The Gatorboy mural that was rejected by the city of Santa Barbara adorns a wall of the new Cajun Kitchen location on Calle Real in Goleta. Pictured above is co-owner Juan Jimenez.
The Gatorboy rides again.
Three years after Santa Barbara kicked the boy and his pet gator out into the proverbial cold and off the wall of Santa Barbara’s Cajun Kitchen, the mural of a boy drinking a cup of coffee riding an alligator is back.
The boy and his reptile are far from the art pretentiousness of the American Riviera, however, now safe, comfortable and presumably caffeinated at home in The Good Land.
Cajun Kitchen, Goleta’s newest restaurant, opened on Tuesday at 6025 Calle Real, the site of the former Rusty’s, across the street from Orchard Supply Hardware. The new restaurant is about two miles away from another Cajun Kitchen on Hollister Avenue in the Kmart shopping center.
“We wanted to open another location in Goleta because the city is still growing,” said Juan Jimenez, the general manager, who owns the restaurant, and three others on the Central Coast, with his parents and siblings.
“With all the new development around our existing Goleta location, we hear many people tell us they won’t even try to eat there on the weekends because the line is so long.”
Lines at that Hollister location often stretch out onto the sidewalk. The new restaurant is bigger, with additional features, including locals beers on tap and an automated freshly squeezed orange juice machine.
Co-owner Juan Jimenez, left, Jorge Peralta, general manager, and Benjamin Diego, manager, right, are excited about the opening of the new Cajun Kitchen on Calle Real in Goleta. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
The opening comes at a time of musical chairs and restaurant shuffling on that side of town.
Rusty’s Pizza had occupied the site for decades, but moved last year to a new spot down the road at 5934 Calle Real.
Before the new Rusty’s opened, Fresco North went out of business and was ultimately replaced by a Jiu-Jitsu gym. Jimenez believes there’s a need for some quality breakfast and lunch meals in the area.
“The Calle Real neighborhood is close to our other location, but is its own separate community,” Jimenez said. “There are a lot of people there that have lived in Goleta for many years, and we hope that this location will be more convenient for them.
Jimenez, 33, grew up in the restaurant business, washing dishes, busing tables and learning how to run a successful restaurant. He spent a lot of time in the new building when it was Rusty’s, playing video games and having youth sports team parties.
He’ll bounce around from the Chapala location, which his father Richard purchased from New Orleans-native Betty Jordan in 1984, and the Calle Real spot.
Although Jimenez said business has been good during the first week, the opening has had its share of controversy. Workers hired by Jimenez cut down a ficus tree, without a permit from the city. The move upset at least one nearby resident who complained to the city.
Jimenez owned the contractor’s mistake and moved quickly to get a permit and replace the towering tree. The after-the-fact permitting slowed down the opening of the restaurant by about a week.
“It was a mistake; nothing was done in secret,” Jimenez said. It wasn’t Jimenez’s first brush with permitting problems.
In 2014, the Santa Barbara City Council ordered Jimenez to remove the same mural from the 901 Chapala St. restaurant because he didn’t get approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission to paint it. The work was painted by local artist Curt Crashaw, but did not go through any of the public art procedures for murals in the city.
“Goleta was happy to let us put it up here,” Jimenez said. “It's a wonderful city that has really made us feel welcome. Our family knows how important our customers are, so we will try to continue to serve them well.
The restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Rusty’s Pizza changes spots for Turnpike restaurant
Speaking of Rusty’s Pizza, the restaurant moved from its corner spot in the Turnpike Shopping Center, across the street from San Marcos High School, to a larger, more visible location at 4880 Hollister Ave.