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Apr 24, 2007 07:22 PM

Fine Dining in Santa Barbara in July

My wife and I are going to be in Santa Barbara at the end of July on business. It coincides with my birthday too, so we are looking for several restaurant recommendations. I’ve poured over the archives of CH, and most of the SB posts are over two years old. I did follow a few more recent threads, but many were for casual-dining, vegetarian, or similar limitations.

We enjoy fine-dining and great wine lists. The price does not have to be “over-the-top,” but the entire operation should be top-notch. With the exception of my wife’s inability to handle bi-valves (most chefs can easily make a substitution), we are omnivores - so long as the wine goes well with the meal. We have no special cuisines in mind and are totally open. Any great tasting menus with sommelier’s pairings are a big plus, or a spot with great half-bottle selections would earn points too.

We will be staying in Santa Barbara, will have a car, but, as we both enjoy fine wine, would like to not have a trip to and from the restaurants.

To give an idea of the restaurants that we have enjoyed in CA (mostly SF-area):
Michael Mina’s
Restaurant Gary Danko
Viognier (San Mateo)
French Laundry (Yountville)

Thank you for the time and the thoughts.


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  1. Give San Ysidro Ranch or Sage and Onion a try, if you found French Laundry prices okay.

    Jade has owners and staff that are very into food and wine and show a flair for service, though the restaurant is down a few notches from elegant - it is nice, local and stylish place where they like to talk about food and wine with their customers.

    And there have been lots of recents posts about SB in the past several months - often with the same recs over and over again so you should get a feel for what's what. Latest posts have been for the more casual, but you will find many good recs within the past six months.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Thank you for the recs. As for the recent Santa Barbara posts, I must need to do Boolean 101 over, as all I found were quite old, or very casual-value meals articles. Duh?!?

      I'll check out Jade, Sage & Onion and San Ysidro Ranch.


    2. Bill,

      As I read your post and list of favorite restaurants, I kept thinking The Stonehouse (what glbtrtr refers to below as San Ysidro Ranch) would be perfect. The whole place was recently redone and is very nice. The Stonehouse satisfies all of your requirements above EXCEPT the drive part. It is nestled up in Montecito (a few winding roads), but not too far up. Probably less than a 7 minute drive from downtown. Cabs are pretty abundant from any downtown hotel and the folks at Stonehouse would be more than capable of fetching a cab for you for the return. OR... maybe you can even stay at SYR. Hey, business expense, right? If not, Montecito Inn is reasonably priced and puts you striking distance to the Stonehouse. Sorry, I dont think you were looking for a travel agent.

      I would steer clear of Sage & Onion. It strikes me as a place that wishes it was what it once was.

      Santa Barbara has a lot of great restaurants, but not too many that I would consider "fine dining". Taking into consideration your "fine dining/great wine list/birthday/top notch operation" requirements, here is the list that comes to mind:

      Wine Cask - downtown
      Downey's - downtown
      Olio e Limone - downtown

      I may be leaving off a couple, but the coffee is not working yet. is great to see a fellow Alan Wong believer.

      Have fun.


      2 Replies
      1. re: MunkeeCIAO

        I had a fantastic birthday dinner at Downey's last year. I think they put their seasonal menu online if you want to check it out.

        1. re: MunkeeCIAO

          Oh gosh, I've been "outed!" Yes, I'm a big subscriber to the AW restaurants.

          I will check out the other mentioned restaurants, and thanks for the clarification on the Stonehouse. If cabs are an option, that might be the way to go. My wife is my designated driver, but only because she's not the wine-geek, that I am. While she's good on twisty mountain roads, we always took a limo to The Flagstaff House, in Boulder, just because of the drive down.


        2. Someone was not too impressed with Downey's just recently.

          Your list for consideration should include...
          San Ysidro Ranch- Stonehouse
          Square One
          Wine Cask

          Maybe the restaurant at Bacara- Miro, I haven't been so can't officially recommend

          Places with mixed reviews, maybe look at past posts for some guidance
          Sage and Onion
          The Four Seasons Biltmore- Bella Vista

          2 Replies
          1. re: Got Cake

            Got Cake, please tell us more about Epihphany since it almost never gets mentioned when Ground Zero West Victoria Street restaurants get all the attention and it sits right in the middle of it.

            My own experience was poor when it first opened - stupidly small portions, overly pretentious choices and high prices. What has changed?

            1. re: glbtrtr


              I agree with your take on Epiphany. Great place for a cocktail or even after dinner drink, but I would not suggest this for what this guy is looking for.


          2. The Biltmore four seasons is real nice, and the food is outstanding.

            1. OK, here's the deal. We're driving in from PHX, and have a cocktail party at the Andalucia that evening, so I decided to not drive and chose 31 West @ the hotel. I was looking closely at Bella Vista/4 Season, but decided that, since we will have driven all day, and then will have had a few glasses of wine with the folk from the meeting, we'd be better off taking a culinary hit, but keeping it close to home.

              Next evening, there is a dinner meeting at the hotel, so it will probably be a rehash of 31 West, from the previous night.

              Saturday, we're taking six to the Winecask.

              Sunday, the b'day, we'll be doing the Stonehouse @ San Ysidro Ranch.

              I'll probably hate myself for not doing Bouchon, or Bella Vista on Thursday, but considerations for safety and fatique made me lazy. I hope that the catered meal at the hotel is not a copy of the night before, but will live with it.

              I'll do my best to give reviews of these, when we're back in the desert.

              Again, thank you all for your time and your recs.


              7 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Bouchon is only 3 blocks from the Andalucia, so you could stroll there on Thursday for dinner. Either way you will have a great time during your visit.

                1. re: majmaj4

                  yep, the Andalucia is in the heart of downtown, so you have a lot to choose from down there. (and its all a very easy and pretty walk!) Don't feel like you are limited to the hotel as the downtown area really isn't very large.
                  I hear the rooftop bar at the Andalucia is very fun. Hope you have a great time!

                  1. re: Jeters

                    The bar on the roof did well by us, even though it was an "event." I have to say that SB does a far better job with "event wines," than is likely to be found at the resorts in PHX. While we do have some wonderful fine-dining (though some of the best are going more "happening," than true "fine-dining"), the "house wines," are rather poor choices. We really enjoyed SB and the wines. The food, and the service were all good, with only slight hangups. We were really pleased. We'd go back, and not just for the wines.

                    Though not food-related, the staff at the Andalucia were right on, and we've stayed at R-Cs and 4-Seasons around the globe, plus boutique hotels in top cities.


                  2. re: majmaj4

                    I wish that we had had a bit more time, as I have gotten great reviews of Bouchon elsewhere. Heck, even my wife's jeweler in PHX loves it!


                  3. re: Bill Hunt

                    Looking forward to your report on Hotel Andalucia dining - only had one rather poor catered lunch there - but the setting was plush and lovely. Please give us the full report, even what the rooms are like too if you can. Thanks

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      If it were me, I would do anything but 31 West. I have been and am not impressed. Even Roy, a short block from the hotel, would be better. Bacon wrapped filet...MMMM.


                      1. re: MunkeeCIAO

                        I was going to go easy on myself and dine "in house," but then found that we were doing 31W as part of the meeting. Substituted Bella Vista instead, and actually 31W was good, for an "event" dinner. See my partial review.