Best Carpinteria Dining: Steaks, Burgers and Mussels, Oh My!

Carpinteria may be located just minutes away from Santa Barbara, but sometimes it seems like a world apart. Many people say that Carpinteria reminds them of Santa Barbara decades ago, with its breezy, casual atmosphere and tight knit surfing and farming communities.

And what do surfers and farmers have in common? Hearty appetites!

Dozens of restaurants abound within easy walking distance of the beach and downtown area. No matter how you work up a hunger in Carpinteria - whether it's riding the waves, building sandcastles or shopping along Linden Avenue - there's a restaurant to delight your taste buds and fill your belly. 

If you're in the mood for burgers, curry, cupcakes or surf and turf, this list of Carpinteria's 10 best restaurants will steer you in the right direction.

Spend the morning sipping coffee at the Lucky Llama while you plan your day. The Spot is a good lunch spot. It's relaxed, has a family-friendly menu and is in sight of the sand. For dinner, why not try something a little more elegant? Make a reservation at Giannfranco's Trattoria for a refined Italian meal. 

Keep reading to discover the full list of the 10 best restaurants in Carpinteria.


Zookers Restaurant is a local gem in Carpinteria. Tucked into an unassuming shopping center, you could easily miss or dismiss it. But step inside and you'll find fresh food, great service and a pleasant atmosphere. Zookers is committed to serving California cuisine made with organic, local produce and sustainably raised meats. Try their seafood tostada (made with shrimp and scallops), turkey mushroom meatloaf or Niman Ranch pork chop. Regulars rave about Zookers' caesar salad and the crisp pita chips they bring to your table. Local wines and beers are available too. There is a nice outdoor patio and free parking right out front.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: Zookers is a local favorite (and a little bit of a hard-to-find local secret).

Geneva's expert tip: Don't fill up on the free pita chips. Sure, they're tasty, but the rest of the food is even tastier.

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Teddy's By The Sea is a seafood restaurant in sunny Carpinteria, a beach town just 10 minutes or so south of Santa Barbara. The menu includes fried classics like fish and chips and calamari. It also has healthier favorites like cedar plank salmon and tropical ceviche. Not into fish food? No problem. You'll also find burgers, salads and buffalo cauliflower here. Teddy's has a sunny patio and a full bar, making it the perfect place to grab a cocktail before or after a dip in the ocean.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: Looking for a seaside seafood joint in Carpinteria? This is it.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the poke nachos and ask for a kid's menu if you have a little one.

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Looking for something to eat, perhaps followed by a sweet treat? Look no further than Crushcakes & Cafe in Carpinteria. This local bakery and cafe has three different locations in the Santa Barbara area. The assortment of cupcake flavors offered changes everyday. Creative varieties include hot buttered rum, tiramisu and, their signature, red velvet. In addition to cupcakes, Crushcakes also serves breakfast and lunch classics, like huevos rancheros and BLTAs (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwiches). Breakfast is served all day. Crushcakes can make custom cupcakes and full-sized cakes, as well as cater weddings and parties. The perfect place to pop in for a charming hostess gift or afternoon pick me up!

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: Great cupcakes, affordable lunch options and tasty breakfast dishes served all day... it's a vacationer's dream!

Geneva's expert tip: If you can't decide on just one regular cupcake, try a few flavors of their teeny tiny cupcakes instead.

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Lucky Llama is a cozy, locally-owned coffee shop in Carpinteria. If you're looking for a plain ol' cup of joe, stop here. In the mood for a fancy latte? Stop here. Looking for a peanut butter banana mocha or mystic matcha? You got it! In addition to inspired coffee and tea offerings, the Lucky Llama also serves up heathy acai bowls and hearty oatmeal bowls. Assorted baked goods are available, too, including gluten-free options. A large sunny patio invites outdoor enthusiasts. Live bands sometimes play on weekends, and there's usually a show of local art. Plenty of free parking right out front.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: Skip the big coffee chain and grab a brew at this locally owned coffee shop instead.

Geneva's expert tip: In the mood to indulge a little? Order a spiced cinnamon honey latte.

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If you like curries, Siam Elephant is the restaurant for you! This tiny gem of an eatery serves up tasty Thai food just a few blocks away from the ocean. They offer a variety of curries including seasonal flavors, like pumpkin curry in the fall. Start with a traditional satay kebab or tom kha soup and get an order of mango sticky rice or fried banana for dessert. There is a nice outdoor patio featuring Thai-style woodwork that can accommodate larger parties as well as smaller tables. Siam Elephant serves lunch and dinner. Closed on Mondays. Plenty of free street parking nearby.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: Siam Elephant makes a variety of curries from scratch. Red curry, green curry, massaman... you name it, they've got it!

Geneva's expert tip: Ask to be seated on the patio. It is lovely and spacious with amazing, Thai-inspired wooden booths.

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Reynaldo's Bakery makes spectacularly beautiful cakes, but you're hungry now and that's not why you came. You're here for the burritos and tamales. And maybe the enchiladas. Try the slow cooked chile colorado burrito for a flavorful lunch that will fill you up. They have breakfast classics too. If you still have room (we doubt you will), you can also grab some Mexican wedding cookies for dessert. While Reynaldo's is the place for hearty Mexican meals, don't forget this place when it's time to celebrate your next special occasion. Their bakers are master decorators! Reynaldo's is a Carpinteria staple since 1980.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: A Carp classic for almost three decades, Reynaldo's is a great place for burritos AND cake - what a winning combination!

Geneva's expert tip: Get the chile colorado burrito for now and take a half dozen tamales for later.

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Padaro Beach Grill
Photo courtesy of Padaro Beach Grill

Is there a prettier beachfront restaurant in Santa Barbara county? We don't think so. Overlooking Santa Claus beach, a local favorite, the Padaro Beach Grill boasts a park-like outdoor dining room that's ideal for day dates and impromptu gatherings. Enjoy fresh salads, savory burgers and sinfully rich milkshakes that are blended by hand only after you place your order. A large sandbox encourages the kiddos to play while grownups indulge in refreshing beers and local wines. Try the shrimp salad or one of the 100% prime chuck burgers. Live bands are common on the weekends. Free (but often crowded) parking right out front.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: The Padaro Beach Grill has an unbroken view of the Pacific Ocean, plenty of space for group dining and a sandbox for the kids.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the fresh shrimp and avocado salad, paired with a local white wine.

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The Palms is legendary! Open since 1912, this 100-year old steak and seafood restaurant is classic with a twist... you can cook your own food! That's right, order the cut of meat of your choice (steak, salmon or halibut) and then belly up to the grill to cook it exactly how you like it. Not into DIY? Choose something from the other side of the menu, and let the chefs do all the hard work for you. Every meal also comes with a trip to the salad bar for endless veggies, salsa, beans, potatoes and homemade croutons. The bar serves stiff drinks and is often packed with people and a live band on the weekends. A great place for a date or a party.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: The Palms is a Carpinteria legend! Go here for a good steak, strong drink and some local flavor.

Geneva's expert tip: Do not go here if you are looking for a little peace and quiet or are charmed by sobriety.

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Giannfranco's Trattoria is the best Italian restaurant in Carpinteria. Family-owned and just a few blocks from the beach, this hidden gem serves up fresh, authentic dishes that are made to order using high-quality ingredients. Enjoy paninis, pasta and meat dishes for lunch or dinner. A delectable dessert menu includes Italian wedding cake, chocolate mousse and more. The extensive wine list features local and European labels. Giannfranco's has a lovely patio for outdoor dining. Perfect for an intimate celebration with friends or family or make a reservation for a special date night. Like their Facebook page to learn about current special offers, like free bruschetta with purchase of an entree. Free parking in nearby lots or on the street.

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: Giannfranco's Trattoria serves the best Italian food in Carpinteria, and you might just meet both the chef and his mother. It's a charming family affair.

Geneva's expert tip: Follow them on Facebook to find about about exclusive special offers, like free bruschetta!

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The Spot
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

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 for over 90 years, 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 or beach for an impromptu picnic!

Recommended for Carpinteria's Best Restaurants because: The Spot is a beloved local burger joint that serves great food at affordable prices.

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 artificial flavoring.

Read more about The Spot →


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