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Sep 5, 2011 02:11 PM

Santa Barbara Rehearsal Dinner/Wedding

I'm originally from Santa Barbara and have lived in NYC for the last four years. My time out here has definitely made me a foodie. I love researching and trying new restaurants, drinking amzing wine, and cooking. I just got engaged and know that I want to do my wedding back home in SB. Can some locals hounds help me think of an amazing place for a rehearsal dinner (probably no more than 30 people)? I care about food and service first and foremost but will also have a lot of out of town guests who will be visiting for the first time so a beautiful setting/view would be a plus. I would also appreciate recommendations for an amazing wedding caterer. We would like to do an outdoor venue, estate, or winery but havent locked in the exact location just yet.

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  1. San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito has a beautiful outside garden to get married in or for a rehearsal dinner sitting outside in their restaurant would be lovely.

    1. You probably remember San Ysidro Ranch was one of the pricier dining venues when you lived here before; even more so due to their multimillion dollar recent refurbishments. Agree, the setting meets many of your criteria but you might want to give us some price guidance to help you narrow this down.

      Stella Mares has some lovely private rooms at their traditional restuaurant on the Bird Refuge and also probably less costly options at their pleasant but not eye-popping special event's location off Loreto Plaza on Las Positas.

      The Canary Hotel has a great upper level view deck that might be available and they do nicely prepared credible food now - much better than when they first started under their old name and management in the old Carrillo Hotel location. Much more upscale and stylish now.

      There are some good reports for larger event meals at the new management El Paseo - which would fit a smaller budget and the setting does scream out Santa Barbara - it has greatly improved since you were here last, but it is still not really at the level you might want but you could do a very servicable "Mexican" menu there and have a fun setting downtown as well - it can't be beat for its courtyard setting.

      (Disclosure: I have not eaten there myself - only read some local positive reviews and one for a wedding party


      Might want to also look into what the SBCC Gourmet Dining Room might be able to arrange for you as a special private event. You get views and great food in a newly modern far more hip setting refurbishment as well.

      NYC level dining has finally arrived in Santa Barbara at Julienne - don't know if they do any catering but their restaurant is too small for a larger event. But be sure to sneak away for a dinner for two at least if you can.

      Stella Mare's
      50 Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

      1. Thank you both for your input. I have made some progress since my last post. It is looking like we will have a very large wedding and because we have so many out of town guests we'd like to keep things close to S.B. We are very close to booking the Montecito Country Club which shockingly was the least expensive option we found (including a public park). They do require that we use their internal catering/bar staff . I have heard the food is quite good. Does anyone have personal experience with it?

        As for rehearsal dinner, we would like to keep it pretty small. SYR will be a front runner if we can afford it but most likely not. My sister did her rehearsal dinner at Stella Mares so although I loved it, I would like to do something else. The Canary Hotel seems like a front-runner at the moment and knowing it is Chow approved means a lot! I will also look into SBCC.

        On a side note, I have always loved the El Paseo space and am glad to hear their food/service is starting to catch up. In the past, it was usually disappointing and inconsistent. I wholeheartedly agree on the Julienne recommendation! I plan to include it on my wedding website as a recommended stop for out of towners.

        Thank you both again!

        Stella Mare's
        50 Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

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

        1 Reply
        1. re: WSfoodie

          What nice plan you are evolving and thanks for passing on what you learned. Recently had lunch at Canary and I always enjoy that spot - stylish, very nice service and credible food. Hope El Paseo becomes a worthy contender because it deserves to be special in our hearts here.

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

        2. Thanks again for your input. The plans are continuing to evolve. We are getting married over a three day weekend and will have a large contingent of out of town guests so we want to host a couple of events:

          As I mentioned, we will have a rather large Sunday wedding at the Montecito Country Club (still interested if any members/guests are on the boards and have thoughts on their food and menu selections).

          The day before we will have a Santa Maria Style BBQ up at Skofield Park - open to all guests. We think this will showcase a very local spot and style of food for out of towners. My brother in law is a Montecito fire fighter and has experience cooking for large groups so he and a couple friends will be working the grills (and saving us a considerable amount of money!)

          The night before that we plan to have a small, more traditional rehearsal dinner with our immediate family only - 11 guests. Curious if that changes your recommendations at all. We want amazing food/wine (primary requirement) and a beautiful setting/SB ambience. A private room would be ideal but not mandatory and would be nice to keep the budget under $100/person (food, wine, tax, tip, included). We are looking at:

          -Wine Cask
          -Canary Hotel
          -Stonehouse @ SYR

          If we go wine tasting before, considering:
          -Cold Springs Tavern
          -Root 246

          Please send your thoughts! Thanks!

          4 Replies
          1. re: WSfoodie

            For your dinner for 11 you have some interesting choices. I think the Stonehouse will be over budget. Wine Cask can fall short on food quality. I think Seagrass is another great option. Also Petros, great food/fair service has a table for 10 or 12 outside by the fireplace, really cool spot.

            1. re: VinoEd

              I visited Seagrass's banquet room recently for the same reason as the OP. It's nice and vert private for a small group. It has a circular table, which I felt was also a nice touch and it would be quite roomy (of a room) for 11 people. One drawback: there is a bathroom in the corner less than five feet from the table, though you obviously could keep the door closed and have no issues.

              1. re: oldtypewriter

                Thank you both for this information. Oldtypewriter - curious to hear where you end up.

            2. re: WSfoodie

              Out of your list for rehearsal dinner I would pick Julienne for best food and SYR for best setting. Julienne may have separate dining room, but if not, you would be located in their small but nice restaurant. Stonehouse/Plow and Angel patio would be my choice for most beautiful setting. They do have a small room off of patio if you want privacy. Plow and Angel menu is less expensive than Stonehouse and we usually request both if we are seated in downstairs patio. It is a really quintessential SB/Montecito setting. Haven't eaten at Canary Hotel so no opinion on that. Have only eaten on Bouchon patio, but very good food. Wink Cask has nice setting in El Paseo, but only eaten in bar or on Patio which would be a nice place for table of ten.

            3. I would go to the stunning Santa Barbara Courthouse to have your wedding and reception..
              San Ysidro Ranch or Four Seasons would be my second choices..
              Friends belong to Montecito Country Club and they say it's nice but I haven't been invited yet.. : (


              8 Replies
              1. re: Beach Chick

                Thanks Beach Chick... The wedding venue is set. We wanted a little more privacy than the courthouse can afford, SYR is too small, and 4 seasons it too pricey but those are all gorgeous suggestions that we considered.

                Any thoughts on the rehearsal dinner ideas?

                1. re: WSfoodie

                  Is the El Encanto that was recently bought and in the process of renovation open yet...glbtr would know..
                  Stonehouse at SYR is one of my fave's..check with them..
                  You could go to my fave for casual fun and local at the Chase on damn calamari picatta on the and good.
                  Lucky's steakhouse in Montecito..pricey
                  Olio e Limone is lovely and has a private dining room up to 40 people.


                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    El Encanto not open yet. They are, at least, working on it unlike the Miramar.

                    1. re: macdog

                      They're working on it?
                      I'm in Santa Barbara at least once a month and I haven't seen much action.
                      The last several years it's looked like they've run out of money for the renovation.
                      What a sad time for El Encanto. I miss the bungalows.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        Well drive by next time and you will see it is a hive of construction activity. I live nearby. Hope they don't destroy all the charm of the old hotel.

                        1. re: macdog

                          macdog..keep us posted on the progress, since it's such a beloved hotel and can't wait for the opening and yes, I do hope they don't destroy all the charm of the El Encanto.

                          1. re: macdog

                            I'll be there this weekend and see what you're talking about.
                            I've been sad for several years because, although I've found a place to stay when traveling there, I can't help but always think about the days/nights I've spent in one of my favorite bungalows....
                            The room service was wonderful and I still dream about that caesar salad...the best by far.
                            Although it may turn out okay I'm sure the cost will be on par with San Ysidro Ranch and the days of the old El Encanto are long gone. Hopefully the city has some say about integrity, history etc.
                            We'll see.

                            1. re: latindancer

                              Here's what I saw 2 weekends ago and it's been on my mind alot because of memories, over the years, of a beautiful place that is now just a memory...

                              The main building where we all were greeted as we embarked on a long, lazy weekend in Santa Barbara, knowing The El Encanto was going to be our quiet, safe and hidden oasis after a drive away from the hustle and bustle of LA, has been leveled and replaced. Apparently the new owners couldn't find any value in the original building so they got rid of it like an old, worn in shoe.
                              I come from an area in LA where this has been a very common occurrence and the old, beautiful Spanish Revival or Spanish Colonial, historical buildings are laughed at and joked about.
                              I drove around the property and also noticed many of the bungalows are now gone...and they're being replaced.
                              Who knows what sort of buildings will replace them (they look like big square boxes at this point) but what shocks me is that Santa Barbara, a place known for some of the most beautiful, historical architecture in the world, has allowed this to happen.
                              Los Angeles is one thing but Santa Barbara?
                              There is no question, when looking at this, that old saying "money talks" is alive and well in SB.
                              So sad.