Best Breakfast/Brunch in Santa Barbara

Go BIG: The Best Breakfast and Brunch in Santa Barbara

The hardest thing about having breakfast in Santa Barbara is the fact that it (usually) only happens once a day, meaning you only get to pick one place to eat it. And there are so many great breakfast and brunch spots in the area that even those of us who are lucky enough to live here are familiar with this internal argument:

"I should start strong! Backyard Bowls and then a hike."

"No, wait, I'm starving... eggs and hash browns and cornbread Cajun Kitchen it is."

"Oh my god, does anything sound better than a chocolate croissant and cappuccino at Renaud's right now?"

As you can imagine, it gets even more complicated when you add more people and taste buds to the conversation. Fortunately you have this list to guide you and - let's hope - more than one chance to enjoy the most important meal of the day while you're in town.

And if you only have one breakfast opportunity, here's your cheat sheet. If you're a gourmand, head to the Scarlett Begonia. Greasy spoon fan? Garrett's Old Fashioned Restaurant is for you. If both size and scope are important, the best brunch buffet (possibly in the state of California) can be found at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. And finally, for a great European inspired breakfast, visit D'Angelo's Bread.


Cajun Kitchen is a Santa Barbara tradition, a local breakfast and lunch joint with something like a million different area locations. And every location is packed, too! Hearty food, good prices and quick service keep us coming. Standard fare at Cajun Kitchen includes big, three-egg omelets, syrupy french toast and classic sandwiches. But there are menu surprises too, like spicy chilaquiles and savory jambalaya and eggs. Breakfast is served all day. In addition to your usual toast options, they also offer cornbread and blueberry muffins. This a great place to take kids even if they're notoriously picky eaters. It's also a fun, informal pick for dining with a group. Prepare for a wait on weekend mornings.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Cajun Kitchen is a local chain and the ideal place to, um, cure what ails you (if what ails you is a hangover).

Geneva's expert tip: Wheat or white? Cornbread or blueberry muffins? Yep, this place goes way beyond toast, so don't waste your time on 12-grain.

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If you've ever talked to anyone in Santa Barbara about brunch - and price was no object - then you've undoubtedly heard of the "Biltmore brunch." Brunch at the Bella Vista restaurant within the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is the stuff legends are made of: two whole rooms of food, bottomless mimosas, hours to indulge while sitting on an ocean view patio. There is a seafood station, caviar station, cheese and charcuterie station, carving station, dessert station and kid station (don't worry, it features tasty food for children, not actual kids) in addition brunch specials and made-to-order egg dishes. This grand buffet is open from 10:00 AM until 1:30 PM. A smaller, a la carte brunch is offered on Saturdays. Reservations recommended.

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Their slogan says it all: better life through better food. Don't let your breakfast slow you down; you can grab complete nutrition on the go at Backyard Bowls. This local favorite serves acai bowls, whole grain bowls and nutritious smoothies, offering you a healthy alternative for breakfast (or lunch). Most ingredients are organic and none contain any chemicals or high fructose corn syrup. Better still, Backyard Bowls engages in sustainable practices that are good for your planet, too. Food scraps are composted, and to-go containers are biodegradable. Visit Backyard Bowls anytime you want to eat real food and feel really good about it.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Head to Backyard Bowls for a healthy breakfast that will start your day off with a bang. Ready for that 12 mile hike yet?

Geneva's expert tip: The Island Bowl is a tropical delight. The acai, pineapple and coconut flavors will make you feel like you're in Hawaii.

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Santa Barbara

Enjoy 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 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 from 3 PM to close Sunday through Thursday, 8 PM to close on Fridays. Parking is free, but does get crowded.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Enjoy a hearty breakfast with an unimpeded ocean view. You can watch the surfers and might even spot a dolphin!

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.

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Santa Barbara

If you want brunch without the fuss, this should be high on your list. The Shop makes everything in house, from their bread to their sausages. They serve from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. everyday, and the menu includes cheekily named items like the Rollex (a breakfast wrap in an Indian-style chapatti), Mac on Crack (macaroni and cheese topped with bleu cheese, pecans and apples), and the Yolo (biscuits and gravy with fried chicken). You can also get a glorious Tugboat, which is basically eggs benedict served on fluffy biscuits with your choice of meat. The Shop brews coffee from local roasters, Handlebar Coffee, and serves lunch too. Sunny outdoor seating and free street parking.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: In an unexpected location, this casual breakfast and lunch joint serves up exceptionally hearty, homemade meals for a good price.

Geneva's expert tip: Go early and get the chilaquiles. They sell out all the time. You've been warned.

Read more about The Shop Cafe →

Santa Barbara

In a past life, Cold Spring was a stagecoach stop, a place for travelers to rest beside the stream, warm up at the fireplace and steel themselves for the trip ahead. Then in 1865, Cold Spring Tavern was opened as a restaurant, and it has been serving great meals ever since. Breakfast, lunch and dinner feature hearty fare and game meats. The breakfast menu includes venison sausage, country fried steak and huevos rancheros topped with wild game chili, among your more standard fare. Tavern-made buttermilk biscuits or molasses toast comes with your meal. With four fireplaces, an idyllic setting and friendly (sometimes famous) patrons, Cold Spring Tavern has earned its reputation as one of the most romantic getaway spots in California.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Cold Spring Tavern is a Santa Barbara tradition that dates back decades, well known for live music and hearty cooking.

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.

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Garrett's Old Fashioned Restaurant is a diner style place, complete with a greasy spoon breakfast menu and a great lunch counter. Their affordable offerings are straightforward: omelets, french toast, burgers... the usual short-order fare, perfect for beginning a long day or ending a long night. But what really sets Garrett's apart are the blueberry pancakes. Big, fluffy pancakes the size of your face, filled with fresh, juicy blueberries and swimming in butter. Always hot, never chewy or burnt. And the service! The staff at Garrett's is so friendly and welcoming and your meals come out so quickly that, after your first visit, you'll kick yourself for not coming sooner. This small place fills up with regulars quickly, so prepare for a little wait at peak hours. It's worth it!

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Every city has a greasy spoon that's a local secret. This is Santa Barbara's. Don't tell them we sent you.

Geneva's expert tip: Order the fresh blueberry pancakes. Even if you don't typically like pancakes. Even if you don't like blueberries.

Read more about Garrett's Old Fashioned Restaurant →

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 a magical method 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.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Go to Renaud's for the best chocolate croissant you will ever have in your life. That is not an exaggeration.

Geneva's expert tip: The almond croissants are pretty dang amazing, too.

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For a true breakfast or brunch treat, plan to spend a little time 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 to 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.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Simple, sophisticated breakfasts for sophisticated folks. Known to have the BEST poached eggs in town.

Geneva's expert tip: Get the huevos rancheros. You will never experience a better bean-to-egg-to-tortilla-to-cheese-to-salsa ratio, ever.

Read more about D'Angelo Pastry & Bread →

There is not enough space here to describe how truly scrumptious and utterly satisfying a meal at the Scarlett Begonia is. First, everything they serve is made in house; from pastries to ketchup to pickles, it's all made just steps away in their bright and bustling kitchen. Then there's the menu: everything you want for breakfast - eggs, potatoes, pancakes - made even more delicious. Think eggs topped with aged gouda, pancakes with lemon ricotta. And of course there are tasty things you didn't even know you were hungry for to add to the confusion. Shrimp and grits with chorizo sausage? Yes, please. Add to that indulgent beverages, like maple bacon lattes, ginger limeade and watermelon hibiscus champagne soup, and you've just had a meal you'll brag about all day long. Dinner is now served Tuesday through Saturday, too.

Recommended for Breakfast/Brunch because: Interesting (and delicious) breakfasts for travelers who have tried everything. All breads, sauces and whatnot are made in house.

Geneva's expert tip: Brunch cocktails: you want them, this place has them. Skip the mimosa and get a King's Lemonade or Scarlett Peppernel instead.

Read more about Scarlett Begonia →


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