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Jun 24, 2010 02:54 AM

Santa Barbara Dining Suggestions?

Will be driving from Los Angeles to the Santa Barbara area this Sunday, and am hoping to narrow my options for dinner that evening.

Looking for noteworthy seafood, hopefully at a spot along or near the coast. If not directly waterfront, something with a nice patio or scenic views works too. Other points: table/sit-down service, lively and casual (i.e., jeans and a polo) atmosphere, and preferably decent entree options priced lower than the $20-25 threshold.

(I have already done some skimming through previous threads, but past suggestions I could find either weren't specific enough, or a little outdated.)

Big thanks in advance!

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  1. The Harbor Restaurant on Sterns wharf meets a lot of your criteria. The new chef there has made a big difference.

    The best seafood with no view, no real patio, higher prices and more formal is SeaGrass.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      The Boathouse at Hendry's Beach is a great location but I had a perfectly awful, damned mainly by being so incredibly ordinary, dinner there. However others have enjoyed it and you can't beat the setting. It can also be accessed from the Las Positas West exit off 101, and just drive to the end of Las Positas and turn right and then left into the beach parking lot and there you are. I hope if you try it you hit one of their good nights that others have enjoyed.

      Ours were: here is a piece of fish, and some sauces to try and give it some flavor and hide what it wasn't and some really bland, yucky side dishes and then here is your bill. The desserts were not worth being tempted. Just food, and not well done food either.

      That to me is eating, but not dining. Too bad because the location has so much promise. Link for Santa Barbara seafood restaurant reviews, which I have not found particularly reliable, but a good place to start looking:

    2. I think you'll be be happy with Emilio's...good food reasonably priced, right across from the beach.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Andre11

        Yes, this is a very good choice too. Usually some attitude from the waiters when we dine here, but often do like what they serve and some times they get nicer. Charming interiors. N. Italian. But pricey if you don't watch things adding up.

        1. re: Andre11

          Run fast and far from Emilio's - they have a ton of attitude and no customer service to back it up. I also find it overpriced, and I am no one to quinble when the quality is there
          I would suggest the FisHouse or perhaps try The Harbor restaurant - it has not been good for years but they have a new (to them) and well-known local chef who must have turned things around.

          1. re: sbgirl

            I haven't been to the FishHouse in years. Tell us more about it ..... again one of those places with a simple content that should at least do fish well, but sadly like the Enterprise Fish Company and now Bay Cafe, they somehow only end up doing it badly. The search for a good fish restaurant continues, not withstanding the good fish at the very casual Santa Barbara Shellfish on the end of Stearns Wharf.

            Yes, the Harbor has come up a lot in the past year or so. It was too good of a location and setting to waste. Locals need to rediscover it. Just like all the good things one is starting to hear about the new chef at El Paseo which i doubt a local has patronized in decades, yet it sounds well worth another try at this really lovely downtown spot.

            El Paseo Restaurant
            10 El Paseo, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

            1. re: glbtrtr

              We just had dinner at the Harbor last week. The food was fine, nothing special but not awful either. What was awful was the service. We had to ask for bread, water and utensils and our waiter disappeared for long periods of time. The tables next to us had similar issues.

              1. re: baseballfan

                They need to be on their toes so I hope they are reading this. It is such a great setting and it has so much potential. I hope they find a solution to some of the chronic complaints that really should be remedied for as prominent of a setting s they have been afforded in this prime waterfront site.

                1. re: glbtrtr

                  It is a lovely setting and we had a great table. It just felt like the type of place that is not counting on repeat business. We will be coming to SB on a more frequent basis now but I will definitely be trying some other places before I head back there.

                  1. re: baseballfan

                    Good observation. The Harbor is a good recommendation when one wants to merely eat with a great view. Before the recent changes, one could not even recommend it for eating, let alone dining. You will have fun trying other places in town and we have an array of them in our non-tourist parts too where we locals like to go.

        2. going up for the weekend to Montecito and trying to break out of my usual fave's..
          anything new and exciting?
          gotta hit up Renaud's for croissants (props to salty raisins) and a drink and calamari piccata at the Chase.
          Super Rica for the Mex fix.
          How's Sambo's for breakfast?
          Open to all suggestions for breakfast/lunch/dinner.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Beach Chick

            Sambo's get no nods for anything except its historic setting as the start of the failed chain. Better reviews for Beachbreak Cafe for breakfast ,if you are down by the lower 300 block State Street area. Mac's Fish and Chips Shop also on Lower State is getting some good early reviews for lunch and very late night dining - open to 2am on weekends. Will be trying this myself today.

            Other than that, you know the drill - we keep recommending pretty much the same place a search of this forum will provide. Which ones are your "usual faves" so we don't offer any repetitions?

            Your best choice may be to go exploring in Carpinteria if you are in Montecito - Gianfrancos on Linden is tops down there, as well as a string of other little locally owned cafes and restaurants. The new farm club area for budding chefs in this part of the world.

            1. re: glbtrtr

              Mac's fish and chips sounds great!
              We sometimes hit up Brophy's which we always have a good time.
              staying in the Biltmore area and only in town for 2 days,
              Thank's glbtrtr!