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Santa Barbara -- places to stay?

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I know a little off topic, but you can tell me where to eat, too!

A friend and I are hoping to come down to Santa Barbara for a few days around New Year's. I haven't been back since I graduated from UCSB in 1985!

Any suggestions on places that have some character, are not too expensive, and suitable to two 40ish women friends (i.e., not aimed at romantic couples)?

Any ideas of where would be a fun place to go New Year's Eve?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Unfortunately, because I live here, I really don't know where the good places to stay are. . . but I can help you with the eating part!

    Here are a couple of my favorite places, but they are not trendy or outrageously pricey, so if that's what you want, I can't help you! All but Mousse Odile and Zia are new since you left town.

    Mousse Odile for breakfast (on Cota between State and Anacapa) -- (I haven't eaten lunch or dinner there because I'm a vegetarian and they don't have much I can eat) lovely fluffy omelettes, delicious potato galettes, tasty coffee, the MOST amazing fresh warm baguettes. You must try it!

    Or try Pacific Crepes for breakfast or lunch. All kinds of savory and sweet crepes or omelettes. On Anacapa just above Ortega.

    The Brew House -- don't let the name or the outside appearance of the place turn you off. They are pretty much a burger/sandwich/pasta place (apparently they have lamb and filet mignon!), but for all that they look like a dive, the food is excellent. I ALWAYS get the same order (sometimes I share with my husband) :-) : corn cakes with raspberry coulis (spicy with jalapeno), grilled polenta with chipotle pesto, gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts and champagne vinaigrette, and occasionally the grilled artichoke with rosemary aioli. Again, I can't tell you about the meat items, but my meat-eating friends love it as much as I do! And they serve Hoegaarden beer! On Montecito St. below the freeway (if you remember where The Plaka was, it's two doors down).

    Bucatini -- my favorite dish here is a rotelle pasta dish with ricotta salata cheese, truffle oil, artichokes, olives, and I can't even remember what else. They also have a delicious lentil soup, ravioli with crispy sage in brown butter, arugula salad with tomatoes and asiago cheese. . . Nice outdoor patio to watch all the happenings on State St. Great for lunch or dinner. At the corner of State and Haley.

    Zia Cafe is always fun if you want "New Mexican" food, especially if you sit on the balcony or on the street. It's on State St. between Cota and Haley, perhaps? And they just told me that they will have their New Mexican hot chocolate again around the holidays. Best hot chocolate ever!

    Can't help out for New Year's either, as I usually do something with friends at home. Can't deal with the downtown scene any more!

    Have fun in SB!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Lisa

      Those all sound yummy, Lisa!

      I wonder how long that crepe place has been there?

      I remember one night a friend and I were sitting around and all of a sudden developed a burning desire for dessert crepes. Unfortunately, it was getting on towards 9 p.m. on a weeknight, and every place we called was closed or closing.

      Finally, in desperation, we called the Biltmore, and they said they didn't have crepes on the menu, but they would make them for us. So we toddled off -- two ragamuffin students -- to the Biltmore, where they made Crepes Suzette -- flamed at the table and all -- for us. Now that's how a restaurant ought to be run! The sad thing is, twenty years later, I still can't afford to stay there!

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        What a great story. I will always go back to a restaurant that treats me like an individual!

        The crepe place has only been around for a year or two, and they've already changed management once. Everyone who works there is French, and there is a very laid-back atmosphere -- meaning, don't go there if you're in a hurry! Also, we had a little problem when they reopened, where they weren't taking credit cards for a while. I had to walk four or five blocks to find an ATM to pay for our breakfast. Not fun. Call first if you'll be using your card: 805.882.1123.

    2. I spent a couple of weekends in SB last summer. I particularly liked the Country Inn by the Sea, a few blocks from the beach on Castillo (128 Castillo St., 800/455-4647). Nicely decorated rooms, reasonably priced. If you want to stay overlooking the water, try the West Beach Inn (306 W Cabrillo, 800/423-5991). Both places serve continental breakfast; West Beach Inn has wine & cheese in the evenings.

      As for restaurants, the Palace Cafe on Cota for Cajun-Creole; Palazzio in Montecito for wonderful pastas; Pierre LaFond on State Street for breakfast (try the blueberry cornmeal pancakes). Someone recommended Zia for Mexican/Southwestern, but the meal we had there (albeit years ago) was not good at all. And if you want to drive a little, try lunch at the Cold Springs Tavern, off of the road going to Lake Cachuma - it's an old stagecoach stop.