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May 22, 2012 12:52 PM

Santa Barbara: Jane or Hungry Cat or ...???

Going to SB this weekend, and trying to find some new places to try. Going to have an 8 year old with us...well behaved, but picky eater.

We've tried pane e vino, via vai, ca dario...all very similar, none great but serviceable.

Haven't been to Wine Cask since new owner ship.

Stonehouse/Four Seasons too fancy.

Julienne may be child unfriendly.

Any other suggestions would be welcome.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. We just had a thread about "child-friendly" and could not come up with any specific restaurants that had both great food and dedicated children's menus too. If they were specifically child-friendly, like you have also found the food is often only so-so. However I did find Olio e Limone did offer a children's gourmet menu for St Valentin's Day ($34) so it appears they want to be child-welcoming and they do support many children's benefit activities in town. I suspect they would be happy to work with you to find items that would work best.

    If you want to add a few more specifics about a type of place you want overall that could meet what you think of as "child-friendly, maybe we can think of a better match.

    Hungry Cat has small, close tables and a high noise level and menu items that I think of more as adult food and beverages, but not sure what you mean by "picky eater" because most of their offerings are novel combos of tastes and ingredients. Jane is more mainstream in its menu with solidly good food, but I hear it also has a high noise level too. I think they would welcome children.

    Wine Cask, Sea Grass and Downey's have a more subdued atmosphere and a more leisurely dining pace with some degree of formality - I suspect this might not work with an 8 year old.

    An outlier might be the new Cielito in the very lovely La Arcada courtyard which has a lot of small plates of classic regional Mexican cuisine (not Mexican "food"!) and this is recommended because they have outdoor tables and a lovely fountain with turtles that could be amusing entertainment for a small one. Petit Valentin also has nice outdoor tables and a very nice and light French menu that I think would appeal to a "picky eater" being interesting and well-prepared, but not overkill portions or preparations.

    You might try the Harbor Restaurant because of the views and the novelty of being out over the water - it is getting better reviews than in the past and would certainly have enough menu variety to suit all tastes and portion sizes. I suspect they are very well set up for the younger patron.

    Julienne is very gracious in their approach to both food and customer. The owners might be young parents themselves and I would almost suspect they would consider it a privilege to introduce a brand new generation to their love of food. This is a very casual place, but does have close, small tables and a busy buzz.

    When I did find children's menus listed on line I was disappointed to see they looked pretty grim: chicken fingers, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburger sorts of things which is why I think Petit Valentin in La Arcarda Court with their small tasteful items might really be a good overall choice even though it might not formally be "child friendly".

    By all means try Scarlett Begonia for breakfast or lunch if this fits in - mothers are giving it rave reviews for their own children here.

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Cielto in La Arcada Court - regional Mexican cuisine has a kids quesadilla. So with with a flan for dessert could this work, along with maybe some butternut squash soup or other shared sides somewhere in-between? - and get to watch the turtles playing in the fountain at the same time:

    2. I'm in Santa Barbara quite often and the (2) restaurants glbtrtr recommended, Scarlett Begonia and Petit Valentin are two excellent picks.
      I also highly recommend Stella Mares.
      This is a beautiful French restaurant situated in SB's bird sanctuary by the zoo. It couldn't be a more perfect setting for a young child to watch what's happening outside...especially if you make a reservation in the greenhouse where the setting reflects everything beautiful about Santa Barbara.
      Their food is spectacular, the service impeccable and they go out of their way to accommodate even the pickiest of eaters.
      It would be my choice with an 8 year old.

      2 Replies
      1. re: latindancer

        A perfectly wonderful spot as you describe and good to put Stella Mares back in contention. I almost want to keep it a secret choice as it needs to stay as our own local little, intimate hideaway pick. Secrets out - while I would not put it in the top tier with the likes of Julienne etc, it is a perfectly lovely local spot it is among the tops among its many local fans -- me too. Shhhhhh ......

        1. re: glbtrtr

          :). As I was typing away I was wondering if I was doing the right thing by mentioning it.
          I'll shhhh.....:).

      2. Thanks for replies...ended up at Jane...nice space, really SLOW service, food was solid and reasonably priced.

        Also tried Olio Pizzeria...seems to be best Italian food in SB, certainly much better than the cadario/panevino/via vai mediocrity...terrific pizzas, salads and delicious fried cauliflower. I'm still not quite comfortable with paying 15 for a single margerita pizza, but that's life today!

        1 Reply
        1. re: manku

          Thanks for reporting back, Jane is solid - good word, same owner as Montecito Cafe. Giovanni's on Upper State is my go to pizza in town - old style pizza parlor pizza - succulent and filling for at least two ..... for $15 bucks. Good enough.

          Agree, Panevino and via via are definitely in the mediocre category and I don't understand their popularity, but we make a spectacular light meal out of the antipasto misto, ciabatta and an affogato at Ca Dario. Yum. The best in town.

          One more "Italian" for you to try when you come back this way is Via Maestra 42 up in the Loreto Plaza Upper State area (3000 or so block of State) - excellent Italian deli that does dinners at night in their small setting. Though their antipasto still does not come close to what Ca Dario puts out, it is still fresh, authentic and lovingly prepared.