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Gumbo from Little Dom’s Seafood in Carpinteria, California.
Gumbo from Little Dom’s Seafood
Mona Holmes

14 Delicious Restaurants to Try on Your Next Road Trip to Santa Barbara

Eat well on the next coastal getaway

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Gumbo from Little Dom’s Seafood
| Mona Holmes

Santa Barbara is Southern California’s ocean air gateway to the Central Coast’s thriving wine country, and is home to some of the best produce and seafood on the planet. The city’s Tuesday night and Saturday morning farmers markets help to fuel plenty of menus and most chefs have strong ties to area farmers and fishermen. To add to the charm, the Santa Barbara City Council agreed to convert a stretch of State Street into a pedestrian promenade, complete with a bike bath and peaceful walking area. In all, Santa Barbara has all the fixings to satisfy for any trek from Los Angeles. Here now are 14 delicious restaurants to eat in Santa Barbara.

Removed: Brophy Bros., Handlebar Coffee, Tyger Tyger (temporarily closed)

Added: Dune Coffee, Little Dom’s Seafood, Taqueria El Bajio, Tondi Gelato

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

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. 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. Its 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

3. Yoichi's

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230 E Victoria St
Santa Barbara, CA

Chef Yoichi Kawabata, along with his wife and business partner Mogi, graced Santa Barbara with a traditional kaiseki-style restaurant in 2015, building on years of experience in Japan. In a stone-fronted building with only 10 tables, they currently serve Thursday to Sunday. Seafood primarily comes from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Caruso's

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1773 S Jameson Ln
Montecito, CA 93108
(805) 900-8388
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Hotel dining can be hit or miss, but Caruso’s gets it right. Located inside the Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel in Montecito, the restaurant serves southern Italian fare in the most scenic of settings. On the menu is hand-pulled burrata and house-made pastas. 

9. 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.

10. 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

11. Test Pilot

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211 Helena Ave
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 845-2518
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Cocktail bar Test Pilot reopened in January with its standard bounty of lesser-known rums and an amiable staff. Head in after dinner nearby for a taste of summer served in a speciality mug, and for a seat at the eclectic bar next to some of the city’s most interesting people. It’s a tucked-away tiki lover’s dream.

12. 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. This is the place to spend a warm Santa Barbara evening.

Loquita
Loquita
Loquita

13. 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.  

14. Little Dom's Seafood

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686 Linden Ave
Carpinteria, CA 93013
(805) 749-7400
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Little Dom’s sister restaurant focuses on seafood in Downtown Carpinteria. The interior has old-school vibes with leather seats and a gorgeous wood bar, while the bright outdoor parklet picks up the ocean breeze. Always nab oysters from the cold bar, and if they’re making gumbo, order immediately.

Little Dom’s Seafood in Carpinteria, California
Little Dom’s Seafood
Courtesy of Little Dom’s Seafood

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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. 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. Its 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

3. Yoichi's

230 E Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA

Chef Yoichi Kawabata, along with his wife and business partner Mogi, graced Santa Barbara with a traditional kaiseki-style restaurant in 2015, building on years of experience in Japan. In a stone-fronted building with only 10 tables, they currently serve Thursday to Sunday. Seafood primarily comes from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market.

230 E Victoria St
Santa Barbara, CA

4. 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

5. 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

6. 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

7. 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

8. Caruso's

1773 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Hotel dining can be hit or miss, but Caruso’s gets it right. Located inside the Rosewood Miramar Beach hotel in Montecito, the restaurant serves southern Italian fare in the most scenic of settings. On the menu is hand-pulled burrata and house-made pastas. 

1773 S Jameson Ln
Montecito, CA 93108

9. 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

10. 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

11. Test Pilot

211 Helena Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Cocktail bar Test Pilot reopened in January with its standard bounty of lesser-known rums and an amiable staff. Head in after dinner nearby for a taste of summer served in a speciality mug, and for a seat at the eclectic bar next to some of the city’s most interesting people. It’s a tucked-away tiki lover’s dream.

211 Helena Ave
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

12. 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. This is the place to spend a warm Santa Barbara evening.

202 State St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

13. 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

14. Little Dom's Seafood

686 Linden Ave, Carpinteria, CA 93013
Little Dom’s Seafood in Carpinteria, California
Little Dom’s Seafood
Courtesy of Little Dom’s Seafood

Little Dom’s sister restaurant focuses on seafood in Downtown Carpinteria. The interior has old-school vibes with leather seats and a gorgeous wood bar, while the bright outdoor parklet picks up the ocean breeze. Always nab oysters from the cold bar, and if they’re making gumbo, order immediately.

686 Linden Ave
Carpinteria, CA 93013

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