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History Esau's Cafe

THE LEGEND OF ESAU—The date was April 30, 1939. The place was the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair. Working in one of the tents in the food pavilion was one W.C. (Tom) Esau, a talented young cook fresh from the Midwest. Visiting the World’s Fair was a prosperous restaurateur from Santa Barbara, looking for fresh ideas to brighten up the small beach town’s cooking scene. The fresh idea he brought back to Santa Barbara was none other than Tom Esau himself!

After years of working at various restaurants in the area, Tom decided to use his talents, and especially his top secret (and hugely popular) buttermilk pancake recipe, and opened his own cafe. Thus, in January of 1961, began the legacy of Santa Barbara’s oldest, continuously running breakfast house, on lower State Street. Tom’s Midwest upbringing was reflected in the tradition of home cooking, large portions, and pride in his work. His original menu is still in use with items such as grits, chicken fried steak, hand cut ham steaks, and biscuits and gravy. His top secret pancake recipe using fresh, whole buttermilk is the same exact recipe used today, more than 65 years after he developed it!

In 1978, along came Scott and Arti Stanley, fresh from traveling the world in search of surf. They purchased Esau’s Cafe from Tom with the idea that working all morning and surfing all afternoon would be the perfect job description. They brought with them their connections from living and surfing in El Salvador, importing fresh coffee beans from local coffee growers high in the Central American plantations. They added many radical items, such as vegetarian and vegan options, free range eggs and organic produce, utilizing the fresh local products available in their special community. For over 40 years, Scott and Arti have raised their surfing family, Drake, Taylor and Bo in the restaurant, developing strong work ethics and connections to their community of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria.

During their reign, Esau’s has been the recipient of many awards, both locally and in international travel guides and magazines, such as Sunset and The NY & LA Times. Being a Carpinteria family, the Stanleys, in 2003 opened what is now their only location in Carpinteria, just blocks from their home and the beach. Keeping the name Esau’s was a decision to honor the late Tom Esau for his hard work and dedication to quality. Tom had the cafe for 25 years, and the Stanley’s have had it for 40 happy years and counting!


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507 Linden Ave, Carpinteria, CA 93103 • 1 (805) 684-1070
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