Best Burgers in Santa Barbara

The 10 BEST BURGERS in Santa Barbara (we did the research)

Hungry? Craving beefy patties and cheesy goodness? This is the list you've been looking for. Get ready because you're about to discover the...

...10 BEST burgers in Santa Barbara!

And how did we come up with this definitive, infallibly accurate list*, you might ask? Good question. It was a lot of work.

First, we asked (almost) every bartender in town what their favorite burger is. Then we asked pretty much everyone on Facebook and Twitter. And finally, we did the research. Compiling notes, making site visits, taking photographs and - sacrificing both our wallets and our waistlines - eating burgers.

You're welcome. 

In the end, we found 10 very delicious burgers worth putting on pants and leaving the house for. For a Santa Barbara classic, you can't miss the oak-grilled patties at the Paradise Cafe. For something a little more exotic, stay up late and tuck into the thai basil cheeseburger at The Blue Owl. And for everything else, consult this list!

If you think you've found a tastier burger that isn't on this list, let us know in the comments. We're always up for a little more investigative journalism. 

(And if you're looking to fact-check us by interviewing those alleged bartenders we mentioned earlier, here's where you'll find them. Have fun!)

List subject to change


Order a burger, add a bag of fries. It's as simple as that. Visit this no-frills burger shop in the San Roque neighborhood of Santa Barbara when you need a patty and fry fix. Their very basic menu includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken burgers, veggie burgers, bags of fries, soft drinks and shakes. You can take your food to go or eat it in the interior dining space or on the patio. This place has a loyal following, but it's not the place to go if you're looking for something fancy. Free parking right out front. Not close to anything exciting, but not far from anything either.

Recommended for Burger because: Sometimes it's best to keep it simple. Chubbies Hamburgers only does burgers. You won't find a fish taco or chicken strips here.

Geneva's expert tip: Do brin g your hungry friends but don't bring picky eaters. This is not the place for those "lettuce wrapped, meat on the side" folks.

Read more about Chubbies Hamburgers →

Tee Off
Photo courtesy of Aron Ives

Grab a high-quality burger at this old school gem of a steak house in Santa Barbara. Hidden in a rather plain-looking strip mall well outside of downtown Santa Barbara, this restaurant feels like a treasure from a bygone era as soon as you step through the heavy door into the dimly lit and deliciously scented interior. Take a seat at the bar for a pre-meal cocktail (the bartenders know how to whip up all the classics) while you wait for your table. Once seated, prepare for a classic steakhouse feast. Meals come with a veggie tray, soup and salad. In addition to thick, juicy steaks, chops and prime rib, they also serve amazing fried chicken and fresh fish specials. Bring your appetite! Reservations strongly recommended.

Recommended for Burger because: For a burger made with some seriously high quality meat, look no further than the Tee Off.

Geneva's expert tip: If you enjoy an adult beverage with your burger, you absolutely must get a Manhattan here.

Read more about Tee Off →

Get the Crunch Burger. Dig into a juicy patty topped with swiss cheese, tomato relish, mustard, mayo, grilled tomato and onions, served on an English muffin. This country-style, family-friendly restaurant located in Summerland also includes a full bar. Stop in from 11 a.m. until close seven days a week for great burgers, corn-fed steaks and other comfort food classics. Their house-made pepper-infused vodka is a hit and the star of their spicy bloody maries. The hunting lodge decor - think mounted and stuffed animal heads - adds to the atmosphere but is not for the faint of heart. There is plenty of parking available onsite. This is the original Nugget location. There are two more locations in Santa Barbara and Goleta.

Recommended for Burger because: This Nugget location has 13 burgers to choose from. We recommend starting with the Crunch Burger.

Geneva's expert tip: Bring a bottle of wine! The corkage fee is more than reasonable.

Read more about The Nugget Bar & Grill →

The Spot
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Order a trusty cheeseburger from the quintessential California burger shack. You'll even enjoy a view of the beach while you wait in line! Located just past the train tracks on Linden Avenue, mere steps from the beach, is The Spot: a trusty little 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 for an impromptu picnic! A can't-miss in Santa Barbara.

Recommended for Burger because: Get a good burger paired with an ocean breeze. Who can ask for more?

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 that artificial flavoring.

Read more about The Spot →

Try the Santa Barbara Style Charburger. It's a double charburger with cheese and avocado served on grilled sourdough. Sure there are Habit Burgers almost everywhere now (at least on the West Coast), but this is where they started. Why not dig in to a totally delicious, totally reasonably priced local burger, right? From their signature smoky charburger to the albacore sandwich made from line-caught tuna to freshly tossed salads, the Habit serves up fresh food fast. They also have a delicious veggie burger, crisp fries, heavenly onion rings, tempura green beans and rich, frosty malts. This location is right in the heart of downtown, so it's the perfect stop if you're out shopping or headed to the movies. They also have a truck that you can rent to cater weddings, parties and corporate events. Recently named best burger in America.

Recommended for Burger because: Habit burgers are the best and most reliable patties for the price!

Geneva's expert tip: Try a side of tempura green beans instead of fries. They come with a special sauce.

Read more about The Habit Burger Grill →

Get the Smitty Burger. In fact, get Two Smitty Burgers (it's actually a menu item). And then dive into a meaty burger experience served on a brioche bun with chorizo aioli, cheese, pickle, caramelized onion, lettuce, tomato and panko pickle spear on the side. You might as well grab a drink while you're here. Lovejoy's Pickle Room is a historic bar that serves up amazing cocktails - tiki drinks included! A small menu offers other alcohol-absorbing favorites like fried rice and Rueben egg rolls. In fact, this is the only burger on this list that you can't get unless you're 21. And we think that's pretty great too!

Recommended for Burger because: Smitty Burgers, Smitty Burgers, Smitty Burgers! This local fave is larger than a slider but smaller than a traditional burger (so you can get two).

Geneva's expert tip: Go on Mondays for all night happy hour!

Read more about Pickle Room →

Santa Barbara

Get a classic, oak-grilled Paradise Burger. And add grilled onions if you know what's good for you! Whether you're on vacation or just pretending you're on vacation, sometimes you all you want is a nice, relaxing meal. Preferably in the sun, definitely with fresh regional fare, and perhaps accompanied by a sophisticated adult beverage, like a glass of local white wine. If this is the case, Paradise Cafe is the right place for you. Just one block off bustling State Street, Paradise Cafe has been a local favorite for over 30 years. Their menu is typically Californian - fresh salads, local seafood, burgers... Oh, the burgers! The Paradise's oak wood grill gives their patties a flavor that is hard to beat.

Recommended for Burger because: The place to go for a burger grilled over hot oak. Pretty much on every local's best burger list for over 30 years.

Geneva's expert tip: Get the fries. They're skinny and so tasty, with the perfect texture, made even more delicious when dipped in the house special sauce.

Read more about Paradise Cafe →

Santa Barbara

Get the CB&J Burger. It's a 1/3 lb grass-fed beef patty covered in melted cheese, grilled onions and seasonal Mama's Preserves jelly on toasted ciabatta. (Jelly choices change with the seasons, we recommend you get whichever spicy pepper jelly is available at the time.) The Burger Bus is a converted yellow school bus that roams about town serving up juicy eats crafted from the finest local ingredients. The Burger Bus is one of Santa Barbara's oldest and most beloved food trucks. The easiest way to track them down is by checking their Twitter account, although there is a pretty accurate schedule on their website, too. Try getting your burger with a side order of yam fries or fried pickles!

Recommended for Burger because: Get an amazing burger (with spicy jam) served from a bus by the nicest people ever! It's a win-win.

Geneva's expert tip: Like pickles? Order the fried pickles and prepare to be the happiest pickle-lover on earth.

Read more about The Burger Bus →

Try Tinker's Ranch Hand Burger or Chili Cheese Burger (but act fact, because their chili often sells out well before dinnertime). Tinker's serves up delicious, greasy (in a good way), salty burgers. Order them plain and single level or stacked up high. They even have a burger that's served between two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of buns! Also to their credit: seasoned curly fries. In addition to classic meaty burgers, they also have chicken burgers, fish sandwiches, fish tacos and grilled cheeses. There are bottomless sodas and sweet shakes too. The perfect place to stop on your way back from the beach.

Recommended for Burger because: The unsung burger hero of Santa Barbara, this sleepy little beachside shack is a must-visit for local flavor.

Geneva's expert tip: Everyone loves Tinker's Ranch dressing. Even if you don't order fries, we recommend getting a side (for burger dipping).

Read more about Tinker's Burgers →

Get the Thai Basil Cheeseburger - only available late night. This indulgent burger features green curry infused local beef, caramelized onions and peppers, sautéed mushrooms and (for just $1.50 more) you can add a fried egg. Other late night items include a grilled cheese made with kimchee and delicious fried rice. Lunch/brunch is also served here five days a week. Chef Cindy Black dishes up an unexpected variety of menu items. Try her homemade waffle sandwich or to-die-for crab melt. Specials vary daily. Recently expanded, the Blue Owl now pours draft beer too! Serving brunch, lunch and late night eats, right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara.

Recommended for Burger because: Multiple people have reported staying out well past their bedtimes just so they can get their hands on Cindy's Thai basil cheeseburger.

Geneva's expert tip: If you go during the day, save room for pie. It's sooooo good!

Read more about The Blue Owl →


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