January 13, 2021 – Breakfast and Lunch – Chad’s, On The Beach – Santa Barbara, CA.

Debbie Neer from The Franciscan Inn & Suites suggested I try Chad’s because owner Chad Stevens has a great back-story about this legacy known as Chad’s, On The Beach.

I told my counter server Wyatt Newman that you could not have a better job. He gets to look at the beach while taking and delivering orders at their outside cashier area. The beach is right there, across the street but still right there in plain view. What could be better, their food!! Grub that is straightforward, it’s great American Coffee shop type food that takes me right back to my Childhood. I remember coming here and to a few other locations as a child and always enjoying this hearty food.

Here’s what I tried:

Special Breakfast Sandwich, The dancing chicken sausage. A two chicken sausage that is topped with caramelized onions, eggs, and a creamy mustard sauce. This is a very hearty sandwich, with great flavor. It is jammed packed with lots of eggs and 2 chicken sausage patties. It’s a big sandwich; I would split it with a friend, just because it’s way too much of a sandwich for me for breakfast. Or cut it in half and eat it the next day for breakfast. However you eat it you will be very impressed with its size and yumminess.


Eggs Benedict. Poached Eggs, Canadian Bacon, English Muffin, and Hollandaise sauce. Their Hollandaise is just off the charts, smooth creamy, rich, and just delicious. They cook their eggs soft, with the yokes spurting out and the bacon is just perfect.

Breakfast Classics:

Two Eggs, with Bacon, pancakes, home potatoes. I love a classic breakfast and this one did not disappoint, a great way to start the day.


Santa Barbara Burger, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, bacon, avocado, and jack cheese, with fries. A huge juicy patty with all the fixings, if you’re craving an amazing burger then this is for you.

Chicken tenders with onion rings. I am an onion rings fanatic, Chad’s does them old school. Big rings chalk full of nice breading, it for sure fills the void. The tenders are equally as good, big large pieces for big appetites.

From Owner Chad Stevens: Chad’s, on the beach, is a Santa Barbara landmark. It is more than just a famous restaurant. Sambo’s is a real piece of Santa Barbara history. Sambo’s, on the beach, is the original and only remaining location of the once great national chain of 1100 restaurants, founded in 1957 by Sam Battistone 
Sr. and F. Newell Bohnett. From its opening day over fifty years ago, locals and tourists from all over the world have enjoyed the experience of quality food, at reasonable prices, in a family friendly atmosphere, with a picturesque view of the Santa Barbara harbor. Sambo’s, on the beach, is the same today, as it was when it opened, thanks to Chad Stevens, the grandson of Sam Sr. who has assumed the responsibility of owning and operating the business as a tribute to the founders. To him, his grandfather was not only an inspiration, but a great entrepreneur with a Horatio Alger success story. Sam Sr. was born in Santo Stefano di Sesano, Italy, a village so small, it is not even listed on most maps. He and his mother were brought to America when he was six years old, after his father had come ahead to find work and opportunities for his family. He found a job in the coal mines of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania, where the family settled into their new life. Sam Sr. tried working in the mines as he grew up. As he watched his father toil in these difficult conditions, he decided there may be a better life in some other occupation. After high school, he and two friends hopped a freight train for California, where they heard there was work available after an earthquake. One friend changed his mind during the trip and headed home. The two remaining, with little money and clothes, kept going. Arriving on the West Coast stone broke. Finding out that the damage they were told about did not exist, Sam Sr. trudged the streets until he found a job as a dishwasher in a Glendale restaurant. The owners offered him a place to stay in their home. It was at this restaurant that he met his future wife, Ione, who had come to Los Angeles with her brother from Irene, South Dakota, and was working as a waitress. They married and had three children, Sam D., Dona and Roger. During WWII, Sam Sr. moved his family to Ventura, where he worked on the base loading ships. After the war, he went back to work in the restaurant business, first in Ventura, and then buying his own place in Santa Barbara. For many years Sam owned and operated a small cafe called Sammy’s Grill in downtown Santa Barbara that was open 24 hours a day. Sam Sr. cooked from 6 am to 6 pm and Ione worked the graveyard shift, coming home to get the children off to school each morning. In the mid fifties, a pancake house opened in Santa Barbara that was very successful. This idea intrigued Sam.The idea of selling breakfast meals all day was exciting. A plan was put in motion to find a location to try this new concept. Using the knowledge he had acquired by working in several different restaurants, and his understanding of what the customers liked, he began to look for a location and develop a menu. He was friends with a talented and innovative restaurant designer and equipment salesman. They began working together on their ideas and developing plans. They found a place that was available on the beach. The location seemed perfect, even though two other food operations had not been successful in the same site. Everything started to come together. They decided that they would combine their names, Sam and Bo, from Bohnett, and name the new restaurant Sambo’s. Since the theme was going to be a pancake house, they built the concept around the famous Helen Bannerman book, Little Black Sambo. The story fit perfectly, with Sambo’s, on the beach, opened on June 17, 1957. The cooks were Sam Sr. and his son Sam D. The main waitress was Ione. The other employees came from Sammy’s Grill. The menu offered six pancakes for 40 cents, served with tiger butter and maple or boysenberry syrup. They introduced the soon to become famous, 10 cent cup of coffee, with unlimited refills. Many other items on the menu helped make Sambo’s the place to go for both locals and tourists. The theme was emphasized. With paintings by artists, depicting the story and adventures of Sambo and his tigers. Beautiful fixtures and an open cooking station provided customers the opportunity to watch the cooks prepare the food, and enjoy the fun atmosphere, that was part of this new concept. Marketing ideas, such as wooden nickels, good for a free cup of coffee, were passed out to bring in new customers. Sambo’s became known as a place that cared about their customers, with quality food at great prices, and excellent service. This theme was to become the format for the chain as it grew across the country. Because of the immediate success, it became evident that another location should be found. In order to build a strong management team, an innovative concept was introduced, which was called “Fraction of the Action”. Within a few months, a manager was brought in to operate the first restaurant. He was offered an opportunity to invest $20,000. and become a 20% partner. A local restaurant owner, who had just sold his business, jumped at the chance to become involved.“Fraction of the Action” became the format that developed a strong management concept for the growth, and has been copied by many others over the years. When the second Sambo’s opened, exactly one year later in West Sacramento, a manager partner was found for that operation. The “Fraction of the Action” concept expanded, by allowing the first manager partner in Santa Barbara, to invest in the second Sambo’s as well. This was the beginning of an important and unique element that was followed with the opening of each new restaurant. Over the next ten years, new units were added. By 1967, there were 59 Sambo’s in six states. At that time, Sam Sr. and Bohnett decided to retire from active management. It seemed only natural that Sam D. take over as president. Even though he was only 27 years old, he had been active in developing the chain by moving to Oregon to open the first Sambo’s out of California, expanding the Northwest, and then moving to Miami, to start the expansion of Florida and the Eastern part of the country. He put together a management team with a more aggressive approach to expansion. In May of 1969, Sambo’s shares were offered to the public. This move encouraged an even more accelerated growth. During the next ten years, over 1000 new Sambo’s were opened, with over 55,000 employees nationwide. In addition, Sambo’s developed a major distribution facility, the most extensive in-house operation in the industry. This division had over 100 large trucks delivering food and paper products to each restaurant across the country every week. This complex, just outside of Santa Barbara, also housed the accounting operations for the chain, and a training center for new managers. Bohnett designed beautiful corporate offices that were located with the flagship restaurant on State Street. In 1979, a major New York hospitality company purchased the Sambo’s chain to combine with other companies they were buying, including Motel 6, which was also founded in Santa Barbara. Over the next several years, they became concerned with Sambo’s name, and started changing all of the restaurants to Seasons. They also placed management in control that was not familiar with the needs for an extensive middle supervision program, used by most major chains. Instead of having district and regional managers over a limited amount of units, they decided to place the responsibility of each 100 restaurants under only one individual. This had a major effect on operations, and within four years, they took the company into bankruptcy. By that time, there was only one Sambo’s left. The original one, on the beach, in Santa Barbara. Since the initial sale, Sam D. had tried to buy this Sambo’s back, to keep it in the family, and operating just like when it had opened in 1957. He had been rejected several times, but continued to pursue the purchase, until they agreed. Today, Sambo’s, on the beach, is operated by Chad and his wife Michelle. Like his grandfather, Chad applies his flare for personal attention and his commitment to quality products and exceptional service to every aspect of Sambo’s and Chad’s experience. Chad and Michelle are proud of this heritage and pleased that Sambo’s has remained a family owned and operated business for over fifty years.

The photos on the wall really tell the full story, from Chad’s grandparents serving behind the same counter that is there today, to all of the remarkable maps and photos of the Santa Barbara waterfront, from many years ago until now.

This is coffee shop royalty and I am so happy that Chad has continued on with his great legacy, for his family, for the locals, friends, and tourists, I am hooked!

Chad’s, On The Beach
216 W. Cabrillo Blvd.
Santa Barbara, CA. 93101
(805) 965-3269

* Note – Some content was taken off of their website.


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