The Best Lunch in Santa Barbara (We Promise)

It’s time for lunch. You’re in Santa Barbara, California, and boy are you hungry. Look around. No matter where you’re standing, there are probably at least three restaurants in view, with many more tucked just around that bend or behind this stand of palm trees. But how do you determine which restaurants merit a visit and which restaurants fall short? Enter the 10Best lunch list, featuring the 10 most delicious lunch spots in town.

If you’re in the mood for seafood, you’re in luck. Simply head toward the water to find some of the freshest catches in the area at local favorites like On The Alley and the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. For something more traditional, like a deli-fresh sub or sandwich, try Three Pickles - home of one of the best sandwiches in Santa Barbara. And if you have a healthy appetite... for something healthy, that is, make a beeline for one of The Natural Cafe’s 10 crowd-pleasing locations. Big portions, savory veggies and heart-smart takes on traditional comfort foods are sure to please everyone in your party, even the choosiest eaters.

Continue reading to discover 10 great restaurants to visit for your midday meal. Whether you want to sit down and stay awhile or grab a bite and go, consult this list to find the perfect place. In fact, you might try to squeeze in two lunches after seeing all that Santa Barbara has to offer. (Don’t worry, it’s ok; you’re on vacation!)

There are sandwiches and then there are sandwiches. The latter being the variety you are happy to pay any sum of money for, wait in lines for and eat standing up if the situation calls for it. Three Pickles makes both kinds. They make perfectly...  Read More

The Spot
Photo courtesy of Tom Ipri

Located just past the train tracks on Linden Avenue, mere steps from the beach, is The Spot: a trusty little shack of a restaurant that all the locals know. Serving up delicious burgers and fries for over 90 years, The Spot is Carpinteria's go...  Read More

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

For the most delicious noodles in Santa Barbara, head to Empty Bowl Noodle Bar inside the Santa Barbara Public Market. This casual noodle bar makes everything fresh. You can grab at seat at the long counter or order your food to go and take it...  Read More

Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this. At the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, you can pick your lunch right out of the tanks. Established in 1980, this restaurant began as a shellfish shop before popular demand (and secret family recipes)...  Read More

Santa Barbara
Paradise Cafe

Whether you're on vacation or just pretending you're on vacation, sometimes you all you want is a nice, relaxing lunch. Preferably in the sun, definitely with fresh regional fare, and perhaps accompanied by a sophisticated adult beverage, like a...  Read More

Santa Barbara
On The Alley
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

On The Alley is a more casual sister venue brought to you by the owners of Brophy Bros., Santa Barbara's wildly popular seafood restaurant. Serving fresh fish tacos, tasty sandwiches (try the pulled pork) and burgers, On The Alley dishes up...  Read More

The Natural Cafe
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

With 10 locations in the surrounding areas, The Natural Cafe is a Santa Barbara small business success story. A local favorite for vegetarian and vegan options, this popular lunch and dinner restaurant also serves up delicious chicken and fish...  Read More

We begin with a warning: do not even think about setting foot in this specialty deli unless you are prepared to buy a handful of assorted delicacies you didn't even know you needed. That said, if you are the type of person that likes discovering...  Read More

Perhaps best known around the country for being featured on the popular Food Network program Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, Mac's Fish & Chip Shop is locally famous for a more obvious, less fame-derived reason: they serve up seriously crisp...  Read More

Santa Barbara

For an authentic taste of Mexico, drive up Milpas until, on the right, you see a little white shack with aqua trim. There is no sign, but a line extending from the doorway will let you know that you're at the right place. This is La Super-Rica,...  Read More


Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva

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