Oat Bakery, a locally owned and operated business, opened its second location at 231 Magnolia Ave. in Old Town Goleta at the end of 2022. This is the Scandinavian bakery’s second Santa Barbara location, with its first bakery located at 5 West Haley St.
The storefront was previously home to Goodland Kitchen, a bakery and commercial kitchen space for local chefs that closed in 2021. Despite all the previous businesses that have occupied the space, a piece of local history still remains to keep the spirit of Old Town alive: the historic La Esmeralda Market sign that hangs above the entryway.
While Oat Bakery is tucked away on a side street off of Hollister Avenue, its crisp white exterior with outdoor seating, a pizza oven and accents painted in the establishment’s signature blue color invite you in to enjoy a breakfast pastry or light lunch.
The establishment is known for its freshly baked loaves and other goodies made with organic and local ingredients, producing varieties such as their Date/Almond Loaf, Maple Miso Scallion Whole-Wheat Focaccia and gluten-free Hot Date Cookies. These flavors pay homage to the Danish background of owner Louise Ulrich, whose mother Else Ulrich developed a health-conscious bread recipe composed of organic grains and seeds that Ulrich ate growing up.
A generous 1,700 square feet of space has allowed the bakery more room to breathe and expand compared to its more compact location on Haley Street. Upon entering, customers can observe employees preparing and baking fresh loaves thanks to the eatery’s open floor plan and exposed kitchen. The front display case presents the featured loaves and pastries of the day while a humble menu, in the form of labeled strips of masking tape placed atop the counter, reads off breakfast and lunch menu items. Oat Bakery is very much a no-frills, all-flavor-type eatery.
While they wait, customers can enjoy a coffee beverage from Oat Bakery’s espresso bar, brewed with beans from Danish coffee roastery Prolog, or purchase bottles of Graza olive oil and Sideyard Shrubs fruit vinegar, the perfect accouterments to accompany a freshly baked loaf of bread.
On a sunny day in late January, I visited the bakery with a friend for lunch. I ordered the quiche slice, an item from their brunch menu (which they serve until noon). This generous, square-shaped slice featured a lightly toasted top, creamy bites of roasted delicata squash, shreds of spinach and a thin yet flaky crust. Each bite simply melted in my mouth in the best way possible. My friend enjoyed a veggie sandwich featuring butter lettuce, cucumber and avocado, sandwiched between two airy pieces of Oat Bakery’s focaccia bread topped with sizable flakes of sea salt. The outdoor patio was a pleasant place to catch up and enjoy a meal under the Santa Barbara sun.
I returned a second time on a rainy early afternoon in February to try another item off their lunch menu, their Rancho Gordo lima beans with roasted tomatoes, garlic and serrano peppers with a side of bread and butter. Inclement weather poses a challenge for Oat Bakery whose seating is primarily outside, but I was able to enjoy my warm bowl of beans at one of the two high top tables inside. The lima beans were cooked to perfection, floating in a simple and slightly tangy broth among slivers of garlic. Two slices of bread served as vessels for soaking up every last bit of the broth. I’m definitely going to try to recreate a variation of this cozy dish at home (but I doubt I’ll come close to achieving the same depth of flavors).
With many new restaurants always trying to be flashier than the last, I valued Oat Bakery’s loyalty to simplicity. I’m an indecisive person, so for once it’s nice to just have a few great options made from high quality, local ingredients from which to choose when ordering a meal. Don’t let its limited menu fool you; after visiting the bakery twice I still have so many baked goods and dishes left to try. I’m keeping my eye out for the day they start serving housemade pizzas made in their outdoor pizza oven.
In an area dominated by auto repair shops and decades-old restaurants, Oat Bakery’s warm and welcoming presence will hopefully breathe new life into Old Town Goleta.
A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the March 2, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.