Best Romantic Dining in Santa Barbara

Date Night Eats: 10 Super Romantic Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a world-renowned honeymoon destination for good reason. Romance is everywhere you look. Flowers bloom on every corner. Birds sing love songs from dusk till dawn. Soft ocean breezes perfume the evening air. So by now, you must be thinking: jeez, how exactly am I supposed to top that?

Never fear! When you’re looking to impress a date, all you need is this handy list of the top 10 romantic restaurants in Santa Barbara. These are the very best places to treat your sweetheart, whether you’re in the mood for a posh candlelit feast or casual appetizers with a view of the harbor.

From the old school, white tablecloth stylings of Bouchon to the hidden coziness of Cold Spring Tavern, the Santa Barbara dining scene offers a romantic background for almost every taste and occasion. Feeling fancy? Duck into Olio Crudo for elegant cocktails and perfectly crafted small bites. Looking for something a little more low key? Crack crab together at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company.

Just pick one, any one, and book a table for a romantic evening that’s sure to go down in the books (rather than in flames). Here at 10Best, we’ve always got your back!


Hungry for romance and a taste of the Mediterranean? Go to Zaytoon for Lebanese food in a lush, tropical setting. Two blocks off of bustling State Street, Zaytoon's patio is a romantic oasis hidden from view. Enjoy falafel, shawarma, kebab and many other Lebanese favorites in the open air, surrounded by the happy sounds of fountains and lit by twinkling lights. Long tables also make this the perfect destination for a dinner party. Flavored hookah water pipes are available on the patio as well. And if you'd prefer to stay in and cuddle at home? Zaytoon has a unique online takeout service that offers quick ordering via its website.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Looking for someplace private? Zaytoon has a date-night worthy patio that can't be seen from the street.

Geneva's expert tip: Plan a date night that includes dinner and a show at the nearby Lobero, California's oldest continuously operating theater. It's just a block away!

Read more about Zaytoon →

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

In our worldview, the best dates are the ones that include a memorable experience. And what could be more memorable than cracking crab legs together? At the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, you can pick your meal right out of the tanks. Established in 1980, this restaurant began as a shellfish shop before popular demand (and secret family recipes) transformed it into the bustling eatery it is today. Their menu includes all types of shellfish, but live abalones, crabs and lobsters - many locally sourced - are the real stars. Local and national beers are available on draft and pair nicely with a bread bowl of chowder on a cold or foggy day. There is bar seating inside, table seating outside and a even walk-up window for to-go orders.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Forget breaking bread, crack crab instead! For the butter-drenched date of your dreams, this shellfish shack can't be beat.

Geneva's expert tip: If you're in a hurry and there's a line to get in, skip the wait and order from the outside walk-up window instead.

Read more about Santa Barbara Shellfish Company →

The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto
Photo courtesy of Belmond El Encanto

For a date that truly makes you feel on top of the world, head to the Dining Room at the Belmond El Encanto. You cannot beat the view from their patio, high on the hills of Santa Barbara, overlooking the red roofs of town and the Pacific Ocean beyond. It's the perfect destination for a special brunch or romantic dinner. The food is fresh too, with herbs grown onsite and ingredients brought in from local farmers and fisherman. Service isn't the speediest, but you don't want to be rushed when you're here anyway. After your meal, take a moment to stroll the lush grounds, pop over to the bar or visit the spa to book your next luxury treatment.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: The view! The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto is perched on a quiet hillside where you can see the town and ocean below.

Geneva's expert tip: Make reservations for afternoon tea at least 24 hours in advance to enjoy an elegant selection of scones and crustless sandwiches with a view of the Pacific.

Read more about The Dining Room at Belmond El Encanto →

Bettina Pizzeria
Photo courtesy of Carter Hiyama

Treat your special someone to the best pizza in Santa Barbara at Bettina. Naturally leavened, organic dough is fermented for at least 48 hours, resulting in a crust with just the right mix of texture and flavor. You know it's there, you enjoy biting into it, but it doesn't take away from the flavor of the other ingredients topping the pie. A full menu of bread, small bites and antipasto means there's something for everyone, even (gasp!) non-pizza eaters. And a full bar and carefully curated wine menu helps you fall in love with everyone, especially the very prompt and courteous Bettina servers.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Need someplace casual but fancy to take your date? Go to Bettina for the pizza, stay for the cocktails and delicious, slightly pink atmosphere.

Geneva's expert tip: No reservation? No problem (maybe). Bettina's two bars - one facing the booze and one in front of the pizza oven - are always open to walk-ins.

Read more about Bettina Pizzeria →

Photo courtesy of Loquita

Take a romantic trip to Spain without the expense of air travel. Loquita is a bustling restaurant in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone that serves tapas, dinner and more. Decorated with patterned tile floors and copper cookware, the setting is a beautiful place to indulge in a plate of grilled octopus or dig into a shared dish of paella. Start with a refreshing cocktail at the bar, then relocate to the heated patio for a memorable evening. Between the sea breezes (it's just two blocks from the ocean) and red tile roof views, you'll feel like you've gone somewhere exotic without ever leaving city limits.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Treat your date to a photo-worthy evening at this gorgeous Spanish restaurant in one of Santa Barbara's most happening areas.

Geneva's expert tip: They serve four different gin and tonics here. Try the Plata y Oro, made with Monkey 47 gin and garnished with 24kt gold.

Read more about Loquita →


Olio Crudo Bar is the third restaurant from the team behind Santa Barbara's established Italian favorite Olio e Limone Ristorante. It's our pick for date night because of its beautifully crafted cocktails and elegant small plates. Olio Crudo specializes in Italian seafood dishes, served raw or minimally cooked and dressed with quality olive oil, sea salt and lemon. Think of it as the Italian version of sashimi. The bar is located on a bustling side street, just doors away from its sister restaurants. The atmosphere is chic and intimate, no small groups or large families to interrupt your meal. Olio Crudo adheres to a strict first come, first served policy. Reservations are not possible.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: For fancy cocktails and exceptional small plates in a truly intimate setting, take your date to Olio Crudo.

Geneva's expert tip: Go for happy hour. The food specials are incredible and many are half-price!

Read more about Olio Crudo Bar →

Santa Barbara

Is anything more romantic than treating your date to some of the best food in Santa Barbara? We don't think so. Making the most of its rich coastal location, the team at Bouchon crafts the region's best produce, meats and wines into dishes infused with West Coast flavor. Main courses include mustard-encrusted rack of lamb, bourbon and maple glazed duck breast and pan-roasted bluenose sea bass. The wine list showcases a stunning array of varietals and vineyards from the Central Coast. More than 40 wines are available by the glass, allowing you both to pick the perfect pairing for your date night dish. Does your sweetie have a sweet tooth? Then be sure to spend a moment with the dessert menu. With dishes like white chocolate bread pudding and blueberry lemon upside down cake, you're sure to end your night on a high note.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Bouchon is a classic Santa Barbara restaurant with impeccable service and a menu that adapts to every taste.

Geneva's expert tip: If the weather is fair, request a table on their patio. It's sheltered for privacy but faces the street.

Read more about Bouchon →

Via Maestra 42
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Tucked away on landlocked upper State Street is a romantic gem of an Italian eatery, Via Maestra 42. The restaurant is very small and, at first glance, barely resembles a restaurant at all. There are cases full of Italian delicacies, displays of tasty takeaway items and a few small tables set with roses inside (there are also a couple of tables outside). It's intimate and usually crowded, but you should settle in and wait for a seat. Your tastebuds will be handsomely rewarded. Every dish is delicious and authentic. Don't be surprised if you feel like you have been transported to Italy. And, whatever you do, save room for dessert: Via Maestra 42's classic Italian desserts--cannolis, tarts, gelato and more--can't be topped.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: At first glance: underwhelming. Once inside or seated on the small patio: the tiniest, the most romantic (and best-kept secret) Italian restaurant in town!

Geneva's expert tip: To avoid the envy that comes with spotting a dish more delicious than your own, order the pumpkin ravioli. You won't regret it.

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Santa Barbara

With four fireplaces, an idyllic setting and friendly (sometimes famous) patrons, Cold Spring Tavern has earned its reputation as one of the most romantic dining spots in California. Cold Spring Tavern was originally a stagecoach stop, a place for travelers to rest beside the stream, warm up at the fireplace and steel themselves for the trip ahead. Then in 1865, it opened as a restaurant, and it has been serving great meals ever since. Breakfast, lunch and dinner feature hearty fare and game meats. Tucked into a lush forest, there's live music every weekend, legendary tri-tip sandwiches and plenty to drink. The one thing there isn't is cell service, so you might as well relax and enjoy your date.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Four fireplaces, flickering lamplight and a great menu make this restaurant, hidden in a forest (and open since 1865), extra magical.

Geneva's expert tip: Bring a designated driver if you plan on imbibing adult beverages. The scenic winding roads that lead to Cold Spring Tavern are pretty but perilous.

Read more about Cold Spring Tavern →

For a date night that's almost guaranteed to be a success, head to The Lark for a chef-driven menu and great ambience. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, but you should sit outside for the best view of the night sky. There are plenty of warm heaters, and they even offer cozy lap blankets. The menu here celebrates Central Coast fare, from fruits and vegetables to meats and wines. Food is intended for sharing and served family-style. The rotating craft cocktail selection is small but thoughtful. We strongly suggest that you make reservations online well in advance. Attached to The Lark is Pearl Social, a cocktail bar with select nibbles available. Valet parking on site. Street parking and city lots nearby.

Recommended for Romantic Dining because: Great drinks and an impressive menu made for sharing makes The Lark a chic dinner date destination in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone.

Geneva's expert tip: Make a reservation online and indicate any special occasions when you do. You will often get a special touch during your meal, like a handwritten welcome note or special birthday dessert.

Read more about The Lark →


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