Personal Journeys: Revisiting Mexican flavors in a California surf town (September 28, 2012)
But I haven’t been a student at Cate for 20 years — and it was reunion time. As eager as I was to see old friends, I was also curious about “Carp,” as students call the town.
Carp is a few cities south of Santa Barbara and borders Montecito, in one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country (Oprah has a home there). But while Montecito — with its pruned hedges and expensive boutiques — had always been one-percenter territory, Carp was not, with concentrations of Mexican immigrants, blue-collar workers, and surfers.
A huge chunk of Carp’s identity is surfing. And the town’s surf shops are as much a draw for people like my friend Jason, who owns more boards than shoes, as they are for people like me — the frauds who don’t surf but like to wear the clothes. The town’s two surf shops — Rincon Designs, which makes its own boards on site and A-Frame Surf, which is one of the few places in the area that offers surfing lessons — were thriving.
Carpinteria bills itself as having “the world’s safest beach,” meaning there is no undertow that will suck you in and drag you out to the middle of the Pacific. And while the beaches can get crowded, they never reach the packed-sardine levels of more famous Southern California towns. But I didn’t come for the beach.
Now that I was back, I wanted to know if the town that had ushered in my growing up had grown up as well. I had heard that Carp had changed. Mention restaurants and any local will boast about the two fanciest places in town — Sly’s, revered for its grilled artichokes, mouthwatering mussels marinière, and lively bar scene […]
Source: Danielle Pergament, The New York Times (Travel section)