Friday, June 22 , 2018, 9:51 pm | A Few Clouds 60º


Judy Foreman: Taking the Day Off to Explore Summerland Is Well Worth the Walk

There really is something for everyone, as seaside oasis blends old with new, shopping and dining, and just about everything in between

Bonita Beach carries clothing for men and women at a charming cottage on Lillie Avenue in Summerland. Click to view larger
Bonita Beach carries clothing for men and women at a charming cottage on Lillie Avenue in Summerland. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo via iPhone)

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Strolling Lillie Avenue in Summerland on a recent Saturday afternoon made me feel like I was on vacation, even though it’s just a short walk down the hill from my house.

The sleepy beach town is casual and relaxed despite the cast of animated characters populating the main drag. An eclectic mix of people can always be found year-round, from cycling junkies in their colorful outfits out for a morning ride, to motorcycle clubs, to families, to owners walking dogs, beach lovers and shoppers.

Whether you’re a local or a tourist, there is a place for everyone in Summerland, and shorts and flip-flops are about as dressed up as you need to get. Unlike its upscale neighbor, Montecito, there is usually a place to park — unless it’s a Monday night, when the locals traditionally descend on The Nugget for dinner.

Summerland includes basic services, almost as if there isn’t another town within 25 miles. There’s a corner liquor store, a gas station, a quaint — and friendly — post office, an elementary school, workout facilities, bed-and-breakfast inns, a winery, a fire station, a church, a pet groomer, a veterinarian, a surf board repair shop, hair salons, a bikini shop, great antique stores and a World War I memorial.

The pièce de résistance, though, is an awesome beach with easy access for humans and their canine companions, a big safe playground for kids and a picnic-perfect park with a view that goes for miles.

Restaurants like Tinker’s Burgers, Stacky’s Seaside, Summerland Beach Café and The Nugget make it hard not to break your diet. Will power goes out the window when indulging in curly fries at Tinker’s; sandwiches and ice cream at Stacky’s with its “nod-to-nautical” ambience; or pancakes, French toast, burgers and omelets at dog-friendly Summerland Beach Café.

And then there is The Nugget, home to Bill Clinton’s saxophone, Ronald Reagan memorabilia, big red booths, stiff drinks and big-screen TVs. The Nugget has a full bar, and a menu that includes it all — from burgers, to fresh salmon and broccoli, to salads, chicken tenders and spicy wings.

These Summerland restaurants are doing it Old School and the audience likes the way they roll.

Cantwell’s Market & Deli, at the far end of Lillie, has fresh coffee all day, fresh flowers, outdoor seating and gourmet foodstuffs with a nod to the healthy crowd. The deli case has freshly made salads, vegetable lasagna, deli sandwiches and tri-tip on the weekend.

One big loss for locals was the recent closing of the popular coffeehouse, Café Luna. If latte or blended creations are on your breakfast agenda, you’ll have to head to Montecito, Carpinteria or even the Garden Market on Santa Claus Lane.

Although many Summerland businesses have been around for years, there were a few newcomers that I was anxious to check out on my Summerland walkabout.

Starting just down the street from QAD on Ortega Hill Road is a Nantucket-style building that is the new home of Dr. Marc Alexander, a dentist who bought the place and has renovated it entirely. He has taken the upstairs with the ocean view for his dental practice, and added an elevator. Downstairs is home to a new retail showroom and interior design/furniture store called the Malibu Market & Design, which has a second location on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

Nearby is The Big Yellow House, a Summerland landmark that also has been renovated and is now fully leased (finally). By year end, Pace, an “in-the-now” farm-to-table Italian eatery from Los Angeles, is expected to open by the end of the year. The upstairs has been taken over by Evolation Yoga, which is already open and bustling.

While I probably missed a few businesses, no slight intended, Summerland also is home to some of my favorite stores — ones I would drive to regardless of their now convenient location to my new home. Among my faves are Botanik, a garden and home furnishing mecca; Indian Summers Boutique; Waxing Poetic Jewelry; Bonita Beach clothing for men and women, with a location also in Los Olivos; The Sacred Space; Pine Trader Antiques; and Just Folk with its museum-quality folk art.

Most of these Summerland businesses could hold their own in any larger urban area. Fortunately for us, they’re in a low-key, wonderfully walkable community that is about as convenient to get to as they come.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I didn’t come home hungry or empty-handed. My credit cards are never on vacation even though sometimes I am.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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