Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > California >
Jul 29, 2009 12:14 PM

First time in Santa Barbara

Hi there,

Spending a weekend with a few friends in Santa Barbara--none of us have ever been there and I was wondering what you guys recommended in terms of restaurants and wineries.

God speed!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Very basic place at the end of the pier SB Shellfish Co. Good local fish shack for lunch.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Faim

      I should also clarify: we are open to the Santa Ynez valley as well.

      1. re: GJWhite

        Sounds like fun!

        Santa Ynez Valley is a 35 minute drive from SB, and so it would be best to plan a whole day there- or at least 3/4 of a day...and then it will be worth your while.

        Wineries in the Valley worth visitng- first off- get a map from the Vintners (online or hotel)- the wineries are spread out and it is best to visit 3-4 max- overload and over imbibbing isn't the way to go. Now- if it were me- I'd be sure to hit Foxen, Rancho Sisquoc & Zaca Mesa, all offer both white & red and if you start at RS- you'll be ready to come back over the hill and enjoy a great meal in SB. Many fine restaurants here of course- Matteis, Ballard Inn, Red Barn, Aru Sushi- I can go into more detail if needed.

        Santa Barbara- if it were up to me...El Bajio on Milpas for fantastic mexican (the bomb tamales, fish soup and gorditas), SB Shellfish for great casual & fresh seafood ( oysters, crab, lobster and great onion rings), and for the best breakfast and great people watching- Minnow Cafe at the harbor- outdoor seating only. The Minnow is also great for lunch.

        Pace yourself at the wine tasting- and enjoy your weekend! Los Olivos Grocery is a great place to stock up before hitting the 3 wineries I mentioned....water, cheese, crackers and fruits galore as well as hearty sandwiches!


    2. There are wine tours or you can hire a taxi to take you around the wineries if you plan on drinking and then driving back to Santa Barbara. The back roads into this country are treacherous. Best you let them drive and you drink.

      Good N. Italian at Grappalo in Santa Ynez and some very good reports about Root 246 in Solvang, if you want to dine in the wine country. And if you are careful with your driving after a day of wine tasting, Cold Springs Tavern off Stage Coach Road on the San Marcos Pass is a rugged, historic treat.

      If you want to eat in Santa Barbara, State Street above Carillo Street has some good choices, pariticularly around the 1200 block and its side streets down one block on both sides of State Street.

      There are so many food choices and dining styles in this town it is hard to recommend one or another for a few day stay without know more about your tastes and budget.

      There are a number of good Mexican restaurants on Milpas Street. Some good California, fusion and ethnic ones on Upper State Street San Roque area which where more of the locals go than tourists. The Harbor area has lots of choices with a livelier more busy feeling of crowds and out of towners. Montecito is another different dining world and the University Isla Vista is classic student stuff. Some of the real dining treasures are starting to show up in the lowert overheard places for young chefs in Carpinteria, which is about 20 minutes south of Santa Barbara.

      Give us more of an idea of what sounds worth exploring and we can be more specific in our recommendations.

      God speed too .................... and don't drink and drive.

      10 Replies
      1. re: glbtrtr

        Great, recs, everyone, thanks.

        I think we're going to drive in early Saturday morning from LA, stay overnight, and then head back Sunday evening. So we'll do something like lunch, wine tastings and dinner on Saturday followed by breakfast, tastings, lunch and dinner on Sunday.

        I think we'd like to spend most of our time in and around wine country more than downtown Santa Barbara, so a lot of these restaurant recommendations seem right on the nose.

        Any recs for accommodations? Places nearish several good wineries?

        Thanks again!

        1. re: GJWhite

          Narrowing things down further, I think we're going to stay in Santa Ynez or in one of the adjacent towns rather than Santa Barbara...

          1. re: GJWhite

            you have your choices- Solvang is good cause you are close to tall the wonderful bakeries- and Paulas Pancake House for breakfast (get there early!!). Solvang Restaurant, Belgium Cafe and on the weekends brunch at Root 246. Solvang has many hotels- too many to list. Hotel Corque is where Root 246 is, and its connected to the Chumash Casino- as the tribe owns it- if you are into the gambling- it may be for you.

            Buellton has Motel 6, and the regulars- plus Best Western with Pea Soup Andersons connection- and Pea Soup ANdersens is delicious for any meal..some may be put off with the theme or the pea soup- but great breakfasts, love the cobb slalad with caper dressing for lunch- and a simple bowl of split pea soup with the extra "add ons" can't be beat!!

            Depending on your price range, and availability- check online for deals. Ballard Inn is great, but $$$. The Ballard Inn for dinner is hands down the best experience you'll find- small room, small menu- FANTASTIC meal and service!


            1. re: GJWhite

              If the day is pretty, the drive to Rancho Sisquoc Winery is always my favorite.

              1. re: GJWhite

                Los Olivos is a great choice for the number of tasting rooms in a small area. Los Olivos Cafe is excellent, and Panino has great sandwiches and salads for lunch. Patrick's Side Street Cafe is supposed to be good, though I have not been.
                Would recommend Foxen for tasting, if you are up for a lovely drive. In Solvang, recomment Stoplman Winery.
                For lodging, depends on $$$, but there is a perfectly respectable Holiday Inn Express in Solvang. Higher end would be Ballard Inn (no driving to dinner if you dine there!) or Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos.

                1. re: sbgirl

                  Thanks, guys!

                  What about the town of Santa Ynez? Is that too out of the way, or just not worth staying in?

                  1. re: GJWhite

                    Santa Ynez Inn about $300.00 a night for cheap room...

                  2. re: sbgirl

                    Also: between The Ballard Inn, The Hitching Post and Trattoria Grappolo, what are your thoughts?

                    1. re: GJWhite

                      Ballard Inn hands down. Hitching Post awesome- steaks are easy to procure. Grappolo is great- tight seating- hit & miss for me- but 90% of time very good..if it were ME- it would be Ballard Inn by a long shot. Menu online.

                    2. re: sbgirl

                      The Stolpman tasting room moved to Los Olivos... there is a wine bar where their tasting room used to be. I hope they do well in Los Olivos, there sure is a lot of competition there now!

              2. Los Arroyos in downtown SB...specifically, the crab enchiladas.

                1 Reply
                1. re: melackfood

                  Well - any feedback to report?!?!?!?