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Jan 26, 2010 01:37 PM

Santa Barbara -- Birthday Cake and Cocktails??

I have an idea to take the Amtrak Coast Starlight from L.A. to Santa Barbara for the bf's birthday, and back the same day. The plan is that I'm going to book a "roomette" on the train, which means food will be included. Arriving in Santa Barbara around 1 p.m., and departing at 6:15. It will be a Saturday afternoon (not until March 6).

The main thing is the train ride and "roomette," but we will have a few hours of the afternoon to kill in Santa Barbara. Since it's his birthday, I would like to take him somewhere for cake and cocktails or wine. Someplace walking distance from the train station (which is something like 200 State Street), or a short taxi ride would be okay. I suppose the cake and the cocktails could be at two different places....

This is just the germination of an idea. Any great recommendations you can think of?


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  1. I really like the cakes at Andersen's Danish Restaurant & Bakery, on State and Figueroa. It's a quaint little place, not fancy at all. Outdoor seating is nice when the weather permits - you can people-watch, and there's an old guitarist who busks regularly nearby. They have beer and wine, but I don't know how good their wine list is.

    It's walkable from the Amtrak IMHO, but it isn't short (it's near the MTD/Greyhound bus stations, further inland). But being in a car on State St. on a Saturday afternoon isn't going to be much faster anyway.

    1. You might want to try the Perch for drinks on the top of the boutique Canary Hotel, if it is a clear day- great views in their open air top floor bar. It is at the corner of East Carrillo and Chapala street right in the heart of downtown. There is an open air shuttle bus that goes up and down State Street and you can easily pick it up from the train station if you don't want to walk.

      Closer by the train station is the Harbor Restaurant which has a good Longboards Bar on the wharf, if you walk towards the ocean.

      Agree, Andersons has some great pastries in the old school way - that is on the 1000 block of State Street, a few blocks away from the Canary Hotel.

      If you want the most delectable treats in a small cafe, go to Renauds little French bakery with a few small indoor and outdoor tables across from the Arlington Theater on the 1300 block of State Street.

      There are also some very nice desserts at both Ca'Dario (N. Italian) and Buenos Aries (Argentinian - crepes dulce de leche) up in this part of town too. Both places serve wine and maybe Buenos Aires might have a liquour license.

      Lots of us love the coconut cake at the Montecito Inn on Coast Village Road which is also duplicated at Janes, also up by the Arlington Theater on State Street downtown. Right on that same block is Opal which is a favorite all round bistro restaurant which could probably accommodate both your wishes, at least with one of the best wine lists in town. This is the heart of the dining district in Santa Barbara - State Street, above Carrillo Street. There are some cupcake shops around this area too.

      For a really lovely setting that is lushly romantic, the Four Seasons Biltmore could answer all your wishes. This would take a cab to get to on the ocean in Montecito. Beautiful old Spanish style hotel, recently redone and very, very stylish. For a few hours to linger, this could be a great place.

      You may want to rethink using your calories on the train food when it comes to not dining in Santa Barbara, but you have a great idea and the drinks and dessert (maybe not cake) in Santa Barbara will work out just fine. This is a very walkable town and either going down to the waterfront or up to the downtown area, you will find lots to choose from.

      Here is a link to the dessert menu at the Harbor Restaurant:

      8 Replies
      1. re: glbtrtr

        Oh yeah, Renaud's is great. I wasn't sure if it would be too far from the Amtrak for the OP (or if the slow shuttle ride up State St. was okay). Then again, if she can get a taxi and go up another street, like Chapala, it wouldn't be bad.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          I stopped by the Canary a few weeks ago and was told the rooftop bar was for hotel guests only?

          1. re: PolarBear

            RE: Perch closed to public, only for guests. Thanks for the heads up on this, polarbear. This photo link will show why it seemed like such a good suggestion for drinks, but I guess I can also see why they wanted this kept private for their guests. They often have private parties and special non-profit fundraisers here which is why I assumed it was open to the public. (Wait, it is a 3 photo slideshow)

            1. re: glbtrtr

              Going back to mrhooks original suggestion of Anderson's Cafe and Bakery, a look at the dessert display case and description of their cakes and also their mimosa's might be the best celebration package.

              It is a well-regarded local favorite and agree again it is one of the best people watching spots in town. A nice stroll up State Street from the train station, a stop here for cake and mimosa's and then another stroll around this area to shop or sight see and over to the courthouse and up the tower for views across the city and either walk back down or take the shuttle back to the train station and you have a pretty good train day trip to Santa Barbara.

              And if there is time left over, walking out to the end of the wharf gives you one of the most spectacular views back to the mountains and our city possible. Thanks for thinking of us for your surprise visit. Please tell us how it works out and what you discover on your own that we may not even notice, sitting right under our noses.

              Renting bikes or one of those peddle bike carriages for the lovely and extensive beachside bike path and out to the zoo and Bird Refuge and over to the working harbor is another day trip fun activity that is close to get to from the train station.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Glbtrtr: Sorry it took so long to get back. I didn't see this last post of yours before.

                The plan evolved, and it became a train ride to San Francisco, a day there, and a train ride back on the third day. Ever since, though, I've been wanting to do the day trip to Santa Barbara, and I will do it sometime soon.

                Thank you for your thoughtful replies and the GREAT ideas. Now, just having discovered your last post, I can hardly wait! I'll come back and let you know where I end up going. Will definitely hit Andersen's, and a mimosa sounds like just the thing.... :)

                1. re: victoriashe

                  Thanks for the report back. That is always so helpful for us locals to learn how these suggestions work out .... or not. Your SF train trip sounded like a great second choice and yes, I think you will enjoy your next train trip stop in our little town. Travel and dining --- the best combo out there. Best wishes.

                2. re: glbtrtr

                  Andersen's is too expensive, and the food isn't very good. You can go there for baked goods (they're rich and also very expensive), but I can't go back after I saw the manager stiff a harpist who drove from LA to play there. It's better to go to Renauld's where the food is better and much less expensive. I also recommend the Sojourner where they have amazing food and frequently have local musicians performing. The Sojourner is also closer to the part of downtown that every tourist should see.

                  Andersen's Danish Bakery
                  1106 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

                  1. re: veggiekitty20

                    Andersens is a great choice and one of the best people watching spots in Santa Barbara when you chose their sheltered outdoor tables in the sidewalk arcade on the morning sunny side of the street. It is a lovely place with good food for good value, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

                    Renaud's is in a class by itself but much, much smaller downtown. Superb croissants and other items. But itty, bitty tables.

                    Sojourner is your typical aging hippie wheat germ and grains place. It is okay for what it is and it is a long time Santa Barbara institution. Great place if you are a vegetarian. And looking to get filled up for a little less money than other places in town. Only a few tables outside on a busy street.

                    Try around the corner from Sojourner on Santa Barbara Street for breakfast at Our Daily Bread, who makes the best ciabattas in town and all the other standard array of well-baked goods. C'est cheese is next door for imported cheeses and other deli items.

                    Our Daily Bread
                    831 1/2 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101