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Santa Barbara fine dining recommendations needed [moved from L.A. board]

bhoward Aug 28, 2006 04:13 PM

Need to know the best choices for fine dining in Santa Barbara. Thanks in advance.

  1. k
    kim w. Sep 16, 2006 06:18 AM

    You should drive 25 mins. N. jump on the 33 (about 20 mins.) and go to Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, eat at Maravilla, you wont be sorry, its the best cusine your going to get for the area, hands down, the Chef de Cusine is young and very hip, youre not going to find anything comparable in this neck of the woods!

    1. b
      bel886 Sep 15, 2006 03:41 AM

      Ate 3 weeks ago at Olio e Limone, and was very happy. Reminded me of many higher end Italian restaurants I've eaten at in italy. Nice room. Good service. Nice wine and food.

      1. m
        majmaj4 Aug 30, 2006 10:24 PM

        I hope it is true that Sage and Onion has improved with the return of Norbert. I will start saving up for a nice dinner.

        1. c
          Cheese Please Aug 30, 2006 01:04 PM

          Here's my post from a few weeks back on this same inquiry:

          My list of fine chow in my town (S.B.), basically in order of preference:

          Ca Dario
          Super Rica
          Olio e Limone
          Cold Springs Tavern
          Square One
          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)

          I am curious to see if the report above about Sage and Onion's improvement proves true. It used to be quite special, but my last three outings there (most recently 12 months or so ago) were all very disappointing.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Cheese Please
            solza99 Sep 7, 2006 06:09 PM

            Sage & Onion has always been a MUST HAVE when I visit Santa Barbara. I have been about 6 times this years, and it just keeps getting better and better. Stephen the chef/owner welcomes us each time, his passion for food is evident in his menu...I strongly urge you to give to try it...I am sure every resturant has its off night, I cant tell you how many bad meals I have had at Spago... this place is a gem.

            1. re: Cheese Please
              shedders Sep 9, 2006 12:01 AM

              In the past few months we have eaten at Sevilla and had a fun time in the little booth with the curtains, but the food was only OK, better descriptions than taste. We were particularly put off by the comment that they don't serve bread because the chef wants to control our portions. Huh?

              We used to love Cafe Buenos Aires, but they changed their menu a few years ago and we were not happy with the new choices.

              A couple of months ago we ate at El Encanto, they may be closed right now for remodeling, but we had the best time, best meal, best service with the best view of any we have been to in Santa Barbara in a long time. So often we go out and are really impressed with the appetizers and the main dish is pale in comparison. Not true at El Encanto.
              The only thing lame was the square plates that our sliverware kept sliding into, but there was always a server right there with a replacement piece. I hope when they reopen they do away with those plates, even though we had a great laugh.

              I had one of the worst dining experience ever at Buchon many years ago and will never go back.

              1. re: shedders
                Cheese Please Sep 11, 2006 12:51 AM


                I hope you reconsider about never trying Bouchon again after one bad experience, however bad it was, many years ago. Forget my opinion; the sheer number of positive reviews by others should be reason enough to give it another shot. After all, I am a huge Sage and Onion detractor (see above) based on several bad experiences. However, I haven't been there in a couple of years and the posts in this thread suggest I ought to give it another try. One of these days I'll do it. After all, we live in a small town and at the end of the day there aren't dozens and dozens of high end restaurants. We ought to reward the good restaurants with loyal patronage and give the underperforming places feedback so they think about making the changes that would please chowish customers.

            2. m
              majmaj4 Aug 29, 2006 10:10 PM

              glbtrtr; I think there may have been some recent changes at Sage and Onion so it might be better. A year or so ago I was not impressed & foodie friends also were not impressed.

              Sevilla seems to be one of the most inventive places in town, but sort of hit or miss.

              2 Replies
              1. re: majmaj4
                glbtrtr Aug 30, 2006 12:06 AM

                Maybe we "anonymous" Santa Barbara chowhounds should have a dining face-off at Sage and Onion (once we save up our pennies) and settle this once and for all. (!)

                Apparently Norbert has returned to this establishment recently which may account for the revival in good reports.

                1. re: glbtrtr
                  solza99 Sep 7, 2006 06:10 PM

                  I love this place as you can tell by my post below, I have not met Norbert yet, but if he is anything like Stephen then I am going this weekend.

              2. g
                glbtrtr Aug 29, 2006 02:59 AM

                Number one used to be "Sage and Onion" ( a few blocks off State Street around 600 block) - which I can vouch for only from my experiences several years ago. Current reports are that it is no longer good.

                I will have to return because it was so good in the past that even if it dropped down a few notches, it would STILL be good.

                Others opinions differ -- and it would be shame to lose its clearly inspired cuisine. Give it a try and let us know?

                Here are some diner reviews - still sounds like is should be included among the best of the best, at least according to some of these reviews: http://www.santabarbara.com/Dining/re...

                1 Reply
                1. re: glbtrtr
                  solza99 Sep 7, 2006 06:12 PM

                  Sage & Onion Still rocks... its on my list at the very very top..

                2. m
                  majmaj4 Aug 28, 2006 10:35 PM

                  http://www.santabarbara.com/dining/be... Has zagat top rated, and the local Independent paper awards.

                  Fine Dining: my favorite is Wine Cask. Downey's is my second. A lot of people really love Bouchon, I need to give it a second chance.
                  I wouldn't recommend Arigato - if you are from a city with good Sushi.

                  Nice dinners: Montecito Cafe, Olio e Limone or Ca'Dario.

                  Casual good food: SB Shellfish, Los Arroyos, El Bajio, La Superica, Brophy Bro,

                  1. p
                    peasoup Aug 28, 2006 10:30 PM

                    Some of my favorites, in no particular order.

                    Downey's (okay -that's in order - it's my favorite favorite)
                    Olio e Limone
                    Miro (located outside of SB at the Bacara Resort)
                    Ballard Inn (located in the SY Valley - 40 minutes north of sb)
                    Wine Cask
                    Restaurant Nu

                    I don't consider a steak house fine dining, but if steak's your thing, there's
                    Lucky's - Montecito

                    also, I haven't yet been, but some have been raving about
                    Sevilla on lower Chapala Street.

                    That should be enough to keep you busy for a while.....

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