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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 7:11 am | Fair 43º


New Owners Bring Touch of Ireland to Newly Renovated La Arcada Bistro

The State Street restaurant, formerly Café Shell, will celebrate its opening with a party on St. Patrick's Day

Café Shell has been going through a quiet transformation during the past few months, and the newly renamed La Arcada Bistro, 1112 State St. in Santa Barbara, will reveal its new true colors on St. Patrick’s Day.

Co-owner Willie Quinn grew up in a town 20 miles from Doublin, Ireland, called County Kildare. The stonemason and carpenter said he traveled to Santa Barbara on a friend’s recommendation.

“I called him and asked him where’s a good place to go in California, and he was right,” Quinn said. “If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have stayed here for 26 years.”

He did carpentry work for a year and a half, and then founded Willie Quinn Masonry Inc. He and his wife, Trini, began a partnership last September with Café Shell’s previous owner, Shelley Shoemaker.

“It’s such a great location, and we were looking for a business to open,” Willie Quinn said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun. I like to meet people and tell stories.”

If a customer asks, Quinn and his daughters will even sing on cue.

“Cafe Shell has a great location and now, with being family owned, has the opportunity to be a local favorite,” Santa Barbara resident Denise Pickard said. “We went on a Friday evening and enjoyed Irish singing along with our dinner. The lamb shepherd’s pie was quite tasty.”

The couple took over the business in December; Shoemaker just “had too much going on,” Quinn said.

La Arcada Bistro will showcase some of its new features March 17 during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Even when Barcliff & Bair occupied that space 20 years ago, they weren’t open for dinner, Quinn said. The new owners built a new bar, applied for a full liquor license, remodeled, added a dinner menu and will play Irish music.

“We’re going to have a huge party on the 17th of March,” he said, “It will be an all-day party with Irish food and Irish music from my daughters and I.”

Manager Ricky Hernandez said the new “California-themed” dinner menu will feature New York and top sirloin steaks, halibut, salmon and pasta. It will include traditional egg dishes for breakfast, and soups and sandwiches for lunch.

“We were thinking about family when it comes to the menu,” he said. “We want everyone to feel comfortable and like it’s their second home.”

But it’s not all about the food, Quinn said, adding that Café Shell could have been more accessible and inviting.

“The food is not the be-all and end-all of a restaurant. The service and friendly atmosphere are just as important as the food,” Quinn said. “When I’m here, I go to the tables. I can tell who wants to talk, and it’s surprising how many people are happy to talk to the owner of a restaurant. That’s the reason I have so much fun.”

Trini Quinn said the couple wanted to change the atmosphere and décor so the restaurant is more inviting.

“We want to make it more warm so locals could enjoy this,” she said. “La Arcada is such a beautiful spot to come.”

Willie Quinn said he’s not only excited to share the remodeled La Arcada Bistro during the soft opening on St. Patrick’s Day, but also a story or two.

“I hope that they are really happy with the food and happier with the atmosphere and the way they were treated,” he said.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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