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Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Find your new favorite dish at the best restaurants in Santa Barbara


After a few years of relative calm, this list of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara recently saw a significant shakeup.

That's because so many fantastic new eateries have come on the scene, challenging the old guard with new flavors and dining experiences, much to the delight of locals and visitors alike. Of course, there are still some classics on the list, but these are the best places to eat right now. 

Start your day at Alessia Patisserie for some of the most incredible pastries you've had in your life - even if you've been to France. Truffle croissants? Yes! Desserts that look like real pears and oranges but are actually cake inside? Also yes!

For lunch, nothing beats a trip to the legendary La Super-Rica (just make sure you visit the ATM because it's cash only). Except maybe a chilled lobster roll and pina colada at Broad Street Oyster Company. It really depends on your mood.

Spend the afternoon enjoying a spritz and a cheese board at Satellite while you decide where to settle in for dinner. You have a lot of choices, many of them in walking distance.

We focused this list on in-town experiences, but if you're willing to broaden your dining range, check out Bell's or Bar Le Cote.

For more Santa Barbara restaurant ideas, check out this list of the Best New Restaurants in Santa Barbara.


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Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

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) transformed it into the bustling eatery it is today. Their menu includes all types of shellfish, but live abalones, crabs and lobsters - many locally sourced - are the real stars. Local and national beers are available on draft and pair nicely with a bread bowl of chowder on a cold or foggy day. There is bar seating inside, table seating outside and a even walk-up window for to-go orders.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Of course people expect an oceanfront seafood spot to be on this list, so this is our pick. Choose your crab straight from the tanks!

Geneva's expert tip: If you're in a hurry and there's a line to get in, skip the wait and order from the outside walk-up window instead.

Read more about Santa Barbara Shellfish Company →


Flor De Maiz
Photo courtesy of Flor De Maiz

If you're looking for fresh Mexican food with a view of the sea, this is the place! Think of Flor De Maiz as the fancier, more sophisticated sister of local favorite Los Agaves. Sure, she has tacos, but hers are stuffed with lobster and Angus steak. Yes, she has ceviche, but hers is served in a young coconut for extra drama. Of course you can get a margarita, but it will be made with Patron. Flor de Maiz celebrates the innovative cuisine of Oaxaca in a fun and lively atmosphere. There's an open kitchen, wraparound bar and sunny patio that's right across from the beach. While takeout is available, you'll get the best experience if you eat there. But be warned: it gets busy, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, so be prepared to wait!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: If you're hoping for fancy Mexican food in Santa Barbara, this is the place (and it has a great ocean view too).

Geneva's expert tip: Weekends can be really busy (and parking is hard to come by), so try going during happy hour from Monday - Thursday from 2-5 p.m.

Read more about Flor De Maiz →


Broad Street Oyster Co.
Photo courtesy of Liam Brown

If you think you've had a great lobster roll but you haven't been to Broad Street Oyster Co., you should probably think again. This raw bar and shellfish experience has finally found a permanent home in Santa Barbara after years of pop-ups. It serves easily the best lobster roll on the West Coast, available chilled with mayo or hot with butter. We're even convinced that the chilled version would win in a taste test again most East Coast lobster rolls. You can also get raw oysters, locally fished urchin and caviar by the pound (ok, not quite, but you get where we're going with this). And if you see someone who looks like a young King Triton himself - locks flowing, kindly eyes beaming - you'll know you're talking to Chris, the man behind Broad Street.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Broad Street has come a long way since starting a handcart pop-up on the weekends, but the lobster rolls are as delicious as ever!

Geneva's expert tip: Whatever you do, get the fried clams. You can thank us later.

Read more about Broad Street Oyster Co. →


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Third Window Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Smashburgers, Belgian fries, 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 Californian 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 fries and a solid range of beer that's brewed on site. (Non-meat eaters have some nice options too, like a black bean vegan patty, local cheese plate or farmer's market salad.) Other pop-ups use the kitchen Monday through Wednesday, and they're tasty too, but nothing tops the smashburgers.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Best burgers in Santa Barbara. Everyone is obsessed, turning Third Window's outdoor courtyard into real community hangout spot on weekends.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the tomato jam burger. A little sweet acid brings out the umami flavors of the griddled patty.

Read more about Third Window Kitchen →


Satellite
Photo courtesy of Rob Tran

Is it over the top to call Satellite the jewel of State Street? Maybe. But with its vibrant spritzes, jewel-toned wines and colorful farm-to-table dishes topped with edible flowers ... well, it's not too much of a stretch. Satellite is a farmer-to-table / glass restaurant and natural wine shop founded by Drew Cuddy. Executive Chef Emma West's menu focuses on ethical, environmentally beneficial agriculture and the freshest locally grown ingredients. That may sound like a mouthful, but each dish is truly an incredible mouth full. Think luscious confit tomatoes, hearty cauliflower tacos and the best cheese board in town. Satellite is located in the downtown Arts District, just steps away from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Open from lunch through dinner, the outdoor patio has a party vibe, but it's also a great place to visit as a single diner.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This energetic addition to downtown is a local's favorite. Go for a glass of wine, stay for Chef Emma West's colorful menu.

Geneva's expert tip: Satellit'e menu is vegetarian, but it defies the stereotypes. Take a meat-loving friend here, and we promise they'll find something to love.

Read more about Satellite →


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Loquita
Photo courtesy of Loquita

Take a romantic trip to Spain without the expense of air travel. Loquita is a bustling restaurant in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone that serves tapas, dinner and more. Decorated with patterned tile floors and copper cookware, the setting is a beautiful place to indulge in a plate of grilled octopus or dig into a shared dish of paella. Start with a refreshing cocktail at the bar, then relocate to the heated patio for a memorable evening. Between the sea breezes (it's just two blocks from the ocean) and red tile roof views, you'll feel like you've gone somewhere exotic without ever leaving city limits.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Head to Loquita for incredible tapas and inventive drinks paired with a sea breeze.

Geneva's expert tip: They serve four different gin and tonics here, so we highly recommend a pre-dinner cocktail (or two).

Read more about Loquita →


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Santa Barbara
La Super-Rica
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


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, famously lauded by the legendary Julia Child as one of her favorite places to eat. Most famous for their tacos, the other specialties on their menu are equally as enticing, from tamales to gorditas to pozole. Portions are small and prices are fair, so be sure to order a little more than you usually might. And while you're standing in line, peek through the windows to admire the view. Each and every tortilla served at this establishment is made by hand, directly in plain sight.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Julia Child's favorite place to get tacos was La Super-Rica. If that's not reason enough to go, we don't know what is!

Geneva's expert tip: Worth noting: It's cash only, you order by saying the number of each dish, and beans and rice are not served on the side.

Read more about La Super-Rica →


Bibi Ji
Photo courtesy of Blake Bronstad


Offering a modern twist on Indian cuisine, Bibi Ji is home to some of the brightest flavors in Santa Barbara. A collaboration between local Alejandro Medina and celebrated sommelier and winemaker Rajat Parr, this restaurant and bottle shop is a hip destination for hungry people. In fact, it was recently added to The Michelin Guide's California Central Coast section. Menu items change with the season. Most ingredients are bought fresh at the local farmers market or brought in by local farmers and fisherman. Start with the crispy cauliflower, definitely try the uni biryani (if it's available) and then share a few curries with your dining companions. Open for lunch and dinner, walking distance from almost everything downtown.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Wake up your taste buds with a trip to Bibi Ji! Enjoy hot Indian food in a cool environment with a chill wine list (literally).

Geneva's expert tip: Bibi Ji isn't just a food destination. It's also a bottle shop. Stop in and grab a bottle of beer or wine to parch your thirst.

Read more about Bibi Ji →


Alessia Patisserie
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama

If you love beautiful things and have a sweet tooth, you can't miss Alessia Patisserie. At this cozy downtown bakery and cafe, everything is lovely. Lacquered pastries topped with seasonal produce shine in a sparkling glass case. Layered croissants with all kinds of fillings (pistachio cream! baklava!) beckon from light pink to-go boxes. Even the breakfast and lunch specials are plated in a way that suggests they are ready for their close-up. The avocado toast has edible flowers, and the bagels and lox are served on an actual pedestal. What's more, the food is actually delicious. Whether you want to dine in or grab a treat to go, go early because all the tasty little morsels sell out quickly. If you arrive too late in the day, you'll see an empty case!

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A pretty pink patisseries, right in the heart of downtown, serving impeccable desserts as well as hot, fully breakfasts and lunch. Go go go!

Geneva's expert tip: Do not dilly dally. Get there at opening for the best selection of their limited, hand-crafted pastries.

Read more about Alessia Patisserie →


Bettina Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama

Treat yourself to the best pizza in Southern California at Bettina. Naturally leavened, organic dough is fermented for at least 48 hours, resulting in a crust with just the right mix of texture and flavor. You know it's there, you enjoy biting into it, but it doesn't take away from the flavor of the other ingredients topping the pie. A locally driven menu of appetizers, antipasto and mains means there's something for everyone, even (gasp!) non-pizza eaters. And a full bar and carefully curated wine menu will you fall in love with the place and everyone you meet, especially the very prompt and courteous Bettina servers.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: If you have only one meal in Santa Barbara, go to Bettina for incredible eats in an inviting atmosphere. Even non-pizza eaters will love it.

Geneva's expert tip: Don't skip dessert! Bettina's chocolate chip cookies are better than your mom's (sorry, but it's true).

Read more about Bettina Pizzeria →


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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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