One night alone in Santa Barbara. What should I eat?
Hello west coast hounds! I'll be in Santa Barbara in a few weeks and have one night for dinner on my own. It's a Sunday. I've been told that the Mexican food is amazing, and is way better than anything I can get in Massachusetts. That's an option, but I'm open to anything that is truly great, especially if it's unique to the area. Please recommend a restaurant where a single woman would feel comfortable eating alone (so nothing too romantic or in a dicey neighborhood), that will give me a sense of the local flavor. I'm open to any cuisine. I'll be staying at the Holiday Inn Express if that helps narrow the choices.
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I highly highly highly recommend you go to the Hungry Cat and eat at the bar. The guys are really nice and will take good care of you - if you go soon enough they might even remember us, tell them James and Alice sent you! It's a several block walk - or if you'll have a car you can drive the few blocks East on Chapala. The food is simple but interesting and very well prepared. A great burger, raw bar, local seafood, dishes based on local produce, etc. They also have fantastic cocktails made with fresh juices and a good wine list. It's all very well thought out.
We actually stayed in that same hotel - it's very close to State Street. There are lots of restaurants in that area but many of them looked pretty mediocre. You might consider Paradise Cafe, Zia, the Natural (which is very close to the hotel) or Pierre La Fond. I haven't eaten at these, but have heard good things and they looked pretty good. The other good options - Bouchon and Olio e Limone aren't really single woman friendly - more romantic and candlelit.
For Mexican, we really wanted to go to La Super Rica but did not make it - it's on the south end of town, not a bad neighborhood, but probably not a place to go by yourself at night. Hope you enjoy Santa Barbara - it was beautiful during our visit!
The wonderful thing about Santa Barbara is that there really isn't a "taboo" against women eating out alone. With the ratio of women to men (3.5 to 1) women either go out alone or sit home and mope. Barbarians tend to just go out alone and leave the moping to the "big city" chicks.
For Mexican: La Super Rica. Los Arroyos (Downtown or Montecito) Carlitos. Cava.
For New Mexican: Zia Cafe.
For Spanish: Milk & Honey.
For Seafood: Brophy Brothers. The Hungry Cat.
For Middle Eastern: Zaytoon.
For Italian: Ca Dario. Tratoria Victoria.
For Argentine: Cafe Buenos Aires.
For California Cuisine: Bouchon. Louie's. Stella Mare's. Blue Agave. Epiphany. Wine Cask.
For International "can't put my finger on just one" - Sevilla.
For Cajun: The Palace Cafe
That should tide you over!
That sounds like a good list! Actually I thought Milk and Honey was supposed to be across from Hungry Cat, but we didn't see it. Is it still open? I also heard the chef just left Sevilla and it's in a shambles. It was close to our hotel but we didn't go after hearing the rumors - which were later confirmed by one of the guys at the Hungry Cat.
Wherever you end up eating, grab an after-dinner coffee at the Santa Barbara Roasting Company in Paseo Nuevo and find a table outside and relax!
SB is a safe city for a solo woman, and it is not unusual all all to do solo dining, particularly during the day. Several of the popular downtown restaurants have counter-type seating which is a good way to chat a bit with your fellow seatmates: Hungry Cat and Arigato for sushi are two good ones in the central fine dining district around the 1200 block of State Street, a few blocks up from your hotel.
Going down to the beach area from your hotel puts you in the more touristy part of SB, going north puts you in the more local parts of town - each with its own feeling. State Street is one of those great lively streets to walk up and down for just window shopping and some pretty good dining choices.
The best Mexican choices are on Milpas Street which is a longer daytime walk from your hotel, or a bus ride away - look for the EastSide/Westside Shuttle on the "MTD" bus website for a quick way to get there and go to the famous 'La Superica" or El Bajio (you will have to look up the addresses to see what blocks they are on Milpas to know when to get off the bus or which blocks to walk - a survey of the more working class parts of Santa Barbara, and a few unique little funky neighborhood shops and cafes like along East Haley Street - you will feel more comfortable during the day making this stroll, but it is even okay at night as it is well-lighted)
We all have our favorites at La Superica - mine is the #15 - Tocino Special, melted cheese, bacon, fresh tortillas and scoops of pico de gallo salsa - heaven! This IS great Mexican food here and this is the one made famous by Julia Childs - pick the cheesier choices, the plain meat ones are a bit dull and take a look at prior posts about this spot to learn what others are also most fond of.
Hope you enjoy your time in SB and we try to make this a car-free tourist place - it will be great to get your feedback to see where we need to do more work. Do look into the frequent shuttles that will get you around the main downtown spots on the MTD site.