NEED A GREAT BURGER - SANTA BARBARA AREA
Too bad the Hungry Cat is not open for lunch. Their Pugburger is fantastic - taking the burger to ......... a whole 'nuther level. Bacon, bleu cheese, cibatta bun, perfect onion rings. Very nice but small select beer selection. Worth staying in town until it opens. Lots of new and promising restaurants in Carptineria - might want to take a look at the "Santa Barbara Dining" guide online and see if any of them have a burger. Rents are lower in Carp than in SB.
And of course, there is always the sumptuous"CrunchBurger" at the Nugget saloon in Summerland where President Clinton tooted his saxiphone, but uhhhhh, I think you mentioned upscale........... (Fans, is this still on the menu - long time since I have been there)
I am sure the Biltmore in Montecito has a burger and you can't get more upscale atmospheric than that. Yup, just checked - they have an Angus Burger in this lovely seaside setting: http://www.fourseasons.com/santabarba...
Or down a wee notch, but always a winner is the Montecito Cafe. And you get delectable coconut cake for dessert there as well. This is always a solid choice and the sedate Montecito set has taken it to heart as their own home away from home.
The sleeper location in the area you are seeking is the Shoals Restaurant at the Cliff House Hotel near La Conchita - food is okay enough but the waterside location is breathtaking - it transports you to another world and it is impossible to believe you are really just a short stop off the Highway 101 freeway. It is a site of palm trees and crashing waves and endless sky and sea. Worth a peek at least just to confirm a place like this exists this close to the highway.
PS, I personally would not include the Paradise Cafe as "upscale", but I have also not had their burger. It is a bit of old Santa Barbara funk and deserves to be on the list of local places for basics.
Only since you included going as far as Gaviota.....but theire is a place up the coast from SB- called El Capitan Beach, and on the north side of the park, it is a private highend camping place and they have a pretty nice deli- you can check them out with a google- but I'd bet they have a great burger, it would be a 15-20 minute drive up the always beautiful coastline and the weather is perfect for it!
If I was to stay in town....Paradise Cafe, the new cafe inside the Museum or Joes Cafe- or wait- best place yet- theTee-Off on upper State.
Please report back.