Santa Barbara's Best: 10 Hidden Gem Restaurants in San Roque

When you want to eat where Santa Barbara locals eat, head up to San Roque. This section of town is just north of downtown and home to many great restaurants, both new and old.

If you're looking for somewhere casual to grab a bite (and maybe a beer), tuck into Yellow Belly for a homemade pizza, beet salad and cast iron cookies. Patio seating and welcoming bar make this a fun place to meet friends.

For a fancier date night, make a reservation at Via Maestra 42 or the Tee Off. Both of these restaurants are local favorites. Via Maestra serves the best Italian food in the area out of tiny restaurant with just a few indoor tables and even fewer outdoor tables. The Tee Off is a swanky old steak house with padded seats, stiff drinks and dim lighting. You get a veggie tray and soup and salad with every meal.

San Roque is a great neighborhood to wake up to, too, with several delicious breakfast places vying for business. Pop into Renaud's to try the very best croissants you've ever had in your life. Or go for a relaxing bakery bite at Our Daily Bread and pick up a loaf for dinner later, while you're at it. 


Our Daily Bread has been a Santa Barbara favorite since it first opened its doors in 1981. Beloved for their fresh-baked breads and crazy good pastries, Our Daily Bread is a great stop whether you're in the mood for a whole meal or just a little nibble. You can take warm loafs to go, or stay and enjoy breakfast or lunch on their sunny patio. Breakfast is served Monday through Friday mornings and all day on the weekends. Pair your meal with a piping hot espresso or chai latte made from scratch. Lunch sandwiches are served with a side salad and on your choice of bread. They also have gluten-free breads and pastries, all of which are also vegan.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: Our Daily Bread is a cute bakery spot for breakfast and lunch. They even have gluten-free options!

Geneva's expert tip: Pop in for breakfast and pick up a loaf to enjoy with dinner later the same day.

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Farmer Boy Restaurant has been a local dining institution since 1958. This diner-style eatery serves breakfast and lunch comfort foods, made to order with fresh ingredients. Now under new ownership, it has remodeled and reopened, but many classic menu items are still available, including their ooey gooey cinnamon rolls. For breakfast try a scramble or some chicken and waffles. At lunch, grab a hearty burger or some fish and chips (this place is operated by the same family who owns the amazing Brophy Brothers seafood restaurant down at the harbor). There are inside and outside tables, as well as a long dining counter. Free parking right out front.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: Farmer Boy has been a local favorite for breakfast and lunch since 1958!

Geneva's expert tip: Chicken and waffles not chicken-y enough for you? Add two more wings for just $4!

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The best chocolate croissant you will ever enjoy is not waiting for you in Paris. (Sorry if that shakes up some plans for intercontinental travel but, don't worry, they still have the best escargot.) No, it is right here in Santa Barbara, waiting, nay, beckoning from the beautiful glass case at Renaud's Patisserie & Bistro. Before you even take the first bite, you know there is something different about this croissant, something that makes it superior to any previous croissant you've eaten. Just put one finger on the shell and you will feel the difference; the crust is so flaky and perfectly baked that it literally shatters at the touch! And yet somehow, through a magical method likely known only to Monsieur Renaud, the interior is still moist and chewy. And the chocolate? Of the highest quality, dark yet sweet and not too much. The almond croissants aren't shabby, either.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: Arguably the best chocolate croissants outside of Paris (and we'd put them up against Parisian croissants, too).

Geneva's expert tip: The almond croissants are pretty dang amazing, too.

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Shintori Sushi Factory
Photo courtesy of Rick S.

For delicious Japanese food in a cozy (read: smaller than most shoeboxes) setting, look no further than Shintori Sushi Factory. From their delicious proprietary rolls to their tasty teriyaki bowls, there is something for every appetite. Order the famous Shintori Dome and receive a mound of fresh raw fish and avocado over a bed of sushi rice. Service may be slow at peak hours, but the staff does everything in their power to make your wait enjoyable. Free edamame is presented with most meals, and felt pens at every table encourage patrons to write on the cheery paper lanterns that hang above their seats. Fresh fruit and Hershey Kisses often come with your check. Visit Shintori for a light and creative meal in a fun atmosphere.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: This tiny sushi joint is as good as the fancier sushi restaurants in town... but way less expensive.

Geneva's expert tip: Try the Shintori Dome, a delicately layered dome of rice, tuna, scrab, shrimp and avocado. It's refreshing, unusual and easy to share.

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Yellow Belly is a comfortable bar and restaurant just off the beaten path in Santa Barbara. Tucked in a mainly residential neighborhood, it's a real local's place - exactly what you hope to discover when you're on vacation. There's indoor, outdoor and bar seating. The dinner menu includes comfort classics like homemade pizza, beer brats and mac n cheese, with some nice salads and fresh greens mixed in. Yellow Belly has 10 craft beer taps that are in constant rotation. You can call ahead or check out their Facebook page to see what's pouring... or just head in and take your chances! (Chances are it'll be the good kind of surprise.) Reservations not accepted.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: Yellow Belly is a tasty local spot to stop in for a beer and a delicious, affordable meal with friends.

Geneva's expert tip: Happy hour is Monday through Thursday from 5 - 6:30 p.m. Get $2 off select beers, wines and bites.

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Looking for the best Indian food in Santa Barbara? Head directly to Flavor of India! Located on upper State Street (in an area also known as 'uptown'), this family-run restaurant has been serving up beloved Indian favorites like korma and tandoori for over 15 years. Flavor of India has won dozens of awards for best Indian food in the region. They serve lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. A lunch buffet is available, in addition to the full menu. Beer, wine and delicious chai tea is served. Take out is also an option. Free parking behind the restaurant or on the street out front.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: Flavor of India is consistently voted best Indian food in Santa Barbara by the locals. Great family-owned restaurant!

Geneva's expert tip: You can order any dish here mild, medium or spicy. Don't try spicy unless you're a pro!

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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 - 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 San Roque's Best Restaurants because: As far as atmosphere goes, it doesn't get much better than this! Big red booths, photo-adorned walls and STIFF drinks with a family-friendly menu.

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.

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Chuck's of Hawaii is the Santa Barbara steakhouse where everybody knows your name... if you're a local, anyway. Chuck's has been serving award-winning steaks, wines and seafood in the same uptown location since 1967! This cozy restaurant is the perfect place to take a date, host a birthday dinner or bring out-of-town guests. There's a comfortable bar up front and intimate seating in the back. There's also an epic salad bar with the tastiest toppings and warm, fresh bread. You'll enjoy the relaxed, tropical vibe (and you'll love their legendary mai tais). Lots of free parking right out back; just pull in where you see the tiki torches burning.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: Enjoy great steak and seafood in a true local's environment. Try a mai tai and don't skip the salad bar!

Geneva's expert tip: Don't miss Chuck's anniversary celebration in January every year. They really roll back prices!

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Tee Off
Photo courtesy of Aron Ives

Looking for a jewel of a steak house in Santa Barbara? Look no further than the Tee Off. 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 San Roque's Best Restaurants because: If you're looking for a good, old fashioned steak house with deep booths, dim lighting and strong cocktails, this is it.

Geneva's expert tip: Their website says it best: "Meet old friends and new at the Tee-Off, where the drinks are stiff, but the people aren't."

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Via Maestra 42
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

Tucked away on landlocked upper State St. is a 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 freezers full of Italian delicacies, a gelato counter, cases of tasty take away items and a few tables inside (there are also a couple of tables outside). Do not let this casual appearance affect your decision to eat here. Settle in and wait for a seat - it can be very crowded - and your tastebuds will be rewarded. Every dish is delicious and authentic. Portions are small, more European than American, so start with an antipasti. And, whatever you do, save room for dessert: Via Maestra 42's classic Italian desserts - cannolis, tarts and more - can't be topped.

Recommended for San Roque's Best Restaurants because: The best Italian food in Santa Barbara can be found here (and the gelato counter is killer, too).

Geneva's expert tip: To avoid the pangs of envy that come with spotting a dish even more delicious than your own, order the pumpkin ravioli. It is the stuff of legend here in Santa Barbara.

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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