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Best Restaurants for Fall in Santa Barbara

Discover Santa Barbara's most scrumptious autumn eats (from sea to shore)


Although it might seem like a region of endless summer, Santa Barbara has seasons, we swear. In the spring, it's windy. In the winter, the nights are cold. But the fall, well that's pretty much the perfect season here. It's a combination of Indian Summer and fall harvest. Farmers markets are bustling, winemakers are hustling, and we're all working up a serious appetite for heartier, post-summer fare. See you later, smoothies – we have some serious forking to do!

This list of Santa Barbara's best fall restaurants will help you find seriously satisfying eats as soon as the first leaf drops. (Palm trees don't lose their leaves, but you know what we mean.)

In a hurry? Here's your short list:

  • Eat grilled meat and drink golden lagers in the middle of a forest at Cold Spring Tavern.
  • Drive into Los Olivos for a day of wine tasting and a night of chic indulgence at Bar Le Côte. (Chilled seafood platter, anyone?)
  • Catch a football game, have a local brew and try the best burger in town at Third Window Kitchen.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next meal already.


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10
Santa Barbara


Enjoy a fall brunch with the best view in town ... the Boathouse is right on the beach. A well-heated patio makes it perfect for chilly mornings. Tucked away in a quiet waterfront spot facing Hendry's Beach, this is a great place to start your day with friends and family. You might even see some dolphins while you eat! The menu is pretty tasty, ranging from smoked salmon eggs benedict to orange zest pancakes. Be sure to try the crab cakes, too. A number of breakfast cocktails are available. The Bloody Mary is unforgettable, garnished with bacon and a shrimp. Breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner served daily. Happy hour is Sunday through Thursday from 3 - 9 p.m.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Enjoy an unimpeded view of the beach from the warmth of the heated patio. It doesn't have to be summer to dine al fresco.

Geneva's expert tip: If you've always wanted to drink at breakfast, now is the time. The Boathouse Bloody Mary is one of the best in town –" expertly garnished with celery, bacon and shrimp.

Read more about Boathouse →


9
Santa Barbara
Palace Grill
Photo courtesy of The Palace Grill


"Laissez les bons temps rouler," is the motto at The Palace Grill, a phrase that translates to: Let the good times roll! A night at The Palace isn't complete without a sing-a-long (just one song, don't worry) and rousing group toast. With a menu that reads like a roster of Southern and Creole favorites, you're guaranteed to leave with a full belly. Start with a few sweet muffins, dig into their hearty gumbo, and then indulge in a batch of crawfish etoufee or some blackened catfish before concluding your meal with their famous bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce. The Palace is open for dinner every day from 5-9 p.m.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Rich Cajun dishes are perfect in the fall. Tuck into some spicy jambalaya or a plate of BBQ shrimp. And save room for bread pudding!

Geneva's expert tip: Order their "World-Famous Cajun Martini" and be prepared to discover why there is a limit of one per guest.

Read more about Palace Grill →


Via Maestra 42
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Move over, pumpkin spice lattes! For an even more indulgent fall treat, head to Via Maestra 42 for the Ravioli Zuccotto, savory pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with a browned butter sage sauce. This gem of an Italian restaurant is very small and, at first glance, barely resembles a restaurant at all. There are freezers full of Italian delicacies, a gelato counter, cases of tasty takeaway items and a few tables inside (there is also an extended patio of tables outside now). Do not let this casual appearance affect your decision to eat here. Settle in to wait for a seat, and your taste buds will be rewarded. Every dish is delicious and authentic. Portions are smallish, more European than American, so start with an antipasti. And, whatever you do, save room for dessert: Via Maestra 42's classic Italian desserts –" cannolis, tarts and more –" can't be topped.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: If you're not eating Via Maestra's pumpkin ravioli, you're not doing fall right.

Geneva's expert tip: Don't limit yourself to dinner. Stop by for breakfast Monday through Saturday. Hearty breakfast dishes are served with grilled bread, fresh fig jam and melon depending on the season. And they make a perfect cappuccino!

Read more about Via Maestra 42 →


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Bibi Ji
Photo courtesy of Blake Bronstad


Billing itself as "unauthentic Indian," Bibi Ji is home to some of the brightest flavors in Santa Barbara. Owners Alejandro Medina and James Beard award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr, along with Executive Chef KK Bheemarao, offer a menu that highlights traditional Indian curries and chutneys paired with fresh produce sourced from the farmers market. Accordingly, dishes change with the season. Start with the crispy cauliflower, definitely try the uni biryani (if it's available) and then relax into the comfort of butter chicken. Absolutely allow yourself time to consult the expertly curated wine list. Open for dinner five days a week and walking distance from almost everything downtown. Bibi Ji recently was added to the Michelin Guide.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Bibi Ji's menu is packed with bright jolts of flavor, just what you need when the days start getting shorter.

Geneva's expert tip: Bibi Ji isn't just a food destination. It's also a bottle shop with a selection curated by famed sommelier Rajat Parr. Stop in and grab a bottle of wine (or beer) to parch your thirst.

Read more about Bibi Ji →




Eight years after it first opened, The Lark is still drawing a crowd with its impressive seasonal fare. The menu here celebrates Central Coast flavors, from locally-grown fruits and vegetables to meats and wines. Farm-to-table dishes are intended for sharing and served family style. Nothing comes to your table that will make you think, "Oh I could just make this myself." You can't. Chef Jason Paluska and his coconspirators even put out a (great) cookbook, but unless you keep a ready supply of preserved lemons, sea urchin and Douglas fir needles on hand, you're better off just going to the restaurant to eat. There is a fun cocktail list, too. We strongly suggest that you make reservations online well in advance. The Lark fills up quickly, but walk-ins may luck out and find a seat at the bar.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: The Lark's menu changes with the season, highlighting the freshest local ingredients.

Geneva's expert tip: Dine al fresco without worrying about getting chilly. The Lark has a heated patio and piles of cozy blankets for guests.

Read more about The Lark →


Nella Kitchen & Bar
Photo courtesy of Bri Burkett


Located in the gorgeous Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos has more than a few things going for it. First, there's the locally sourced, Italian leaning menu packed with fresh local greens, Nonna Nella's meatballs and warm, fluffy pinsas. Then, there's the sophisticated cocktail menu (hello, barrel-aged Negroni!), a refreshing change of pace in a town that boasts more than two dozen wine tasting rooms. And finally, there's the wonderfully air conditioned dining room, a real winner considering warm days in the area can hit triple digits. Oh and did we mention it's brought to you by the team behind SY Kitchen, a longtime local favorite? Now what are you waiting for? Nella is open Thursday through Monday for lunch and dinner.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Name something better than sharing a pinsa and some steamed mussels after a fall day of wine tasting. We'll wait.

Geneva's expert tip: Grab a cocktail! Nella offers both barrel-aged and zero-proof drinks that are a fun change of pace in a grape-heavy area.

Read more about Nella Kitchen & Bar →


Caruso's
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama / Datsu Films


For a totally indulgent, totally scrumptious meal (with a view), look no further than Caruso's at the Rosewood Miramar Beach. Chef Massimo's perfectly plated seasonal dishes use the highest quality ingredients sourced from neighboring farmers, fishermen and ranchers. The prix fixe menu includes four courses that change often; there's a vegan prix fixe option too. Choose from an extensive selection of hyperlocal and international wines and handcrafted cocktails to pair with your meal. Caruso's was recently added to the Michelin Guide, making it one of an exclusive handful of Central Coast restaurants to achieve that distinction. Fun note: Caruso's has a "Casual Elegance" dress code. If you've been wanting an excuse to dress for dinner, this might be it.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Chef Massimo and his crew take inspiration directly from the local farms and markets, so dishes are always vibrant and shifting with the season.

Geneva's expert tip: Come early, stroll the incredible resort and grab a drink at the al fresco beach bar overlooking the ocean.

Read more about Caruso's →


Third Window Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Fall, football, smashburgers, beer ... do we have your attention yet? For the best burgers in Santa Barbara, head straight to Third Window Kitchen. Available Thursday through Sunday, these California riffs on a classic Oklahoman smashburger marry locally raised Wagyu beef with thinly sliced onion on a sizzling hot flat top. The patty is topped with cheese and nestled into a perfectly soft Martin's potato bun. Optional add-ons include extra patties, tomato jam, house-made jalapenos and more. Pair your burger with some double-dipped Belgian fries and a solid range of beer brewed on site. (Non-meat eaters have some nice options too, like a black bean vegan patty or a local cheese plate.) Other pop-ups use the kitchen Monday through Wednesday, and they're tasty too, but nothing tops the smashburgers.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Best. Burgers. Ever. If you think you like burgers but you haven't been here, you're missing out.

Geneva's expert tip: Order the curry ketchup with the fries. It's 8000x better than pumpkin spice anything.

Read more about Third Window Kitchen →


2
Los Olivos
Bar Le Côte
Photo courtesy of Bonjwing Lee


Tuck into Bar Le Côte for a seafood feast so good, you won't be able to stop talking about it. (We should probably just go ahead and apologize to your friends and family now for telling you about it.) Opened in September 2021, BLC is a gem at every level, from the artfully designed dining room to Chef Brad Mathews' thoughtfully composed menu highlighting sustainable catches and local produce. Seasonally changing dishes can include fresh oysters and crab claws on ice, Santa Barbara sea urchin, Spanish-style octopus and dry-aged hamachi crudo dotted with edible flowers. Emily Blackman's coastal inspired wine list will make you think of the sea, even though Los Olivos is decidedly landlocked. Pop in for dinner after a day of wine tasting to feel instantly transformed into the coolest, happiest, most sated version of yourself.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: It's possible that all of the Central Coast and even Southern California have been waiting for this restaurant to open. Go! Go now!

Geneva's expert tip: Do not pass go without ordering Rachelle's saffron buns, a crowd pleaser for all ages and appetites.

Read more about Bar Le Côte →


1
Santa Barbara


With four fireplaces, an idyllic log-cabin setting in the middle of a forest and friendly (sometimes famous) patrons, Cold Spring Tavern is one of the best restaurants in California to visit in the fall. In a past life, Cold Spring was a stagecoach stop, a place for travelers to rest beside the stream, warm up and steel themselves for the trip ahead. Then in 1865, Cold Spring Tavern opened as a restaurant, and it has been serving great meals ever since. Breakfast, lunch and dinner feature hearty fare and game meats. Another small cabin a few steps away serves as their cozy bar. It has a stage area for live bands. On the weekends, Cold Spring smokes tri-tip sandwiches outside. Bundle up, grab a sammie, order a beer and settle in for one of the most amazing fall Saturdays you'll ever have!

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Fall because: Dining in a 156-year-old restaurant in the middle of a forest ... is there a better way to experience the season?

Geneva's expert tip: Bring a designated driver if you plan on imbibing adult beverages. The scenic winding roads that lead to Cold Spring Tavern are pretty but perilous.

Read more about Cold Spring Tavern →


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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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