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Feb 2, 2007 09:21 AM

Romantic Santa Barbara Valentine's Day Dinner?

Hello all,

I am very, very new to the area, a recent transplant from San Francisco. My fiance and I would love to have a romantic, elegant Valentine's Day dinner. Though I have been researching a lot of the top restaurants here, I have yet to find something that has the combination of sexy sophistication and tasty cuisine that I'm looking for. Any suggestions for a Santa Barbara Valentine's Day Dinner destination?

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  1. IMHO, Santa Barbara is not a likely town to be described either as "sexy or sophisticated".

    Best to try the Bacara Hotel - they cater to more out of town people. Couche on lower State Street certainly tried to be "sexy and sophisticated", but not tasty according to recent restaurant review.

    Take a look at the latest online copy (2/2/07) of the weekly "Independent" as they list restaurants where one most likely could spot a ......."celebrity". Does that count for sexy and sophisticated? Sorry, but we are kind of mid-western hayseeds here who occasionlly appreciate quality, but increasingly fail even at that.

    The Biltmore recently completed an extensive restoration and evokes deep quality and extravagance - new chefs, restaurants and menus - and lots of out of towners. Again, this may be as close as you can get, but inviting and slightly wicked Old Dowager is still my best accolade for this place. They do offer massages and spa treatments.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      "Sorry, but we are kind of mid-western hayseeds here who occasionlly appreciate quality, but increasingly fail even at that."

      Aha! I've been looking for just the right words to explain the Santa Barbara food scene, and I have finally found them! (Nothing against mid-westerners in general - only the hayseeds.)

      We had a nice dinner at Olio e Limone once, and I recall the atmosphere being intimate and the food pretty good. Not particularly sexy.

    2. I would go with the Wine Cask (Santa Barbara location). My wife and I found the food excellent and wine pairing to our tasting menu right on. It was certainly romantic for us. Looks like they have a special tasting menu that evening.

      1. Hmmmm...

        Perhaps Elements, on Victoria, across from the courthouse. I don't know if any of our local restaurants will give you all of the things you are hoping for, but Elements may cover most of the bases. The food is generally pretty good and the room is nice, with a nice bar scene and the lovely view of the courthouse and grounds.

        The Wine Cask certainly has a lovely atmosphere, but I've always found the food there to be far too expensive for its pedestrian quality.

        I always push Bouchon on this board, my local favorite. It may fall a little short in the "sexy sophistication" department, but it makes up for it in the tasty cuisine area (and maybe the romantic, if you request seating in the front by the fountain...)

        Others (I am not one) tout Sage and Onion. My wife and I did a Valentine's dinner there a couple of years ago - they had one of those gruesome chocolate fountains (cruise ship special). But you'll definitely find others who disagree and think it is a good combo of smart-sophisticated-elegant-tasty.

        Good luck! (Me, that night we'll be bringing in El Sitio...)

        1. El Encanto is certainly one of the most beautiful places, though I have never eaten there. Anyone? How's the food?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Snackish

            Unfortunately sexy sophistication is rather lacking in Santa Barbara.
            Sevilla, Square One or Stonehouse if you haven't looked into are worth a look. (Not sure if stonehouse is open to the public, yet)

            I believe El Encanto is currently closed for remodeling. I have not dined there but I have heard the food didn't live up to the location. Hopefully during the remodel the food will match.

            1. re: majmaj4

              Sevilla (Chapala Street) - yes, that might well fill the bill - it does seem to attract the young and beautiful crowd and it is a refurbishment of a grand old Santa Barbara dining tradition when its original iteration and Talk of the Town were all that there was to be "dining" in downtown Santa Barbara.

            2. re: Snackish

              El Encanto is presently totally encased in construction barriers as it goes through its multi-million dollar refurbishment, compliments of Orient Express Company who wanted a high-end resort property in Santa Barbara. I don't know when it will open, but early plans presented to the Pearl Chase Society looked like it all will be a welcomed improvement while lovingly retaining the best of its past. Word on the new kitchen will have to wait until its grand re-opening TBA. Stay tuned. But it will not be this Valentine's Day for sure.

            3. The University Club on Santa Barbara Street is having a full champagne, multicourse Valentine's Dinner in a lovely old world dining setting.

              If you have any reciprocal club memberships that gets you in, this could certainly be an option. Dining here can be inconsistent, but they do earnestly try on these special event dinners.