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Our Pick Of The Best Food & Drinks Around Santa Barbara & Solvang

It’s no secret that Santa Barbara is one of the most coveted foodie destinations with Michelin stars and Bib Gourmands galore. And we think it goes without saying that our team of local professional food lovers have got the inside scoop on where you should be eating during your next trip to the Central Coast. From the best coffee shops to happy hour digs to formal dining, we put together a list of our current favorites that we swear by, frequently visit, and where we are “die on that hill” loyal patrons.

Coffee Shops

We all agreed that the best fancy coffee in Santa Barbara, usually served in coupe glasses and beautifully presented, could be found downtown at Cajé on Arlington Street located across the street from The Arlington Theater. Any place in town can do standard lattes, but we can’t get enough of the matcha latte from Dart Coffee (the one with the dreamy urban coffee garden located across the street.)

When straight java in on our menu for the day, you can find us grabbing a cuppa the Coastal Collective blend found downtown at Hook & Press Donuts as well as the beans at Old Town Coffee in Old Town Goleta. We have one staffer who swears that Starbucks is the only acceptable place for a dark roast coffee. She stands alone on this, but we still love her. For now.

If you’re jonesin’ for that joe in the valley, our tried and true spot is Good Seed in Solvang, but we recently tried Little King in Buellton and now have a new place we recommend!


Picking the best breakfast place is a tricky one, because some like eggs and others may want a fluffy croissant. For either of those choices, we love Helena Avenue Bakery for their stacked breakfast sammies and bakery selection. Jeannine’s Bakery by the beach also has an incredible bakery selection and a view that can’t be beat. But if you‘re looking for a hearty breakfast, Corazon Comedor makes a huevos rancheros that practically sings. It’s so good you’ll swear it was made by Chef Ramon’s abuela.


When those mid-day hunger pangs hit, a solid meal made with the freshest ingredients is what is on our list. You can’t go wrong with a classic smashburger from Third Window off Hayley Street or a sandwich on rosemary focaccia from Oat Bakery in Old Town Goleta. Heading to the valley for the day? Lunch at Peasants Feast, a Bib Gourmand casual establishment, is a must-try. Get the hot chicken sandwich or try the best carnitas tacos you will ever eat and thank us later.

If a standard salad is more your speed, we can’t stop talking about the curry chicken salad sandwich–or make it a salad!–from any of the Panino locations. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t try to make this at home just to save a few bucks. (Spoiler: it cannot be replicated.)

Casual lunch, but make it fancy? Head over to We Want The Funk for an order of Rich Girl or the Taco Truck flatbread that’s so pretty you *almost* won’t want to eat it.


Our crew’s picks for best dinner spot really ran the gamut from casual family friendly joints in Old Town Goleta to white linen clad tables in the heart of the Funk Zone. If casual Mexican faire that also boasts a great margarita suits your taste, Pepé’s is the place to be. But if being downtown in the heart of it all is more your scene, pop over to Secret Bao near the Santa Barbara Courthouse for an order of Kalbi, pork belly fried rice, KFC bao bun, or dumplings. Basically be prepared to order the whole menu.

When it comes to fine dining, we all tended to err on the side of quality ingredients and service over uber-fancy ambience. Our favorites included The Lark, for it’s seasonal farm-to-table offerings, and its sister restaurant Loquita, a Bib Gourmand restaurant. Be sure to make a reservation at either place and prepare to have your taste buds impressed. However, if you’re in the valley at twilight time, you can usually find one of us at SY Kitchen in Santa Ynez or Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos for incredible Italian recipes brought over from the old country.


Good drinks are easy to find at most places in both Santa Barbara or the Santa Ynez Valley and we’ll cheers to that! When it comes to our top recommendations, these are the must-try places to add to the list.

Martini? The Pickle Room for the pickle-tini in historic downtown Santa Barbara. Beer selection? Try a number of local and imported brews with a flight of beers at Lama Dog in the Funk Zone. Quality cocktails made with fresh ingredients and top shelf hooch? The Imperial Lounge in Old Town Goleta, a speakeasy-style haunt or The Good Lion in downtown Santa Barbara, a swanky enclave located next door to the historic Granada Theater featuring a seasonally rotating bar menu.

Wine Tasting

While we always say on the tours that “good wine is wine that you like”, we do have our favorites and places we recommend that are sure to get one started in the right direction no matter the preference.

Margerum sets the bar for excellence in Santa Barbara County wines and cannot be beat when it comes to year over year quality and standards, which is why we recommend this be your first stop on your wine tasting journey through downtown Santa Barbara and the Funk Zone.

On the other hand, if you find yourself vineyard hopping through the Santa Ynez Valley, a visit to the quaint town of Los Olivos is an absolute must. Every other establishment in this one-horse town is a gateway to some of the best mom and pop wineries in the county where you may find some of the county’s best wines only in tasting rooms or at select restaurants in the nearby area.

We highly recommend you start at any of the tasting rooms located on San Marcos Avenue, also known as the Women Winemakers Row. (Ok, we just made that up. But seriously, they’re the most knowledgeable ladies in the industry and they all make incredible wines.)

We know this only covers about half the places that we recommend on the tours. So, if you’re dying to find out where the best seafood, dessert spots, night life, live music venues and more are located, join us for a walk through our favorite neighborhoods and we promise to spill the beans!