This downtown restaurant serves a small, clever dinner menu inspired by the flavors of the Central Coast six nights a week.
Impress a date, or enjoy an intimate meal with friends and family.
Twelve-hour tri-tip, beer-braised pinquito beans, cured tomatoes and micro cilantro at Barbareno — Photo courtesy of Jacques Lorch / Barbareno
We'll be the first to tell you that this restaurant is not for everyone. If you're looking for a loud, large restaurant with an equally loud and large menu boasting everything from nachos to spaghetti, then this restaurant is not for you.
Or if you're dining with a pack of picky eaters (you know, the kind who don't like their foods to touch), we're going to suggest you find somewhere else to eat.
But if it's inventive, flavorful and colorful food you're looking for. If you want to eat something you've never tried before. If sampling fresh, local ingredients is on your Santa Barbara to-do list. Then a meal at Barbareño should be on your agenda.
We break it down for you below, so you know just what to expect when you go:
The dinner menu at Barbareño changes with what's in season – and what the chef feels like cooking. There are snacks (small bites ideal for sharing), starters and mains.
Sample dishes include refreshing avocado gazpacho, Pacific mussels with fennel pollen and pork belly with walnuts and dates.
Not sure what to try first? People rave about their eggamuffins, Scotch eggs and ti-tip.
We hear they make a mean dessert, as well. Basil ice cream, anyone? Unfortunately, we always get too full on dinner!
Wine and Beer
As soon as you glimpse at the beer and wine list, you'll know you're in trouble. There are so many options. How do you choose?
Wine is available by the glass or bottle, with the majority of the vintages coming from nearby Santa Ynez or Paso Robles. There's also a rotating selection of beer on tap, as well as beer and ciders that are offered by the bottle or can.
Tasting notes are offered alongside each beer to help you make your selection.
Seating and Ambiance
Barbareño offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The succulent-adorned patio is located on a corner lot and strung with lights. There are umbrellas to block the sun, and heaters to warm you up on chilly nights.
Inside, you'll find a welcoming lounge and waiting area that leads to the main dining room. Here there are wood tables that can be combined to accommodate larger parties as needed.
Or sidle up to the long, welcoming bar. Of course, it's a great place to enjoy a drink before your meal, but we really like to eat here, make new friends and interact with the staff, too.
The Barbareño Team
Speaking of the staff, the kitchen at Barbareño is helmed by chef Julian Martinez, while Jesse Gaddy generally manages about everything else. Both have extensive experience in great restaurants up and down the California coast.
Owing to its convenient location, there's no shortage of fun you can walk to after dinner at Barbareño. Elsie's, a low-key beer and wine bar, is just two blocks away.
Or check out our list of Santa Barbara's best bars for other options.