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Aug 13, 2014 11:43 AM

New in Santa Barbara

My family lives in LA, but we go up to SB a few times a year. Our regular stops are:

La Super Rica
Via Vai (lunch)
Olio Pizza
Hitching Post Buellton
Ca Dario (though not very good last few visits)
Boathouse (OK food, great view)

We usually stay at Fess Parker's, and have a car. Breakfast is free at hotel.

We have a picky 10 year old and 17 year old pescatarian (sp?), so a place like Julienne or Bouchon is probably out - a little too fancy too.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Juliene and Buchon are not fancy - more casual chic but assume families would feel okay there and lots of variety to chose from. This town is geared towards vegatarians and all the other prohibited food lists too and will try to accomdate them, particularly if you call ahead of time.

    Might want to try TomaToma on Cabrillo Blvd or Stella Mares by the Bird Refuge which is close by. The new Funk Zone is in your backyard where the Lark and Lucky Penny are located. Lark has "family style" serving items. An LA chef was brought in to take over the restaurant at the Hotel Indigo right by the train station which was getting some good (and mixed) reviews but this is down in the Beach front area too.

    Might want to explore Scarlett Begonia in the Victoria Courtyard by Buchon and for sure visit the new Santa Barbara Public Market on the corner of West Victoria and Chapala for a lot of inticing food court variety.

    For a special treat try the newly refurbished El Encanto Hotel view patio for lunch - great hamburgers and a casual setting even in its remodeled opulence -they were welcoming and not crowded.

    Worth a drive up to Cold Springs Tavern on the San Marcos Pass - woodsy, very historic logcabin setting - good lunch spot so you can see the scenery during the day.

    When classes are in session, you might want to try the SBCC Gourmet Dining Room on Thurs and Friday for dinner or everyday during lunch time - call the college for reservations - this is a student run operation which is always fun and often quite spectacular.

    Website "Santa Barbara Dining" will give you more info and some reviews which are not CH level, but occasionally helpful.

    You almost can't go wrong as you will be well-fed most everywhere in this area. Stroll and decide what looks appealing. There is a nice cluster of casual spots in the 1200 block of State Street - Indonesian, Vietnamise, Brazillian casual and other more substantial choices. Anderson's Bakery and Cafe for Danish is my favorite sidewalk people watching place. Petit Valentin in La Arcada is also good as well as new choices in this area too.

    10 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      I always enjoy your posts.

      You've mentioned El Encanto. Many months ago I visited on opening night…the food was mediocre and the service was abysmal. We haven't been back. San Ysidro Ranch is where I go now during my trips to SB.
      Do you find it more desirable? Is the food better than I remembered on that first miserable night? I'd be willing to give it another chance, only because of my love of that area, if you think it's worth the trip.
      Thanks in advance.

      1. re: latindancer

        Agree, the El Encanto got such mixed reviews at first we never wanted to go but decided lunch would be a good time to try since it is almost in our back yard - and were very nicely surprised. We did only have the hamburger with fries, but we really enjoyed the wait staff and were greeted nicely during the entire experience.

        So for the best view, ambience and reasonable lunch for the price spot I would certainly put it back on your list of places to enjoy when you come back this way. Not sure I want to try dinner, but definitely this is a prime lunch spot for us now to return to again and again ... and we can walk to it so that makes it even better.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          That's really good to hear.

          I vowed never to return but, based on your recommendation, we shall give it another try. For lunch.
          I miss that spectaular view, nothing quite like it.

          1. re: latindancer

            Here you go - the El Encanto lunch menu (Aug 2014). Hope you enjoy it - the serenity of the view and strolling around the grounds still makes it a worthy Santa Barbara destination.

            Was pleased how faithful they were to the look and feel old interior lobby since they gutted this place down to the newly installed steel girders. (But miss the squeak of the old floor boards!)

            The extended dining terrace was an excellent improvement. A trip up the lobby stairs takes you to an even higher level view deck.


            1. re: glbtrtr

              I was a long standing, passionate and very loyal customer at the old El Encanto. My feelings ran deep for that place.
              It all changed for me and so many friends and family when the 'new and improved' El Encanto made it's very first appearance.
              I was given a tour of the entire property. I'm still not sure what to think or feel….perhaps a visit will bring me back. I'm not sure but I do know the service issues remain a problem for them….through the 'grapevine'. My letter to the manager on that opening night, after a horrible dinner food wise and service wise, was met with no response. Unforgiveable in my opinion and it's one of the main reasons I never returned.
              I'll look forward to another visit soon, as I say, based on your stellar recommendation. Thankyou.

              1. re: latindancer

                Service was young and friendly and they seemed to be proud to be working there. I did not pick up any of the early and edgy hautiness reported but we also made very few demands on them since it was just lunch and the dining setting was very uncrowded.

                I would rank it as more eager to please than polished or professional as the setting, clientele or prices may warrant. But it was welcoming, which I had feared it would not be.

                Made it feel okay to be just a mere local going back to visit one for their former favorite haunts. In fact talking about it right now makes me want to run back up the hill and have another burger!

      2. re: glbtrtr

        Thanks for advice...I've made reservations at Toma and Lark, so hopefully they'll deliver...I'll post my observations upon return.

        I think what I meant by "fancy" is more the style of the cooking - my son likes "plain food" still, but he is getting more adventurous every day!

        1. re: manku

          I think both those choices will deliver for you and your son. Toma gets great reviews and Lark gets mixed but very high marks too when it works. Looking forward to your report when you get back -- have not been to either one myself and am going only on local reviews.

        2. re: glbtrtr

          When we were looking for a spot for a recent dinner, I rejected Scarlett Begonia because the online menu didn't look like it would be work well for our group with a vegetarian and a pescatarian. Besides, our local dining companions both voted for as I mentioned in another post we went there and had a great time and a great meal.

          Still, I am drawn to Scarlett Begonia (because of the name, mostly :-)) and will be back in Santa Barbara later this year, so am curious what your thoughts about how it will work for folks not interested in meat, Glbtrtr?

          1. re: susancinsf

            My first taste of SB for lunch was a glorious vegetarian eggplant sandwich - and I am really no fan of vegetables but this place did magic.

        3. Go to the new SB Public Market and everyone can get what they want. It's at Chapala and Victoria. We just ate there with 2 vegetarians and we got an amazing burger and fries and brocollini from Belcampo and mussels from the seafood place and they got vegetarian food from Pasta place and Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle. They will deliver food to the wine bar or they have seating throughout market. It's a fun new spot. Other favorites are Sama Sama, Arigato Sushi, and Los Agaves (molcajete is amazing).

          1 Reply
          1. re: macdog

            I think SB Public Market needs to be identified more as a food court than a "public market".

            I suspect they were required to put in the grocery market part because they were tearing down a prior large chain store than served the surrounding neighborhood.

            But the title SB Public Market is not a concept that immediately resonates with its primary draw, which is being a darn good food court. And like you say, a very good place to take people who have differing tastes.

          2. Well, we ended up going to all my usual haunts. Had Toma and Lark reservations, but looking at photos on yelp, decided against it.

            Super Rica was terrific as always. Katy Perry mentioned it in a video/song, and it's busier than ever.

            Via Vai is a wonderfully relaxing spot to dine outside in Montecito...the food isn't great, but good enough especially since the kids love it! (pizza, calamari etc).

            Olio Pizzeria has much better pizza, nice salumi and a very Italian vibe.

            We ended up going to the new ice cream place in Santa Barbara Public Market - delicious. Returned to location in Montecito next day. BTW, public market looks like a fun place to dine. Not so easy with a family though, as its mostly counter seating and everyone wants something different.

            Always nice to spend a weekend in beautiful SB.

            3 Replies
            1. re: manku

              Thanks for your report.What flavors did you have at Rori's Ice Cream? - she has a very creative touch with some of them. Haven't tried the Olio Crudo Bar yet, but it is one my list. I want to try the walk away "cones" at the Public Market Counter Culture too - either samples of cheese or imported cold cuts

              That is one heck of a block for SB dining choices now all around the the 1200 block of State - West Victoria - Chapala - West Anapamu. With parking. They ought to give is a special name --like Restaurant Square or something, with Scarlett Begonia right in the middle.

              1. re: glbtrtr

                Had lunch at Scarlett Begonia last week and came away unimpressed. Haven't really had a meal there that wowed me. On the other hand, had a great dinner at Arigato (Spanish octopus capriccio was amazing) and Sama Sama this week.

                1. re: macdog

                  Agree, I probably should not have made Scarlett Begonia sound like Scarlett Begonia was a centerpiece. My last meals there have not been inspiring either. But it just needed to be mentioned along with this very interesting block of choices since it is tucked inside the middle of the street-facing alternatives.

                  Not sure what happens to these smaller restaurants that start out so well at first and then lose something over time - change in staff, change in focus, change in patrons. But what was creative and inspired at first become dull and predictible -- but maybe hit a stride for those that appear to still enjoy it.