Santa Barbara is a Central Coast jewel. Just a 90-minute car ride without traffic or barely three hours via Union Station’s Amtrak train, the seaside city is home to a bounty of hotels, restaurants, seafood spots, and beaches, and all are perfect for a weekend getaway. Weekly farmers markets pull from the surrounding agricultural community while fishermen offer up a feast from the Pacific, 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 15 fantastic restaurants in Santa Barbara, sorted geographically.Read More
15 Destination-Worthy Restaurants in Santa Barbara
Where to eat well in the beautiful coastal city just north of Los Angeles
Cold Spring Tavern
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 diners 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, plus 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.
The Stonehouse Restaurant
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 those willing to spend money to hide away, this is the daytime lunch destination 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.
Oat Bakery’s prowess spreads across Santa Barbara County with one location in Downtown Santa Barbara and one slightly north in Goleta. Bread and pastry vary from traditional to gluten-free along with additions like chia seeds, chopped almonds, or fresh spinach, to name a few.
La Super-Rica Taqueria
By far Santa Barbara’s most famous restaurant, Isidoro Gonzalez founded La Super-Rica in 1980. People still flock to the aqua building with covered patio for comfort 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.
After receiving a Michelin Bib Gourmand for his sister Santa Barbara restaurant Corazón Cocina, Ramon Velazquez opened Corazón Comedor in late-2022. At Comedor, Velazquez opts for traditional Mexican dishes where options include tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and a hearty, puffy quesadilla.
Sama Sama Kitchen
Santa Barbara’s Southeast Asian specialist Sama Sama is a bright spot on State Street, where options like the Indonesian nasi goreng, a Javanese chicken curry bowl, a Peking duck-inspired salad tossed with a sweet chili fish sauce dressing, and outstanding sticky chicken wings keep the place busy.
Taqueria El Bajio
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.
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. Earlier this year, owners Rachel Greenspan and chef Brendan Smith signed a lease for a second location in Carpinteria that opens in 2024.
Alessia Patisserie and Cafe
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 or some magical dish from a farmers market haul.
L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele Santa Barbara
After opening successful outposts in Hollywood and New York, Antica Pizzeria debuted last November in Santa Barbara’s historic Ember Mill building. Just like the first location, this restaurant showcases pizza production through an open kitchen along with a stunning courtyard where more than Neapolitan-style pizza is available.
Upon entering Lokum, take in the display case and prepare to be overwhelmed by the choices. The vastness of colorful Turkish delight and baklava will make one want to order everything. Best to eat one on-site with incredibly strong coffee, and take the rest home.
La Paloma Cafe
The team behind the Lark and Loquita returned La Paloma to its 1940s-era glory, turning up the breezy, artsy vibes and expanding the ample patio. Stop by for the newly launched lunch or margaritas or in the setting sun, but don’t forget a carnitas plate wagyu tri-tip dinner, either.
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Modern Indian spot Bibi Ji has found its way with the locals and tourists who find themselves walking through 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.
The Black Sheep
Best described as a Californian-French pub, the Black Sheep is a fantastic stop for casual bites, French onion soup, or a reasonably-priced $39 three-course early bird dinner that includes coq au vin and a brown sugar creme brulee.
Toma Restaurant & Bar
It’s hard to say what’s most appealing about Toma — the cooking, the charm, or the views. All 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.