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Santa Barbara Café

Although Santa Barbara Café may be hard to find -- it's tucked away on Arrow Street, off the main drag of Harvard Square -- it is definitely worth seeking out.

The original Santa Barbara Café was located in the eponymous California town, and when the restaurant was sold a few years ago, one of its chefs moved from California to Boston, bringing his recipes with him. The theme is "health-conscious cuisine" with plenty of zing -- the food is fresh, mostly low-fat, and very flavorful. My seven friends and I each loved our spicy lunches, which included a tangy hummus pita roll with spinach, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and hot Italian peppers ($4.75); garlicky bow-tie pasta-primavera salad with bell peppers, mushrooms, and balsamic vinaigrette ($5.25); zesty alfredo penne pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, peas, and grilled chicken ($6.80); and a pungent Thai pasta dish with scallions and peanuts ($4.95). Huge sandwiches of tuna, smoked turkey, and chicken ($4.50 to $5.25) were also splendid, as was a burrito stuffed with basmati rice and black beans ($5.25).

Santa Barbara Café, located at 1 Arrow Street, in Cambridge, is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 497-5109.

-- Theresa Regli

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