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Which hotel in Santa Barbara has the best food?

With a limited amount of time before a concert when we get to Santa Barbara, we may need to dine in our hotel. Which one would have the best food plus nice ambience? We may be coming by train so relying on whatever transport is available, & the concert is at the Arlington Theatre, if that helps.

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  1. Hard to answer this because each choice has both good and bad features to meet all your needs, but it is a good question and points out our fundamental lack of a really helpful integrated transportation system in this city to connect our train station to our bus system to our tourist amenities.

    Here are a couple of possibilities for both dining and lodging downtown:

    ELADIO'S at the Beach restaurant gets good reviews which is associated with theHARBOR VIEW INN is right at the foot of State Street and Carrillo Blvd at the beach - which is only a short walk from the train station. From there however, it is a 20-30 minute walk up State Street to the Arlington Theater. You would need a cab if you did not want to walk. There is a State Street shuttle that can take you up and down State Street, but it only operates until around 5pm. State Street is very walkable, even later in the evening.

    Another hotel with dining is the new HOTEL ANDALUCIA near State and Carrillo Streets, right opposite the city bus hub, but it is not as close to the train station so you would have to take the shuttle up to Carrillo Street to the hotel, but then it is only about 4 easy blocks beyond to the Arlington Theater.

    The best choice for hotel and food closest to the Arlington is the historic UPHAM HOTEL and its restaurant Louie's at Sola and DeLaVina streets. This would be my choice - it is a garden setting hotel and the restaurant is one of Santa Barbara's underappreciated sleepers. And it is only a block and half to the Theater. It would take a cab or again the shuttle and two blocks walking from State Street at Sola to get there from the train.

    The SANTA BARBARA INN and its restaurant Fresco's at the Beach is another good suggestion for good dining but it is a ways away from both the theater and the train station - a cab would be necessary or some hefty walking - but all in the lovely beach area and up State Street.

    However with the wealth of restaurants up and down State Street and immediate blocks, particularly around the Arlington Theater, you may not need to have a hotel with included restaurant.

    The Five Diamond SIMPSON HOUSE Bed and Breakfast is not too far from the Theater, but a ways from the train station and they do not serve evening meals but it is a beautiful place for all other amenities right in the downtown area.

    7 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      What a great, thoughtful post. We chose Harbor View Inn for the food, view & pool (we have a teenage swimmer) but I appreciate all the info, & will copy for future reference.

      Meanwhile, we may end up driving, so all bets will be off for dining options. We'd love to hear any suggestions for lunch especially--maybe dinner, too, as we will most likely have breakfast at the hotel. We've done La Super Rica, might repeat but would like to try new things. Some ideas from a search include:
      Playa Azul
      Carlitos Cafe Y Cantina
      Los Arroyos
      La Taqueria El Bahio
      Rose Cafe
      The Minnow
      Tupelo Junction
      The Sage & Onion, Bouchon, Olio y Limon, Downey's, Paradise Cafe

      Anyone care to comment--if you had two days/one night in Santa Barbara?

      Also, I can't remember the name of the little breakfast place/bakery where we bought great whole grain bread on the last trip--can anyone help?

      1. re: Babette

        Hi, I bet your special bakery find was Our Daily Bread on the 800 block of Santa Barbara Street, around the corner from the Presidio restauration. Think they have the best ciabatta bread in town and right next to a cheese store that is well worth exploring and sampling if you want a picnic at Santa Barbara's special and less well-known Franceschi Park high on the Riviera - really worth the drive when the day is clear - you can see forever from up there. Take the path down to the old house (in reconstruction) and see the view from the old stone patio and wander the garden trails.

        Unfortunately, I think all your Mexican restaurants are only second tier and nothing special, and offer only fairly basic predictible menu choices. They are not bad at all, just a little too predictible. But sometimes one wants just melted cheese and spicy gloppy with guac. All of them are good for that.

        My current Mexican favorite after the #15 Tocino Special at Superica is the Carnitas Super Nachos with Horchata at Super Cuca's on the very local, family oriented Westside -West Micheltorena Street. Very good pizza there too at Paesano's on San Andres Street near West Micheltorena - connected to the very local Cheers type bar - Palmieri's -pizza and draft beer and see the other side of Santa Barbara, where those who are more just scraping by hang out and enjoy themselves. They are a welcoming group - just sit at the bar and tell them you are from out of town and say hello and what's up?

        The Minnow is small and cheap, but beyond that not sure it is worth a meal choice. Quick lunch maybe if you are at the Harbor. Santa Barbara Shellfish on the end of the wharf has great fans here for fresh seafood.

        Rose Cafe is old city funk and has history in this town and I do like their basic Huevos Rancheros for breakfast, but beyond that again a predictible and uninspiring menu.

        Bajio has great fans here who compare it to La Superica. It is a very small casual place.

        Tupelo Junction is a special menu place that offers unique and filling alternatives - worth a visit. Recently featured in our local weekly the Independent, which I recommend you pick up to get a calendar of local events and restaurant reviews. They are free in most city newsboxes on the street - comes out on Thursday so you will get the latest news. The small daily Santa Barbara Sound - also free but harder to find has a very nice calendar listing of local events.

        Paradise Cafe is okay, but for me I don't think it deserves listing together with the other Biggies here - I think for grand dining ($$$) selfishly I hope you try Sage and Onion and then report back to us to see if it has returned to its former glory days. It was long my favorite but I have not been back in a while.

        Some out of the way sleepers down your way at the beach on Cabrillo Blvd are Stella Maris at the Bird Refuge, past the Zoo - particularly beautiful at sunset. Frescos at the Beach at the Santa Barbara Inn comes from a good solid local dining tradtion, but I have not tried this location yet.

        My return to Jade (former Aja) on Upper State Street confirmed this is still has a nicely unique and fresh menu in a very pleasant atmosphere - very nice local choice.

        Emilio's down Cabrillo Blvd from your hotel runs hot and cold with some of us here, but it is a worthy contender.

        I also like the Taj Cafe on State Street for Indian - Spice Avenue coming in second. For fast, fresh and basic Japanese, I go to either Sakura in the Paseo Nuevo Mall or any of the SushiTerri restaurants scattered around town - I go to the flagship on 1000 block of Bath most often. The real Japanese contender is Arigato right down the street from the Arlington - always a nice crowd scene.

        Another sleeper bistro type cafe is right next to the theater - Opal - well-priced and a menu that would take a long time to sample all of it. Very good wines there.

        And, and, and ........thanks for making me stop and think about this town - we all get into our own ruts and who knows, maybe you will come back with suggestions that have been too long overlooked here.

        There really are a lot of choices and you almost can't go wrong. The best are still not as good as something inspired in LA, and there are none that are bad either that you would want to definitely avoid - they would have gone out of business already in this small town. So everything is pretty okay, some better than others. some local favorites and some where only one dish brings us back.

        Best wishes

        1. re: glbtrtr

          Did some digging and it was D'Angelo for breakfast & bread. Have you tried it?

          Will check out Our Daily Bread. I'm always looking for good whole wheat bread and have resorted to making my own at home, though I've tried most bakery options in L.A. Sometimes I make great bread finds on our road trips which is always a treat. Last time it was Acme in San Francisco.

          I love your idea for the picnic & for reminding me about Stella Maris at the bird refuge which I had read about--I'm very interested in checking it out.

          We've stayed at the Santa Barbara Inn when the restaurant was Citronelle--we only had drinks one night & checked out breakfast there--breakfast was -eh- so we went to D'Angelo which was overall pretty good.

          Do you regard La Super Rica as a cut above the other Mexican places mentioned? What about ambience on the others--any place with pretty surroundings?

          I really appreciate your detailed posts & will most definitely report back (after May 5 when we are coming). Thanks so much glbtrtr & I still welcome any other input.

          1. re: Babette

            It's Stella Mare's, I found out.

            1. re: Babette

              Ooops, sorry for the misspelling for Stella Mare's. And D'Angelo is in your neighborhood when you are staying at the Harbor View - go up State Street -, go under the underpass and the first street (name???) when you come up from the underpass, turn left and the bakery will be a block or so down the side street.

              In that square on your left by the parking lot is Santa Barbara Roasting Company which is a good coffee place to hang out in and there is an article about a new chocolate store Chocolate Maya right next to it.

              I personally like the breads at Our Daily Bread better, more variety, more authentic, but D'Angelo has a lot of fans too and it is closer.

              Cafe Del Sol is also at the Bird Refuges down the street from Stella Mare's and has a lot of regulars who like it for its stiff drinks and do rave also about the food there - mexican items on the menu. That is about the prettiest location. The others are fairly basic - the one across from across from the Arlington Theater is the most attractive of the bunch and has a very nice outdoor patio.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                'd Angelos has great croissants and capps, which make it (IMHO) a better place for a quick sit down breakfast if you can find a table, but the lunch at Our Daily Bread is awesome -- a bowl of soup and some awesome ciabatta! They have a good salsa calzone too.

                Also, Someone above mentioned Roses -- sure thier mexican food may be run of the mill, but thier pancakes and syrup are incredible.

                1. re: Jeters

                  D'Angelo's is FAR better, and more expensive, than Our Daily Bread. ODB is so disappointing in comparison, and I'm talking about the ciabatta, too. The baker at D'Angelo's is german and does great vollkornbrot, ciabatta with the right tooth/crumb/etc. and good croissants and pain au chocolat. I like the simple breakfasts with great coffee there too.

                  If you are going to the Arlington, I would say head over there early and eat at Carlitos for some nice Mexican (not a taqueria, a real sit down dinner joint) or that cluster of great restaurants on State- I would do Arigato or Opal. I've only been to Opal once but found it surprisingly nice, good value for money, convivial bistro-like atmosphere. Downey's is there too, but it disapppointed me, I was expecting more from that level of restaurant. Check out Ca' Dario, too, for italian.

                  Tupelo Junction is wonderful for breakfast, and on Upper State, I like Via Maestra for lunch and gelato.

    2. Hi, everybody--our weekend is coming up and we're excited. I'm going to print this thread for reference. We're driving, so we can meander on Sunday before coming home to LA--anything we should not miss to take home (such as the breads we've discussed)--I think I read about great cheese in my lurking around--any thoughts for food finds to bring back? Or a last minute stop we shouldn't miss?

      Thanks so much, and I will report back.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Babette

        We have a nice cheese shop in town, C'est Cheese, located on Santa Barbara Street between Canon Perdido and De La Guerra, two doors down from Our Daily Bread (mentioned in earlier posts). (Website: cestcheese.com) C'est Cheese is closed on Sundays, so plan for that.

        Have fun.

        1. re: Babette

          You will bring back reports about how much of the city of Santa Barbara has been turned over to the homeless and the RV dwellers - be prepared to be assualted if you sit in sidewalk cafes on State Street and panhandled all over the tourist area. Keep this in mind while you explore the must sees and must eats in Santa Barbara. The charm of this town is quickly being lost. And it is the city council that has sold it out. Odd, don't you think for a town that was at one time known for its ambiancea and livability? No more so be prepared.

          RV dwellers will share your ocean views for free, while you pay hundreds for the same privilege of spending overnight in Santa Barbara. Best to try and get away from this mess as fast as you can. Next time just rent an RV and park anywhere you want in the city and then demand you get priority to get free or subsidized housing simply because you want it. It is that easy if you are homeless or drive and RV in this town. Why waste money on a hotel room - just park an RV on any street you want in Santa Barbara.

        2. A review--and thank you everybody. We had a great time & want to return, soon.

          We enjoyed Stella Mare's: we shared the grilled artichokes w/ garlic aioli--recommended, a high point--we also shared the Boston clam chowder, an above average version. Tasty muffins & warm French style bread. Our son liked his Kobe burger & I had the endive salad with apples w/ bacon, bleu cheese, toasted pecans, & vinaigrette, very good & large, I shared with everyone. My husband was pleased with the eggs benedict. A pleasant place to dine, we'd be glad to return.

          Perhaps our favorite was Tupelo Junction where we had breakfast. The fried green tomato BLT was great, I shared it with my husband because it was substantial (I had it on wheat bread-one option offered). The pumpkin waffle my husband ordered was delicious and the addictive cinnamon apple beignets were appreciated by all. Our son liked the scrambled egg & bacon dish with potatoes & the fresh squeezed orange juice was very good. We will definitely be back to this gem.

          More pedestrian was the food at Eladio's--not bad & convenient as we were in a hurry before the concert, plus ocean view--but for our next dinner in Santa Barbara we may try Sage & Onion or Downeys. At Eladio's we tried the pepperoni pizza, fettucini alfredo, & caesar salad. Prices are reasonable.

          On our way home we stopped at Cafe del Sol for a caesar salad which our son loved because of the prominent anchovies, as well as cheese enchiladas, bean & cheese tostada & chile relleno--respectable and we would try again, but next time we want to explore more of Santa Barbara's Mexican restaurants.

          Thanks again, & we look forward to a return visit!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Babette

            And, we came home with some very nice assorted cheeses from C'est Cheese, plus ww bread from Our Daily Bread, some more whole grain breads from D'Angelo (lots of it quickly stashed in the freezer which saves me from baking bread for a couple of weeks), & cocoa covered cherries from the place around the corner from D'Angelo (honestly not my fave, though tasty, a rather tough texture), & hazelnut flavored Hawaiian coffee from the place next to that.

            Plus, we enjoyed the concert & a lovely visit to the art museum. You people have a nice little city.