search

Enjoy a Homestyle Meal in Santa Barbara, without the Dishes!



Are you hungry, Santa Barbara? Sea urchin roe and kale chips have their place, but if you're ready for more of a mouthful this is the list for you. We've rounded up the 10 best homestyle restaurants in Santa Barbara city limits, so you can fill your belly with something a little more substantial, usually at an affordable price.

If you think family-style meals are best enjoyed with the whole family, pack up the crew and head to Joe's or Harry's Plaza Cafe. Both of these Santa Barbara mainstays have plenty of seating for large groups, fun atmospheres, homestyle favorites and (perhaps most importantly) stiff drinks.

Is breakfast your go-to family meal? Santa Barbara has a lot of satisfying, homestyle breakfast spots. Dive into a giant omelet at Cajun Kitchen or heap your plate with fresh blueberry pancakes at Garrett's Old Style Restaurant.

Since home cooking means a little something different for every family, we've also included healthy, German and gourmet options that offer either comfort food or large shared entrees. You have no shortage of options when it comes to dining in Santa Barbara.

Pick up your napkin and get ready to drool, this list has tantalizing options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Advertisement



The Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch has been serving Mexican-style mesquite BBQ chicken and tri-tip to hungry area patrons for over 20 years. Try one or both with a side of tortillas, rice and chips. They cook over actual fire; there's no hidden gas grill or frier in the back. Great for takeout; party packs are also available. Their burritos are delicious. And don't miss the salsa bar! It's stocked with fresh salsas, pickled onion and jalapenos that will bring out the smokey flavors in your order. Sides of fresh guacamole can be ordered, too. Plenty of parking onsite. Open 7 days a week!

Recommended for Homestyle because: There's more than one kind of homestyle. Enjoy large portions of chicken and beef with wood-grilled flavor.

Geneva's expert tip: Order the combo burrito to try their mesquite-smoked chicken and tri-tip, all in one happy mouthful.

Read more about Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch →


The Natural Cafe
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


With 10 locations in the surrounding areas, The Natural Cafe is a Santa Barbara small business success story. A local favorite for vegetarian and vegan options, this popular lunch and dinner restaurant also serves up delicious chicken and fish entrees. In all of their semi-casual establishments, you place your order at the counter and then wait for your food to be delivered to your table. Popular dishes include their fresh fish tacos, savory meatless burgers, and signature caesar salad generously topped with avocado. To drink The Natural Cafe offers beer, regional wine, natural sodas and delicious custom blended smoothies and shakes.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Who said comfort food is all french fries and burgers? Stop here for a nice bowl of chili, cheesy baked potato or large salad bowl.

Geneva's expert tip: Don't skip dessert! The Natural Cafe has amazing vegan cookies (we promise), rich shakes and sinfully delicious carrot cake.

Read more about The Natural Cafe →


8
Santa Barbara
The Brewhouse


The Brewhouse is a local brewpub and restaurant located in charming West Beach. A variety of beers are brewed in house; some favorites include apricot wheat, habanero pilsner and baseball saison. They have a full bar and serve a variety of great comfort food. An epic brunch bar appears on weekends and features bottomless mimosas. And here's one extra fun fact about the Brewhouse: they also have a gourmet menu for your four-legged friends. That's right, you can bring Fido for a sunny meal on their patio and while you're chowing down on a juicy burger, he can enjoy some tasty marrow bones or steak bites!

Recommended for Homestyle because: So homey, you can even bring your family pet! The Brewhouse patio has an exclusive menu just for four-legged friends.

Geneva's expert tip: Check the beer board to see what special brews are in season.

Read more about The Brewhouse →


Advertisement
7
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.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Homestyle... on the bayou! This Cajun restaurant is big on flavor, friendliness and portion size.

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.

Read more about Palace Grill →




The Lark is striking 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.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Meals here are served homestyle - large portions ideal for sharing - and you'll wish your mom's cooking tasted this good (sorry, Mom).

Geneva's expert tip: If you want to sit outside, reserve a table online in advance. The Lark is usually packed, even on a Tuesday night.

Read more about The Lark →


Dutch Garden Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Originally opened in 1925, Dutch Garden is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Santa Barbara, but it's probably not on any tourist map and definitely far off the beaten path. Owned and operated by Ken and Laura Leutjen since 1985, this small shack consistently turns out the best German (not Dutch) food in town. Schnitzel, bratwurst, einsbein, there is something for every German food connoisseur, even fish and vegetarian options. Lunch includes both hot and cold sandwiches and, quite possibly, the best hamburger in town. An extensive selection of German and Belgian beers pairs perfectly with every meal. There's even a lovely beer garden for dining al fresco in good weather.

Recommended for Homestyle because: German comfort food. Or perhaps all German food is comfort food. Either way, if you like schnitzel and brats and brews, this is the place.

Geneva's expert tip: When they ask soup or salad, always say, "Soup!" It might be sorrel. Or celery root. Or almond carrot. But whatever Ken's cooking, it's always mind-blowing.

Read more about Dutch Garden Restaurant →




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 Homestyle because: Garrett's is a cozy corner breakfast spot that you might not find without this list - and that's just how the locals like it.

Geneva's expert tip: Order the blueberry pancakes. Even if you don't typically like pancakes. Even if you don't like blueberries. They're that good.

Read more about Garrett's Old Fashioned Restaurant →




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 keeps us coming. Standard fare at Cajun Kitchen includes big, three-egg omelets, syrupy french toast and classic sandwiches. 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 place to dine with a group. Prepare for a wait on weekend mornings.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Best greasy spoon breakfast in town - easy on the grease! Enjoy scrambles, omelets, biscuits and gravy and more.

Geneva's expert tip: When they ask you what kind of toast you want, say "blueberry muffins." Trust us.

Read more about Cajun Kitchen Cafe →




Harry's Plaza Cafe is a Santa Barbara institution. Opened in 1968, this cozy 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 - try 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 Homestyle because: Harry's is as homey as it gets in Santa Barbara. Step inside and slip into something more comfortable... like one of their big, red booths.

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

Read more about Harry's Plaza Cafe →


1
Santa Barbara
Joe's Cafe
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Go for dinner and stay for cocktails; this legendary Santa Barbara restaurant transforms into a lively bar as the night goes on. A State Street tradition since 1928, Joe's Cafe offers up the stiffest drinks in town. The martinis are even served with a little bit of backup, still in the shaker. Another part of Joe's undeniable appeal is the huge mix of people that patron Joe's. On a busy night (and almost all of them are), the main floor will be standing room only – packed with coeds, frat boys, fabulous divorcees, and forward older men. The kitchen is open for traditional American fare and greasy spoon snacks until 10 pm. Lunch and breakfast are also served.

Recommended for Homestyle because: Large portions, caloric indulgences, reasonable prices... and the people-watching can't be beat!

Geneva's expert tip: Joe's wins the local vote for stiffest cocktails year after year, so if you like a mixed drink, this is your place.

Read more about Joe's Cafe →


Map

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

×