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Santa Barbara and SLO, Dinner Suggestions?

On the way to SF from LA this weekend, we will be staying Saturday night in Santa Barbara and then on to SLO for Sunday night. We intend to visit a couple wineries in Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles. From reading the board we have some ideas for breakfast and lunch, but are looking for recommendations for dinner--nothing high brow. Coming from Toronto, we aren’t interested in ethnic dining, save maybe Mexican, but are hoping for something local using local ingredients. We have a young one so if any recommendation has a high chair that would be a bonus. Thanks!

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  1. The Natural Cafe's are probably kid-friendly. One on Lower State Street, one on Hitchcock Way. Nautural and organic places, nothing fancy but solid food and popular with a lot of Santa Barbara residents. http://www.santabarbara.com/dining/re...

    Sojourner is another "natural" funky local favorite and is linked in the list below:

    Here is an interactive link for the search "Kid Friendly" restaurants in SB:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?sourceid=...

    Surpised to find Lucky's Cafe in Montecito on this list but that would be an interesting choice - lovely location and maybe even some celebrity sitings at this spot as well. Celebrities in this town often have kids so this must be the place they like.

    I personally can't recommend any of the above because I kind of like kid-unfriendly places myself .Sorry, I am old and soon you will know what I mean. But families are hip and they are welcome in this town so I hope you find just the right spot. There are many, many kid-friendly places to explore in this town: wonderful zoo, great Kids World Playground; elaborate historic merry-go-round at the beach.....

    6 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      The Natural Cafe may be kid friendly, and it may meet the OPs request for nothing high brow, but i don't see how you could send anyone on vacation to santa barbara to eat there. It is fine, for what it is, which the the restaurant version of your old college roommates passable cruntchy "health food" (this is said as a tofu-loving pescatarian). The idea is totally great, a restaurant with cheaper, healther options, but the execution is usually pretty dismal (ive never found their food to have much flavor). its alright for a quick healthy lunch, but i would definitely not send a visitor there.

      Sojourner is going for the same vibe but i've found their food to be mixed as well (though when its not great its still better than Natural Cafe). I would definitely say it has less of a 'generic' vibe to it compared to the Nat Cafe.

      You say you're open to mexican, and i noticed La Super Rica is on that Kid Friendly list. its probably worth a stop - search for it on this board for any number of reviews and recommendations, but know that if you go at dinner time there is likely to be a line (not sure how your kids do with waiting around for dinner).

      You specifically asked for local, so maybe the Santa Barbar Shelfish Company out on the wharf for great scenery and good, somewhat simple seafood.

      1. re: tex.s.toast

        Thank you for the suggestions. I definitely want to hit Super Rica or a similar Taqueria. Toronto is very weak in Mexican food.

        Glbtrtr, I know what you mean about frequenting the less kid friendly places. It's all new to us. Our boy is only 8 months and not mobile so super-kid friendly isn't really required. I'm just hoping to find a place that no one will mind a stroller or that has a highchair.

        1. re: mikeb

          i know you said you were looking for dinner spots, but since you mention you are specifically looking for mexican, i'd recommend you take a look at either El bajio (also on milaps, like La Super Rica) or Lily's tacos on chapala. the former is a really good if somewhat standard taqueria serving all types of burritos, tacos and tortas. Lily's just does tacos, usually about 6 different types, an they are killer. no one will mind you 8 mo old, to be sure.

          1. re: mikeb

            Pleeze don't go to La Super Rica. It's the most over-hyped groupie place ever. Be original just go somewhere else.

            1. re: pantani

              I don't agree with this. There is no attitude about this place at all. Just fresh and honest food and some really outstanding choices. Nothing beats the Number 15 Tocino special at all in my book. It is a fun place and there is nothing pretentious or over-hyped at all about this place. It is a Santa Barbara landmark to the owner and his family who created a genuine long time dining tradition in Santa Barbara when at first nothing was going for them .They built a solid reputation and have a winning formula for their well-deserved success.

              There is no reason to tear this place down at all. And I am sorry to see the above post be so dismissive. There is nothing "groupie" here, just families, solos and couples of all persuasions enjoying its perfect simplicity.

              1. re: pantani

                i dont agree, i have been eating there for over 10 years, and its the same as it ever was, thank god!

        2. On nice stop in SLO would be Novo on Higuera St. in downtown.
          Dinner on their patio is nice and many healthy choices with lots of local items.

          1. There's a really cool place in Santa Margarita (8 miles north of downtown SLO) called the Range. It's kinda hidden but it's on the main drag in Sta. Margarita. The owner/ chef prides himself on using local ingredients to make his comforting creations. He was formerly with what is IMHO the BEST restaurant in Paso Robles, Bistro Laurent. His restaurant is family friendly whereas I would not use that term to describe BL.

            2 Replies
            1. re: paso_gurl_100

              Bistro Laurent sounds perfect, but sadly they don't appear to be open on Sundays. Is there anywhere else similar from Pismo to Paso Robles that might be open on a Sunday?

              1. re: mikeb

                Sorry, my rec. is for "The Range" in Santa Margarita. They are only open for dinner, and they are open on Sundays. Kid friendly, local home cooked creations.

                I don't think I would take a baby to Bistro Laurent, save that for next trip when you have a sitter :-)

            2. We've only been (multiple times) for breakfast and lunch, but Bon Temp Creole Cafe in SLO comes to mind, right off of Hwy 101. I assume they're open for dinner on Sunday since we've had earlier meals on that day, but wouldn't hurt to check. Noticed your ethnic aversion except for Mexican, but their cuisine I classify as more regional. Taco Temple in Morro Bay is the spot for creative Mexican using fresh seasonal, i.e. order the specials, not standard mex fare which can be found just up the street at the Chapala Market.

              1. I'll add Bayside Cafe at the marina in Morro Bay State Park, just off Hiway 1, 10 minutes from SLO. It sits on a protected Bay and estuary which teems with bird life. (A natural history museum is closeby if you want to use the spotting scopes)

                20 steps from the boats moored in their slips at the marina, the Bayside is a friendly, casual cafe with pretty beneath-the-seas murals on the walls and ceiling. I'm sure they have high chairs, though I've never noticed. The seafood items on the menu are fresh and tasty, salads are made with locally grown produce, and the desserts are all house-made (no Sysco stuff here). The owner and staff work together like a family--joking with and jibbing each other to create a relaxing atmosphere.

                Aerial view of the bay--Bayside is just to the left of the whisp of clouds, center picture.
                http://cacoastinfo.com/gallery/view_p...

                Easy acess from Hiway 1(take Santa Rosa Street north in SLO, it becomes 1). At the South Bay Blvd. exit, proceed south along SBB to the first intersection, turn left into the park (no fee) and proceed along the bay-hugging and bumpy road till you come to the large stand of Eucalyptus trees on your left. Turn in to the marina parking lot, and the cafe is at the far end. Sometimes a wait, but there are seats outside, or step across the lot for a gander at the sailboats.

                1 Reply
                1. re: toodie jane

                  Another sleeper little worth a detour side trip in this area is Baywood Park off Highway 101 on Highway 1 south of Morro Bay - several restaurants in this charming seaside lagoon setting. Called the Poor Man's Carmel for its artsy retreat feeling. Don't know the status of the current restaurants but there were several ones that kept changing from time to time on each visit.