Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Veggie Friendly: 10 Best Santa Barbara Vegetarian Restaurants

Vegetable lovers rejoice! Dozens of Santa Barbara restaurants serve up meat-free meals you'll love. You won't have to eat a boring grilled cheese or garden burger the whole time you're here... unless you want to, that is! 

With so many great vegetarian-friendly restaurants to chose from in this happy seaside town, you're going to need some help to get the most bang for your buck. 10Best to the rescue! We've found the 10 best vegetarian restaurants in this beautiful town. Raise your forks and get ready to feast - we've found the tastiest sandwiches, pasta, breakfasts, ethnic foods and more.

If you're in the mood to sink your teeth into some delicious carbs, visit Metropulos for a caprese sandwich that can't be beat. Would you rather slurp up some noodles? Sama Sama has Indonesian-inspired dishes, like mie goreng and tempe tacos, that feature locally-sourced vegetables, highlighted with exotic seasonings. Stop in for dinner... or a cocktail!

Are you a vegan? Well that's just fine and dandy. No need to limit yourself to boring salads - instead, head to Mesa Verde for lunch, dinner or even brunch. Try their potato latkes with tempeh bacon. They have gluten free treats too!

Have you been to any of the restaurants on this list? If so, don't forget to leave a review to help other travelers and food enthusiasts like yourself!


C'est Cheese
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

C'est Cheese got its start as a humble cheese shop in Santa Barbara. It is still a great place to buy cheese, but a recent expansion has turned into more of a meeting place for locals and travelers alike. A cafe serves delicious, made-to-order bistro breakfast in the morning. If you prefer to start your day with something smaller, a coffee and a freshly baked bun should set you right. The lunch menu offers grilled cheeses (of course), fresh salads and soups and, in the afternoons, there are divine cheese and salumi boards worth lingering over. Two patios and a cozy indoor dining space make this the perfect place to enjoy some fromage with your nearest and dearest, just blocks from the heart of downtown.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: If you're a vegetarian who still loves dairy, this place is a must-visit. Part cheese shop, part restaurant with an open air patio.

Geneva's expert tip: No matter what you order, get one of their practically unpronounceable kouign amanns on the side. Trust us.

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Do you like cakes? How about pies? We thought so! For the best, freshest, most homemade pies in Santa Barbara, head to Crushcakes Cafe & Simply Pies. They make scrumptious cupcakes and mouthwatering pies using the freshest local ingredients. There are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options as well. Almost any flavor or variety can be made in any quantity by special request. You can call ahead to place an order, pop in to see what they've got or even stop by for breakfast or lunch. Free parking right out front. Located in Goleta, just a short drive from downtown Santa Barbara. Wholesale and event orders available.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: Sometimes the best vegetarian food is dessert! Stop in for fresh pies and mouthwatering cupcakes.

Geneva's expert tip: Almost any pie or cake here can be made gluten-free. If you're looking for a specific flavor, be sure to call ahead.

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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. Plenty of vegetarian dishes to choose from! 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 Vegetarian because: Flavor of India has the best Indian food in town - bar none - and is also run by the nicest family ever.

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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Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

We begin with a warning: do not even think about setting foot in this specialty deli in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone unless you are prepared to buy a handful of assorted delicacies you didn't even know you needed. That said, if you are the type of person that likes discovering exotic seasonings, buttery cheeses and unusual European ingredients, this is the lunch stop for you. First you must attempt to walk straight to the counter - no getting distracted - to place your order for a decadent vegetarian sandwich or panini made with luxe ingredients. Their caprese sandwich is a veggie delight! And then, while your order is being crafted by the wonderful staff, you are free to browse. Good luck getting out of there with just one item!

Recommended for Vegetarian because: So many vegetarians love sandwiches. And yet so many sandwiches are not vegetarian. Metropulos has multiple amazing veggie sammies.

Geneva's expert tip: After you eat, head to the freezer section to grab a frozen veggie pot pie for later. They're delightful!

Read more about Metropulos →

Santa Barbara
Dave's Dogs 805
Photo courtesy of Dave's Dogs

If you love hot dogs, you're in luck. And if you only like hot dogs, prepare to love hot dogs. Dave's Dogs looks like a humble hot dog cart, but it's so much more. Think mac n' cheese dogs topped with bacon, pizza dogs, and jalapeno popper dogs mounded with creamy cheese and spicy peppers. Wait, you're a vegetarian? No problem. Dave's has veggie dogs too! Prices are super affordable. Keep your eye out for the special dog of the week. Although Dave's is open for lunch at this address every weekday, you can also find their cart out late night on the weekends. Or reserve it for a private party!

Recommended for Vegetarian because: The Indonesian-inspired options here are delicious ,but be warned, they change the menu up often!

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Their slogan says it all: better life through better food. Don't let your meals slow you down; you can grab complete nutrition on the go at Backyard Bowls. Serving acai bowls and nutritious smoothies, Backyard Bowls offers a healthy alternative for breakfast or lunch. Chilly and gray out? They have warm oatmeal and quinoa bowls too. Most ingredients are organic and none contain any chemicals or high fructose corn syrup. Better still, Backyard Bowls engages in sustainable practices that are good for the planet, too. Food scraps are composted and to-go containers are biodegradable. Visit Backyard Bowls anytime you want to eat real food and feel really good about it.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: For a filling breakfast or lunch that won't weigh you down, Backyard Bowls is a great choice.

Geneva's expert tip: The Island Bowl is a tropical delight. The acai, pineapple and coconut flavors will make you feel like you're in Hawaii.

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Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar
Photo courtesy of Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar

For the most delicious noodles in Santa Barbara, head to Empty Bowl Noodle Bar inside the Santa Barbara Public Market. This casual noodle bar makes everything fresh. You can grab at seat at the long counter for a casual meal. Or order your food to go and either take it home or eat it at any of the open seats in the marketplace. They craft a variety of Thai-inspired noodle dishes to order. Appetizers are equally delicious; their green papaya salad with heirloom carrots is almost too pretty to eat. To drink they have craft beers on tap, wine and Thai iced tea. Empty Bowl Noodle Bar is right in the center of Public Market, with many other shop and food vendors in the same building.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: Traveling with meat eaters? Find dishes you'll all love at this noodle shop in the middle of a market. It's delicious!

Geneva's expert tip: Go on Tuesday or Thursday to try their specials: Hungry Man Noodles and Tom Kha respectively.

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Photo courtesy of Oliver's of Montecito

Oliver's is a high end vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the Montecito area. You won't find any crunchy granola or beaded curtains here... or whatever else may come to mind when you think of plant-based cuisine. Instead you'll be welcomed by clean lines, great cocktails and a streamlined menu of small plates, salads and entrees. People love the artichoke "crab cakes" and seasonal flatbreads. You can absolutely make reservations and should try to get a spot on the dog-friendly patio if the weather is nice. It's a great destination for health conscious eaters, but even those who may be hesitant to try vegan food will find something to love.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: So vegetarian it's vegan, this fresh Montecito restaurant is the perfect date night spot.

Geneva's expert tip: Start your meal with the artichoke "crab cakes." They're crisp, savory and lovely to share (but you might not want to).

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This restaurant in Santa Barbara's beautiful Mesa neighborhood is a vegetarian's dream. Mesa Verde's flavor-packed menu goes far beyond your standard garden burger offerings, into a colorful world of bright local flavors. For lunch, try a pulled mushroom sandwich with harissa and housemade turnip pickles. For dinner, why not try celeriac root linguini with edible pink roses? There are also flatbreads and starters that are perfect for sharing. Brunch is served on the weekends. Pair your meal with with one of their herbal teas, tonics or coffees. Gluten-free and vegan dishes are heavily featured on the menu. Free parking directly out front.

Recommended for Vegetarian because: For gourmet vegetarian fare, you won't find anything more creative (or delicious).

Geneva's expert tip: Don't miss brunch! On Saturdays and Sundays Mesa Verde serves up the most creative brunch menu in town.

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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 veggie 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 Vegetarian because: An affordable vegetarian paradise! Tacos, burgers, salads, pizzas and so much more - all meat-free.

Geneva's expert tip: Order an orange or carrot milkshake to finish your meal. Sounds weird, tastes amazing!

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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