There's a new noodle spot in town and boy, is it delicious! Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar has come to Santa Barbara, and they are dishing up Thai-inspired flavor by the bowlful, from papaya salad and duck rolls to pad thai and boat noodles. This is the place to grub down if you're craving something fresh, salty, spicy and sweet.
This tangy, sweet and salty Tom Kha Noodle Soup is one of the rotating weekly specials — Photo courtesy of Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar
Empty Bowl Noodle Bar is located inside the Santa Barbara Public Market, an open-plan shopping center that is a must-visit for hungry people and food enthusiasts. This indoor market contains an artisanal grocery area, as well as over a dozen specialty merchants and restaurants . . . including Empty Bowl.
With a menu that will make your mouth water, Empty Bowl serves authentic regional noodle bowls and specialty small plate appetizers from Thailand and Taiwan. Every dish is made fresh to order in their open kitchen. You can watch them cook your food while you wait.
A nice lineup of peppers on the dining counter lets you add your preferred amount of heat. If you're a little too enthusiastic with the spice, cool things down with a refreshing beverage.
In addition to heavenly Thai iced teas, Empty Bowl has a beer and wine lineup that you have to see to believe. For such a small place, they have some unusual and unusually delicious offerings. Try a Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA on draft or get a glass of local Sauvignon Blanc to pair with your summer rolls.
Empty Bowl does not take reservations – no matter who you are – and seating is first come, first served. The bar seats, well, about 16 by our count, and those seats fill up fast. If you're dining with a large party, this might not be the place for you. But it's a wonderful dining option for travelers who are eating alone.
If seats at the bar are full (and they often are), then take your food to go and enjoy it at one of the many other tables inside the Santa Barbara Public Market — Photo courtesy of Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar
If you can't snag a seat, don't worry: you can order your meal to go. Take it with you for a park or beach picnic, or enjoy it at one of the many public tables throughout the market.
Empty Bowl is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Sundays and Mondays from 11:00 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Because it's located in the Public Market, there are always plenty of things to see or do if you arrive early or late (or choose to wait for a seat). If you're over 21, you'll be quite happy grabbing a drink at Wine + Beer, a fun bar in the heart of the market.
And gourmands of all ages will enjoy the unique, rich ice cream flavors of Rori's Artisanal Creamery.
There is a free parking lot under the building. If that is full, you can park on any of the nearby surface streets, just be sure to check the time limits. Santa Barbara Public Market is within comfortable walking distance of several area hotels and attractions, like the historic Granada Theatre. What a great place to go before or after a show!