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santa barbara dinner

hello! my husband and i are planning a trip to santa barbara next weekend. we have been to and love julienne, and have reservations there on friday night. i'm looking for a casual option for saturday night. on previous trips, we've been to petit valentien, olio pizzeria, and wine cask, which were all just ok. we have been to stella mare's a couple times for brunch, which was nice, but looking for something different. i've been doing some research and come across mentions of these restaurants - any opinions?

- scarlett begonia - the website does not really post a dinner menu and haven't been able to find any in-depth reviews of dinner service online. is it on par food/price-wise with julienne?
- state and fig
- le relais de paris

any other options i am overlooking? would any of these be better suited for brunch rather than dinner? we do love renaud's, but could mix things up... on that note, how does jeannine’s stack up?

thanks so much in advance!

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  1. Love The Chase...best calamari picatta!
    El Encanto opens 3/18.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Beach Chick

      I went to The Chase today for lunch and had the calamari picatta. Absolutely delicious. I believe it is the best I've ever had anywhere... just the right balance of lemon and capers and such delicate and tender calamari.
      Impeccable service.

      I also went to the El Encanto last night for dinner....opening night. Without going into detail about the food and service I'm going to wait for other reviews (I hope you go soon?) before I comment. I'm still mourning the fact they completely leveled the original restaurant and all the cottages.

      1. re: latindancer

        Isn't the Calamari Picatta one of the best things evah. .

        For me and others, its like abalone with the right amount of fresh lemon juice, capers and cooked perfectly..
        Which for calamari can turn to rubber in seconds if overcooked.
        So so happy that you tried this fantastic dish!

        You should stop at the Nugget in Summerland for a patty melt on the way home..another local hangout with most SB/Montecito folks..great food and they make a great bloody mary.

        1. re: Beach Chick

          <Isn't the Calamari Picatta one of the best things evan...>

          Uh, yeah :).

          We used to eat there many years ago and I never tried the Calamari. Because of your recommendations over the last several months (years?) I finally decided it was the time to try it. I just love the place. The bar, the ambience, the impeccable service. We will definitely be back when in town again.
          Strangely, after all these years with going to SB, I've never eaten at The Nugget. Years ago we began eating at Stackey's for some reason while traveling, and we became loyal customers. It's a quick stop for a fish burger as i zip toward SB. The next time, for sure, I'll be crossing the street to The Nugget for a patty melt and a bloody mary. Thanks!

          1. re: latindancer

            The venerable Crunch Burger at the Nugget is good too - hamburger on an English muffin.

            1. re: glbtrtr

              That sounds delicious too.

              The problem with me is I'm practically waddling back to LA after all the incredible food I've found, based on CH tips, in Santa Barbara. You and Beach Chick are killin' me.
              I've got to power- walk/swim 10 miles/day a few days afterward.

              Thanks for the tip, glbtrtr :).

    2. Scarlett Begonia has started a selected dinner menu, but it is not a regular thing. Yes, best for breakfast, lunch or brunch for sure. Would need to call about future dinner offerings. I put both julienne and Scarlett Begonia in the same class - fresh, young, innovative and a lot of food intuition.

      State and Fig looks more like a deli (which it replaced), but we have not been there so no comments from me - worth a try. Some have raved about Jeannine's for breakfast. I am just not a muffin person so I also can't comment on that.

      I like Anderson's Danish Bakery on State Street if you want the full on American+Danish classics -- wonderful arcade sidewalk people watching setting.

      1. I can highly recommend Anchor, a new restaurant recently opened on Lower State Street, adjacent to Indigo Hotel. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have only been for dinner, but it's a lovely place. Casual, upbeat crowds and space, they really excel in appetizers and small plates. You will want to make a reservation - it's a small place. They specialize in wood fired items and their menu changes often. Their entrees are a bit pricey, and IMHO it's better to share many small plates and apps, where I think they really shine.

        I haven't been to Le Relais De Paris, so I can't speak for it. Scarlett Begonia is definitely a good breakfast/brunch/lunch spot, although I want to try them for dinner. Only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday at night, and I believe the menu is somewhat limited. The service can be a bit slow however; at least it tends to take them a bit of time to make an initial contact with the table, but after that, the food is worth it and the servers are honest and gracious. Their menu also changes regularly.

        I would avoid Anderson's, especially if you've been to Renaud's. I'm not fond of the place and I think their pastries are pretty awful.

        Another great place for brunch (and dinner), is Hungry Cat. It gets some bad comments on service, but really, I've never experienced that. It is casual but not cheap; highlights are seafood central. Any of the raw bar items are stellar. And, they have a great bar with clever and well made cocktails.


        1. Thanks for the first hand report on Anchor Wood Fire Kitchen (Hotel Indigo) - it has been getting a lot of buzz and is a very worthy try for all of us. Looking forward to more Chow reports on this one. Looking forward even more to getting there myself.

          Things are lately really clicking in this town culinary wise and I am glad they are all getting good support to continue taking us down these new eating pathways.

          Agree, many of Anderson's pastries are not that special but she does good things with almost paste that make up for lacking the real flaky Danish stuff.

          Sigh, can't even find that in Solvang and almost not even in Copenhagen any longer. Chow tip for the real deal Danish: Bornholm Island, Denmark.

          My own problems with Hungry Cat at first were with the service but not the food. But on our last final visit, the service finally got better but the food (the Pug Burger) was pretty bad. For the money, they need to assure far better consistency than what they continue to generate.

          Looking at Anchor's burger makes me want to swear undying loyalty to them, just looking at the picture. Yes indeed, there are "gourmet" burgers and often a good test for the kitchen to see if they can add value to this American classic. it is all about fresh, top quality and excellent flavor pairings really, no matter what the dish.

          2 Replies
          1. re: glbtrtr

            It's funny, because one of the reasons I don't care for Anderson's is because (at least to me), everything tastes like almond paste! :) To each their own.

            And, I have to say I agree with your last view of Hungry Cat. The last time we visited, the food just was hit and miss, but I will still return. I've never been a fan of their Pug Burger. Too much bread and meat for my taste. I still think their strong point is their raw bar and cocktails.

            You really should give Anchor a try. I believe it is a trend that hopefully continues to grow in SB. True, honest and clever food in a vast land that has been waning for a long, long time. Just my opinion.

            1. re: sbkat

              I look forward to more of your posts, sbkat - you have a good eye (aka mouth - tastebuds!) for Santa Barbara. I need to get out of my own dining rut. But just don't ask me to give up my marzipan. Ever. ;-)

          2. thank you all for your helpful information! i made a reservation for anchor, and can't wait to try it! i think we will try to make it to scarlett begonia on friday afternoon for lunch. thanks again - will definitely report back.

            2 Replies
            1. re: imjulia

              Looking forward to having breakfast there the morning we take the SouthCoast's Rail Museum's antique California Vistadome trip up to SLO's Railway Plaza and back again.

              So I will be waiting for your report. Great location right next to the train depot, which is good for those who want to have a "CarFree" day to wine and dine in SB.

              1. re: imjulia

                Excellent! I really hope you enjoy your stay and enjoy some wonderful food as well. Looking forward to hearing your reviews.

              2. hi all! thanks for your helpful advice - we had a wonderful weekend in SB.

                friday - husband was in the mood for a burrito for lunch. we stopped by super cuca's, where he got a (huge!) california burrito and i had shrimp tacos - with a couple of cold coronas, it really hit the spot.

                friday dinner - julienne's was wonderful, as usual. we went with the three course option, and between the two of us, we tried the: chicken liver toast, smoked mussels with sour cream & onion chips, market lettuces salad, ramen noodles, pan fried trout, and the sea scallops. finished with homemade cookies and cream ice cream. excellent!

                saturday brunch, we went to scarlett begonia and sat outside, enjoying the company of all the cute pups that had been brought out to enjoy the nice weather. i had the scrambled eggs, and husband had chipotle chilaquiles - both very good. the maple bacon biscuit we shared was outstanding.

                saturday dinner, we went to anchor woodfire kitchen. the complimentary focaccia was delicious - had to restrain ourselves from filling up on that. we shared the little gem salad, a sausage/pappardelle dish, and the short rib with polenta. i really loved the salad, and was a little more lukewarm on the mains - they were ok but didn't really wow me. maybe we should have stuck to sbkat's suggestion and ordered a bunch of the small plates! the table next to us was raving about the mussels, and i saw many enjoying the pizzas. the only gripe i would have is how cramped the space is, and the music and ambient noise from all the tables and bar patrons so close together got quite loud. all goes to show how popular the place is, and for our purposes, the convenience of this place in our hotel could not be beat after a long day of wine tasting!

                sunday, we stopped by renaud's for brunch before heading back to LA: fried egg sandwich, coffee, and of course, a requisite croissant. we made sure to grab a couple extra (and a few macarons for good measure) to take back home with us.

                all in all, a really great trip - thanks again for all the friendly advice. looking forward to going back soon and trying out even more of your recommendations.

                2 Replies
                1. re: imjulia

                  I think you just put together a foodie heaven weekend in SB. A few years ago this would not have happened - Julienne really changed the scene -- and what they do with chicken livers ......oh my ....oh my!

                  Thanks for reporting back and giving us our first report on Anchor WoodFire. It is good to have this level of dining down in the beachside, Funk Zone, wine tasting, motel zone ..and close to the train station to boot so one can also have a really great car-free time in SB coming in on Amtrak.

                  1. re: imjulia

                    Imjulia - many thanks for reporting back. It sounds like your holiday was most enjoyable!

                    Yes, the maple bacon biscuit at Scarlett begonia is a killer. Last time we were there we tried the pretzel (highly recommended by our server). I don't even really like pretzels, but OMG. It had a great chew, properly salted and came with a few sliced on salumi and their house made mustard. I would have licked the plate but alas, there were too many diners in close proximity.

                    Glad to got to Anchor and enjoyed some good dishes. Yes, agreed that their entrees can be hit and miss and the crowd and noise level can be intense, but overall I still love the vibe there. It reminds me of bistros in larger cities with a vibrant pulse and lots of activity, but that's just me. I'm a litte nuts. ;)

                    You mentioned the chicken liver toast you had at Julienne's. I have not tried that dish there, but if you ever get back to Anchor and they offer it on their app menu? Order it! In fact, order it twice, it's that good.