10 Best Waterfront Santa Barbara Restaurants

For any Santa Barbara beach bum who doesn't want to leave the sand, getting hungry can be a drag. Do you have to put on proper clothes? And possibly even shower? Or do you pack a picnic and let it sit for hours while you build sandcastles? Eat soggy sandwiches and gritty salads?

No, thank you very much. Here in Santa Barbara and the surrounding areas, there are plenty of places to grab a bite in sight of the shoreline. You may not even have to put on pants to do so. Isn't that novel?

For the most casual dining experience, dust the sand off and order at the walk up counter of the East Beach Grill, a family-friendly restaurant right on the beach. Or, if you're feeling fancy, make a dinner reservation and take a date to the Boathouse, a secluded seafood restaurant on one of Santa Barbara's most scenic shores. This restaurant is also a great brunch spot (and it's located on a pet-friendly beach, so you can bring Fido and make a morning of it>)

Looking for something in between? Just consult this list. Whether you're hungry for shellfish, sandwiches or something else entirely, we'll steer you in the right direction!

Sambo's on the Beach


At one time, this restaurant was part of a nationwide chain, but these days, it's the original and only remaining branch, so all the focus goes solely into its quality. Named after Sam and Bo, its founders' nicknames, the place serves terrific breakfast fare. Since 1957, the family-owned restaurant has offered eggs benedict, omelets, buttermilk pancakes, steak and eggs, pork chops and eggs and even eggs with chorizo. Folks find it a great bargain for breakfast. The ocean views and a pleasant atmosphere don't hurt the cause either. Try it out on a weekday or arrive early on a weekend; the brunch rush can create quite the wait!

Santa Barbara


As if the name alone doesn't give it away, you'll know from the second-story location at Stearn's Wharf that this place appreciates surfing. In fact, the motif appears throughout the restaurant and bar. An outdoor patio renders ocean views that much more vibrant, and folks often hang out just to watch the sunset and nurse a cold drink. You'll find families and singles both in attendance, and the menu offers everything from burgers and sandwiches to salads, pizza, fish, and steaks. A great stop-off in the midst of sightseeing. Ideal for casual beers or cocktails. There are also free peanuts, perfect for snacking!

Santa Barbara FisHouse


The motto at the Santa Barbara FisHouse says it all: Usually local, always fresh. If you're looking for some fresh catches and pretty view, head to the FisHouse, a welcoming seafood restaurant located just across the street from the Pacific Ocean. The menu celebrates sea creatures of all kinds, including local halibut. Reserves a table in the dining room or on the patio or belly up to the full bar. Large aquariums and various decorations set the under-the-sea tone. Themed cocktails and local wines round out your visit. Traveling with a picky kiddo or two? No problem, they have a great kids menu, too.

Beachside Bar-Cafe


Can you beat a seafood restaurant and bar that's right on the beach? Of course not! The Beachside Bar-Cafe is the place to go in Goleta if you want to enjoy a meal and perhaps an adult beverage while watching the waves. Many of their signature drinks include nice tropical garnishes, like umbrellas. Just the kind of thing to sip before a stroll along the sand. Stop by for happy hour during the week. If you happen to work up an appetite after a cocktail or two, try the fish tacos. They're scrumptious! Free parking in the lot right out front.

The Spot
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives


Located just past the train tracks on Linden Avenue, mere steps from the beach, is The Spot: a trusty little shack of a restaurant that all the locals know. Serving up delicious burgers and fries for over 90 years, The Spot is Carpinteria's go to for a quick, savory bite. The surprisingly vast menu also includes veggie burgers, select Mexican specialties and fish n' chips. There's no dress code so come in your bikini or trunks if you please. There is seating outside OR you can just walk across the street to the park for an impromptu picnic!

Santa Barbara


The Boathouse is a Santa Barbara seafood restaurant with the best location in town... it's right on the beach. Tucked away in a quiet part of town and facing Hendry's beach, this is a great place to go for a romantic date, family dinner or birthday celebration. Enjoy fresh surf and turf on a beautiful patio that's sunny during the day and nicely heated at night. Local seafood is served as available. Fresh Santa Barbara catches include Spiny lobster and Dungeness crab. Brunch, lunch and dinner served daily. Happy hour is from 3 PM to close Sunday through Thursday, 8 PM to close on Fridays. Parking is free, but does get crowded.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company


Seafood doesn't get any fresher than this. At the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, you can pick your lunch 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 even walk-up window for to go orders.

Santa Barbara
Brophy Bros.


Unbeatable harbor views issue a siren's call to patrons at this popular restaurant. Of course, their menu full of delicious seafood doesn't hurt business either. Bustling and busy, Brophy Bros. serves up some of the city's most coveted clam chowder, along with awesome garlic baked clams and hefty portions of cioppino. Fresh, grilled fish is also a fine choice, along with a host of other fresh-from-the-sea options. Grab a table on the patio overlooking the water for the most romantic experience. These are the best seats, even on wet, gloomy days when they pull down transparent siding to protect you from the elements. Arrive early because weekend waits can be over an hour.

Padaro Beach Grill


Is there a prettier beachfront restaurant in Santa Barbara county? We don't think so. Overlooking Santa Claus beach, a local favorite, the Padaro Beach Grill boasts a park-like outdoor dining room that's ideal for day dates and impromptu gatherings. Enjoy fresh salads, savory burgers and sinfully rich milkshakes that are blended by hand only after you place your order. A large sandbox encourages the kiddos to play while grownups indulge in refreshing beers and local wines. Try the shrimp salad or one of the 100% prime chuck burgers. Live bands are common on the weekends. Free (but often crowded) parking right out front.


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