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Aug 18, 2014 08:24 AM

One night in Santa Barbara - Where to Eat?

My husband and I are making the drive from San Fran to LA with overnight stops in Carmel and Santa Barbara. We expect to make it to Santa Barbara in the evening and want a recommendation on the best dinner spot to really get a feel for the area as well as enjoy the best food. We are staying at the Canary Hotel so ideally we do not want to take our car out for the evening (since we would be driving all day). Some of the places that look good include, Scarlett Begonia, Sama Sama and the Lark. Any suggestions on which to choose (or of any others to add to the mix)?

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  1. Lark is a bit of a walk but you have excellent choices within a few blocks of your hotel - ground zero for good restaurants are the 1000 to 1300 blocks of State Street and their side streets - take your pick. We like Juliene a lot which is a few blocks away in the other direction on the corner of Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara streets.

    But also love Sama Sama and Scarlett Begonia. Can't go wrong with either - both small and casual.

    For old school Santa Barbara where locals still come to celebrate their big events, our own favorite remains Downey's which you find in this same Ground Zero 1300 block of State Street area as well. it is more staid, but a true Santa Barbara classic.

    Paradise Cafe is another far more casual but oldtime Santa Barbara spot - no one can beat their chocolate moouse pie and well prepared basics - outdoor setting if the night is warm.

    You ask a challenging question and I don't have a good answer - what says Santa Barbara best for a single night's dinner. Actually, I might say Sushi Teri for their combo plate, La Superica #15 special, or the Carnitas Super Nachos at Super Cucas with a tall horchata, (!)

    1 Reply
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Backing off a bit from my prior enthusiasm for Scarlett Begonia - lunch today was not particularly inspired. Value no longer there Sorry. Nice spot and interesting selections but not enough for a special visit.

      $16 for a kale salad that seemed to go on endlessly with no variation of taste or texture. Kind of gluey instead of perky and robust. It became chore to eat, but to expensive to cast away.

    2. Local crab steamed to order at Santa Barbara Shellfish Co is as local and perfect as you can get. It's not fancy but they have good beer and wine and all the seafood is excellent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MissBubbles

        Crab Louie at SB Shellfish is generous too and an outdoor table gives you one of the best waterside views. This is at the end of the wharf at the very bottom of State Street and is a hefty walk but there are city shuttles for 50cents that go up and down this distance. Then you have to walk to the end of the wharf.

      2. Also at the SB Public Market, Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle is a great choice. You can go to the wine/beer bar first and try some local libations and then enjoy the Thai food. Our other favorites are Sama Sama, Arigato Sushi and Julienne's. They are all walking distance from Canary Hotel. Also really like Hungry Cat which is just down the street and has great seafood.

        1 Reply
        1. re: macdog

          Recent newspaper review of the Santa Monica Fishmarket, also in the Santa Barbara Public Market along with Empty Bowl, gave it high praise value for the dollar.

          These blocks along State Street - 1000-1300 State Street and surrounding side blocks are the best target for anyone wanting to sample a wide variety of SB dining experiences: high-end to humble.