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Jun 8, 2010 02:46 PM

NYC hounds ISO SB advice --- eating in and out

We are renting a house for a few weeks this summer in SB. Have only been there briefly one time, do not know the area at all --- but I believe our house is in the hills, not far from Montecito border. The Riviera area? Besides Lucky's in Montecito, which I was told is a must, would like some help on dinners, but also on basic foraging. We love to cook and do not plan on going out every night. If we can throw some big shrimp on the grill and make a great salad and have some good wine, that is heaven. As to restaurants, simply prepared, gorgeous California cuisine would suit us just fine. Do not want fancy French, can get that in NYC. Same for Asian. But would love some good sushi, and maybe some casual Italian. And we also love fish and seafood. Is there something called Hungry Cat?
As for cooking --- I could use some recommendations for both a butcher and a fish place, and a good veggie and fruit source. Is there an SB Farmers Market and if so, where and when?
Besides the wineries, how about a decent wine store and a place to pick up some other liquor at a good price? Will probably stick to local wine if that is our best bet (nothing wrong with Au Bon Climat), but still would like to be able to make some vodka martinis for our few weeks out of Manhattan.
If we are going for any budget blower meal or two, throw them in. After all, it's vacation.

The Hungry Cat
1134 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

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  1. There are farmer's markets in Santa Barbara county almost every day... here is a list of the markets plus other places that you might find useful -

    The Saturday market downtown is great - they have local shrimp for something like $5 a pound!

    1. Oh - and seriously - you must get up to Full of Life Flatbread one weekend to have dinner. I LOVE this place... it is an hour from Santa Barbara but you can always stay up there if you don't want to drive back. The website doesn't look like much but believe me, the food is amazing. Especially on Sundays.

      1. I'll start out with favorite food stores first:

        ---Meat - Whitefoots on Milpas Street, which may be near you on the Montecito Riviera border (can you give a little more info on your actual location to pin this down, though Santa Barbara is small)
        ---Tri-Counties Produce also on Milpas closer to the beachside Cabrillo Blvd
        ---Trader Joe's - also on Milpas for general "organic" and new age funkier groceries plus liquor and wine
        ---Bakery - Our Daily Bread on Santa Barbara Street, down town for breads ciabattas are the best
        ---Renaud's downtown or San Roque Upper State for incredible crossaints and pastries
        ---Cheese - C'est Cheese - next to Our Daily Bread,
        ---Milpas is our working class main street and actually has some pretty good small family owned restaurants primarily Mexican and the home of our famous Julia Child favorite La Superica Taqueria (#15 Tocino Especial is my favorite)
        ---Gelsons is in both San Roque Upper State Street and I believe Coast Village Road across from Lucky's (personally I like their Tre Lune better, but Lucky's is a "scene") and Gelsons is our high end premium grocery store
        ---Santa Barbara farmers market - Tue evening and Sat morning
        ---Montecito farmers market - Friday morning

        If you are in the hills with a view, you will have a long windy drive down the hill for everything so plan ahead when grocery shopping. But that is a gorgeous choice.

        My favorite restaurant zone is around the 1100-1300 blocks of State Street and their surrounding block cross streets - lots to chose from in these blocks, and just about all of them good to excellent (for Santa Barbara, not NYC)

        ----- Best sushi is Arigato in this zone, also Hungry Cat which has a bit of a troubled reputation primarily for service, but the food can be very good and apparently the high priced cocktails are excellent - I love their Pug Burger even though this is primarily a seafood menu.

        Google <Santa Barbara Dining> to get our local restaurant review website which can pin down a lot more information - not totally reliable reviews, but a good place for links, menus and locations. And if you scour this Chowhound forum for Santa Barbara you will soon find all our local favorites.

        I rarely go into Montecito as there are few there that I have found worth the drive, but Trattoria Mollie's has always been very good for us, though others have problems with it. But it does have a bit of star power as Oprah's favorite here.

        The Hungry Cat
        1134 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

        Tre Lune
        1151 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

        31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy Ste J, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

        Trattoria Mollie
        1250 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

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

        5 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          Thank you, this is a great start. House is on Arborlado Road.

          1. re: susan robin

            Via Maestra in the same shopping center as Chaucers is a great casual Italian place

            1. re: kaki3152

              Definitely second this recommendation for Via Maestra, for take out, deli, lunch and casual dinner. First rate. A total delight for us to have this place in our town. In fact there is a very nice collection of restaurants in this part of town that primarily serves the locals as it is away from all the obvious tourist destinations.

              Also on Upper State Street:

              ---Jade - Pacific rim fusion - our sleeper restaurant local favorite
              ---Brummis - German -wonderful owners, delicious comfort food
              ----Renauds - French pastry, bakery and light lunch - superb high standards for everything
              ---Mackensie Market and Deli - a real sleeper for Greek, in an old gas station and motorcycle repair place
              ---- A scattering on the close by blocks for okay Japanese, Thai, Indian, Chinese, another Trader Joes, Gelsons,
              ----San Roque Liquor for a lot of speciality brands of everything
              ----Giovanni's Pizza and Pizza Guru - get some of the best reviews for pizza

              Also worth exploring if you have the time and interest on the Westside, at San Andres and Micheltorena streets, across the freeway is Paesano's for pizza and Super cucas for a Mexican market and the best SB burritos and super nachos for carry out or casual outside dining.

              Pizza Guru
              3534 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

              1. re: glbtrtr

                I second Pizza Guru - I LOVE that place.

                Pizza Guru
                3534 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

            2. re: susan robin

              Great spot. You will have a winding drive down the hill but it goes through some pretty views. Check out the map and learn the back way to Montecito along Alameda Padre Serra (APS to us locals) which will take you close to Milpas Street and on into Coast Village Road. Montecito Von's grocery is where we would run into Julia Child's shopping right next to you in the fresh produce aisles.

              Casual Italian is either Ca Dario in that 1100-1300 block zone around State Street in the heart of downtown or Bucatini's further down State Street in what they call Old Town bar district closer to the beach. There is a good Italian in the Upper Village of Montecito, but there is also a really bad one too so I will try to figure out which one is which since their names are confusing and I never went back to either of them. Pane et Vino I think is the better one, and Via Vai is the lousy one --- or is it the other way around. The good one is on the north side and the bad one is on the south side of the main road through the upper Montecito village.

          2. Your budget blowers will be: buchon, Downeys, Plow and Angel or Olio et Limone. All have very different atmospheres and differing menus, but typically register among our top restaurants here, which means they are quite a bit down the scale by NYC comparisons, but these are where we go for special nights out and an upper limit on the charge card -- which by comparison to NYC will probably also be laughably modest.

            ----buchon - is the hipper of them with foodie trends executed with care and style
            ----Downey's is my own quieter, more traditional favorite special occasion restaurant
            ----Olio et Limone - nosier, happy dining upper end N. Italian
            ----Plow and Angel - never been there but if money alone sets its tone and location, location, location at the famous San Ysidro Ranch Hotel sets it style, this would be the most atmospheric blow the budget place to go
            ----Seagrass which is seafood oriented is also intended to be in the top spots too, has been uneven but now has a new chef and should be back on top of its form because its parentage is the same as buchon and they care
            ---you can easily blow your budget at the casual Hungry Cat, but I'll let you read the reviews to decide if you even want to. Try it for their Pug Burger first to see if you want to go back and pull out all the stops for a grander meal
            ----Certainly one of the most beautiful spots in Santa Barbara that you should include at least for cocktails is the Santa Barbara Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel - gorgeous and drop dead gorgeous at sunset in this part of town by the ocean, lovely historic Spanish architecture with lush gardens and try as they might to do thing differently always some decidedly mediocre hotel food. Their sunday brunch remains legendary for its lavishness and sheer indulgent eating overkill and worth a good budget-blowing late morning memory of this beautiful place.

            The listings can go on and one because we often end up with one item we really like at a lot of other restaurants around town, even though overall there may be nothing remarkable over all about the place. It will be interesting to see what you find with your new big city perspective that we may be overlooking so in good Chowhound fashion we hope you report back and add to this as you go along during your stay here. Houses here are cheaper than they ever have been, so who knows if you will fall in love with our fair city after sitting up on your hill for a few weeks.

            The Hungry Cat
            1134 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

            1 Reply
            1. re: glbtrtr

              Will not be coming out till August --- but starting to do my research now, Have guests coming in from all over the place and between planning golf (lots of golf), wineries, beach days I feel better when a bit organized. I think the house has a really good kitchen, do you have any recs for a private chef or caterer who could do a couple of dinners for 6 or 8 people? And will definitely report back. We have found some amazing restaurants all over the world from Chowhound and I consider it an invaluable resource.

            2. More food purveyors:

              Kanaloa for seafood in the Lower Eastside - wholesale and retail
              Santa Barbara Shellfish at the end of Sterns Wharf

              A lot of the independent larger Mexican grocery stores have a more interesting selection of fresh items than do a lot of our chain groceries - also on Milpas Street, with real old fashion meat counters instead of pre-packaged goods.

              Both high-end chain Montecito Von's and Gelson's grocers have fresh fish.

              Lazy Acres and Whole Foods are our "organic" mass markets.

              There are some fun dining day trips a few hours away you may want to make too but more about those later once you settle in. The Santa Ynez Valley is our wine country and is collecting some terrific restaurants - finally. Ballard Inn, Grappolo, Root 246

              And is any trip to Santa Barbara complete without trying the chili and tri-tip BBQ at historic Cold Springs Tavern on the back road to Lake Cahuma?

              Highway One to Guadalupe is really a trip for the best chile rellenos you will have anywhere at La Simpatia and this takes you into our back farm and flower growing country. Danish almond pastries and eclectic danish kitsch is worth a trip to Solvang. Can't leave without at least trying their take-away abelskivers with raspberry jam.

              La Simpatia Cafe
              827 Guadalupe St, Guadalupe, CA 93434

              The Ballard Inn & Restaurant
              2436 Baseline Ave, Solvang, CA 93463

              Root 246
              420 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463

              3687 Sagunto St, Santa Ynez, CA 93460