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santa barbara dinner - narrowed it down to 4

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getting together with an old friend next weekend over dinner in santa barbara. want somewhere comfortable, where we won't feel rushed, will be able to hear each other, and of course the food has to be good. looks like elements, jane, julienne or square one will fit the bill. need your help narrowing those down to the best choice please.

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  1. Not been there, but reports are Jane's is very noisy. Downey's is your best bet for quiet, retrained food and elegance in this town. Seagrass is quiet. Your other choices are busy places, but outdoors at Elements if the night in nice would be the best choice to carry on a conversation Never thought of it for food being that good though.. Very good food reports at Julienne, but it is small and busy. Every thought of Stella Mares at the Bird Refuge? Sorry to not stick with you original choices, but they all seem a bit compromised for what you want. But none of them bad choices either. Best wishes no matter where you end up. I know you will make it work.

    7 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      thanks for the reply, input aside from orig choices is appreciated! we don't have to be downtown, anywhere between goleta and downtown works too. was hoping to stay in the price range closer to jane. what about petit valentien? or cafe luck?

      1. re: beachbunnySD

        In that case my vote would be for JADE, great crab cakes, Indonesian corn fritters, and much more. 3132 State St (upper State). Brummi's next door puts out some pretty good German dishes.

        1. re: PolarBear

          Jade is where we always take out of town visitors because the menu is so varied, there is something for everyone. Good recommendation. Very nice local place and well-priced. Agree, the German place next door (Brummis) is also good and both have a low-key, more quiet atmosphere.

          I had a very good meal at Petit Valentin and it is in a lovely courtyard setting, again good if it is a warm evening to be outside. Kind of busy in crowded tables inside, but a very good choice for a nice evening for friends who want to get caught up. This is another good recommendation.

          Another thread reminded me also of Anderson's Danish Cafe on State Street, again with outdoor tables, a more "continental" menu that is well-priced for value and a lovely "ladies tea room" quality to the indoor seatings - all fussy and victorian. Great desserts, goes without saying.

          1. re: glbtrtr

            jade looks promising, thanks for the rec. does anyone have a menu link? their website is not functional. actually half the restos in SB don't even have websites that i can locate...

            what do you think of opal as a back up option?

            1. re: beachbunnySD

              Here is a link to our local dining review website which can give you all sorts of info and reviews. http://www.santabarbara.com/Dining/

              The reviews I find on this website are not as discerning as comments on Chowhound, sometimes they pan for really petty reasons or hype a place for reasons unknown to a real foodie, but you will find a good link for Jade under "Californian" restaurants. Jade is a tough one to catagorize as its menu is so eclectic. Which is what lots of us like about the place - kind of Pacific Rim fusionish. The wait staff love to talk about the food and the chef often comes out for chats too if things are slow.

              Or, they will leave you alone since you want to have sometime to just talk. Just a friendly, foodie place we locals do appreciate. This is not high-end gourmet, but rather solid and pleasing on many levels.

              Opal is a good choice also for solid bistro dining, but agree a bit more noisy and busy. It gets more of the downtown theater and entertainment crowds.

              http://www.santabarbara.com/Dining/

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Excellent 4K-1-1 on Jade, glbtrtr. I think the chef has held true to the standards that were set by the prior venue AJA, that iirc, he was the driving force?

                1. re: PolarBear

                  thanks for the recs all. we decided on jade for dinner. if we wanted to carry on somewhere else for a glass or two (or three) of wine, would opal work? or maybe blue agave? someone also mentioned live culture is a new wine bar?

    2. Jane and Opal can get noisy. Square One is lovely, but it can get noisy when there is a few people in there. Stella Mare's is quite lovely. Seagrass is quiet. Petit Valentien is quaint and small. Downey's is a little on the pricey side...but well worth it.

      1. I so hate to be negative about restaurants, but I had a meal at the bar at Cafe Luck and based on the two things I had, I wouldn't go back.

        I had the fish soup. Something I'm very familiar with. It was overly thickened (with potato?) , but I could have lived with that if it had tasted better. But it had a sour after taste and I decided about halfway into it - why bother finishing it? Not a good sign.

        My main was crispy skate wing in a brown butter sauce. A classic, simple brasserie dish. The sauce had pine nuts, golden raisins and capers. But it wasn't a brown butter sauce. It was butter. That's it.

        The skate had a nice even crisp on it (let's give kudos where kudos are deserved), but the fish itself was mealy and ribbony. (okay, you get a little of that texture with skate, but this was exaggerated. I suspect it was frozen, and possibly frozen when it hit the pan?

        There is great, excellent, good, fair and poor. I'd have to rate this experience as poor.