santa Barbara’s downtown Antioch University.
Shiach and his wife, Carmen Deforest, create their flavorful sandwiches and unique salads from seasonal produce culled from local organic markets and growers.
“In fact, we just had a meeting with Tom Shepherd (of Shepherd Farms),” Shiach said.
The delicious and creative salad and sandwiches offerings at Book Ends Café rise sky high above typical café fare. Salads change daily according to seasonal ingredients. On a given day, offerings may include Asian soba noodles with peanuts and haricots verts; Kale Tabbouleh or the more traditional Greek salad. (A trio of salad scoops can provide two meals for the “average bear” and cost a mere $10.)
One of Book Ends' signature sandwiches — the Brisket Banh Mi — is crafted to such tasty perfection that it’s as if the smell of its slow-roasted brisket wafts down to Anacapa and Cota streets and magically lures in diners.
Not only is the scent of delicious food inviting, so is the café’s clean, streamlined design with its open airiness, sassy orange accents and bookshelf mural.
Diners may sit indoors in the café or outdoors on the rooftop with expansive city views. The rooftop even sports cushy couches that allow diners lunchtime “sinking in.”
Shiach and Deforest know a lot about running a restaurant and preparing food, even though this is their inaugural venture. Every detail is carefully attended to, every customer’s request heeded. This is no doubt due to Shiach’s intensive training at New York University and the French Culinary Institute in restaurant management and operations.
There is something about Book Ends Café that is almost indescribably good. The charm that has been interwoven into its ambiance and fare is something that only people with their own kind of special charm and enchantment could create.
When pressed, Shiach admits that he and Deforest’s talents were most likely inherited. Shiach’s father is Allan Scott (an alias surname), a Scottsman who immigrated to Canada where he had his own television show. Scott became a multi-award-winning documentary and feature film screenwriter and is most recently known for the stage musical adaptation of the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which just ended on Broadway and the West End.
Shiach’s father, under his family name Allan Shiach, was also the chairman and chief executive officer of the family business, Macallan-Glenlivet (whisky) in Scotland. Shiach’s mother, Kathleen, is originally from Rhodesia and went to drama school in London, thusly becoming an actress.
Shiach initially followed in his father’s footsteps by going to film school at USC and London Film School. In fact, he began his career directing a mini TV series in the United States called Movie Legends in Conversation (1995). He subsequently directed the movies Blackheart (1998) and Dark Side (2003).
“Carmen and I were Hollywood people for 20 years. We lived that life," Shiach said. "Now we’re in the restaurant business.”
Deforest also comes from a very creative background. She spent years in marketing and public relations for the Los Angeles-based Earl Jeans, and her amazing cooking comes from “the copious amount of time spent in some of the best restaurants around the world,” Shiach said.
“And, we have a third ‘partner’ in this venture,” Shiach admitted with a laugh. “Our son, James, who is 7. He grew up in restaurants and will try anything — escargot, calamari, sushi.”
When asked what their goals are for Book Ends Café, Shiach said, “to keep the public happy and Antioch students and faculty happy.”
Perhaps David Beckman of Pasadena who was dining in Book Ends at the time of the interview said it best: “The food is a 10. Actually, no, it’s a 20. ... The quiche is amazing. It’s like having the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory in your mouth. It’s the golden ticket.
“And the tabbouleh salad — it’s crunchy, crispy and fresh with a light dressing. Even Gordon Ramsay would agree,” he said referring to the famous British chef. “I was just a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk and saw the Book Ends sign. ... I’ll pass through again next time I’m here. In fact, I’m thinking about ordering another round right now.”
“Besides,” Beckman said with a grin,” who doesn’t like lunch on a rooftop?”
Book Ends Café is located at 602 Anacapa St. in downtown Santa Barbara. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday; it's closed on Sundays. For more information, click here to like it on Facebook or call 805.963.3222.
— Nancy Shobe is a Noozhawk contributing writer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter: @shobebiz. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.