Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Apr 18, 2007 05:19 PM

One Day in Santa Barbara

Hi All,

I'm flying in from Boston and I only have 1 day in Santa Barbara. Any suggestions for a restaurant that typifies "California Cuisine"? Dives are totally fine with me if the food is good.

Restaurants that I have really enjoyed in the past:
Au Pied du Cochon (Montreal)
L'Express (Montreal)
Duckfat (Portland, Maine)
No. 9 Park (Boston)
Lumiere (just outside Boston)
Topolobampo (Chicago)
Redd (Napa)
Taylor's Refresher (Napa)
Magnolia Grill (Durham, NC)

Thanks VERY much. We've had a week of rain, so I'm very excited to see the sun.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I live in San Diego but visit Santa Barbara a few times a year.
    Personally I would avoid "California Cuisine" because it is likely very expensive and disappointing. I think its hard to go wrong in SB because there many great restaurants there. My favorites:

    Sojouner Cafe - A must
    Chilangoes - If you want a really good burrito get the chicken axiote
    Natural Cafe - many healthy things to choose from.

    If you go on a weekend you may need reservations at certain places or you will not get in. Sun? maybe or maybe not.

    15 Replies
    1. re: pantani

      Natural Cafe isn't anything special. The same type of cardboardy tasting "natural" food you find at any health food deli.

      Check the boards. You'll find La Super Rica mentioned over and over. It is a dive, a glorified taco stand, and you will have to wait in line, sit on a plastic chair, and eat off of paper and styro. But when you taste the rajas, guacamole and fresh tortillas...well. It is really, really tasty. Oh, and get some of their homemade horchata.

      1. re: Snackish

        Sorry I haven't been to any of the list you have above to compare. But for California cuisine I recommend Wine Cask, Opal or Jade. For one restaurant I wouldn't recommend Natural Cafe or Chiangoes. Or for Casual Seafood to compare the Boston to California either Brophy's or Shell Fish Company.

        1. re: majmaj4

          I'd 2nd Brophy's ( ). It's our go-to spot away from State Street; it sits on the pier w/the view of the ocean (*not* on Stearns Wharf, but at the Breakwater). It's far from an upscale place; it's got a bit of the "Cheers" homey feel (you'd be okay in shorts & sneakers). They have seafood, hot & cold, though I prefer their raw oysters & cold seafood dishes.

          If you want to do nice, then I'd go to Wine Cask.

          1. re: OCAnn

            Sit at the bar at brophy's =)
            watch out though, the place is usually packed (at least when ive been there)

            1. re: Jeters

              My boyfriend and I are definitely "sit at the bar" people! Thanks very much for the suggestion!

        2. re: Snackish

          Odd, I love the Natural Cafe. I don't taste cardboard at all!

          1. re: Snackish

            Perfect take on LSR. What a dump. A totally, fabulously delicious dump if there ever was one. I'd eat there every day I was in town...

          2. re: pantani

            Betta goes to places called "Duckfat" and you recommend Sojourner and Natural Cafe?

            Betta, dont go anywhere near those places. They have their place in SB, and they have quite the following. I don't think it's what you are looking for.

            Here are some of our favorites:
            Olio e Limone
            Brophy Brothers (during the day)
            Wine Cask
            Intermezzo (adjacent wine/small plates place next to Wine Cask)
            The Palace
            Stonehouse (that one's in Montecito)
            Arigato (sushi)
            Stella Mare's

            Good luck with that one day!


   favorite review of Sojourner in case you are tempted...

            1. re: MunkeeCIAO

              This sounds exactly like what the OP asked for. I've been to many of those palces, and they are great! I especially like Opal, Wine Cask, Ca Dariao and Stella Mare's

              I also reccomend the Santa Barbara Shellfish co, for a pier endish vibe but with amazing fresh seafood and good local wines.

              Also, stop by the Luna Cafe in sumerland for a nice lunch, and hop next door for wine tasting at the Summerland wine boutique.

              Arigato isn't so hot for sushi, but, oddly, no sushi in SB is beyond mediocre.

              If you can make it over the San amrcos pass towards Santa Ynez, stop at the stagecoach in for the dichotomy of fabulous food and bikers.

              Chad's on Chapal is nice, but some say not the star it once was.

              1. re: Diana

                If in the mood for Italian, consider Palazzio downtown on State Street. There's usually a lively crowd and the service is as good as the food...

                1. re: mardy

                  also, have to mention that palazzio's portions are huuuuge. one can feed two people for sure. I like to go for lunch as it gets crowded.

                  1. re: Jeters

                    You are correct on both points....

                  2. re: mardy

                    Palazzio serves nasty store-bought pasta in extra large portions for people who don't know better. Don't believe the hype!


                    1. re: MunkeeCIAO

                      Must be lots of Santa Barbarans who don't know better. I've been there 30-40 times over the years and never once was there an empty seat. People drive up from LA and Ventura, people drive down from Santa Maria and SLO.

                      Makes you wonder why.......

                      1. re: mardy

                        I think there are places that if they come across as a filling meal for a reasonable price they can get away with it. Most people can not spend Ca'Dario, Oilo, Pane e Vino prices every time they want Italian.

                        Palazzio and Pascucci fall into the catagory of not great- but lots of garlic covers up the faults and they are loud, fun, busy, places.

                        It is the difference between chowhound and slowfood quality and Bucca de Beppo style/quality.

            2. Sorry, it is raining today and there is even snow in the mountains. That can't last long though.

              Looking over your list and the other reccomendations I would say either Opal or Epiphany would make you happiest. If you want to splurge then I would add the Wine Cask and bouchon to the possibilities.

              For casual lunch I would say the Paradise Cafe. Something about sitting on the patio, drinking during the day, makes me feel very lucky to be in SB and life is good.
              Brophy's has the same feeling with the view of the mountains and boats in the harbor. You can watch the sea urchins and fish being unloaded off the fishing boats as you dip your fresh sourdough into your clam chowder.

              I would pass on the healthy food. Maybe I just don't get the Natural Cafe and Sojourner. I wouldn't say cardboard but it is just boring. Sorry.


              1 Reply
              1. re: Got Cake

                Yes, Paradise Cafe just has that ultimate SB feel...a convertible-with-the-top-down, sunny day, hanging out with friends feeling.

              2. As I said before...Cafe Luna in Summerland. It's small with a limited menu, but it's cute and cozy, is in a nice little town. Ok Summerland's getting a bit touristy, what with all the galleries and stuff opening. My husband was born there, and I lived there for a while. I miss the days when Stacky's was the biggest menu in town...

                Cafe luna serves fresh salds, sandwiches and more with geat coffee and juices. it has a cute patio and cozy inside area, the owner is wonderful, and the atmosphere s great. The pices are fabulous.

                The summerland winery does a 4 wine tasting for something like $5 to $7 without the glass, $10 with. the pours tend to be generous.

                I would also reccomend Alcazar on the mesa.

                Too bad Citronelle is gone.

                If you want good BBQ, try and find yourself some good tri-tip, try Woody's.

                Bouchon is nice.

                1. Plesae be sure to report back. I would love to hear what you thought.



                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MunkeeCIAO

                    Hi All!
                    Back from Santa Barbara -- THANKS for all the great tips!
                    Here is the lowdown on where we ate & what we thought of it....
                    Day 1: Lunch at La SuperRica -- Fantabulous! We went late, around 2:15, so there were only 2 couples in front of us. We had the marinated pork (#4), the beans, cheese & chorizo & the guac & the #1 (steak of some sort). Everything was fantastic, except the steak, which was fine, but nothing special. I tried to go back for every meal, but my boyfriend insisted that we try other places....

                    For dinner, we had reservations at the Wine Cask, but in the late afternoon, we happened across Stella Mare's. Looking at both menus, it was a tough call, but we ended up eating at SM. It just spoke to us a bit more, I think because it was an unexpected find.

                    Course #1: Foie Gras -- quite good. It was a tad overcooked, but still lovely.
                    Course #2: Grilled artichoke with a roasted garlic/mustard aioli. Totally yummy
                    Course #3: Me: Grilled Mahi with a champagne cream sauce. very good (large portion!).My boyfriend had the lamb chops, which were also very good.
                    Course #4: Homemade (or restaurant made) Ding-dong. We don't normally get dessert, but this was nice -- not too sweet.
                    Best of all, our waiter, Bill, who lived in CA his entire life, summered in a small beachfront community, in a small town in Connecticut -- the very place that I summered with my parents! We were destined to go there.

                    The next day for lunch, we went to Brophy's. Lovely views, but we were really dissapointed with the food. The beer boiled shrimp were good, but my main (grilled tuna) was bland. Even the french fries served with it were tasteless. Perhaps we ordered incorrectly....

                    On our way back from the wedding in Santa Ynez, my boyfriend, his brother and I stopped at Cold Springs Tavern on Sunday afternoon. We had a great chat with Big Tom (maker of the tri-top sandwiches). Well worth the stop! My bf & his brother loved the music and it definitely felt that we had found the secret jewel! The sandwich was exquisite! Big Tom had been a bouncer, the night before, at the Maverick Saloon, where many of us went to, after the wedding was over, so he recognized us from "Andy & Tina's wedding".

                    Thanks again -- it was a fantastic, fantasic trip.

                  2. SoHo in Sta Barbara on State St is all about fun, dining and dancing to great bands. Avoid the traffic on State by using a mobile ped. Cyclists that transport 2 riders on State for a tip.