First time to Santa Barbara (most days on business, but my SO will be free) and looking for culinary adventure. Price is a factor, but we'll pay for a good meal. We're foodies so we're open to almost any cuisine. What suggestions do you have for us?
A search of this website is your best place to start to sort out the large variety of good choices. Price is a factor in what can be recommended, as well as range of ethnicity, location, ambiance and personal tastes. Can you provide a few more specific clues to all of the above for more specific recommendations.
There is no one "Santa Barbara experience" restaurant -- there are dozens. Does your SO want restaurants in walking distance while you are doing business - where will you be staying? The primary foodie place is Julienne, downtown in a class by itself. But we also had a very pleasant dining experience last night at the Wine Cask which is also a local special place.
Other favorites for solo daytime dining downtown that have outdoor tables and people watching venues are Renauds, Bucatini, Via Maestra 42, Ca Dario, Saigon In and Out, Spice Avenue, Petit Valentin, Andersons, cafes on Sterns Wharf and at the Harbor for their views and simple preparations.
Special local evening ambiance with worthy value cuisine, but not spectacular haute dining are Stella Mares, Jade, Brummis, China Pavillion, Sushi-Teri, Red Pepper, Lemon Tree Inn Crocodile, Tre Lune, Emilios, TAP, or FAN for Thai food,
If you have time to explore out of town: Cold Springs Tavern, Grappalo and Ballard Inn, heading out in the Santa Ynez wine country. Include Cold Springs Tavern for in town dining as well - about a 20 minute drive from downtown and well worth it for its historic setting. 20 minutes drive away is also Carpinteria where there is lots to explore and some of it very credible like Giannfrancos.
So all you have are a list of names of one that are favorites of mine -- SantaBarbaraDining.com can fill you in with locations, menus and reviews which may not necessarily reflect the best "foodie" feedback but worth looking at still.
There is a big concentration of worthy choices in the 1100-1300 block of State Street and the surrounding side street blocks if you just want to wander and see what appeals to you - all price ranges and pretty good variety of our more local favorites in no special order: Olio et Limone, buchon, Tupelo Junction, Hungry Cat, Opal, Carlitos, Ca Dario, Renauds, Arigato, Peet's Coffee, Saigon In and Out, Andersons, French Press.
My favorite Mexican is La Superica on Milpas - #15 Tocino Special and the Super Nachos at Super Cuca's on West Micheltorena or a quick fix small ala carte chili relleno at Alex's on West Montecito Street.
There are still dozens more that we enjoy from time to time. Hope this gets your started. One night at Julienne and one night at Cold Springs Tavern would cover a lot of SB dining territory and you can fill in the rest with any one or more of the ones recommended here inbetween.
Tupelo Junction Cafe
1218 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
626 W Micheltorena St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
1027 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
The Hungry Cat
1134 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
The Ballard Inn & Restaurant
2436 Baseline Ave, Solvang, CA 93463
Via Maestra 42
3343 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
1151 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108
50 Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93108
I should not have overlooked Downey's which is also in this 1100-1300 State Street group of more upscale dining options as it is one of our favorites for a more quiet and elegant traditional dining setting - really top rate, just a slight notch down from Julienne for creative cuisine, but up more than a few notches in formality and quieter setting.
Downey's is our own favorite special occasion restaurant but when ever we go we always think we should think of it more as our everyday restaurant as well since they have a very nice prix fixe menu as well.
Needless to say, we will be waiting for a great trip report when you get back. Enjoy and hope our weather behaves while you are here so you can enjoy your strolls around town.
Oh yes, there is also Louie's at the Upham Hotel which is another specialty setting restaurant of historic Santa Barbara charm. For more noise and night life and some popular restaurants like the Palace (cajun) or Joes (old watering hole) and Holdren's (steak house) the Old Town part of State Street around the 600 block will be full of people and party, particularly when the students all come back from winter break.
Santa Barbara is full of good restaurants. One of my favorites is a mexican restaurant on Milpas Street, it's called Los Agaves. Food is fresh and high quality, prices are reasonable ($15 for meal and drink). Its an order at the counter and they bring the food to you kind of place.
Los Agaves Restaurant
600 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103