First thing we ask ourselves when we’re traveling is: Where should we eat? Of course, we’ve got our SB favorites that we visit on our food tour, but even we switch things up every now and then! Whether you’re rolling into town first thing in the morning or arriving just in time for a late dinner, we’ve put together a list of our favorites in whatever Santa Barbara neighborhood you happen to find yourself.
Mesa Cafe: 1972 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
A “come as you are” casual breakfast joint with patio seating and full bar serving up diner classics–perfect after a big night out.
Gourmet burger hangout owned by award-winning chef Cat Cora. Fresh and conscientiously sourced ingredients that make for mouth-watering burgers.
Creative, hip vegan fare with Instagram-worthy plating that appeals to both herbivores and carnivores.
Happy Hour & Cocktails
Alcazar Tapas Bar:
Don’t let this ho-hum exterior side street entrance fool you. This cozy tapas bar with a cool hipster vibe serves up cocktails and a global wine list that are on-point.
Helena Avenue Bakery:
Come for the freshly baked croissants and stay for the chic urban vibe in this hip artist neighborhood.
This bustling deli makes delicious sandwiches and soups as well as traditional Greek fare.
Loquita: 202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Enjoy an elevated Spanish cuisine dining experience with THE best gin and tonics in town, indoor or fireside on their dreamy patio.
Test Pilot: 211 Helena Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Got island fever? Head over to this kitschy tiki bar that was once a sailor’s brig for traditional rum-based cocktails.
Enterprise Fish Co.: 225 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
These guys were voted Best Happy Hour in town 8 years in a row for good reason. Feast on seafood dishes and hearty drinks in one of the city’s long-operating restaurant.
D’Angelos Bakery: 25 W Gutierrez St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Fresh baked breads, good coffee, and sidewalk seating? Yes, please! Start your day with indulgent brunch dishes while you dine al fresco or cozied up in the bakery.
Lilly’s Taqueria: 310 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Just look for the line out the door at this little hole-in-the-wall taco joint. These guys are known for using all the parts of the cow to create their no-frills, but still tasty street taco menu.
The Middle Child: 18 E Cota St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Located between two farmer’s market locations, this café offers seasonal menus featuring local ingredients and top-shelf cocktails. Settle in for an honestly good meal and feel free to come as you are.
Mosto Crudo: 7 W Haley St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
If you’re looking for truffle fries or the typical sliders, you won’t find the usual suspects on this upscale happy hour menu. Dive into perfectly plated Italian dishes like burrata and porchetta while you sip on European wines.
Late Night Bites
After Dark: 423 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
After a night of dancing and drinking, there’s nothing better than a big ‘ol plate of comfort food. And the walk-up window of this eatery serves just that with dishes like traditional and fancy Mac n Cheese and Waffle Sammie s’mores.
The Red Piano: 519 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Come for a drink and stay for a show at this all-request sing-along bar. Live music is happening every day of the week with revolving local talent being featured each night.
Handlebar Coffee Roasters: 128 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
We’ve said it before on our wine tour and we’ll say again: best coffee in town! Grab a cup of joe and a freshly baked in-house treat before finding a seat on the alley way patio with views of the Presidio chapel.
Panino: 834 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
We’re constantly giving these guys a shout out on Instagram, because their salads are THAT good. Do lunch on the outdoor patio of one of the only brick homes on the West Coast, order the Curry Chicken Salad and find out what all the fuss is about.
Bibi Ji: 734 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Sister restaurant to Manhattan’s Babu Ji, this hot new Indian restaurant is gaining fan-fare by the minute! All locally sourced ingredients and a chic wine bar vibe make this a “don’t miss” dining experience.
La Playa Azul Cafe: 914 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
This hot spot has one of the best outdoor patios and the biggest margaritas within the setting of a historic home settled just outside the original Presidio walls.
The Pickle Room: 122 E Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Belly up to this tribute bar that pays homage to the former Chinese restaurant that was once there and neighbors the Three Pickles Deli. All the drinks are made well, but their pickletini will get you the full experience. (They also have a daily happy hour, 4:30-6:30pm!)
Scarlett Begonia: 11 W Victoria St #10, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Fresh off the farm eats, freshly baked bread, and a charming outdoor cafe experience are what make this hot spot worth the wait. Show up early on the weekend or stroll in mid-week and get ready to enjoy some of Santa Barbara’s best.
Santa Barbara Public Market: 8 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Feast on southeast Asian noodles, fresh off the boat fish, or comfort Italian food dishes before heading over to the two sweet spots for a dessert of cupcakes and real ice cream. Discover some of our tastiest “fine fast food” as well as craft beer and wines in this maze of eateries.
Sama Sama Kitchen: 1208 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Ethiopian inspired cuisine with ingredients from our local farmer’s market are what make this spicy urban restaurant a true local’s favorite. (We highly recommend their happy hour, too!)
Satellite SB: 1117 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Show up before the 5:00 rush to get one of the best streets on State Street that sit in the open floor to ceiling window–perfect for people watching! Order one of their beautifully plated vegan dishes and pair with a well-made spritz or Italian wine to help you unwind after a full day.
Late Night Bites
The Blue Owl: 5 W Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
If you’re looking for good food after 10pm, be sure to search out this late night nook that features Asian-inspired sandwiches and local wines.
The Good Lion:1212 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Cozy up in the corner and sip on inventive cocktails in this swanky speakeasy-style bar that sits adjacent to the city’s tallest building and most beautiful theater.
Upper State/San Roque
Jeannine’s: 3607 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Visit the original of three locations for gourmet breakfast foods and tantalizing baked goods.
Dutch Garden: 4203 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93110
German cuisine and a cozy setting are what you’ll find at this unassuming café. Come hungry and ready to feast on dishes like schnitzel and roast duck.
Via Maestra 42: 3343 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Pasta made from scratch. Sauces like Grandma used to make. Food coma. Nuff said.
The Boathouse: 2981 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Veer on the beaten path to this idyllic seaside restaurant that has panoramic views of the beach and a killer food and drink menu.
Harry’s Plaza Cafe: 3313 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Generous doesn’t even begin to describe the drinks at this iconic Santa Barbara staple. Sink into a booth and a plate of comfort food with a good stiff drink on the side while you enjoy a view of the yesteryear pictures that cover the walls.
Late Night Bites
Edomasa: 710 De La Vina St, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Generous sushi rolls are what’s on the menu at this no-frills late-night Japanese restaurant. Sushi isn’t the only thing on the list, you’ll also find dishes like ramen, teriyaki and tempura.