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Santa Barbara this week

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Hi! My husband and I are headed to SB on Tuesday and will stay through Saturday. Upon the recs on this board, I have booked Bouchon and Wine Cask for our two big dinners. We also plan to visit La Super Rica and Elements for lunch. I think someone recommended Paradise Cafe for lunch as well? I am also interested in Ca Dario and Opal, but we can only afford so many $$$$ dinners! Any thoughts??? Also, we plan to visit some wineries. Thanks!

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  1. I went to college and worked in the area (8 years total) and weekly breakfast/brunch on Sunday's was a regular tradition. My favorite "group" place was Max's Restaurant on Upper State -


    The coffee is incredible (comes in your own little french press mini pot), and the breakfasts are what you find on most breakfast menus but they're jazzed up with a gourmet touch. Great quality especially for the price (the Eggs Benedict is my standby).

    The Single Best Meal - Breakfast Burrito at The Cantina in Isla Vista


    I ate it as a student, I ate it after I graduated, and every time I visit or even pass through town, I take a detour off the freeway to get one (I'm craving one just typing this out). If I was in Santa Barbara with enough time for only 1 meal, cost no object, I'd get a large carne asada breakfast burrito from The Cantina. You can find good steaks and seafood and high priced meals in any big city, but this is the only place you'll find a breakfast burrito this good. The spanish potatoes they put in the burrito are to die for.

    The "best place I never went to" is probably the Palace Grill -


    It's a Cajun/New Orleans style restauarant that always gets top ratings. The opportunity never presented itself for me to make a reservation, but a lot of my co-workers said it was their favorite place to go in town when the company was paying the bill or if friends/relatives were in town. Great food that will impress, but when all is said and the done, the tab will be mighty.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bunson

      You have some great spots picked out, so enjoy your visit.

      Opal also has lunch for a reasonable price.

      CaDario is good but if you have some good italian local you can miss it here. CaDario has tight tables, so not as pleasant to dine as wine cask or bouchon.

      1. re: Bunson

        The Palace is incredible, and it's always a fun time -- they have a magician that does card tricks at your table on the weekends, and the food is awesome. However, there is usually a line out the door unless you get there early, and they don't take reservations.

      2. As far as wineries go- you cannot go wrong in the Santa Ynez Valley. Great lunch spots include Panino and Los Olivos Cafe. To stock up on cheese and picnic goods- try Los Olivos Grocery. My top 4 wineries- and I prefer reds- are Tensley and Andrew Murray, Beckman and the new Roblar Winery- where they also serve paninis and salads. Number 16 at La Superica is the tried and true favorite- though if they have sopas, don't pass them up! Another favorite for mexican is El Sitio- which has 4 locations in SB/Goleta- their tacos de pasilla is better than anything at LSRica!!

        1. Not a fan of Paradise myself - if you want a great hamburger, try Hungry Cat on Chapala and West Anapamu for $14 with endless lightly battered onion rings.

          SuperRica - most of us locals like the choices with cheese as the most flavorful - my favorite is Number 15 - cheese, bacon, fresh tortillas and pico de gallo salsa. Heaven.

          Ca Dario (just back this evening) I love the single item the Antipasto Assortito - enough for a full meal with their wonderful bread - as a lunch item, it is less expensive - you can get out under $20 each with a coffee or dessert too and have a fantastic survey of wonderful N. Italian appetizers - lots of marinated veggies and meats, and a single caprese.

          Opal is a sleeper - bistro food, well priced and a wonderful dining experience. Jade is another sleeper that remains still a good local choice with some good wines too on Upper State Street.

          1. If you will be visiting wineries in the Santa Ynez valley, check out Hitching Post in Buellton for perfect steaks, and also Cold Spring Tavern, which is at an old stagecoach stop.

            1 Reply
            1. re: brandygirl

              The first person I ever met that spoke as a "foodie" was my dentist in S.B. and he named a few places to try. The only two I recall now are Cold Spring Tavern, which since has been featured on the Food Network a couple of times, and a burger place called The Spot in Carpinteria which he said Santa Barbara local the late Julia Child called "the world's most perfect hamburger". I did go to The Spot and it was pretty good but it was a long trip since I was coming from Isla Vista. For a good burger around the corner I always went to The Habit in Goleta on Hollister Ave...this was the original and only Habit when I was there but they've done so well they've opened up more all over the state.

              I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned Brophy Brothers, but it's probably the most popular seafood place in town, though it can feel touristy. I go there basically for the clam chowder, and would take visitors there too since it's harborside with great views, and outdoor seating.


              Speaking of harborside, do not go to The Harbor or Longboard's Grill on Stearn's Wharf. Overpriced, small portions, and certainly not the best quality for the money (tourist traps!).

            2. Thank you so much for the recs! We are leaving early tomorrow morning and I will fill you in upon return! Thanks again!!

              1. greetings. i got some seafood places recommendations if you want to save a few dollars but appreciate fresh fish. Try the recently re-opened Bay Cafe on Anacapa situated up two blocks from the busy Cabrillo street. they offer a variety of fresh fish dishes. another great seafood establishment is the Fish House on corner of Cabrillo & Anacapa. even though it is a little noisier, they offer the freshest of seafood dishes.

                1. Any update on how the trip went? Hope things turned out well!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Bunson

                    We got home from SB a few days ago. What a wonderful place! We had reservations at Wine Cask and Bouchon, but ended up cancelling the Wine Cask reservation because it was our first night there and we were too exhausted. Anyway, we had an amazing time at bouchon; we certainly made the right choice. The setting was incredible--outside, surrounded by trees and greenery. Our waiter was extremely knowledgable and helped us to order a great Pinot. We actually ran into him the next day at Rusack winery. He takes people on winery tours during the day. FOOD: Husband had the bourbon and maple glazed duck. He loved it. I thought it was good as well (very tender), but I'm not a huge fan of duck. He also had a crab appetizer which was average. We live in Norfolk/Va Beach, VA and we have some of the best crab at home. He had a wonderful dessert--an apple tart with rum sauce. YUM! I had the pomegranate marinated lamb, which was amazing. It came with gnocchi in brown butter and greens. The lamb was cooked perfectly (medium) and the somewhat sweet gnocchi complimented the lamb perfectly. I can't say enough about it. I had the molten lava cake for dessert and it was just okay. Also, I had the wild mushrooms (over pureed cauliflower I believe) for an appetizer--Fantastic.

                    What else? I had lunch at the Natural Cafe one day and loved it (but I really like that type of thing). Avocados! Everywhere I went I had the best avocados! Gosh, I wish we had such fresh ingredients here! We also went to Elements for lunch one day and really enjoyed it (I actually wasn't expecting much b/c I didn't choose that one!). I had a BLT and husband had chicken and brie panini. Great atmosphere and very good food. Would definitely recommend.

                    We went to Brophy Bros and had a drink and the clam chowder. Clam chowder was good but I didn't go completely crazy over it. Wonderful view.

                    Holdren's: The night we arrived (and cancelled wine cask), we ended up at Holdrens because it was close. We had appetizers and great wine. Really enjoyed sitting outside there. The mistake we made is that we went back. We weren't hungry enough to eat a meal the first night (and the steaks looked awesome) so we went back another night and to have a full dinner. Bad decision. Atmosphere was completely different due to the young guys sitting next to us who were obviously just there to drink--they knew almost everyone who walked by the restaurant, so people were stopping and shaking hands and shooting the breeze. But most importantly, our steaks were overcooked. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

                    We also had lunch at Tupelo Junction. It was very good, however I wish I would have gone there for breakfast (we didn't b/c big breakfasts make me sluggish!) because their breakfast menu looked amazing!! I had a hard time choosing what to get there b/c there menu was so tantalizing. We started with beignets and both had sandwiches (mine had sweet potato fries--YUM!). The only other place we went for dinner was an italian place on Haley and State St. I can't remember the name (B...). It was okay but nothing special. Wouldn't go back.

                    I did NOT go to La Superrica and I am so upset!!!! I completely forgot about it until the last day!

                    I enjoyed all of the places that we went to that I had researched on chowhound, but our spontaneous choices did not turn out very well!!

                    I almost forgot--went to the hitching post for a wine tasting and appetizer. wine was okay (it was after a long day of wine tasting) and appetizer was quite good. Didn't really like the atmosphere and felt we needed to do the drive back to SB while it was still daylight (which is also why we didn't go to Cold spring tavern).

                    I think it was the Palace Grill that came highly recommended and serves New Orleans style food. I know I'm crazy but I don't really like NO style food so we passed on it. We did see it though--with a line way out the door!!

                    I think that's it! I do appreciate your help and for those of you who live there--I am so jealous! What a beautiful place!

                    1. re: alsky

                      Thanks for your nice detailed report - the Italian restaurant on the corner of State and Haley is Bucatini's - and agree, there is better in town - never understood what the fuss was that kept it so full, not even a nice street corner. But I give them credit --they are not a red sauce Italian - and occasionally do some things well. They are holding their own in this more "entertainment" sector of town as you found out.

                      Always nice to hear one has had a good time, particularly dining, in our small little town. You remind me to back to buchon - it is in my back yard and some times we locals overlook the obvious.

                      1. re: alsky

                        The avocados are all grown locally just to the south (I believe in Ventura County) so during the season you can find them everywhere and top quality! Thanks for the report, glad you had a good time!

                        1. re: Bunson

                          A very pretty day trip to see where the Santa Barbara restaurant avocados are grown is to visit the Heritage Valley along Highway 126 - this week there is the Citrus Festival in Santa Paula because this is where all the premium lemons are grown too that go into that Santa Barbara guacamole. There is a dinner train from Fillmore and a Dinner in the Orchards with one of the main lemon packing houses Limoneira to also explore - some interesting restaurants are emerging in this valley in Santa Paula as well - more info can be found on the Los Angeles board.