26/05/2024

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19 Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara

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19 Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Located on the central California coast, Santa Barbara is a destination for everyone. With its Mediterranean architecture, rich Spanish heritage, endless outdoor activities, and world-class wineries, it’s no surprise why Santa Barbara is so popular. However, the culinary scene has erupted in this area the past decade, with Michelin-star restaurants and other award-winning establishments entering the picture.

Santa Barbara, also known as the American Riviera, has everything from fine dining restaurants to food trucks serving delicious food. Many eateries use the bounty from the Pacific Ocean to serve fresh seafood, while other restaurants in Santa Barbara use the weekly farmers markets to determine their menus.

You can find classic seafood dishes like seared sea scallops, clam chowder, lobster rolls, grilled salmon, and oysters. But you’ll also find delicious dishes like Mexican gorditas, lemongrass shrimp curry, house-made pasta, grilled lamb chops, and flatbreads.

Whether you’re looking for a casual place to grab shrimp tacos or an amazing restaurant with Italian food and good service, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to see our list of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara!

Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara

1. Tacos Pipeye

Address: 217 N Milpas St #3281, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

If you’re looking for a neighborhood food truck serving some of the best (and most unique) tacos, you’ve gotta add Tacos Pipeye to your itinerary! Whether you want one of their standard tacos like barbacoa or al pastor or one of their more unusual tacos like buche (pork stomach) or borrego (braised lamb), this taco joint has it all.

You can also choose from various salsas to add to your delicious tacos, which always include house-made tortillas! The long lines and consistently high reviews led to a brick-and-mortar location. But you can still find the taco truck if you need a late-night fix of their beef tongue tacos!

See Related: Best Restaurants in San Diego, California

2. Caruso’s

Caruso's tables and interior
Caruso’s / Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

Address: 1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Without a doubt, Caruso’s is one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara, with its Michelin star and amazing food. This Italian restaurant is located at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel and offers only outdoor seating.

Not only is it known for its great food, but also for its sunsets. Caruso’s faces west and is on a private beach, allowing for some of the best views! The outdoor seating allows plenty of space between tables, giving a more private feel.

Owned by billionaire Rick Caruso, this upscale spot prides itself on food presentation, location, and service. The prix-fixe menu includes four courses and a dessert, perfect for a romantic night.

3. Toma Restaurant & Bar

Toma Restaurant & Bar  entrance
Toma Restaurant & Bar / Toma Restaurant & Bar

Address: 324 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

It’s no surprise that Toma Restaurant & Bar is one of the most popular reservations on OpenTable, with its waterfront location, delicious Italian food, and fine dining atmosphere. Located along Cabrillo Boulevard, Toma offers a coastal-inspired menu of grilled meats and seafood, including grilled octopus and vibrant flatbreads. Also, the ahi tuna cones are a must-try!

Like many Santa Barbara restaurants, Toma sources its ingredients from local farms, giving back to the community and providing guests with the freshest produce possible. This top restaurant also offers an extensive wine list, whether you want to share a bottle of Larkmead Estate Cabernet with your table or enjoy a glass of Hitching Post, Santa Maria Valley, Pinot Noir.

Toma is one of the top destinations for a romantic dinner, so book a reservation ahead of time. You won’t regret dining at this top spot!

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Santa Barbara, California

4. Mesa Verde Restaurant

Address: 1919 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Mesa Verde Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara for vegetarian and vegan specialties. Chef Greg Arnold’s casual restaurant is in the Mesa neighborhood and offers lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.

The lunch menu includes a Mushroom Umami Burger, Squash Blossom Quesadillas, and a Green Plant Bowl. While their menu isn’t extensive, their dishes are satisfying and delicious.

This seat-yourself restaurant is one of the best places to grab food if you have special dietary preferences, including gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

5. Jane Restaurant

Address: 1311 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

A popular restaurant on State Street for Santa Barbara locals, Jane offers something for everyone. In a historical Spanish building in the Theater Art District of downtown Santa Barbara, Jane has a large communal table and an intimate balcony table for seating options.

Menu items include delights such as Goat Cheese and Smoked Salmon Pancakes, Seasonal Fresh Fish and Shellfish Stew, and the Idaho Trout Salad. Don’t forget their house-made desserts, including Coconut Chiffon Cake with Sauce Anglaise and Chocolate Marquise with Raspberry Sauce and Whipped Cream.

The floor-to-ceiling fireplace provides warmth to all guests, while the delicious coastal cuisine and fantastic hospitality make it a perfect dining experience. With over three decades of serving locals, Jane is easily one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. There’s no doubt this downtown favorite will delight you!

See Related: Best Restaurants in Dana Point, California

6. La Super-Rica Taqueria

Address: 622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Although La Super-Rica Taqueria is one of the most casual restaurants on our list, it was one of Julia Child’s favorite spots for authentic Mexican fare. And when she brought her chef friends and a food critic to the restaurant, it exploded in popularity.

Menu items include chicken suizas, tacos, and gorditas, but the most popular item is the Super-Rica Especial. One bite of the tender chunks of pork tossed with stuffed roasted chiles will convert you into a lifelong fan.

This Milpas taqueria still has lines out the door decades after the endorsement by Julia Child. The long lines are a testament to the authentic flavors and quality of the food.

7. Bossie’s Kitchen

Address: 901 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

This casual spot, with its legendary cow atop the building, is easily one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. That legendary cow is Bossie, and it comes from the original owners of the building, Live Oak Dairy. Now, Bossie’s Kitchen focuses on seasonal vegetables from the farmer’s market and organic menu items.

 The restaurant is the perfect break from the busy downtown restaurants in Santa Barbara. Although the space is small, patio dining allows you to enjoy your lunch or dinner al fresco.

Menu options include a Korean fried chicken sandwich, a salmon rice bowl, garlic-herb rotisserie chicken with gravy, and a pork belly sandwich. And you can’t forget the truffle fries!

If you can’t make it to Bossie’s Kitchen in person, order it for delivery!

See Related: Where to Stay in Santa Barbara: Best Areas & Neighborhoods

8. Lucky Penny

Address: 127 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Lucky Penny is like Lark’s younger sibling, a casual upscale food truck open all day. This order-at-the-counter spot is tiled with more than 150,000 pennies, giving the eatery its name. Located in the Funk Zone, this eatery adds to the “funk” of the area with its shimmering copper exterior.

This food truck is famous for its artisanal pizzas and serves sandwiches and salads. However, their pizzas are anything but boring, with options like the Roasted Maitake Mushroom, with white truffle cream, butternut squash, and hazelnuts, or The Californian, with lemon ricotta, basil pesto, pine nuts, and marinated artichokes.

You can also enjoy the outdoor seating with their ever-popular Frose, a glass of wine, or one of their beers. Have one of their Spider Floats or some organic soft-serve ice cream for a sweet treat.

9. Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar

Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar building
Brophy Bros. Restaurant and Clam Bar / Facebook

Address: 119 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Although Brophy Bros. is a very touristy place, we can’t leave it off our list. Brophy Bros. is worth the trip, with some of the best views in Santa Barbara and some of the best clam chowder. This casual restaurant is almost guaranteed to have a wait every night, but the view makes it worthwhile.

Appetizers include tasty delights like steamed mussels and clams, oysters on the half shell, and a Dungeness crab cocktail. Brophy Bros. is the perfect mix of fresh seafood and simple preparation, so there are no fancy sauces or unpronounceable items on their menu. But that doesn’t detract from the delicious fresh fish specials like grilled white sea bass or pan-blackened yellowtail.

Brophy Bros. has a decent wine menu, a good draft beer selection, and a full bar. While waiting for your table, enjoy the harbor views until your name is called.

See Related: Best Road Trips in California (+ Scenic Drives)

10. Sama Sama Kitchen

Address: 1208 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

The Michelin Bib Gourmand-approved Sama SamaKitchen is a Southeast Asian fusion restaurant conveniently located on State Street. Serving lunch and dinner, Sama Sama’s menu items are prepared with produce from local farms. The bright space and large outdoor patio make it an equally fun and hip dining experience.

With Sama Sama’s family-style menu, you can choose items like crispy duck salad, Brussels sprouts, spicy Vietnamese wings, pan-seared octopus, and grilled pork ribs. You can’t leave without ordering dessert with options like the Banana Donut Fritter or the Palm Sugar Cake.

Sama Sama is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara, with its ambiance, unique Asian fusion menu, and fantastic service. In Indonesian, “Sama Sama” means “you’re welcome,” and after dining here, you’ll find yourself shouting “thank you!” from the rooftops. Meanwhile, the restaurant confidently whispers, “you’re welcome.”

11. Satellite

Address: 1117 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

With many wine-tasting rooms in Santa Barbara, there’s no shortage of good wine in the area. But if you’re looking for a great spot with natural wines and delectable vegetarian food, you’ve got to put Satellite on your list!

You don’t have to be a wine expert to find something you like here, as the expert staff will help you find something to delight almost any taste bud at many price points. Most of the wines by the glass cost around $15, but you can also purchase bottles to share with your group.

Most people come for the natural wines but stay for the food. Menu options include Confit Brassicas, Panzanella Salad, Vegan Mac and Cheese, and Roasted Broccolini. You can enjoy your beverages and food while sitting on the outdoor patio.

This is one of Santa Barbara’s top spots for vegetarian cuisine, delicious wine, and a great atmosphere.

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit

12. Cold Spring Tavern

Address: 5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

This former stagecoach stop turned saloon is one of the more unique restaurants in Santa Barbara. Cold Spring Tavern serves American fare in an antique-filled Western atmosphere in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Cold Spring Tavern is famous for its tri-tip, thick slices of grilled steak seasoned with spices. But they also have entrees ranging from Venison Steak, Braised Lamb Shank, and Rabbit Medallions. However, weekends are a different experience, with live music and tri-tip BBQ sandwiches served outside. You can still order the full menu inside, but the outdoor experience is a fun experience not to be missed!

This is one of Santa Barbara’s most unique dining options, with a practical living museum available to admire while you eat.

13. The Black Sheep “SB Brasserie”

The Black Sheep
The Black Sheep “SB Brasserie” / Facebook

Address: 18 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

The Black Sheep “SB Brasserie” is a modern restaurant in old town Santa Barbara. Its eclectic menu offers a Californian twist on French cuisine. The building boasts a long history of saloons and French restaurants, giving The Black Sheep an upscale pub feel.

One of the best ways to experience The Black Sheep is at Chef Jake Reimer’s Chef’s Table. This unique dining experience features the best Santa Barbara cuisine and excellent wines. On top of that, the chef will include gastronomical surprises with the meal.

You can also order from their menu, which includes options like Stone Crab Beignets, Cassoulet, French Onion Soup, and Wagyu Tartare. End your dining experience with a glass of port or Brown Sugar Creme Brûlée.

The Chef’s Table at The Black Sheep is one of Santa Barbara’s top experiences, so don’t miss it.

See Related: Best Waterfalls in California to Visit

14. Barbareño

Address: 205 W Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Located in downtown Santa Barbara, Barbareño focuses on delivering innovative dishes using local produce and taking inspiration from the area’s Chumash Indian heritage. The casual yet refined eatery offers a modern take on Central Coast cuisine.

Small plates include Citrus Beets, Ricotta Dumplings, and Grilled Avocado. But the real winners are the entrees like the Acorn Tagliatelle with charred oak broth, a New York Strip with brown butter miso, and the Santa Maria BBQ.

Their desserts are wonderfully made; the Ojai Hive and Honey includes panna cotta, bee pollen, honeycomb, and fresh fruit. And the Twentyfour Blackbirds includes a kokoa brownie with oko caribe truffle, elvesia mousse, and Madagascar tuile.

15. bouchon Santa Barbara

Address: 9 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

This fine dining restaurant (not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name in Beverly Hills), is one for special occasions. Bouchon (though they don’t capitalize the “B”), serves French cuisine in an intimate French farmhouse setting. This restaurant offers some of the best central coast wines and California-inspired French food.

Starters include Forest Mushroom Ragout with black truffle cheese and Cured and Smoked Duo of Salmon and Hamachi with creme fraiche and crispy capers. Main entrees include delights such as Maple-Glazed Duck Breast and Confit of Thigh with port thyme demi-glace and Crispy Skin Pacific Salmon with a lemon verbena beurre blanc.

The quality, presentation, and service make bouchon one of the top Santa Barbara restaurants. Reservations are highly recommended at this hot spot.

See Related: Best Places to Travel in Your 20s in the US

16. Bibi Ji

Address: 734 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Opened in 2018, Bibi Ji serves contemporary Indian cuisine on popular State Street. The spot is perfect for solo drinks at the bar, a date night, or a group dinner with friends. Its unique space with neon lights makes it fun and spunky.

Most people come here for the local delight, the Uni Biryani, served inside a locally caught sea urchin. But if that doesn’t delight your taste buds, you can always try the traditional Butter Chicken, Barra Kebab (lamp chops with cumin, nutmeg, and turmeric), or Vada (a lentil fritter with coconut chutney). Note: the Barra Kebab is a Michelin favorite!

Reservations are recommended at this hot spot, but takeout and delivery are available if you’d rather eat in your PJs.

17. The Lark

Address: 131 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

The Lark is a stylish yet relaxed farm-to-fork restaurant in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. This former fish market turned restaurant is upscale but not pretentious. Guests love the 24-seat communal table, the vintage lighting, and the handmade furniture.

The restaurant focuses on family-style portions, so the guests at your party can share many plates and get a taste of the California coast. Some popular menu items include Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Santa Barbara Hope Ranch Mussels, Brown Butter Cornbread, and Duck Fat Roasted Peanuts. But they also have more traditional items like Wayne Farms Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Creekstone Prime Ribeye.

The Lark also offers modern craft cocktails and a fairly extensive wine list. This unique spot is open for dinner and weekend brunch.

See Related: Best Day Trips from San Francisco, California

18. Secret Bao

Address: 1201 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

This modern Asian eatery in downtown Santa Barbara is a popular spot for lunch and dinner. Don’t be fooled by its casual atmosphere, though, as its food is top-notch. If you’ve never had bao before, now’s your chance! Bao is a yeast bun filled with various meats and vegetables and then steamed.

Favorites include the KFC Bao, Korean fried chicken, pickled red onions, and umami mayo, and the Korokke Bao, chicken, potato fritters, and umami mayo. But the menu offers so much more, including noodle bowls, poke bowls, soups, and Dim Sum like Szechuan Chili Wontons and Curry Potato Dumplings.

There’s something at Secret Bao for everyone!

19. Loquita

Address: 202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Loquita is the place to go when you’re craving Spanish-style tapas. Located in the Funk Zone, this dinner-only restaurant is almost always bustling with customers. You can go to Loquita and enjoy cocktails and people-watch or share a variety of small plates with your friends. Their outdoor seating area is gigantic, making it a great place to enjoy the beautiful weather.

On their Spanish-inspired menu, you’ll find everything from cold and hot tapas, wood-fired meats and seafood like rainbow trout, and seasonal paellas. You’ll find traditional paellas like seafood and chorizo and more unique ones like avocado and tempura squash blossom.

Their al fresco seating, fresh produce, Spanish wines, and good food make this popular spot perfect for a fun night out on the town! Don’t leave before ordering their crunchy churros with chocolate, though!

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