Best Santa Barbara Restaurants for Every Appetite and Budget



Visit Santa Barbara, and you'll soon discover that the locals like to dine out... and often. With more restaurants per capita than most other North American cities, Santa Barbara boasts dining destinations that feature cuisines from around the world. German, Indonesian, French, we like to dabble in it all - preferably on outdoor patios if the weather is nice (and it usually is). 

Start your day with a foamy cappuccino and crisp croissant at Renaud's before taking a tour of the historic El Presidio de Santa Barbara, a Spanish compound built in 1782. When it's time for lunch, grab some authentic tacos from La Super-Rica. Stroll over to Paseo Nuevo for some outdoor shopping or wander the side streets to peek into local boutiques. Evenings will find most locals out for bite and a drink, whether that means a fancy cocktail or one of the county's famous wines. Santa Barbarans are a social bunch, so it is common for restaurants to offer counter dining. Just take a seat and soon you'll be making new friends and, more than likely, learning about their favorite places to grab a bite.

Whether you're visiting town for a week or weekend - or maybe you already live here but are looking for some new suggestions - explore this list for a variety of the best flavors Santa Barbara has to offer. Staying downtown? You'll be happy to find that a majority of these stops are within easy walking distance.



10
Toma Restaurant & Bar


 

Enjoy Italian and Mediterranean dishes with a view of the ocean! This romantic waterfront restaurant is located near some of the best hotels in the west beach area of Santa Barbara. Enjoy fresh salads and delicious pastas, like gnocchi with rock shrimp, fava beans, roasted garlic, dried tomato and truffle butter. Toma has an extensive wine list with a mix of local and Italian wines, as well as a full bar with a specialty cocktail menu. Try the Toma Martini, crafted with Tito's handmade vodka and served with a Tito's Cheese stuffed olive. Toma is open for dinner only. Reservations are strongly recommended.


9


 

For a true breakfast (or lunch) treat, plan to enjoy a meal at D'Angelos Bread. This combination bakery/restaurant is situated just off State Street in the older part of downtown Santa Barbara. From perfectly poached eggs and personal-sized bundt cakes to finger sandwiches served with local greens, D'Angelos has something for every appetite. The outdoor patio is dog-friendly and ideal for getting a little sun while socializing with the locals. In a hurry? Table service can be slow at peak hours, but you can always walk up to the counter for fresh coffee, warm baked goods, and house-made loaves of bread to go.


8
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) 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 their hearty gumbo, then dig into a batch of crawfish etouffee before concluding your meal with their famous bread pudding with whiskey cream sauce. Reservations are accepted at 5:30 or not at all, so come early or be prepared to wait in line. But don't worry, even their line is fun, with musicians on many nights and passed appetizers to whet your appetite.


7


 

The best chocolate croissant you will ever enjoy is not waiting for you in Paris. (Sorry if that shakes up some plans for intercontinental travel but, don't worry, they still have the best escargot.) No, it is right here in Santa Barbara, waiting, nay, beckoning from the beautiful glass case at Renaud's Patisserie & Bistro. Before you even take the first bite, you know there is something different about this croissant, something that makes it superior to any previous croissant you've eaten. Just put one finger on the shell, and you will feel the difference; the crust is so flaky and perfectly baked that it literally shatters at the touch! And yet somehow, through magic likely known only to Monsieur Renaud, the interior is still moist and chewy. And the chocolate? Of the highest quality, dark yet sweet and not too much. The almond croissants certainly aren't shabby, either.


6
Sama Sama Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


 

Sama Sama Kitchen is a restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara that serves up satisfying, Indonesian-inspired dishes and cocktails for brunch and dinner. Exotic flavors like anise, cumin and starfruit are common here. There are classic dishes, like chicken sate and nasi goreng, and unexpected ones, too. Curried poutine, anyone? Many of Sama Sama's ingredients are sourced from local farms. Enjoy bar or table seating, or choose to dine al fresco. There are a few small tables out front where you can watch the shoppers pass by, and there's also a large area out back with handsomely hewn communal tables, fresh herb and veggie gardens and romantic twinkling lights. Dinner and happy hour only, with occasional pop up lunches and guest chefs.


5
Via Maestra 42
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


 

Tucked away on landlocked upper State St. is a gem of an Italian eatery, Via Maestra 42. The 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 take away items and a few tables inside (there are also a couple of tables outside). Do not let this casual appearance affect your decision to eat here. Settle in and wait for a seat - it can be very crowded - and your tastebuds will be rewarded. Every dish is delicious and authentic. Portions are small, 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.


4
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.


3
Santa Barbara


 

For cuisine that makes the most of regional ingredients, look no further than Bouchon. Fresh vegetables are sourced from our daily farmers' markets, and meat is purchased from local ranchers. Entrees include roasted venison medallions, braised Kurobata pork shank and pan roasted salmon. Two of their most popular dishes include the scallop trio and maple-glazed duck breast. Cheese plates and desserts are thoughtfully curated to pair with your meal Their considerable wine list includes local legends, available by the glass or the bottle. A private dining room with an exclusive seasonal menu is available for meetings and celebrations. Bouchon is intimate and romantic, the perfect place to take a date.


2


 

The Lark is a large, visually-impressive restaurant located in the heart of Santa Barbara's Funk Zone. The menu here celebrates Central Coast fare, from fruits and vegetables to meats and wines. Food is intended for sharing and served family-style. There is a fun cocktail list, too. Indoor and outdoor seating. It is strongly suggested 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 or the long communal table. Attached to The Lark is Les Marchands, a chic wine bar and market with select nibbles available. Valet parking onsite. Street parking and city lots nearby.


1
Santa Barbara
Brophy Bros.


 

Unbeatable harbor views issue a siren's call to patrons at this popular restaurant. Of course, their menu full of delicious seafood doesn't hurt business either. Bustling and busy, Brophy Bros. serves up some of the city's most coveted clam chowder, along with awesome garlic baked clams and hefty portions of cioppino. Fresh, grilled fish is also a delicious choice, along with a host of other plucked-from-the-sea options. Grab a table on the patio overlooking the water for the most romantic experience. These are the best seats, even on wet, gloomy days when they pull down transparent siding to protect you from the elements. Arrive early because weekend waits can be over an hour.


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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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