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Aug 17, 2012 04:59 PM

Santa Barbara near harbor?

We are hounds up in Santa Barbara from LA. We are in the harbor on our sailboat for the next 10 days. Any tips for good places accessible on foot? We are open to all price ranges and cuisines but have nothing fancy to wear. We can look neat in boat shoes and polos but we will not be fabulous this trip.

Will have friends joining us part of the week, at which time we will have a car. I can search the boards for good eats reccs in general for when we have the car, but while on foot it's hard to know what's where.

The only thing we don't like (unbelievably) is seafood.

Chow-worthy reccs walking distance from harbor with nothing better than neat boating attire?


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  1. Chow worthy for venerable steak house classics is Chuck's at the Waterfront - right at the harbor where you will probably be mooring. There is a new little casual cafe called "On the Alley" which is a tiny affair with a few outdoor tables but fresh and creative also in the complex of buildings by where you will be docking. Other restaurants in this immediate area do tend to specialize in seafood, but have some standard items on the menu.

    Some local reviews for this part of town: and

    Easy walking distance is Emilio's (N. Italian) on Harbor Blvd and even the local city college School of Culinary Arts on the hill behind the harbor area has a Gourmet Dining Room or JBS Cafe might be open for the Fall Semester for lunch by the time you are there. But you can count on their cafeteria to also provide some good and varied choices as well.

    There are also casual choices on the "Wharf" which is down that way too that sticks out into the harbor mooring/docking area - Harbor Restaurant (which in fact is on the Wharf, and not the Harbor) is a bit more formal with the better dining reputation, but I don't think they will turn away real sailors in their polos - in fact few places will in this town. Even fine dining is mostly casual here for dress guidelines.

    There is a Lil' Toot" boat that goes between the harbor and the wharf if you don't want to walk. And there are city shuttles that go along the waterfront area and also up State Street to where the real dining action is in this town - 25 -50 cents for the ride in the open air electric busses that come along every 15 minutes or so.

    I think you will find a lot to like close by and will be able to get around "car-free" in our town. Happy travels. If you have reciprocal privileges with a yacht club, the SB club is also close by for dining.

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      You totally rock. We arrived today, have been up since before dawn and are pretty tired. But On the Alley is hardly any walk at all and open til 8 today.

      We wil be dining at SBYC for sure but we are too tired tonight to sit up like adults.

      Will post back as to how it was.

      1. re: heathpack

        We have eaten at On the Alley twice now and have enjoyed it.

        The first evening for dinner I had an Asian chicken (was supposed to be salmon) salad- chicken on a bed of chopped lettuce and vegetables with a soy vinaigrette. Tasty. Mr. H had a single burger which he enjoyed. This came with homemade chips- I nibbled one or two and they were fantastic.

        We returned the following morning with some friends. I had a very delicious egg McMuffin type sandwich with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon. Mr. H and one friend tried the breakfast burrito- a large tortilla stuffed with egg, cheese, choice of breakfast meat and potatoes. Mr. H went for sausage and tater tots. He will be returning for another before we leave. Two other friends ordered Waffle Fries- which are strips of deep-fat fried waffles with maple syrup into which one can dip the "fries.". The Waffle Fries were declared tasty but greasy. They were savored in small amounts but not finished in the end. I had a less-than-stellar double cappuccino. Overall, two solid thumbs up.

        We also had a few glasses of wine yesterday at Pierre LaFonde wine bar. We thought the wines were great and the menu looked interesting (we did not eat there however).

        What a lovely, easy-going town this is. We are enjoying our stay so far.


    2. SBYC is close and if you're a member at another YC, the reciprocal privileges are great.
      The Chase up on State is one my faves..its a good walk from the wharf.
      Renaud's for croissants.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick

        Caution: Chase continues to get mixed local reviews, but agree their various "piccatas" are tasty and filling.

        Agree also, Renaud's French bakery is worth a special trip to SB for the croissants alone. Looking forward to your report on the SB Yacht Club for dining - fairly standard in the past but that was a long, long time ago for me. SB dining sophistication has gone up a lot since those standard banquet item dining days at the SBYC.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          We are here on a yacht club trip & SBYC are our hosts. We had a beach party Saturday with pupus and we ate in the bar Saturday and Sunday nights. So far everything has been "fine," but we haven't really dined yet for a proper meal- just salads, soups and nibbles. Their lunch menu looks quite good, we'll report back if we make it there. For any yachty hounds, my favorite yacht club food is lunch at San Diego Yacht Club.


      2. We had a great time in Santa Barbara and now want to spend 1 week per year up with y'all.

        To summarize where we ate:
        On the Alley- dinner once and breakfast twice (see above). My second breakfast was a chorizo burger, which was a tasty greasefest that I don't need to repeat again for a decade.

        Olio y Limone Pizzeria- Good, not great. Noisy and hot. We love Mozza down here in LA, O y L did not approach that quality

        McConnells Ice Cream- salted caramel chip? Need I say more? Awesome!

        Sambos Breakfast. Ok, it was your basic breakfast menu, but all was good (eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, coffee) and very reasonably priced.

        Pane y Vino (in Montecito, some friends with a car picked us up). Delicious all around, every entree the four of us had.

        Pierre LaFonde Happy Hour- $5 wine, we split a flatbread which was quite good. A bargain.

        Cielito Happy Hour- $5 margaritas (very good ones, I had 3!), small plates were so good we ordered most of them- pork and short rib tacos (both excellent), chicken tostadas (fine), and panels (excellent). Ambience was great with live music but service was pretty bad.

        Santa Barbara Yacht Club- food was mostly ok, some bad, Sat evening's BBQ tritip party was excellent, and Sunday brunch was quite good and unbelievably priced at $12.50 each. Service was always really good and the setting is great. We love SBYC.

        Andersens Bakery- We were attending a brunch on someone else's boat & picked up a Kringle to bring. It was excellent and was completely devoured in minutes.

        Everything was either fine or good- EXCEPT on our wine tasting day group trip where we had dinner in Los Olivos at Trattoria Grappolo, which was SO UTTERLY AWFUL that it was comical. We were in a separate event room and the awfulness of our experience had much to do with being a seperate event. However, management handled the entire situation so badly that I can't see ever returning. You might have better luck dining as a small party in the dining room.

        6 Replies
        1. re: heathpack

          Grappolo is in Santa Ynez. Sorry to hear you had a poor experience! How was your wine tasting besides the poor dinner?

          1. re: OldJalamaMama

            Ah, see what happens when someone drives you around in a bus and plies you with wine? You don't even know what town you are in when all is said & done.

            We had a great time wine tasting. Started at Koehler, which we thought was excellent. Then Foley which was meh. Then to the Stolpman vineyard which was awesome. I think we would have done better to stay under that live oak tree drinking wine & just have let the Stolpman folks feed us. That would have been excellent, I'm sure.

            The Grappalo experience was semi-unforgivable, though. I can't imagine giving them a second chance. The situation in the end was possibly not even their fault, just was handled so poorly that I'm still a little steamed. The basic gist is that we (a group of maybe 50) hired a wine guide to organize the tastings and the bus. He also organized the dinner, which we understood was to be in a private room but with the group ordering off the normal menu. When we arrived, everyone sat down. Some people got wine lists, most did not. Some people had an opportunity to order wine, then the waiter would disappear for 5-10 minutes, then if you tackled him/her you *might* get a chance to order wine yourself. Our waiter it turned out was unfamiliar with the wine we ordered so after being gone 10 minutes can back to ask us to point to what we wanted on the wine list.

            Then they handed out a sheet of paper containing a set menu they were planning while simultaneously delivering pizzas to the tables. Somehow the wine guide guide had organized a $50pp set menu with Grappolo without discussing it with any of us. The three people from our group who organized the day tried to intercede to stop this from happening, meanwhile the pizzas were being eaten. The manager was a young girl (maybe 25), she could not cope and was trying to argue that we had to get the set menu, there was no other option, and was doing so right in the middle of the full room.. One of our people (a small soft-spoken woman, no biggern 100 pounds- ie a non-threatening person) lightly touched her arm in conversation. Manager jumped back and loudly told our miniature organizer lady "Don't touch me! Get out of my personal space!". Well, that got everyone's attention pretty quick.

            Then there is an announcement by the manager that we can either order off the regular menu or get the set menu, whichever we prefer. But in the meantime, the set menus have been whisked away and we never got any regular menus, so there is more confusion. Plus, how is this going to work logistically, since the set menu (according to the sheet we'd briefly seen) was to be served family-style to the entire table.

            Then waiters come out and give some people shrimp (but not everybody)- this was to be part of the original set menu. More confusion, some people eat the shrimp. Then a waitress takes charge of the situation and announces that the kitchen cannot handle 50 people ordering simultaneously off the regular menu, we can either get the family-style set menu at $50pp or order individual items off the set menu. She also announces that they are unprepared to process 25ish individual bills simultaneously, they were expecting a single payment. So it will be very slow when the end of the evening comes. Also, because of the already-consumed pizza and shrimp, there will be a mandatory appetizer charge of $8pp. For our table of nine, that is $72 for a 12 inch ish pepperoni pizza and about a dozen shrimp! Ok, whatever, let's just get this ordeal over with. A few people walk out and just go over to the restaurant to eat, which was the smartest idea in the end.

            The set menus are re-distributed so people can place orders, but of course there are no prices. At this point no one really cares, we order, we've probably already been locked in this windowless room for an hour with bright lights blaring from overhead (there was a dimmer on the lights, inexplicably the lights are briefly dimmed, then turned back on full brightness). The room is increasingly hot, there is one restroom and of course the toilet becomes non-functional.

            The food from the set menu has now been sitting around for an hour and that's what we are served. People who ordered the sole seem happy. My chicken is dry like you'd get from the rotisserie at Ralph's. My Caesar is fine, nothing special. Husbands pasta, like my chicken, is well past it's prime.

            The process of paying our bills takes about an hour, I kid you not. The manager has the most sour impression you can imagine the whole evening, although the waitress who stepped up to the plate shines all evening (as best she can in the terrible circumstances), we are conflicted but in the end leave her a nice tip because she did everything she possibly could in a bad situation and even managed to keep a smile on her face, extraordinary.

            As far as ever returning, I might have given them another chance were it not for the $72 pizza/shrimp fiasco. That really sticks in my craw.

            Basically, I'm still not sure exactly how this event got so mixed up- my impression is the wine tour guy somehow organized it with the Grappolo people. I am still very confused, would have been fine with a workable decision made by the manager in a timely manner. And really the only workable decision to be made right away was- we must stick with the set menu, the food is prepared and ready to come out, we will have trouble processing the charges lets start now.

            It was an epic fail.

            1. re: heathpack

              I am so sorry this happened. I see no way this could have worked out the way it came off. A true dining nightmare. (Why does this sound like other group tours I have also been on??)

              My guess however, is there was a major miscommunication with the tour organizer - this just does not sound like something Grappolo would do to its customers willingly unless there was some communication breakdown prior to this event. I also don't see Grappolo handling 50 sit-down people at one time either under any circumstances, which makes me think something went wrong up front. But I dunno.

              I have only been a private diner there on the other side of the house and we always found it so welcoming and they genuinely wanted to talk the art of dining, knowing even good food cannot overcome bad service.

              The attitude waitress chick unfortunately is what can pass for "help" in this area - love her new age attitude (about herself, but not for others). But still, totally unacceptable. Better to put out a buffet line, than have that person be the restaurant service interface.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Wow- thank you for the detailed report- as a Food & Wine person living in the SYV- it is important we hear the good, bad and the ugly.

                I agree that the tour operator holds the most fault here- did this person dissapear after delivering your group? It also sounds like a very inexperienced crew on deck that night- which certainly didn't help matters.

                I hope you can put this into letter form and send to the Chef/Owner- I am positive he would like to know about this- you certainly seem to have a fair attitude about it.

              2. re: heathpack

                BTW, this wasn't the infamous "Jump on the Bus", old black school bus that organized the wine tour, was it?

            2. re: heathpack

              Thanks for your report. And showing you can come to SB without a car and get around pretty well close to the Harbor. (Despite later hooking up with friends who got you a little further afield) Also sorry about your Grappolo experience. It deserves another chance. But over all agree, SB has good to fine choices - not all great but rarely really bad either. There are still some real treasures for you to explore when you come back - you made a good choice to keep us on your annual calendar.

              DH and I were out walking in our downtown neighborhood when a very much in a hurry walker strode quickly past on her way somewhere - we briefly chatted and she said she was off to McConnell' for her salted caramel cone and she was trying to make it calorie neutral. Intrigued with this 3 month old new flavor we had to try it too. Pretty good, but my own true love remains Brazillian Coffee Chip.

            3. Here are some local reviews for Grappolo - with another report of a bad hostess hire - could it be the same one?

              2 Replies
              1. re: glbtrtr

                Not sure. The person we dealt with who made the problem worse was identified as the manager. She seemed very young and inexperienced to us. I have the impression they did not have real waiters initially assigned to our event- more like banquet waiters who were really expecting to be runners for the pre-set menu, not take food & beverage orders. But there was no wine on the set menu and of course we'd be ordering wine. Obviously Grappalo expected something different than we did, probably because of what they were told by the wine guy. BUT I also think they were unprofessional in not anticipating some of the evenings biggest issues- they should have had waitstaff who were familiar enough with the wine to not flounder on the beverage side of things for example and they should have not made assumptions as to how payment would be made in the end. And after seeing the place, I consider it iffy that they should be attempting larger events like this dinner.

                I'll bet most people in our group were expecting at least $50 pp for dinner- I know I wasn't sure what to expect, but had assumed in my mind Mr. H & I would be spending about $200 for the evening with wine. In the end, we spent $90 (gave up on getting a bottle of wine, I did manage to get a glass eventually, Mr. H got iced tea- no ice- and proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes begging various members of the waitstaff for ice).

                I wish our organizers had just let the evening happen with the set menu. It's likely 90% of the people in the room wouldn't have cared or even noticed. The group meals on this trip were in the $50-$150 pp range anyway. Whatever. Things happen in life. But in the end, I:
                1. Was forced to pay for overpriced appetizers that I didn't want
                2. Was served over cooked food
                3. Was not able to order wine
                4. Was made to sit under blaring lights in a hot room
                5. Had surly service
                6. Was kept waiting an hour to settle my bill.

                With that level of bad, I feel like I'd be foolish to give the place a second chance.


                1. re: heathpack

                  I too, after getting service of this level- would not return. Why would you?

                  Please take a few moments to write a letter to the Chef/Owner- and detail your treatment and how the dinner was handled- they need to know...and I am sure they will consider it a blessing to know about it vs having it aired only online.....

                  Thank you again for your detailed report- it isn't very often someone has a bad/terrible evening and in describing it, keeps it "real" like you did, without berating the staff. There is no excuse for the treatment your party got, but thank you for being able to see outside facotrs, how staff may have been unprepared for the evening and without bitchiness- you summed it up well. CLASSY on your part!