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Apr 15, 2008 03:14 PM

Santa Barbara - Romantic Dinner

My friend and her husband are staying at the Biltmore next month to celebrate his 50th and I would like them to have a romantic, top of tops dinner. I'm sure they would like to leave the hotel since they are spending three nights there already. Suggestions? Also, if you could relay additional information, such as ambience and menu it would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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  1. San Ysidro Ranch Stonehouse restaurantis worth looking at. The setting is lovely, recently reopened to mixed reviews but they may have worked things out by now. Pricey.

    Stonehouse reviews:

    Besides the Biltmore, there are really no "romantic" restaurants in this town, as in luxurious and lovely, with lots of space and refinement. People dine more for food and lively settings in this town, rather than formality and romance.

    A favorite place close by the Biltmore is Stella Mares at the Bird Refuge - very lovely setting in an old French chateau style house. More casual elegance with a nice meal, but not a top of the line meal. You might want to look into their Tasters Menu.

    The El Encanto Hotel with its sweeping views and lovely atmosphere high on the Riviera would be a great spot - but it is a long way from being refurbished and is no longer open. But keep it in mind for another return visit.

    1. The most stereotypically "romantic" restaurant I've been to around here was Epiphany, which unfortunately delivered terrible food and poor service. Stella Mares is a step down in gaudy romance and a step up in terms of elegance. They also serve good food with decent service, which is really what matters. I have reservations at Bouchon for this thursday (for an earth day benefit), so I'll report then what it was like I guess.

      I've really yet to find anything even close to fine dining in Santa Barbara, and I get the feeling that's the way it's going to stay. There is plenty of good to great food to be had in several mid-range dining establishments, but it doesn't appear there's much more than that.

      Kinda sad for a town with so much money and so much coast.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Shortsord

        Agree with everything you say, including staying away from Epiphany - close to one of the worst "fine" dining experiences I have had in this town - totally uninspired. Downeys can deliver very nice, solid well prepared food in a low-key elegant setting. It is a nice dining experience for "older" people.

        But agree, there is no really outstanding restaurant in this town that one would call legendary. But we still love to go out for certain pick and choose specialities all over town - each restuarant having at least one aspect that keeps bringing us back. And that pretty much says a lot about our town, which in the long run is good.

        One hidden place for interesting, but not always consistent dining experiences, is the SBCC Culinary Arts School dining room on Thursday and Friday nights. Certainly the 4 course dinner with wine at $35 is great for the price and the fun seeing what the students come up with - and some occasional brilliance. It can happen there. Worth looking into.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          I've read your recommendation of the SBCC gourmet dining room before, but haven't been able to find any info for it on the SBCC website. Is there a webpage or phone number to make reservations? It sounds terribly fun, and that price is fantastic, even if there is an occasional miss (I love experimenting, even when it fails).

          There certainly is plenty of good food around this town at reasonable-ish prices, and I have found several places I indulge in regularly, for sure. I have no disappointment at all for the scene of mid-range dining out in this town, with so many decent options. But it definitely lacks the high end and the dirt cheap (and ehtnic).

          This is a good city, but no LA or SF, and as long as we're working with that in mind, it's a great place to be.

          1. re: Shortsord

            SBCC College phone number: (805) 965-0581 and the Gourmet dining room extension was 2773, don't know if this extension number still valid, but the college operator or directory will send you to the right number.

            Dirt cheap and ethnic is Lily's Tacos - not great, but people like the novelty of the place.

          1. re: AzDumpling

            I've never heard anything good about Miro - except the prices are very high.

        2. Thank you for the great information - I'm sure it will come into play when making a final decision.

          1. We recently celebrated a foodie friend's 40th birthday at the Stonehouse Restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch. While the menu looked rather uninspired when we looked at it on their website, I can say with confidence that the execution and flavors were anything but uninspired. Service was terrific (ask for Adrian if you go) and we were able to find a number of good wines at fair prices. We sampled a ranges of dishes across the table, and everyone was very happy with their choices. The remodel has shrunk the indoor dining room considerably (we had planned to dine outdoors but weather precluded that), but it isw still a lovely space and quite romatic (w/o being over the top). We gave it 14 thumbs up.