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Best New and Popular Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Always Fresh: 10 Best New Restaurants in Santa Barbara


The Santa Barbara restaurant scene is great. In fact, there are more than 450 restaurants to choose from! But here are two very real things that happen to hungry people:

1. Santa Barbara locals end up visiting their same favorite dozen or so restaurants, month after month.

2. Visitors to our beautiful beach town get the same dining recommendations, year in and year out.

Yes, the view at Brophy's is fantastic and La Super-Rica is legendary, but if you're ready to switch it up a little ... well, we're here to help. The 10 restaurants on this list are new to the scene and delicious (because that's important too).

For a flavorful meal in wine country, order a tower of seafood and pile of steaks at Coast Range in Solvang. Want a fully loaded, totally photogenic lobster roll? Broad Street Oyster Co. is your destination.

We've got bakeries and seafood joints and burger restaurants for you to explore. Get ready to add some new "old favorites" to the rotation!


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Third Window Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Smashburgers, Belgian fries, beer ... do we have your attention yet? For the best burgers in Santa Barbara, head straight to Third Window Kitchen. Available Thursday through Sunday, these Californian riffs on a classic Oklahoman smashburger marry locally raised Wagyu beef with thinly sliced onion on a sizzling hot flat top. The patty is topped with cheese and nestled into a perfectly soft Martin's potato bun. Optional add-ons include extra patties, tomato jam, house-made jalapenos and more. Pair your burger with some double-dipped fries and a solid range of beer that's brewed on site. (Non-meat eaters have some nice options too, like a black bean vegan patty, local cheese plate or farmer's market salad.) Other pop-ups use the kitchen Monday through Wednesday, and they're tasty too, but nothing tops the smashburgers.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Everyone is obsessed with their smashburgers. Take just one bite, and you'll see why!

Geneva's expert tip: Try the tomato jam burger. A little sweet acid brings out the umami flavors of the griddled patty.

Read more about Third Window Kitchen →


Nella Kitchen & Bar
Photo courtesy of Bri Burkett

Located in the gorgeous Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos has more than a few things going for it. First, there's the locally sourced, Italian-leaning menu packed with fresh local greens, Nonna Nella's meatballs and warm, fluffy pinsas. Then, there's the sophisticated cocktail menu (hello, barrel-aged Negroni!), a refreshingly spirited change of pace in a town that boasts more than two dozen wine tasting rooms. And finally, there's the wonderfully air-conditioned dining room, a real winner considering warm days in the area can hit triple digits. Oh and did we mention it's brought to you by the team behind SY Kitchen, a longtime local favorite? Now what are you waiting for? Nella is open Thursday through Monday for lunch and dinner.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Nella is a tasty stop before, after or during a wine tasting tour of Los Olivos.

Geneva's expert tip: Grab a cocktail! Nella offers both barrel-aged and zero-proof drinks that are a great palate cleanser in a grape-heavy area.

Read more about Nella Kitchen & Bar →


Caruso's
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama / Datsu Films

For a totally indulgent, totally scrumptious meal (with an unparalleled ocean view), look no further than Caruso's at the Rosewood Miramar Beach. Chef Massimo's perfectly plated seasonal dishes use the highest quality ingredients sourced from neighboring farmers, fishermen and ranchers. The prix fixe menu includes four courses that change often; there's a vegan prix fixe option too. Choose from an extensive selection of hyperlocal and international wines as well as handcrafted cocktails to pair with your meal. Caruso's was recently added to the Michelin Guide, making it one of an exclusive handful of Central Coast restaurants to achieve that distinction. Fun note: Caruso's has a "Casual Elegance" dress code. If you've been wanting an excuse to dress for dinner, this might be it.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: It's pretty. It's fancy. And it's pretty fancy. Go for great service and even better food.

Geneva's expert tip: Arrive early for your reservation so you can enjoy a drink or appetizer at the beach bar before dinner. The view is incredible!

Read more about Caruso's →


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Teru Japanese Cuisine
Photo courtesy of Teru Japanese Cuisine

For the freshest, most thoughtful sushi, head straight to Teru Japanese Cuisine. Located in downtown Santa Barbara in the heart of the arts district, this gem of a restaurant serves up the flavors of Japan with a local twist. Teru sources seafood from both local waters and faraway destinations (like Japan and Spain) to create a memorable dining experience, whether you dine in or take it home. In addition to sashimi and nigiri specials, Teru offers creative appetizers, classic rolls and box press rolls known as oshizushi. Specials change nightly with what's fresh. Closed Sunday and Monday. Walking distance from theaters, shopping and bars.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: A new, fresh sushi joint with a tried-and-true local chef (formerly of Sakana in Montecito)? Sign us up!

Geneva's expert tip: Follow @teru.sushi on Instagram to discover daily and weekly specials.

Read more about Teru Japanese Cuisine →


Coast Range
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Ball

Tucked among picturesque windmills and treacly bake shops, this dark and luscious steakhouse is a thrilling change of pace. There are cozy booths lined with damask wallpaper, substantial leather stools facing a sleek black bar and red hunks of meat beckoning from an illuminated meat case near the door. Like the intriguing new kid who turns out to be a local just back from boarding school, Coast Range is actually right at home on Mission Drive, just blocks from Old Mission Santa Inés. Unsurprisingly, steak is a popular order, with a wide range of cuts available from local and less-local ranches. Seafood is also a hit, sourced locally from the chilly Pacific barely a dozen miles away. Closed Tuesdays.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Sexiest little restaurant in Solvang, whether you're at a table or sidled up to the sturdy Vaquero Bar.

Geneva's expert tip: Make friends with your server. They will know exactly what's firing during your visit to Coast Range, be it a specific cut of meat, particular seafood dish or special bottle of wine.

Read more about Coast Range →


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peasants FEAST
Photo courtesy of Lena Britt Photography

Peasants Feast opened on April 1, 2020, and –" despite what we now know were staggering odds –" has thrived, thanks to a tempting farm-to-table menu and healthy dose of community support. Community support that goes both ways. "Our goal is to source from as many local businesses as possible," shares executive chef Michael Cherney (who owns the business with his wife, Sarah), listing off more than three-dozen area purveyors. It's a recipe for success that's working. The first-come, first-serve restaurant draws a primarily local crowd on weekdays and reaches a fever pitch on weekends. "Solvang is nuts. We have people waiting outside, lined up 30 minutes before we open, waiting for a table."

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: For a true sample of local flavor, you can't do better than Peasants Feast, an independent restaurant that sources from more than 36 local purveyors.

Geneva's expert tip: If there's a taco special, order it. The chef loves tacos, and he often uses the fresh catch of the day.

Read more about peasants FEAST →


Alessia Patisserie
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama

If you love beautiful things and have a sweet tooth, you can't miss Alessia Patisserie. At this cozy downtown bakery and cafe, everything is lovely. Lacquered pastries topped with seasonal produce shine in a sparkling glass case. Layered croissants with all kinds of fillings (pistachio cream! baklava!) beckon from light pink to-go boxes. Even the breakfast and lunch specials are plated in a way that suggests they are ready for their close-up. The avocado toast has edible flowers, and the bagels and lox are served on an actual pedestal. What's more, the food is actually delicious. Whether you want to dine in or grab a treat to go, go early because all the tasty little morsels sell out quickly. If you arrive too late in the day, you'll see an empty case!

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Sometimes you hear people refer to a restaurant as a jewel box. This is one of those times. Into aesthetics? This is a must-visit.

Geneva's expert tip: Do not dilly dally. Go right at opening for the best selection of their limited, hand-crafted pastries.

Read more about Alessia Patisserie →


3
Los Olivos
Bar Le Côte
Photo courtesy of Bonjwing Lee

Tuck into Bar Le Côte for a seafood feast so good, you won't be able to stop talking about it. (We should probably just go ahead and apologize to your friends and family now for telling you about it.) Opened in late 2021, BLC is a gem at every level, from the artfully designed dining room to Chef Brad Mathews' thoughtfully composed menu highlighting sustainable catches and local produce. Seasonal dishes can include fresh oysters and crab claws on ice, Santa Barbara sea urchin, Spanish-style octopus and dry-aged hamachi crudo dotted with edible flowers. Emily Blackman's coastal inspired wine list will make you think of the sea, even though Los Olivos is decidedly landlocked. Pop in for dinner after a day of wine tasting to feel instantly transformed into the coolest, happiest, most sated version of yourself.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Good seafood in the valley? No. Exceptional seafood in the valley! If you love fish, don't miss this.

Geneva's expert tip: Do not pass go without ordering Rachelle's saffron buns, a crowd pleaser for all ages and appetites.

Read more about Bar Le Côte →


Secret Bao
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama

What started as a pop-up in a local coffee shop has grown into a full-blown (and quite chic) restaurant, and Santa Barbara couldn't be more excited. This Korean-inspired lunch and dinner spot divides its menu into bao and not-bao. Bao being those cushiony, taco-esque steamed buns that hug your mouth as you eat them (with fillings ranging from pork belly to fried mushrooms). Not-bao includes everything else, from noodles and rice to cooked meat and raw fish. Ingredients are sourced as close to home as possible, and prices are more than reasonable. Inside and outside dining options are available, as is online takeout ordering.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Looking for flavors you can't find anywhere else? Secret Bao is the place, with its unique combination of Korean dioshes and local ingredients.

Geneva's expert tip: Visit their website to order online; pick-up times are faster than many other restaurants in town.

Read more about Secret Bao →


Broad Street Oyster Co.
Photo courtesy of Liam Brown

If you think you've had a great lobster roll but you haven't been to Broad Street Oyster Co., you should probably think again. This raw bar and shellfish experience has finally found a permanent home in Santa Barbara after years of pop-ups. It serves easily the best lobster roll on the West Coast, available chilled with mayo or hot with butter. We're even convinced that the chilled version would win in a taste test again most East Coast lobster rolls. You can also get raw oysters, locally fished urchin and caviar by the pound (ok, not quite, but you get where we're going with this). And if you see someone who looks like a young King Triton himself - locks flowing, kindly eyes beaming - you'll know you're talking to Chris, the man behind Broad Street.

Recommended for New and Popular Restaurants because: Broad Street used to just be a small handcart in front of a winery. Now suddenly it's a whole big thing. Go now; go quickly.

Geneva's expert tip: Whatever you do, get the fried clams. You can thank us later.

Read more about Broad Street Oyster Co. →


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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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