Our Favorite Restaurants in Santa Barbara

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This is a totally biased list, based on what we like and what people we trust have told us they like.  We are both really good cooks and eat the fresh produce of our own garden most of the time, so we are not easily impressed by a restaurant unless it's really good.  One of us is a vegetarian, and one of us is a carnivore - so we span the full range in what we look for.

We personally hate noisy restaurants so much that we don't go to them, even if the food is good.  All these are acceptable in our noise rating.

The Public Market

The public market is downtown, on the corner of Victoria and Chapala.  It is busy, casual and fun.  There is a sports bar, a wine tasting room and lots of  good eating options there, so everyone can have the kind of food they like, yet can dine together.  There is an underground parking lot that is not clearly marked - entrance on Chapala.

The places within the public market we like:

Corazon Cocina:  Perhaps our favorite Mexican restaurant in town.

Empty Bowl: great noodle bar; particularly the pad thai noodles and the drunken noodles (ask for half as hot).

Soul Cal Smokehouse: delicious meat.  Brisket, tri-tip, ribs.  The coleslaw is great.

Fala: falafals.

Rori's Artisanal Ice Cream: yum.  You can even get itsy-bitsy cones for just a little bite.

Mexican

Corazon Cocina:  SB Public Market, 38 W Victoria.  Our favorite.

La Cocina: downtown, Anapamu St. Newly opened June 2019.  Nice atmosphere including outdoor central patio.  Kind of fusion Mexican.  Very creative dishes.

La Super Rica: 622 No. Milpas. Can’t be missed. One of Julia Child's favorite restaurants. Funky outdoorsy atmosphere with very authentic Mexican food. Guaranteed different than you've had.  Unbelievably fresh tortillas.

Los Arroyos: 14 W. Figueroa (downtown). Everything is good. (but skip the Caesar salad with raw eggs in the dressing).  Traditional Mexican.

Los Agaves: 2911 De La Vina (4 minutes) - closest good Mexican restaurant. A bit louder because it’s always busy. Really good fish tacos. Traditional Mexican.

East Beach Tacos: 226 S. Milpas (near the batting cages).  We haven't been but everyone loves it. Take out window and outdoor seating.  3 taco combo. 11-7, Sunday 'til 6.

Japanese

Arigato: phenomenally good. Downtown. 1225 State Street.
Get there early or plan on waiting.  Evelyn used to go there so often and from the very beginning that a dish is named after her:  Mrs. Ebilyn  (a fun play on the word ebi, meaning shrimp).

Edomasa: 2710 De La Vina, 4 minute drive, no waiting.

Upscale

San Ysidro Ranch: Montecito

Bouchon: Downtown, 9 W. Victoria St.

Very very good

The Lark: Funk Zone.  No one has ever been disappointed going there.  Very creative, fusion, delicious.  Reservations a must, unless you go for the public seating long table and wait a bit.

Loquitas: tapas in the Funk Zone.  Owned by the Lark.

Olio and Limone: downtown, 11 W. Victoria St.,  Sicilian (also their crudite bar next door).  Good pasta

Wine Cask: downtown, 813 Anacapa St., lovely open atmosphere, high ceilings, not as noisy.

Quite good

Finch & Fork: 31 W Carrillo St in the Canary Hotel

Toma: across from the ocean on 324 W. Cabrillo Blvd (personal favorite: sushi cones)

Opal: State Street near the Arlington Theater. Very reliably good food.

Stella Marie: 50 Los Patos Way across from the bird refuge - nice atmosphere, many small rooms and a special garden room.

Barbareno: downtown.  We haven't been but many of our guests have enjoyed it.  It's gotten a few mixed reviews on Yelp, but we personally haven't heard anyone who has gone not like it.

The Black Sheep:  downtown. We haven't been yet but it's on our list.  Many of our guests have enjoyed it.

Fish

Brophy Brothers: on the breakwater, so the atmosphere is great.

Lure Fish House & Oyster Bar: La Cumbre Plaza (very nearby).  Big restaurant with lots of booths.  Atmosphere is fine - fish is excellent!  Sand dabs are fabulous.

Thai

Meun Fan: 1819 Cliff Dr., near Lazy Acres. Regular atmosphere but great food.

Empty Bowl Noodle Bar: SB Public Market, 38 W. Victoria

Khao Kaeng: Montecito, Coast Village RD.  Owned by the Empty Bowl Noodle Bar people, but a more extensive menu and nice atmosphere.

Your Choice: 3404 State St. Not spectacular but wonderfully close - 4 minutes away.

Italian

Ca'dario.  Way too noisy for us but Italian food lovers do rave.  Downtown.  Their pizza restaurant next door is very good. Quieter.

Via Maestra.  Nearby. Next to the post office on State Street just off of Las Positas in the shopping center.

Trattoria Mollie (aka Mollie's): downtown, 1218 State St.

Pizza

(all these have a gluten-free crust too):

Bettina: Montecito. 1014 Coast Village Rd in the Von's shopping center, across from Rori's Ice Cream.  Getting rave reviews.

Olio Pizzeria: 11 W. Victoria St.
in back of the excellent restaurant Olio y Limon.  Authentic Italian pizza.

Ca’ Dario: 29 East Victoria Street

Persona: downtown, so-so on the atmosphere but fun to build your own.

Vegetarian

Olivers: Montecito.  Vegetarian done upscale.  (We haven't been yet).

Mesa Verde; healthy contemporary. Cliff Drive.

Weekend Brunch

Four Seasons Biltmore: la dee dah, Montecito.  Traditional fancy buffet in the classic hotel near the beach.

Stella Mare: Saturday & Sunday, 10-2:30, 50 Los Patos Way near the bird refuge

Jeannine’s Bakery: (3 locations)
3607 State St., nearby
15 E. Figueroa, downtown
1253 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Excellent Benedict options.

Breakfast

Cajun Kitchen: 1924 De La Vina St., comfort food.

Renaud’s Patisserie: in the Gelsons Shopping Center, very nearby. Super fresh croissant.

Scarlett Begonia: 11 W. Victoria in the middle of Victoria Court, a little pricey but nice atmosphere.

Jeannine’s Bakery: (3 locations)
3607 State St., nearby
15 E. Figueroa, downtown
1253 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Excellent Eggs Benedict options.

Handlebar Coffee: 2720 De La Vina, nearby, across from Trader Joe’s - GREAT coffee, open 7am-5pm, esp. fun on Mon & Thur during roasting. Also have a smaller downtown location: 128 E. Canon Perdido. Try the avocado toast on thick sourdough, with an egg.

Dawn Patrol, downtown. Great hash.

Goat Tree Cafe, lower state street near the beach. Nice outdoor seating. In the Hotel California

D'Angelo's Bakery: downtown.25 W Gutierrez St.  Very nice.  Not fancy, just good.  Close walk from farmers market on Saturday.

Ice Cream

McConnells: the original Santa Barbara creamery. 4 minutes away - corner of De La Vina and Mission. Parking right in front. Other location downtown on State St. too.


Rori’s Artisanal Creamery: in the  Santa Barbara Public Market 38 W. Victoria St., half a block off State St.


Yogurtland: no ice cream but great selections of self-serve frozen yogurt & toppings, 621 State St., downtown.

Lunch on the Go

South Coast Deli: 3 locations: 10 E. Carrillo St., 1436 Chapala at Micheltorena, Goleta. Big yummy salads and sandwiches. Call ahead with your order to avoid any wait.

Ike's Love and Sandwiches: 1936 State St. on the corner of Mission. Moorish-looking building. People are talking about this but we haven't tried it yet.  Unusual creative combination.  Next to the 7-Eleven, in the same building.

To The North

Full of Life Flatbread: 225 Bell Street, Los Alamos (48 min. north on Hwy. 101) - pizza and fun atmosphere; worth the drive. Huge flame pizza oven.  The real deal.  Very gourmet.
Open Thurs-Sunday for dinner.

Succulent Cafe: 1555 Mission Street, Solvang. Charcuterie. They smoke their own meat.  Yum.

Industrial Eats: 181 B Industrial Way, Buellton. Worth the drive! Seriously!

The Ballard Inn: 2436 Baseline Av. Ballard (just outside Solvang)
Open Wed-Sunday for dinner. The restaurant is set off by itself out in the countryside, so that’s fun.  Kind of old-fashion fancy.

Taco Temple: If you head as far north as Morro Bay.

Good Reviews

The Restaurant Guy gives a good quick assessment of the local scene.

Yelp