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Spring Fling: Celebrate the Season at These Sunny Santa Barbara Restaurants



For other cities, a spring restaurant list would highlight the places with the best patios and freshest ingredients. But this is Santa Barbara. Patios are open year round, and many local chefs shop at the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market every week.

So instead of telling you where you can catch some rays or try a garden fresh bit of lettuce, we're going to help you have experience. Every restaurant on this list has something special that sets it apart and makes it the perfect destination for a spring dining adventure.

Want to eat a meal at the beach with your toes in the sand? Done. Share a beer and a sandwich while listening to live music in the middle of the forest? You got it. Grab brunch under 100-year-old olive trees on a secluded patio in the center of downtown? We've got you covered.

Keep reading to discover 10 Santa Barbara restaurants worth a visit (or revisit) this spring!


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Santa Barbara
East Beach Tacos
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Spring means baseball, right? Then you should definitely go to East Beach Tacos, a small taco stand serving up one of the most inventive taco menus, with a view of the batting cages. You can get fresh tuna poke tacos served in wonton shells, Bahn mi-inspired tacos and crispy fried fish and shrimp creations. The menu here isn't limited to tacos. They have a number of other yummy snacks, including the Beach Ball, a seasoned rice ball filled with spicy tuna and sprinkled with sea salt and sesame seeds. But go for the tacos and order the triple play: three tacos of your choice for just $9.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Watch the action in the batting cages while digging into some of the best tacos in town.

Geneva's expert tip: Parking is a beast here. For the best luck, go between meals or during a rainy spell. Or bike in along the coast!

Read more about East Beach Tacos →


The Spot
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


On the next sunny day, you should absolutely enjoy a meal at a beachside burger shack that is more than 100 years old. 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 since 1914, The Spot is Carpinteria's go to for a quick, savory bite. The surprisingly vast menu also includes veggie burgers, select Mexican specialties and fish n' chips. There's no dress code so come in your bikini or trunks if you please. There is seating outside OR you can just walk across the street to the park for an impromptu picnic! A can't-miss in Santa Barbara. Cash only.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Nothing says spring like wearing open-toed shoes while grabbing some nachos and a milkshake in sight of the ocean.

Geneva's expert tip: Order a milkshake, any milkshake for a cold, creamy treat. Our pick is banana; it's made with fresh bananas instead of that artificial flavoring.

Read more about The Spot →




Visit The Lark for remarkable dishes that change with the season, and within the season too. The chef-driven menu here celebrates Central Coast fare, from fruits and vegetables to meats and wines. Food is intended for sharing and served family-style. Cocktails are also seasonal and quite good. Chef Jason Paluska and the team here recently put out a cookbook. One look at how challenging the recipes are and how many ingredients each includes and you'll find yourself making a reservation right away. The Lark fills up quickly, but walk-ins may luck out and find a seat at the bar or the long communal table. Attached to The Lark is Les Marchands, a chic wine bar and market with select nibbles available. Valet parking on site.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: The Lark's menu changes frequently within every season. Spring dishes include burrata with Ojai pixie tangerines, creamy artichoke risotto and local strawberries with goat cheese.

Geneva's expert tip: While you're waiting for a table, pop out back to Les Marchands - a chic wine bar - to wet your whistle.

Read more about The Lark →


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Smithy
Photo courtesy of Smithy


Enjoy a spring lunch on a quiet courtyard shaded by 100-year old olive trees right in the middle of busy downtown. Smithy Kitchen + Bar is a completely remodeled bar and restaurant in the arts district of downtown Santa Barbara. Just across the street from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, this eatery features a bright interior with equally bright menu items. Grab a bite at one of the numbered tables or post up at the bar for a cocktail or two (they're really quite good). But the true gem here is the back courtyard, peaceful and strung with lights. Completely hidden from the street, this is one of the best private patios in Santa Barbara, ideal for a casual meal or memorable special occasion.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Smithy has one of the best patios in Santa Barbara, perfect for spring dining.

Geneva's expert tip: Every meal is good, but visit Smithy for brunch on the patio. It's a rare quiet piece of heaven in the center of downtown.

Read more about Smithy →


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Santa Barbara


Enjoy a spring brunch with the best view in town... this restaurant is right on the beach. Tucked away in a quiet waterfront spot facing Hendry's Beach, this is a gorgeous place to start your day with friends and family. You might even see some dolphins while you eat! The menu is mouthwatering, 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 from 3 -6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Parking is free but does get crowded.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: When you're ready to get some fresh air and sunlight after being cooped up, there's no better place than a beach restaurant.

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 →




Santa Barbara's Funk Zone comes alive in the spring with sunshine, blooming flowers and visitors flocking to local wine tasting rooms. If you're a little fancy and want to step very slightly off the beaten path, head to Les Marchands - a wine bar with a solid menu that not everyone knows about. Try local and international wines paired with a menu that ranges from small bites to larger plates. Chef Weston's focus on local produce and sustainable seafood mean the menu is always in flux. Think local ridgeback shrimp and fresh cauliflower croquettes. Cool decor and high ceilings will make you feel like you're in a hip neighborhood in a big, urban city. Enjoy complimentary valet parking or park in a nearby city lot. Many other restaurants and wine bars are within easy walking distance, as are the train station, beach and a few hotels.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Les Marchands is a great wine bar with a secretly great menu too that focuses on local seafood and produce.

Geneva's expert tip: Try Les Marchands for brunch! 1) It's tasty. 2) They have spritzes.

Read more about Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant →


Jalama Beach Store
Photo courtesy of Genevs Ives


Load up the car with your friends and family and head to this beachfront campground for a seriously good burger. Yes, the Jalama Beach Store is an actual store. It's the kind you find at any good campsite, stocked with snacks, firewood and the drugstore type items you probably forgot to pack. But it's also the home of the famous Jalama Burger! For more than 40 years now, this place has been grilling up some of the tastiest burgers anywhere, piled high with cheese, shredded iceberg, tomato, onion and pickle slices. The burgers are huge - large enough to share if you've got a less hearty appetite. Their fries are also delicious: thin, cooked perfectly and generously sprinkled with salt.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: A local legend of a burger with an ocean view. What could be better on a sunny spring day than that?

Geneva's expert tip: Don't dilly around with onion rings. The fries here are the side to get!

Read more about Jalama Beach Store →


Yoichi's


Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese tasting menu that highlights the best of the season, so this kaiseki restaurant is a must-visit in spring... and every new season. Enjoy a traditional multi-course dining experience at Yoichi's, the place to get the freshest seafood in the heart of downtown. You'll find everything from sashimi to Waygu beef to grilled crab here. You eat what the chef is serving, with a few optional choices sprinkled throughout the set menu. Sake, beer and wine are also served. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are highly recommended. This is not the kind of meal that you rush, so prepare to sit back and indulge in a fine dining experience.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Yoichi's kaiseki menu changes with the season by definition. Try the best spring seafood and vegetables, Japanese style.

Geneva's expert tip: Don't go without making a reservation and clearing time on your calendar! A meal at this small restaurant can easily take 2-3 hours.

Read more about Yoichi's →


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Santa Barbara


Have a beer (or cocktail) and freshly grilled tri-tip sandwich while listening to live music on a spring weekend at this old stagecoach stop in Los Padres National Forest. In 1865, Cold Spring Tavern was opened as a restaurant, and it has been dishing up great meals ever since. Breakfast, lunch and dinner feature hearty fare and game meats. But the real fun happens on the weekends when live bands play in the tavern and hot tri-tip sandwiches are served until they sell out. With four fireplaces, an idyllic setting and friendly patrons, Cold Spring Tavern has earned its reputation as one of the most romantic getaway spots in California.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Besides having the word "spring" in the name, this restaurant in a forest is a destination that mandates a gorgeous springtime drive.

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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Santa Ynez


Do yourself and favor and hit the road this spring. Drive about 40 minutes north to Los Alamos for wine, scenic vistas and delicious eats. Bell's is a more recent addition to the already stellar dining scene in Los Alamos. The French bistro-inspired fare pairs well with the celebrated local wine scene. They call it "Franch" cuisine, and we think that's just right. Think Moules Frites, escargot, tinned sardines with housemade butter, tartines and perfectly sized plates of pasta. The clean, cool dining room is a nice aesthetic break from the more countrified decor of the other shops, tasting rooms and restaurants on Bell Street. Pro tips: don't skip dessert and be sure to take a peek at the wallpaper in the restroom. Almost everything else you want to do in Los Alamos is in easy walking distance.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Bell's is an incredible restaurant in Los Alamos, a town that is perfect for spring day-tripping.

Geneva's expert tip: Whatever you order, get a side of fries! They are perfectly cooked, something that can be shockingly hard to find.

Read more about Bell's →


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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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