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Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara for Groups and Large Parties



If you're looking to dine out with a larger group in Santa Barbara, you might think you're at a loss for choices. Many of the restaurants in this little beach town are charmingly intimate... aka very small! It can be a bit tricky to seat a party of eight or more on a Friday or Saturday night, so we're here to help.

This list includes the very best group-friendly restaurants within city limits. Each of these 10 dining establishments can handle larger groups and, better still, are certain to please every member of your crowd. From birthdays to graduations to weddings, we have you covered.

If you're looking to host a grand affair, consider renting the private room at Harry's Plaza Cafe for a taste of classic Santa Barbara. Or, for something a little more gourmet, you can buy out the entire restaurant at the Wine Cask.

Or if it's an informal celebration with family and friends that you're planning, why not try the back patio at Sama Sama Kitchen? Their dreamy cocktails and addictive Indonesian-inspired dishes will make it an affair to remember. 

The majority of the restaurants on this list are within easy walking distance of some amazing sight or other, whether it's the ocean, a historic building or just some really good nightlife. Perfect for getting your party on!


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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. Call well ahead for group bookings.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Ideal for smaller groups who like a view. Toma is a great place to impress your colleagues... or a date!

Geneva's expert tip: Try the tuna cones! They're messy, but the dramatic presentation is worth it.

Read more about Toma Restaurant & Bar →


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 tables out front where you can watch the shoppers pass by, and there's also a large area out back that can host larger parties. It's decked out with handsomely hewn communal tables, fresh herb and veggie gardens, and romantic twinkling lights.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Long tables on the shady back patio make this the perfect spot for an informal gathering with friends and family.

Geneva's expert tip: If you like cocktails in the proper sense of the the word, do not skip the bar. From bitters to syrups to garnishes, they do it right.

Read more about Sama Sama Kitchen →




If you're ready to be surprised by a chic oasis in the middle of residential Goleta, pop by the Outpost at the Goodland for a meal... or a drink. This restaurant is Palm Springs meets 60's California beach town. Stroll across patterned tile to dine poolside or sidle up to the bar for a handcrafted cocktail. The Outpost serves brunch and dinner made with a SoCal mindset. Think tacos, fresh seafood and small, spiced vegetable plates that are perfect for sharing. Central Coast wines, local craft beers and a wide variety of spirits are available to drink. And don't skip dessert! Custom menus and private event spaces on the hotel grounds offer solutions for parties of all sizes, from just a few people to a crowd of 300.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Bring a group to dine on the relaxing, poolside patio on a summer weekend. The scenery is great, and the food is even better!

Geneva's expert tip: Get expertly prepared oysters for only $1.50 apiece during happy hour Monday through Friday.

Read more about Outpost at the Goodland →


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Named after the grandmother who encouraged the owners to open their first restaurant - the Montecito Cafe - Jane is a testament to comfortable, quality dining as exemplified by kind service and delectable family recipes. Their menu offers up a little bit of everything, for entree-sized salads to burgers to amazing linguine with clams. Small, intimate tables dot the venue, with some fireside and balcony seating available. If you're of a social nature and dining alone, or perhaps your group of companions likes a little excitement, opt to sit at the centrally located communal table. You never know who you'll meet while enjoying a fabulous meal. A private room upstairs is also available to reserve.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Jane has a warm, welcoming vibe and a quiet room upstairs for your private celebrations. A long communal table is perfect for groups.

Geneva's expert tip: Their coconut cake is to die for but, strangely, so is everything else on the dessert menu!

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Opal Restaurant & Bar


Decidedly comfortable, Opal benefits from local owners, an accomplished menu and an all-around good feel. The Californian cuisine delights in tasty, fragrant ingredients and offers everything from a chile-crusted filet mignon to risotto with artichokes, asparagus, walnuts and wild mushrooms. Wood-fired pizzas are a favorite with regulars, as are tempting homemade pasta dishes, fresh fish, roasted duck, stuffed chicken breast and a flavor-packed vegetable napoleon. Local wines marry beautifully with the cuisine, and there are plenty to choose from. At any given time, forty or so wines are available by the glass and over three hundred can be purchased by the bottle. New to choosing wines? Fear not, Opal's dinner menu offers pairing suggestions for many of the most popular dishes.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Opal has crowd-pleasing food and cocktails. One whole side of the restaurant can be reserved for your private event.

Geneva's expert tip: Opal has a killer wine list that covers pages and pages. Fortunately, their menu also offers pairing suggestions to take the guess work out of it.

Read more about Opal Restaurant & Bar →




Tucked in a romantic courtyard in downtown Santa Barbara, directly behind a greatly beloved turtle pond, Cielito serves up full meals, small plates and delicious cocktails seven days a week. Dishes vary with the season, including ceviche made from fresh local catches and area produce. A warm atmosphere lit by hundreds of twinkly lights sets the mood. Stop by the tequila bar to sample from their wide selection of tequilas and mescals. Al fresco dining is available on the patio out front. Cielito is one of the larger restaurants in Santa Barbara, so if you want to stop by for an impromptu lunch you should be easily accommodated. Call ahead for dinner reservations or visit the reservations page of their website. Private dining arrangements can also be made by calling ahead.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Reserve space on the outdoor patio, an intimate dining area on the mezzanine or the private dining room.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the pork belly quesadilla for a new take on an old favorite.

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If you're looking for a fine dining experience in Santa Barbara that feels both elegant and effortless, make a reservation at the Wine Cask. Located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara but tucked away in a secluded courtyard, this restaurant specializes in dishes sourced from local harvests, great cocktails and - as the name suggests - wine! Chefs shop at the local farmers markets every week, and the menu is updated frequently. Desserts often steal the show here, with highlights including the butterscotch pudding and bread pudding souffle. Private and event dining areas are available, as well as an al fresco patio. Attached to the Wine Cask is Intermezzo, a more casual bar/cafe that serves up tasty flatbreads.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: The Wine Cask has a private room that seats 35 and a patio that can hold 60. Or you can reserve the whole restaurant.

Geneva's expert tip: Don't skip dessert. Order the butterscotch pudding. Trust us.

Read more about Wine Cask - Santa Barbara →


Arnoldi's Cafe
Photo courtesy of Wine Cask - Santa Barbara


On a balmy Santa Barbara night, head to Arnoldi's with a few friends for drinks, dinner, and a little evening sporting. That's right, in addition to serving hearty Italian food, Arnoldi's also offers you the rare chance to play bocce ball - a game vaguely reminiscent of bowling. Established in 1937 by Guiseppe and Ilda Arnoldi, Arnoldi's Cafe boasts a big, beautiful back patio with two bocce ball courts for recreational play... a great way to work out after eating some delicious gnocchi or lasagna. And you can't miss the beautiful, old bar presided over by Bucky the Tule Elk. Also worth noting, this is one of the few restaurants in Santa Barbara big enough to accommodate large (and loud) parties.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Take a trip to Italy without ever leaving Santa Barbara. Dine al fresco, sip wine and play a little bocce ball on Arnoldi's sandy courts.

Geneva's expert tip: The best parties at Arnoldi's are outdoors. Evenings get cool in Santa Barbara, so we suggest you tell people to bring a light jacket.

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Harry's Plaza Cafe is a Santa Barbara institution. Opened in 1968, this cosy restaurant has been serving homestyle meals and stiff drinks to loyal locals for decades. Unassuming from the front, just pass through the door to time travel into a comfortable family eatery, complete with deep red booths, velvet damask wallpaper and photos of celebrities past and present. A two-sided, mirrored bar serves some of the strongest drinks in town - order their signature Mean Tai - and private rooms allows for invitation-only parties. In the mood for a challenge? Try their banana split with 9 scoops of ice cream. Eat the whole thing by yourself, and it's on the house!

Recommended for Group Friendly because: Reserve the Ranchero Room at Harry's for a memorable occasion with lots of friends. There's a semi-private cove for smaller groups.

Geneva's expert tip: This is one of the larger restaurants in Santa Barbara, but you'll still need to make reservations for Friday and Saturday nights.

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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. Groups and private parties can be easily accommodated if you call in advance. For smaller parties, 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.

Recommended for Group Friendly because: This festive restaurant is perfect for celebrations. There's room to accommodate large tables and even private parties.

Geneva's expert tip: On Fridays and Saturdays there's a crowd, but there's also live entertainment - including a live band and superb magician.

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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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