HOME > Chowhound > California >

Discussion

Favorite restaurants in Santa Barbara?

Going to Santa Barbara soon on a wedding anniversary trip. Looking for several terrific places, with price not a top consideration. Hope for great food and experience.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. I was there recently but did not get to eat as much as i would have liked. My day and a half turned up a few things. El Incato served the best Caesar Salad that I have ever eaten and i am something of fanatic about my Caesar Salads. The overall feel of the dining room and grounds was vintage cool, but because it has always been that way, not because they were trying to add cache. The dining room itself sort of smelled like old people though.

    I also ate at The Fish House. They had fresh product but the flavoring and spicing was not engaging. In some ways this was nice as the freshness of seafood really came out because there was little else to get in the way. The bloody mary was among the worst i have ever had. Their raw oysters were nice though.

    Santa Barbara also afforded me my first and only In-And-Out Burger. Not bad and, judging by the crowd in the dining room, very popular. I have heard people rave about this chain for some time (including my brother who just graduated from USC) but i couldn’t figure out what the hue and cry was about. Better than McDonald’s? Yes. But not markedly better than Sonic (which is also not so hot) or even Burger King.

    1 Reply
    1. re: frankiii

      As a USC grad I can tell you Tommy's was our drunken hangout. Go chili burger bombs at 2am.

    2. Oh, good heavens. If you go to Santa Barbara, hie to The Habit (aka Hamburger Habit) before you go to In and Out. (At the risk of being crucified, I've never been impressed with the flavor or texture of anything at the much ballyhooed InandWhatever and in fact, I was saddened to read that Julia Child used to carry around a list of their locations. I'm convinced if she'd tried Habit's fresh beef burgers topped with grilled onions with a chocolate malt on the side she would have burned that list. There are probably eighty-five InnyWhats where I live and I would trade them all for one Habit less than six hours away.)

      The original location in Goleta is more consistent. I make a point of having at least one lunch at whatever one I can get to, however, any time I'm in town.

      As far as good food + experience, try the Palace (Grill?). It's good; Cajun. Order one of the bread pudding souffles with your entree so they have time to make it for you.

      Another experience is Cold Spring Tavern, up on the back side of the mountain. Some people say to go for breakfast (looking at you, Rachael Ray) but I've always found dinner to be impressive. Expertly prepared meats and game, good wines, amazing sides and desserts. It's in an old stagecoach stop, these tiny rustic cabins, but it's definitely white-tablecloth food.

      1 Reply
      1. re: themis

        There's a Habit in Glendale and a Habit in Tarzana.....haven't tried them but all my kids had to say was "the onion rings were okay".

        In Santa Barbara, lunch at the Montecito Inn (just SOUTH of Santa Barbara) is the best kept secret in town. ( I will be editing this message shortly in order to KEEP this the best keep secret in town!)

      2. Just got back from a few days there. I always reccomend La Super Rica, which I love as do many others. For good margaritas and chips and salsa I love El Paseo - but not for anything else. The food is not so good, and it's overpriced. I prefer Enterprise fish company for seafood. Although we had some great chowder and crab sandwiches on the Pier...can someone help me with a name???same owners as the fish house. Fun, casual, and yummy. I had my first experience at the Brown Pellican. I enjoyed a very good benedict. One spot I never seem to miss is the Rose Cafe on the Mesa. Super good Mexican Food. I love the breakfast - huevos machaca or mexicana, chips and salsa, tecate. Yum. Another new one to try is Couches. I'm posting about it on another thread. Excellent.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Rizza

          For an anniversary trip, I would pick a few higher end restaurants. Downeys is a consistent zagat top winner. My favorite is Wine Cask. Bouchon is another that gets top praises from foodies.

          I would go to the four seasons for drinks on the patio.

          I agree with the other posters and don't see what all the fuss is about In and Out burger. To me just a notch above McDonalds.

          1. re: majmaj4

            Yes. For an anniversary the Wine Cask would be wonderful.

        2. In n' out doesn't seem to be the place for a wedding anniversary trip. If price isn't the top consideration the first thing i would do is get reservations for some time at Cadario. It's about two blocks from the courthose on 37 E victoria st.. Downey's is a good choice as well. One breakfast must be had at Sambos down near the harbor, the only Sambos left of the original nationwide chain. It's become a piece of Santa Barbara history, and offers a very pretty view with good food. For a lunch that is intersting go over to Pacific Crepes, not touristy at all, very good crepes..that would be 705 Anacapa St. I definetely would go to the 4 seasons for a try at the new patio restraunt that replaced La Marina...beautiful view. Also Fresco at the beach, which is in the Santa Barbara Inn just replace a very nice french-californian restruant Citronelle. It is supposedly a good place to eat as well. I haven't had the chance to go there yet. I agree that te Palace Grill is great for Cajun food and is one of the better restraunts in town. Also a lunch stop at Cafe Buenos Aires across from the Arlington theatre on state street won't hurt. And Arigato Sushi, near the granada theatre on state st. is a perfect place for sushi in town...just rather pricey. If you're going to be in Montecito, try Montecito inn and stop by at Here's the Scoop for a part of montecito favorite little Gelato stop. They have fresh cones made right there hourly. You can even say hi to the owner Mrs. Patterson, a very nice person...have some fun...there's over 700 restraunts here in town, if you follow most of the suggestoins you shouldn't be unhapppy.

          1. I've been over this ground a lot in recent posts, but here's my list of fine chow in my town, basically in order of preference:

            Bouchon
            Downey's
            Ca Dario
            Super Rica
            Olio e Limone
            Cold Springs Tavern
            Elements
            Square One
            Opal
            Tupelo Junction

            You'll get some debate from the locals on such an issue, naturally. Here are some of the locally celebrated places I don't like:

            Sage and Onion (living on past glory)
            El Encanto (beautiful setting, lame dining)
            Cafe Buenos Aires (same)
            Carlito's (same)
            Any other Italian (this means you Pascucci)
            Epiphany (go elsewhere to have a pleasurable one)
            Arigato sushi (wouldn't make it in L.A.)
            Lucky's (showy and overpriced and not special)

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cheese Please

              Is Pascucci Italian? I hadn't noticed. ;-)

            2. DONT FORGET ABOUT THESE SPOTS, AS THEY ARE NOT TO BE MISSED...
              1. ARNOLDI'S;
              2. LILY'S (YEAH A REAL TACO JOINT);
              3. TEE OFF;

              AND THE BEST FOR LAST

              4. SEVILLA

              1. Do not miss the coconut cake at the Montecito Inn. It is a special treat.

                1. I FORGOT ABOUT PANE E VINO TRATTORIA IN THE UPPER VILLAGE. BEST OF THE BEST FOR ITALIAN FOOD

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: been there

                    Sorry but respectfully disagreeing, I have yet to have anything close to a good meal, no matter what I try on the menu at Pane e Vino (Montecito). Not even close to anything resembling "Italian". ( and I lived there for almost 3 years)

                  2. I agree with glbtrtr: Pane e Vino is not a contender.

                    I wouldn't put it in the same class as Ca Dario or Olio e Limone, but Via Vai in Montecito is pleasant enough with fair Italian offerings.