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Aug 22, 2009 10:26 AM

30th Birthday Restaurant in Santa Barbara

I'm taking my boyfriend for a nice getaway in Santa Barbara for the big 3-0. I've never been to the area and would appreciate chowhound expertise on a "special" restaurant to take somebody to in Santa Barbara for his 30th birthday. Ocean view or any nice view would be something that I think I'm trying to find. So far, I've gotten three recommendations, Bella Vista at the Biltmore, Cold Spring Tavern, and Stonehouse Restaurant. Any opinions on those three restaurants or any other ideas?

Also, i want to get some kind of baked good for his birthday as well, so any recommendations on any good bakeries and any "must get" items would be much appreciated as well.

Also.. finally.. sorry for asking for a lot but, any sort of "magical spots" in Santa Barbara where it takes your breath away?

Thanks all!

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  1. As far as baked goods, I'd go to the French bakery/restaurant called Renaud's in the Albertson's center off Las Positas.It has the best French baked goods in SB. Awesome croissants. Its pretty small, so I'd get them to go. Not cheap but good.

    1. magical restaurant spots for me in SB/Montecito are San Ysidro Ranch, Biltmore, Cold Springs Tavern (very funky divey but awesome and great food)

      1. There is a restaurant "ground zero" in Santa Barbara in the 1200 block of State Street between Victoria and Anapamu Streets and one or so blocks on each side. If you want nice people watching and sidewalk tables you will do well at any of the restaurants in this area.

        Baked goods are special at Anderson's Danish Bakery in the 1100 block of State Street. Agree, Renaud's has the best in town but it is not a formal dining place. Downeys is a special restuarant more formal and for an older crowd but they have the best restaurant desserts of all IMHO. A sleeper little place is Petit Valentins which has very nice desserts and French bistro food in the lovely La Arcada Plaza, also 1100 block State Street.

        If you want a younger, noisier crowd with less emphasis on food but more on buzz and activity, then look at what is available in Old Town - around the 600 or so blocks of State Street, closer to the Harbor and beach area.

        Biltmore and Stonehouse will be very pricey and maybe more sedate than you might want for a 30th. Cold Springs is a personal favorite but it is a rustic hideaway and a drive to get up to if you want to "party" a bit afterwards, though they do have a funky cowboy bar right next door.

        You ask a common question for which we really don't have a good answer: romantic, good food view restaurant. There is no one place in Santa Barbara that has it all, though we have a lot of choices with a lot of different moods and settings. No one time all time classic. The Harbor Restaurant on the wharf is under new management, allegedly the old team from Wine Cask and it is worth a look see as well and you would get view, value and food.

        Ah yes, my all time favorite compromise is Stella Mares with a nice lagoon view, lovely homey French country atmosphere, good food and well priced and not too old and stuffy and not too young and noisy. This might be your best choice of all -- take a look at their website and see if you like it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          How nice you are to suprise your boyfriend!! I hope that the birthday is a fun one!

          #1- The Harbor Restaurant/Wine Cask connection is that the chef and sous chef (David/Alex) are former WC employees- none of the front of the house management, that I know of- are W/C related. That being said- alot of folks are down on the Harbor. It has a tourist rep, and a poor service rep. I haven't eatten there in ages- so cannot help you with a rec, but would like to think it is better than the rep. Confusing? Sorry!

          #2 Romantic- good luck in SB. I personally LOVE the Chase- thousands of twinklie lights, red leather booths, cocktails, good piped in music- and good food. I love the calamari picatta- and the fettucine. Moderate prices.

          Stonehouse- expensive and last time I was there- full of old folks (sorry). Downstairs is the Plow and Angel bar- great menu and while still expensive- alot less stuffy and probably alot more fun than upstairs. NOT where I would go for a 30th birthday.

          Cold Springs Tavern- now this is a cool place- in fact on a Sunday afternoon- a very fun place with music/bikers/and people watching galore. For dinner- there are great meat dishes and I have always been satisfied with the service- it takes a beating sometimes on its service....but worth a visit IMO. Again- a fun Sunday afternoon visit.

          Stella Mares might be a great choice as well- nice location, great food and cocktails.

          Bella Vista- way too expensive, and full of old folks- again sorry to be bummer- but if it were my 30th, and you took me here...why not go to the brunch on Sunday am- better experience, more choices and the view of the ocean....

          Special vistas/places to check out? There is a park above El Encanto Hotel that has great views. Brophy Brothers great views. Drive up to PAinted Cave area- which is just shy of Cold Springs Tavern. Shoreline park is nice- and at the west end- just a short walk past the park- is Santa Cruz lane- at the south end of it is 1,000 steps beach- a nice walk...

          Hope the weekend turns out great- please report back!

          1. re: JalamaMama

            I have always had a good time at Cold Springs, love their chili and ribs and always take some home. Mixed reviews from some it appears, but we locals like it a lot and maybe are more foregiving about it too:


        2. For great Italian try Ca'Dario.

          You'll probably need reservations.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cratt77

            One of the popular restaurants in Ground Zero - Ca D'ario.

            Very noisy, not exactly romantic or has a view but it is a good solid favorite, in the style of a very nice casual San Francisco style restaurant. Love their affogato for dessert and their antipasto assortiti has been one of my all time favorite choices in all of Santa Barbara. Add their hand made raviioli and you have at least one wonderful meal recommendation here.

          2. Happy hour at the Beachside Cafe is tough to beat on a nice sunny day. Coldsprings is awesome but for someone not accustomed to the area, it's pretty out of way and might eat up a lot of time to and from.

            I like also Bouchon and Ephiphany off upper State around Carillo. They're pretty much next door to each other. Both have Fois Gras for you to compare/contrast, which is always fun.

            3 Replies
            1. re: mjill

              buchon and Epiphany are both also in Santa Barbara Restaurant Ground Zero - the neighborhood of 1200 block of State Street on the side streets - both found almost next to each other on West Victoria Street.

              buchon often gets ranked as our # 1 restaurant. Epiphany has few fans, and I am certainly not one of them.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Bouchon is top notch, and a great 'special evening' restaurant. No views to talk of - just great food and a great atmsophere . . .

                Others to consider would be SeaGrass - Bouchon's seafood only sister restaurant - Opal, and Jane, a newer restaurant with great food and a great atmosphere . . .


                1. re: lmacschaf

                  Got any reports for Blush and Julienne? Looks like they want to be new contenders for "best" in show for higher end dining.