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Santa Barbara for a flavor-deprived chowhounder

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On a three week trip that will also take us to San Francisco and Los Angeles, we will be stopping in Santa Barbara for two or three nights, and since it's been almost two decades since I was last there briefly, I'd love some suggestions on places to eat.

A little about our traveling crew: I am a passionate and adventurous diner (and home cook) and no doubt could spend weeks, even months, eating my way through Santa Barbara, but realistically will have time for two or three lunches and two or three dinners and maybe a snack or two (or three). My wife is a bit less passionate and adventurous but is usually game for anything. Our children are less daring but we can usually find items they enjoy and they're old enough (11 and 8) to be well-behave.

I've read some of the previous postings and had some questions:

(1) Is there better roadside style Mexican options than La Super Rica Taqueria whose following is in art due to its pioneering efforts? What places would you suggest and which items do you especially enjoy? When I lived in L.A. years ago, I especially like a few Yucatan places, but I am game for any regional Mexican food.

(2) Should Juienne be at the top of the list for foodie-centric diners? Other places you'd consider?

(3) Room with a view: Places that combine good food and either great scenery or street watching?

(4) Other restaurants you especially enjoy, what you like best there and why.

Thanks for any help!

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La Super Rica
622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

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  1. Yes, Julienne should not be missed for a true foodie dinner, finally in our town of many nice restaurants but no spectacular ones until they came on the scene. This is a casual, welcoming place but top notch in presentation, value, expertise and delivery.

    A place children should enjoy that can also combine people watching is Anderson's Danish Bakery and Cafe - 1100 block State Street for lunch. It has a loaded pastry case and sparkles with ktichy charm with great sidewalk tables under an arcade.

    Rambling through La Arcada and Petit Valentin and the new Chocolate shop for some very unusual (and pricy) treats is also a good lunch/ light dinner. snack option next to the Art Museum and Library and across from the Courthouse

    Also for excellent casual fare for lunch try Renaud's in two locations: Loreto Plaza and Downtown across from the Arlington Theater.

    At the end of the wharf is the casual Santa Barbara Shell fish for some indoor dining or takeaway items for dining directly on the wharf if the weather is good.

    El Bajio down the street on Milpas from La Superica has an equal number of fans and is run by a lovely family. Our favorite is the working our way through an order of Super Nachos with marinated pork at SuperCuca's which is also a Mexican food market in the Westside Neighborhood at San Andres and West Micheltorena. Great horchata and other liquidos there too.

    We also like the creativity and just right touch at Jade for a local hideway spot. And taking children to Cold Springs Tavern up San Marco Pass might be a treat considering its very charming and rustic setting and original decor with fire place rooms.

    For early dinner with the family with ocean views right on the beach and pretty good food, the happy hour specials at The Boat House at Hendry's Beach are very good value. I wouldn't recommend them for dinner, but their Happy Hour prices and choices are really great if the hours suit you dining needs.

    If you search this website for "children friendly Santa Barbara" you will get some great tips and also some oft-repeated favorites we all keep coming back to.

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Thanks for some excellent and well-rounded suggestions. We're definitely looking forward to the trip (we'll be there in July)

      I'm sure Julienne is seasonal with their food are there some things you think they especially excel at?

      1. re: spicefinder

        Seasonal and changing menu at Julienne, so just about everything in their hands is recommended.

        Hungry Cat is also high on quality and flavor even if they fail consistently on attitude and service reliability - some of the best cocktails in town and you bill can quickly add up there but it has some menu winners.

        Again on the more casual side: Saigon In and Out is good for Vietnamese. A lot of these restaurants are located in the 1000-1300 blocks of State Street and surrounding side streets on both the east and west sides going in one block.

        Another cluster of our local favorites are up in the San Roque area of "upper State Street" (3000 blocks) near Las Positas: Via Maestra 42 - Jade - Renauds - Your Choice Thai and a few more to explore.

        And if you are here on a Thurs or Friday, take a look at our local community college SBCC School of Culinary Arts Gourmet Dining Room offerings for a set menu or even lunch in their Gourmet Dining Room everyday in a lovely setting with wonderful overlooks across the city from their main campus - 721 Cliff Drive near the harbor.

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

        Your Choice Thai Restaurant
        3404 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

        Via Maestra 42
        3343 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105