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Santa Barbara must-try restaurants

My husband and I have never been to Santa Barbara (we live in Denver). We will be in town for 3 nights with our dog.

Can you suggest any really good places we should try (not fine dining)? We would prefer restaurants which have pet friendly patios but these are in very short supply in some areas. We can leave her in the car because of the cool weather (and with the moon roof open) but we have learned that we do not enjoy our meal unless we can see the car while we eat.

We are serious pizza lovers and always in search of a new gourmet delight--if any are in the area, please let me know!!

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  1. There was a discussion here previously about dog-friendly restaurants, which usually means going to establishments with outdoor dining only. Try a search and see what comes up. Not sure about the public health regulations that currently operate in Santa Barbara city and/or county. I know there has been talk about leaving pets unattended in cars but don't know if it ever translated into regulations or not. Might want to contact some of the dog daycare centers to see if they have more info. Try DIOGI.

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      My dog has addison's disease which basically means she can deal with any type of stress (i.e. boarding or day care).

      Could you comment on these restaurants with dog friendly patio?

      Pierre LaFond (State Street and Montecito)
      Peabody's Coast Village Road Montecio

      1. re: JudyDenver

        All those restaurants have patios ,but they are not one's I go to or put on any of my own list of SB favorites. They all have been in business a long time so they have their loyal followings. Sidewalk cafe sitting is great fun in Santa Barbara so that alone makes them pleasant options. They are all down closer to the harbor, except Peabody's which is directly on Coast Village Road in the Lower Village of Montecito - no scenic view and no sidewalk tables, but an upper level out door patio as I recall.

    2. Brophy Brother's is a must for seafood

      2 Replies
      1. re: snappy213

        Unfortunately, there are restaurants with patios and restaurants with patios which allow dogs. From the photos on the Brophy Brother's website, I would predict no dogs but I will call them. We have been traveling with our dogs for years and go through this tedious process each city we visit.

        Often we walk around, see a sidewalk patio and inquire about their pet policy. Sadly, this method is hit or miss and usually the food is quite disappointing. I've learned it pays off to do a lot of research in advance and read reviews before ordering a meal.

        With only 3 nights in Santa Barbara I hope I can come up 3 really good choices. Any more ideas?

        What about Opal, Jane, Stella Mare or Mac's Fish and Chips?

        1. re: JudyDenver

          Opal, Jane, Stella Mares and Macs are all good choices for food - Mac's is very casual drop in sort of place with fish and chips classics. Opals has a few outdoor tables on the street - not really an enclosed outdoor dining area but a very nice eclectic menu.

          Jane surprises me because I can't picture any outdoor tables but maybe they have a patio in the back. Stella Mares also surprises me, but I wonder if this got confused with Cafe Stella in Loreto Plaza because they do have an outdoor patio, but in kind of a remote location.

          Hope this works because you would have found the best combo for pretty good dining and dog friendly as well. Interesting challenge. Lived in Europe myself where dogs went everywhere, including sitting at the table and getting fed from a dish with the waiter bring the food happily for the furry friends.

      2. My fave place in SB is the Chase on State with an outdoor dining and pet friendly..
        Their calamari picatta is one of the best ever and served with a fettucini alfredo that is outstanding..under $20.
        Renaud's for croissants for breakfast..as close to Paris that I've had.
        I travel everywhere with my dog and So. Cal is very dog friendly.

        Here is a link to pet friendly resto's in SB.


        6 Replies
        1. re: Beach Chick

          Judy Denver- good luck to you! Beach Chick linked you to the most up to date info this area has- hope you find something for you and your "family".

          If you happen to be north of Santa Barbara by 45 miles on your way in or way out, and it is a FRI SAT or SUN night- you can always hit up American Flat Bread in Los Alamos- they have a few seats out front- amazing pizzas + amazing food.

          I have found that most patio'd places in SB allow dogs- and the county allows it at this point, where before it was allowed with a blind eye.

          Brophy Brothers has a downstairs place that will let you sit outside w/dog. On the Wharf- there is Santa Barbara ShellFish, and they too have a large outdoor dining area.

          Enjoy your visit!

          1. re: OldJalamaMama

            Forgot that Brophy Brothers has that small downstairs area..
            Is your doggie a 'therapy' dog?

            1. re: Beach Chick

              I flew from Denver to Tampa to pick Maddy up from a special goldendoodle breeder when she was 8 weeks. She was hand picked to become a therapy dog. Unfortunately due to her disease, she cannot deal with the stress of new situations and doesn't do well with strangers. She is managed well with daily steroids. I often wish I could borrow a therapy cape for her to wear when we travel but then everyone could tell she doesn't have the internal discipline to be a guide dog!

              What a great link.! I will keep that bookmarked for sure.

              I have the feeling that Stella Mares and Jane do not have patios--I was just asking if anyone knew if they had any pet friendly tables for us. I have found it best to call or email each restaurant to learn their policy in advance.

              We LOVE really good pizza but 45 miles is too far. We will be driving north on a Thursday morning to Carmel. I wonder if American Flat Bread in Los Alamos serves lunch?

              1. re: JudyDenver

                There are often the great pizza wars in Santa Barbara but with no clear winners. There are a number of good traditional pizza places and a number of "gourmet" pizza places, all of which have their loyal fans. Personally we like the traditional pizza at Giovanni's - San Roque location. Bare bones establishment, but they get the basics just right. And if you want whole-wheat pizza and any other possible non-traditional rendition, Taffy's has long been putting out these types of "pizzas" for a long time. If pizza is flat, leavened dough bread with stuff on top, then you will find much to choose from including a recent attempt to provide the true Neapolitan version at Olio et Limone Pizzaria down town in restaurant ground zero - 1200-1300 State Street and surrounding cross-street blocks.

                1. re: JudyDenver

                  no Judy- no lunch at Flatbreads...BUT I read last night, after shutting down the computer- that Scarlett Begonia, in Victoria Court- they welcome dogs! From what I have read- they have wonderful meals- and a very sunny patio!

                  Enjoy Carmel- please try and visit Pt Lobos (State park south of Carmel on hwy 1)- your dog will love it!

                  1. re: JudyDenver

                    In Carmel, Terry's Lounge in the Cypress Inn has a nightly "Yappy Hour".

            2. We take our dog to Crushcakes on Anacapa a couple times a week. Also Pierre LaFond's in Montecito on E. Valley Rd is dog friendly outside. It's a great place for casual lunch. Pizza at Olio Pizza is wonderful, but no patio. There is big parking lot behind it and you can leave your dog in car safely. Our goldendoodle is great in the car when she can't come with us.

              1. Noticed today the waiter was bringing out a tin dish of water for a dog at Mimosa on State Street Old town - they recently moved from their former long-time location but still keep the same very nice French bistro menu. I love their Alsatian Onion Tart. I would say this was a 100% dog friendly place. http://santabarbara.com/dining/review...

                1. judy you might want to try santa barbara shellfish co. out at the end of stearns wharf ... great views, amazing seafood. there are three or four outside tables and i'm sure your doggy friend could be right there next to you! (lunch + dinner) also second the idea of scarlett begonia, had breakfast there last weekend and plenty of pooches on the patios, cute atmosphere. renaulds for coffee/breakfast is awesome, small patio downtown. olio pizzaria is super yummy, but no place for pets ... pizza guru is on upper state, has a patio where your doggy could be, interesting pizza choices. all in all, sb is extremely pet friendly, you could always just walk around state street until you find somewhere cute!

                  1. A lot of Santa Barbara dining is on major streets with limited parking; you usually have to park a ways away from your restaurant. Keep that in mind!

                    I second the Crushcakes/Crush Cafe recommendation. I think you can sit on the patio with your puppy. The menu is quite tasty too. You might have similar luck with Renaud's, which also has a patio. Both of these places are breakfast/lunch though.

                    Hollister Brewing Company, which has great food and beer, in Goleta may allow dogs in the patio; at the very least, you could see your car since there's an adjacent parking lot.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: oldtypewriter

                      Good reminder about parking. There are major off-street city parking lot and garages just a block away from the State Street business district so take a look at the map and find one of those - they make it less than block walk from most of the recommended restaurants. First 70-90 minute are free.

                      Look for the multi-story Granada Garage or the Victoria Street lot off Chapala for the downtown restaurant ground zero spot in the 1100-1300 blocks State Street. 1000 block State Street has multiple lots on both sides of the street. Lower State Street restaurants has the multi-story lots at the Paseo Nuevo shopping Mall and another across the street in the same area.

                    2. Judy,
                      I agree with Beach Chick on Renaud's, a real highlight for SB.

                      East Beach Grill is right on the water, casual and dog friendly, a good choice for breakfast or lunch.

                      For pizza, Olio e Limone is the best bet.

                      SB is not a real foodie destination, lots of restaurants, but falls far short on a national scale. Petros is a newer Greek restaurant that is well above average. There is a patio but I am not sure if it is dog friendly.


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: VinoEd

                        Petros opening so far to very mixed and inconsistent local reviews though it is hard to know what is intentional hype, what is intentional sabotage, and what is an authentic review on this website: http://santabarbara.com/dining/review...

                        1. re: glbtrtr

                          There are so many interesting choices everyone has suggested that I am confident we can select really good restaurants which are pet friendly for our entire stay --3 nights. Now it's a question of shortening the long list! I posted the same question for our visit to Carlsbad, Ca and was amused to see a post with a link to kennel for our dog! As our trip is all about being with our dog, I really appreciate everyone's effort in Santa Barbara to help us all stay together.

                          1. re: JudyDenver

                            Looking forward to hearing your report back. People have asked this question about dog-friendly places in Santa Barbara before so it will be good to have some first hand reports. I notice more and more dogs in more and more settings lately - like department stores and banks. Something is changing rather radically here and it seems the whole town is getting to look more like Europe where dogs are honored guests almost everywhere.

                            1. re: glbtrtr

                              Good to hear that dogs are becoming more accepted in public places. We're hoping that SB and Carmel will become our new favorite go-to vacation spots in the future! I will keep a log of our experiences in your area and post when we return. Thanks again for your help.

                      2. We had lunch yesterday with our dog on the patio at Dargan's Irish Pub, downtown SB, they always welcome our pup. No pizza but their potato skins rock. Hollister Brewing Company (in Goleta, a little north of SB) has great food, excellent beer and dog friendly patio. Their pizzas are pretty good, too, although for some reason the dails special ones fall short. Their mussels app with chorizo added is my hands down favorite dish. For breakfast or lunch (cannot recall if they have a flatbread on the menu) Scarlett Begonia has great food and are very dog friendly. Since the rule about dogs on restaurant patios has relaxed recently you may have more options. Lazy Acres Market can make one of their pizzas for you and you can drive a little bit to Shoreline Park (VERY dog friendly, great views) and have a picnic. Have fun!