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An overhead shot of crispy fried tacos drizzled with sauce on a grey plate.
Classic crispy tacos from La Paloma Cafe.
ACME Hospitality

14 Destination-Worthy Restaurants for Dining in Santa Barbara

Where to eat well in the beautiful coastal city just north of Los Angeles

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Classic crispy tacos from La Paloma Cafe.
| ACME Hospitality

Santa Barbara is a Central Coast jewel. Just 90 minutes from much of Los Angeles, the seaside city is home to a bounty of hotels, restaurants, seafood spots, and beaches — all perfect for a weekend summer getaway. Weekly farmers markets pull from the surrounding agricultural community while fishermen offer up a feast from the sea, making the area a hotbed of culinary activity, particularly along busy State Street. Head up soon for cooler temperatures, endless views, and great food at one of these fantastic restaurants in Santa Barbara, sorted geographically.

Add: Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, La Paloma Cafe, Alessia Patisserie & Cafe, Blackbird

Remove: Yoichi’s, Caruso’s, Test Pilot, Little Dom’s Seafood

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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1. Cold Spring Tavern

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5995 Stagecoach Rd
Santa Barbara, CA
(805) 967-0066
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Make sure to have a full tank of gas before tackling the San Marcos Pass. This twisty stretch of Route 154 rises north of Santa Barbara and delivers you to Cold Spring Tavern, a former stagecoach stop that’s been serving food since 1865. The restaurant remains popular with bikers and wine country tourists thanks to a Western setting that includes wagon wheels and picnic tables, and dishes like buffalo burgers, venison steak sandwiches, and wild game black bean chili. Saturdays and Sundays are the best time to visit for grilled tri-tip.

Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara, California.
Cold Spring Tavern
Farley Elliott

2. Dune Coffee Roasters

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1101 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 963-2721
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Dune Coffee Roasters Downtown location added a cozy parklet/seating area last summer. It’s a colorful spot to grab coffee while walking through the pedestrian section of State Street. Opt for Dune’s chico iced americano and a sticky cinnamon roll. They pair perfectly.

3. Bibi Ji

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734 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 560-6845
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Modern Indian spot Bibi Ji has found its way with the locals and tourists who traverse State Street. The eclectic menu moves from street food snacks to curries and more composed plates from the grill with lots of local wines to match.

4. Tondi Gelato

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401 Paseo Nuevo
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 680-1631
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Head right into the husband and wife-owned Tondi Gelato, where Deborah or James (aka Tondi) is in the production area of the shop whipping up a new batch of vegan or full creamed gelato, with flavors that include pistachio, salted caramel, lemon, or potent espresso.

Espresso gelato from Tondi Gelato in Santa Barbara.
Tondi Gelato
Mona Holmes

5. Alessia Patisserie and Cafe

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134 E Canon Perdido St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 679-5900
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Alessia isn’t just one of these “good for Santa Barbara” shops. This French cafe turns out worthy croissants, breakfast items, and coffee that could hold their own just about anywhere, so be sure to swing by for a morning bite.

6. La Paloma Cafe

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702 Anacapa St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 966-7029
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The ACME Hospitality team (the Lark, Loquita, etc.) has returned La Paloma to its 1940s-era glory, turning up the breezy, artsy vibes and expanding the ample patio. Stop by for margaritas in the setting sun, but don’t forget a carnitas plate wagyu tri-tip dinner, either.

An overhead shot of crispy fried tacos drizzled with sauce on a grey plate.
Crispy tacos from La Paloma.
ACME Hospitality

7. Toma Restaurant & Bar

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324 W Cabrillo Blvd
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 962-0777
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It’s hard to say what’s most appealing about Toma — the cooking or the views. Both are superb and ought to be enjoyed in equal parts. While taking in the waterfront, dig into Mediterranean fare like grilled octopus, roasted lamb meatballs, and cioppino.  

8. Loquita Santa Barbara

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202 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 880-3380
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Lower State Street’s Loquita is all about Spanish influences, from the colorful tiles to the tapas menu and the stand-up bar tucked into the back. Step through the front door on any given weekend night for the scents and sounds of paella coming fresh from the kitchen, or plate after plate of croquettes winding its way to the sunny back patio. A great place to spend a warm Santa Barbara evening.

Loquita
Loquita
Loquita

9. Blackbird

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36 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 882-0135
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Blackbird is perhaps Santa Barbara’s most composed restaurant. Wrapped in luxurious touches and with a powerful sense of design, it’s a destination for solid drinks, finer dining elements, and a sense of special occasion.

10. La Super-Rica Taqueria

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622 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA
(805) 963-4940

La Super-Rica is by far Santa Barbara’s most famous restaurant, a family-run operation that Isidoro Gonzalez founded in 1980. People still flock to the aqua building with covered patio for Mexican comfort food and thick, pressed-to-order corn tortillas that made Julia Child a regular. The alambre is a great play on the popular Mexico City stir-fry involving grilled tri-tip, bell peppers, onions, and bacon. Lomito suizo is a mulita starring grilled marinated pork and molten cheese sandwiched between two tortillas.

La Super Rica special
La Super-Rica Taqueria
Mona Holmes

11. Taqueria El Bajio

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129 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103
(805) 884-1828
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Operating for over 20 years on a sleepier side of Downtown is Taqueria El Bajio. This unfussy spot won’t be as busy as the more popular El Super-Rico Taqueria, but the quality is there along with ample outdoor seating. Try the quesadilla adobada with juicy shredded pork, cheese, onions, cilantro, and onion.

12. Bettina

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1014 Coast Village Rd
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
(805) 770-2383
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It’s hard to imagine better pizza than what’s being made at Bettina in Santa Barbara, right near the edge of Montecito. The wood-fired pies are blistered to a glorious freckle, while the rest of the menu relies on local wines and vegetables to round out a cozy, casual meal.

13. Honor Bar

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1255 Coast Village Rd #101
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
(805) 969-6964
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Head to this Hillstone Restaurant Group spot for casual bites and thoughtful drinks. Sit at the wooden bar, a cozy booth, or better yet, outside on the patio, while sipping cocktails, beer, or wine, and nibbling on deviled eggs or seafood cocktail.

14. The Stonehouse Restaurant

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900 San Ysidro Ln
Santa Barbara, CA 93108
(805) 565-1720
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History, heritage, and fine dining collide at Stonehouse, the impeccable upscale restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch. Long a haven for the wealthy, the famous, and willing to spend money to hide away, this is the daytime lunch destination that’s worth splurging for. Be sure to take a walk around the property after lunch too, and order a bottle of wine from the world-class cellar.

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1. Cold Spring Tavern

5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA
Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara, California.
Cold Spring Tavern
Farley Elliott

Make sure to have a full tank of gas before tackling the San Marcos Pass. This twisty stretch of Route 154 rises north of Santa Barbara and delivers you to Cold Spring Tavern, a former stagecoach stop that’s been serving food since 1865. The restaurant remains popular with bikers and wine country tourists thanks to a Western setting that includes wagon wheels and picnic tables, and dishes like buffalo burgers, venison steak sandwiches, and wild game black bean chili. Saturdays and Sundays are the best time to visit for grilled tri-tip.

5995 Stagecoach Rd
Santa Barbara, CA

2. Dune Coffee Roasters

1101 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Dune Coffee Roasters Downtown location added a cozy parklet/seating area last summer. It’s a colorful spot to grab coffee while walking through the pedestrian section of State Street. Opt for Dune’s chico iced americano and a sticky cinnamon roll. They pair perfectly.

1101 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

3. Bibi Ji

734 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Modern Indian spot Bibi Ji has found its way with the locals and tourists who traverse State Street. The eclectic menu moves from street food snacks to curries and more composed plates from the grill with lots of local wines to match.

734 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

4. Tondi Gelato

401 Paseo Nuevo, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Espresso gelato from Tondi Gelato in Santa Barbara.
Tondi Gelato
Mona Holmes

Head right into the husband and wife-owned Tondi Gelato, where Deborah or James (aka Tondi) is in the production area of the shop whipping up a new batch of vegan or full creamed gelato, with flavors that include pistachio, salted caramel, lemon, or potent espresso.

401 Paseo Nuevo
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

5. Alessia Patisserie and Cafe

134 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Alessia isn’t just one of these “good for Santa Barbara” shops. This French cafe turns out worthy croissants, breakfast items, and coffee that could hold their own just about anywhere, so be sure to swing by for a morning bite.

134 E Canon Perdido St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

6. La Paloma Cafe

702 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
An overhead shot of crispy fried tacos drizzled with sauce on a grey plate.
Crispy tacos from La Paloma.
ACME Hospitality

The ACME Hospitality team (the Lark, Loquita, etc.) has returned La Paloma to its 1940s-era glory, turning up the breezy, artsy vibes and expanding the ample patio. Stop by for margaritas in the setting sun, but don’t forget a carnitas plate wagyu tri-tip dinner, either.

702 Anacapa St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

7. Toma Restaurant & Bar

324 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

It’s hard to say what’s most appealing about Toma — the cooking or the views. Both are superb and ought to be enjoyed in equal parts. While taking in the waterfront, dig into Mediterranean fare like grilled octopus, roasted lamb meatballs, and cioppino.  

324 W Cabrillo Blvd
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

8. Loquita Santa Barbara

202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Loquita
Loquita
Loquita

Lower State Street’s Loquita is all about Spanish influences, from the colorful tiles to the tapas menu and the stand-up bar tucked into the back. Step through the front door on any given weekend night for the scents and sounds of paella coming fresh from the kitchen, or plate after plate of croquettes winding its way to the sunny back patio. A great place to spend a warm Santa Barbara evening.

202 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

9. Blackbird

36 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Blackbird is perhaps Santa Barbara’s most composed restaurant. Wrapped in luxurious touches and with a powerful sense of design, it’s a destination for solid drinks, finer dining elements, and a sense of special occasion.

36 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

10. La Super-Rica Taqueria

622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA
La Super Rica special
La Super-Rica Taqueria
Mona Holmes

La Super-Rica is by far Santa Barbara’s most famous restaurant, a family-run operation that Isidoro Gonzalez founded in 1980. People still flock to the aqua building with covered patio for Mexican comfort food and thick, pressed-to-order corn tortillas that made Julia Child a regular. The alambre is a great play on the popular Mexico City stir-fry involving grilled tri-tip, bell peppers, onions, and bacon. Lomito suizo is a mulita starring grilled marinated pork and molten cheese sandwiched between two tortillas.

622 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA

11. Taqueria El Bajio

129 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103

Operating for over 20 years on a sleepier side of Downtown is Taqueria El Bajio. This unfussy spot won’t be as busy as the more popular El Super-Rico Taqueria, but the quality is there along with ample outdoor seating. Try the quesadilla adobada with juicy shredded pork, cheese, onions, cilantro, and onion.

129 N Milpas St
Santa Barbara, CA 93103

12. Bettina

1014 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

It’s hard to imagine better pizza than what’s being made at Bettina in Santa Barbara, right near the edge of Montecito. The wood-fired pies are blistered to a glorious freckle, while the rest of the menu relies on local wines and vegetables to round out a cozy, casual meal.

1014 Coast Village Rd
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

13. Honor Bar

1255 Coast Village Rd #101, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Head to this Hillstone Restaurant Group spot for casual bites and thoughtful drinks. Sit at the wooden bar, a cozy booth, or better yet, outside on the patio, while sipping cocktails, beer, or wine, and nibbling on deviled eggs or seafood cocktail.

1255 Coast Village Rd #101
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

14. The Stonehouse Restaurant

900 San Ysidro Ln, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

History, heritage, and fine dining collide at Stonehouse, the impeccable upscale restaurant at San Ysidro Ranch. Long a haven for the wealthy, the famous, and willing to spend money to hide away, this is the daytime lunch destination that’s worth splurging for. Be sure to take a walk around the property after lunch too, and order a bottle of wine from the world-class cellar.

900 San Ysidro Ln
Santa Barbara, CA 93108

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