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Sep 25, 2009 12:30 AM

Santa Barbara, Carmel by the Sea, Monterey Bay any recs?

My family plans to go on a trip in the winter to Santa Barbara, Carmel by the Sea and Monterey Bay. We love ethnic food and really good crab with drawn butter and really love Thai and Vietnamese fare. We like to go as inexpensive as possible. We like little hole in wall restaurants as close to the seashore as possible. Really don't go for hamburger and spaghetti places on this trip. Any suggestions?

Also, if you'd made this trip up the coast would you recommend a hotel near or on Monterey Bay or would you prefer a room at nearby Carmel by the Sea?

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    1. SANTA BARBARA: Hit Milpas Street in Santa Barbara for a lot of "ethnic" and modest family run places. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Mexican found there. Sushi Teri for fast, fresh Japanese can be found in a number of locations in Santa Barbara - like the flagship at the corner of Bath and East Carrillo the best.

      Carpinteria, about 20 miles to the south of Santa Barbara is getting a very nice collection of small, family owned restaurants as well.

      Santa Barbara Shellfish at the end of the wharf in Santa Barbara serves up your crabs in season along with lobster and other fresh fish at market rates in a very casual "hole in the wall" setting.

      Seach this forum for the thread "Santa Barbara under $10" for other suggestions. Sakura in Paseo Nuevo Mall is great for Japanese. And Rudy's and SuperCuca's on the Westside of Santa Barbara have well-priced and fresh Mexican ala carte specials too.

      Here is a link to our local restaurant review website for dining under $10 with ratings:

      Cottage Hospital cafeteria and Santa Barbara City College cafeterias are sleeper dining spots as well, though it is now harder to get into the hospital one due to new security requirements. But the City College cafeteria perched on a hillside over lookling the harbor has one of the best views in town. They have other well-priced dining options as well from take-out to more formal settings run by their Culinary Arts education department.

      1. The board favorite restaurant in the Mty area is Passionfish in Pacific Grove. Not dirt cheap, but very reasonable for the quality and an excellent wine list very reasonably priced. If I were looking for inexpensive lodging in the area, I would explore some of the older motels along Fremont St in Monterey (and maybe extending into Seaside).

        1. South of Santa Barbara in Carpinteria I found the taqueria of my dreams, El Rincon Alteno, next to a 7-11. Had tacos of cabezas, carnitas, al pastor, and tripas. Each one better than the next. They had roasted pearl onions and beautifully charred hot peppers as part of their toppings bar.

          1. In Santa Barbara, I would not miss tacos with fresh-made tortillas at La Super Rica. Last week I went to Chef Karim's for the first time, and was really impressed with their sauces, rabbit, and one of the best b'stillas I've ever had. (not yet on Chow:

            For staying, I would go for Carmel, it's all the beauty of Monterey but less crowded. However, I would stock up on some provisions beforehand as there isn't that much value in Carmel eateries, IMO.

            6 Replies
            1. re: pockyjunkie

              Chef Karim's does not come up enough when we think of good restaurants to visit in Santa Barbara, but you are right the food there is very good. I loved their shrimp with garlic - lush, flavorful, rich and juicy.

              Add him to Zaytoon and we do get a taste of the Middle East, though Chef Karim's is more of a package of entertainment and dinner but over all a wonderful special occasion place to consider and is also in our Restaurant Ground Zero in Santa Barbara (1000-1300 blocks of State Street (above Carrillo) and surrounding side streets)

              1. re: pockyjunkie

                I would clarify your reco to limit to items on the specials (#16, 17, etc). Invariably people that report back after ordering regular taqueria type items are very disappointed.

                1. re: PolarBear

                  Especially if folks are looking for tacos with 'the works' they can be disappointed when they see a simple meat + tortilla + avocado sauce combo. I find the simplicity nice, actually. Personally I must get one Super-Rica Especial (that's your #16 I think); rajas and pork with cheese generously slathered on top, because I love roasted pasillas.

                  1. re: pockyjunkie

                    For standard tacos, etc. I usually steer people towards La Bajia down the street closer to 101, but there are some other decent standard bearers in the area. A search on this board for Milpas should provide many options. Do report back on what you find.

                    1. re: pockyjunkie

                      Gotta put my plug in for my favorite at LSR: #15, the Tocino Special - melted cheese and bacon you spoon into three fresh tortillas and top with fresh pico de gallo for the best pick of them all. Yum!

                      1. re: glbtrtr

                        My Super Rica favs are

                        #6 - the Rajas - the herbs combined with the cheese and peppers - so freakin addictively yummy

                        #16 as mentioned

                        #7 alambre de filete - grilled tri tip with onions and bell peppers

                        and the chicken sopes when they have them