I’ve been wanting to go to Benchmark Eatery for a while, but didn’t make the effort. Donned with the typical industrial look of contemporary restaurants along with the large self-serve carafes of water on the tables, it didn’t seem like anything extraordinary or intriguing. However, living in Santa Barbara and being a self-proclaimed foodie, I own an Axxess card. And, since my partner and I are leaving Santa Barbara to move to San Francisco (that’s a whole different blog post), we decided it was time to use our Axxess two-for-one deal at Benchmark.
We stepped in on a Wednesday, so it was fairly empty, which made the open layout feel extra spacious. We were greeted graciously by the hostess and seated immediately in a rustic-looking booth. The ambiance of the place is mellow with warm dim-lights and a farm-table-industrial touch. Next to our booth was a quirky marquee with the Leo Tolstoy quote, “If you want to be happy, be”, which connects back to Benchmark’s initials, B.E.
While we waited for our food, we munched on their battered-and-herbed chickpeas, which are meant to replace bread baskets but are just as addicting. (I’ll definitely be trying to replicate them in my own kitchen!)
I ordered the grilled ahi with butter beans, roasted cherry tomotoes, over a bed of arugula and a garlic white wine soy sauce. It was delightfully savory while also being light yet filling—my favorite kind of meal. I broke all the rules and paired my ahi tuna with a S.B.C’s Etude ‘Lyric’ Pinot Noir. But it was worth it because the rich pinot complimented the flavorful dish very well.
Michael, my boyfriend, ordered the pan seared salmon, with potatoes, and greens (zucchini, broccoli and asaparagus). I had a taste of the salmon, and it was good, but not particularly breathtaking. However, the greens were cooked to perfect crispness and are always a solid choice to pair with salmon. For his beverage he went with a Belgian-Style Telegraph Ale and he was into it, to say the least!
It was a lovely meal and I was pleasantly surprised by how filling and flavorful my ahi dish was. Would I go again? Probably not. The main dishes are around $20+ and, other than the ahi I ordered, nothing else seems all that interesting. I would recommend it to a first-timer though. The food is served well, the environment is relaxing and casual, and the experience was overall positive. If given the chance, I’d want to go back mainly to try their Dante’s Inferno cocktail, which is 100% agave blanco tequila, clément mahina coconut liquor, arbol chili, fresh lime, strawberry shrub. YES PLEASE!