In the 1970s, two of Santa Monica’s most iconic and historic Victorian homes on Ocean Avenue were lifted off their foundations and trucked down to the corner of Main Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, saving them from demolition because of development.
One was the home built in 1894 for Roy Jones, son of longtime U.S. Sen. John Percival Jones, co-founder of Santa Monica. The other was the lesser known and somewhat mysterious Kyte House, built around the same time and inhabited by the leader of the Southern California Masonic Lodges, Dr. George I. Kyte, and his family.
They found their forever homes in what is now Heritage Square and were reborn as, respectively, the California Heritage Museum and the Victorian, a 15,000-square-foot event space and home to the charming new al fresco Mexican restaurant Mamacitas.
Legend has it that when the Kyte House moved, its ghosts came along, too; they now live in the building’s Basement Tavern. To get to the hidden speakeasy, enter around the back of the building and navigate your way down an old flight of stairs and through the kitchen, Goodfellas style.
“The legend is that Delia, who was the last owner of the house, was single with no children, so she rented rooms out to people who came here to live or were passing through town,” Gilbert Cantu, general manager of the Victorian, tells L.A. Weekly. “She did have family that would visit her, so she wasn’t a lonely woman. I had met her great-niece who has visited the Victorian twice since I’ve worked there, and she has told us a few things about Delia.”
Cantu says many people have felt Delia's presence all over the house. Lights turning off and on, things being moved; some say they’ve seen the spirit itself.
“Talking to her [great-]niece, I was told she did enjoy her cocktails,” Cantu says. “The Delia's Elixir cocktail served in the Basement is an homage to Delia and is made of bourbon, agave, lemon and raspberries. The drink we created had a base spirit of bourbon since the Basement was a speakeasy bar, and we started off with a nice collection of rare whiskeys. The cocktail I was told Delia enjoyed most was a gin martini. Had we known that originally, we could have based it off of that, but by then the Delia’s Elixir was a signature and a popular cocktail.”
In contrast to the ghouls in the dimly lit cellar, the Mamacitas patio is a sunny, inviting spot to relax and people watch on Main Street while you sip on a triple citrus daiquiri of a rum blend with grapefruit and lemon or a coconut mojito of house-made coconut rum, lime, mint, bitters and soda.
The new menu includes pork belly tacos with Niman Ranch pork belly, apples, mango, scallions and tomatillo as well as a shrimp ceviche with cucumber, tomato, hominy and mango in a citrus vinaigrette served on a tostada. Try the sinful Mamma’s Papas, potato fritters served on a nest of shoestring fries with pickled red jalapeño, avocado cream and cilantro blossoms.
The Victorian also is home to the upstairs gay bar the Birdcage, the Chandelier bar on the ground level and a covered patio and banquet space for weddings and other events that can accommodate up to 200 guests. And don’t fret if you run across the spirit of Delia in the downstairs tavern as you sip from the extensive whiskey selection — there’s plenty of space for everyone.
Mamacitas at the Victorian, 2640 Main St., Santa Monica; (310) 392-4956, thevictorian.com.