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New to Santa Barbara - What's fine and what's cheap?

I'm a UCSB student newly moved to Santa Barbara (Goleta actually) and was wondering what there is to eat in the area. What's good?

I'm into pretty much everything, and am really just looking for general recs and can't miss places, but I have two specific questions, too. What fine dining is available and worthwhile, especially wine and tasting menu wise? And what good thai, middle eastern, vietnamese, and indian places are around, even more so if they're cheap?

I'm curious as to whether anything in Goleta is worthwhile as well.

Thanks for any help, I really love these boards.

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  1. Lots I like under $10 or so:
    Sakura Japanese in Paseo Nuevo
    Sushi-Teri - multiple locations
    Alex's Mexican - various locations
    Taj, Spice Avenue, etc, - all the Indian cafes for lunch buffets
    The antipasto plate at Ca Dario at lunch - under $15, but an elegant full meal treat
    The Pho at the Vietnamize place in the K-Mart center
    The famous La SuperRica and El Baijo for Mexican on Milpas
    Cottage Hospital cafeteria
    The Hotel and Restaurant School dining rooms at SBCC: The JBS Cafe or the Gourmet Dining Room
    The Mesa Cafe for home made food and full dinners.

    For dinner dining that is cheaper (and often better) than SB, go to Ventura Old Town (happy buzz of independent restaurants and street life) which is a few blocks from the Ventura train station if you don't have a car, but if you pay for the train, is the dinner still cheap????

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Forgot to add The Chicken Ranch in several locations: excellent barbeque tri tip and chicken for full casual meals and carryout.

      1. re: glbtrtr

        Mimosa on the corner of DelaVina and Alamar in the San Roque area has a typical fixed price 3 course French bistro dinner in a nice dining room setting for around $25.

      2. You have to hit up all of the places in I.V. at least ONCE while you're there, just don't end up being one of the guys sitting in front of Sam's-To-Go at 10am on a weekday with a pitcher of beer in front of you. (The owner of Sam's is also clever in that he always seems to hire the best looking co-eds that apply...)

        Anyways, The Cantina in I.V. has the best breakfast burritos on the planet, and the best burritos of any place in I.V. (I've posted that a few times on the boards and always look for an opening to re-post.) If/when you do try a breakfast burrito let me know how it was.

        Woody's BBQ is right there in Goleta and IMO the best bbq, though some will argue for Johnny's Rib Shack downtown. A good affordable place to take someone to breakfast is Max's on Upper State Street - great breakfasts with a gourmet feel because they pay attention to details. I also liked the Cajun Kitchen for breakfast, they have a few locations in town, one of them in Goleta. And one last place is The Habit in downtown Goleta - they've expanded all over California but the one in Goleta was the original!

        None of these places will earn a Michelin star but as a student it'll fill you up, not break your bank, and you'll wanna come back after you graduate. ;)

        1. Still out there? There are a lot of places to discover even though this is a small town that's lacking some of the "ethnic" menu diversity in the Bay Area & LA (could really use some good Ethiopian, affordable Middle Eastern, etc.). Feel free to ask for more specific requests. Glbtrtr gave some good ones, and I would add my faves below:

          Indian: Naan Stop in Isla Vista is suprisingly good and CHEAP; I also like Spice Avenue on State Street better than the other places in town.
          Vietnamese: Saigon In-and-Out on Milpas.
          Mexican: so many places. Super Rica as mentioned is a MUST. Also, Del Pueblo on Hollister (Magnolia Shopping center betw Turnpike & Patterson, near UCSB) is good, as are both locations of Los Arroyos (downtown-Figueroa and Montecito-Coast Village Rd).
          Sushi/Japanese: my favorite, and very affordable, is Edomasa on upper De La Vina (near Alamar). Takenoya on Calle Real (near Fairview) in Goleta is also good, and both have large menu selections, especially "izakaya"-style appetizer small plates. Arigato is the high-end Japanese place in town and worth the prices for a 'splurge'.

          My favorite hidden gem recently is "Le Bon Cafe" on Canon Perdido & Santa Barbara Sts.: it's sort of no-frills counter service (but also no attitude), but the food is absolutely excellent, especially the fish dishes, and the cakes on offer for dessert are pretty great too.

          Feel free to ask for any specific recommendations. There is a lot here to explore, and we haven't even gotten into fine dining yet... if you're a newcomer, I'm happy to recommend just about anything you want to know about.

          1. My fine dining pick with excellent wine recs would be The Wine Cask. You won't be sorry. I also love the Sage & Onion too.

            For cheap, but excellent, a must is La Super-Rica. Cajun Kitchen for breakfast. Try Little Alex's too for Mexican. Via Maestra 42 by Gelsons is also a great little inexpensive Italian place w/ fantastic sandwiches and gelato. And of course, everyone else's recs above are great too. Oh...and Super Cuca's monster burritos and TioAlberto's in IV too.

            2 Replies
            1. re: trebenstein

              SuperCuca's has the best nachos in town too. One is plenty for two - marinated pork is fabulous. Horchata with them is perfect. (West Micheltorena near San Andres)

              1. re: trebenstein

                I believe Tio Alberto's hasn't been in IV for many years now.....

              2. The Rose Cafe on the Mesa and on Haley has the best machaca and eggs in town for breakfast. El Zarape on San Andres in the westside has excellent but somewhat more traditional food. They have the pork rinds in the window and soups and stews that are not available at most other spots. Their Torta Loca is something to be experienced.

                The Italian Grocery on De La Guerra has the best torpedo sandwich in town. Get the Super Deluxe.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Darryl Lict

                  Anyone know what happend to the owners of the Italian and Greek Deli on State Street after it closed down? That place was incredible and I was sad to see it go...did they retire? Relocate? Open up a new place?

                  1. re: Bunson

                    He retired sadly with a fond farewell to the community explaining his prime State Street business location was his retirement nest egg. It is now a sterile cell phone place, I believe. A former sweet place of independent funk in this town was lost, but hurrah for the owner who carefully planned his life, worked hard for decades and now earned his right to move on.

                    1. re: Bunson

                      I shed a tear when that place closed. I'm new to these boards so I hope this link works:

                      http://independent.com/news/2007/apr/...

                      It's an article in the Independent about it. Apparently the owners have opened a restaurant on Victoria Street, but of course it won't be the same.