Can you believe we have lived in Santa Barbara for a year and a half now? It’s been such a dream coming back to this beautiful town that holds such a special place in our hearts! Now that we are officially locals we can fill you in on all the incredible dining options that Santa Barbara has to offer. The town may be small but the restaurant scene is really impressive so we’ve been doing all we can to try as many restaurants as possible.
Before I dive in to all of the exciting food options, I want to highlight the need for reservations. Most restaurants in this town require reservations, sometimes well in advance. The app, Open Table is what we usually use. There are very few places that will have tables readily available for walk-ins so try to plan as best you can. For those last minute nights there are shops, beaches, & so many fun things to see while you’re waiting. I suggest getting to the restaurant as early as possible if you don’t have a reservation to add your name to a list. (if they have one)
As long as you plan for a wait of some sort you’ll be fine!
If you’re visiting from out of town save this google map to check your proximity to all my favorites.
Breakfast & Brunch:
- El Encanto
- Shoreline Cafe
- Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach
- Finch and Fork
- The Goat Tree
- Scarlett Begonias
- Renauds Santa Barbara & Montecito
- Santo Mezcal
- Bettina Pizzeria
- Los Agaves
- Shoreline Cafe
- East Beach Tacos
- Goat Tree
- The Lark
- Lucky Penny
- La Super – Rica Taqueria
- Helena’s Bakery
- Secret Bao
- Lucky’s Steakhouse
- Santo Mezcal
- The Black Sheep
- Olio e Limone
- Olio Pizzeria
- Brophy Bros
- Trattoria Mollies
- Ca’dario Montecito
- El Encanto
- Oliver’s Montecito
- Honor Bar
Handlebar Coffee Roasters
I can’t start my day without coffee! My favorite cup in Santa Barbara is from Handlebar Coffee Roasters. They have two locations, one in the heart of downtown and one near the old mission. Both offer delicious drinks and pastries. They roast their own coffee beans here in Santa Barbara, so it makes for a special gift to bring back home.
The Dining Room at El Encanto
Special Occasion Brunch — Sunday Brunch Menu with bottomless Domaine Chandon: $95 per person. All other days al la carte. Average Entree Price: $22
This restaurant is inside the gorgeous El Encanto Hotel (my neighborhood!) located in the upper Riviera side of town. It has incredible food, views, and all the Santa Barbara vibes. They offer Sunday brunch (nicknamed the Bellini brunch for their bottomless option) that is served out on the terrace. This place is so special — I recommend the crab cake benedict, but you can’t go wrong with any option.
Local organic cafe serving breakfast and lunch- Average Entree Price: $18
This is a place Jeff and I love going to for breakfast and brunch.. The portions are large and yummy! It has the vibe of an old fashioned diner and the food is great. Jeff’s favorite are the steak and eggs, and Huevos Rancheros..
Cafe with Sandwiches and Salads — Average Entree Price: $15
We love Helena’s and go often for the bakery, avocado toast and sandwiches. Everything is fresh and homemade. They share the space with a local winery, Santa Barbara Collective which makes the perfect pairing!
Upscale sit down Mexican food — Average Entree Price: $25
We eat here regularly & have loved everything we’ve tried. Emma and Walker order the spicy margaritas! Jeff and I like to split the lobster & ribeye tacos. They don’t take reservations but the wait is worth it and the staff is so sweet too! We like to go early to get our name on the list.
Wood-fired pizza in a cute courtyard setting — Average Entree Price: $23
This place is so so good! Our favorite pizza place hands down for lunch. They have a rotating menu of delicious pizzas & salads. It’s located in Montecito in a small but cute strip mall with a few other fun shops to peek inside of. Great place to meet for a lunch with the girls or a relaxed date. Once again reservations are suggested.
Causal sit down Mexican food — Average Entree Price: $17
Sister restaurant to Santo Mezcal, this spot is much more casual but the flavors are just as good. The nachos are huge and serve more than one and the seafood is excellent. We order take-out from here all the time for lunch on the go but they also have a ton of tables inside and out.
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach
Seafood with a view– Average Entree Price: $30
LOVE LOVE LOVE!! This amazing place is located on the beach bordering Goleta. A must stop if you’re in the area. The menu is vast, including lots of raw bar options for those of you who love oysters! The cocktails are also large and yummy – the Bloody Mary’s are huge and a favorite. Don’t be turned off by the amount of people ahead of you on the list.. it’s worth the wait for the food and view. I suggest walking on the beach while you wait for a table. We love doing that and everyone brings their dogs to this beach. It has such a relaxing vibe.
Casual Burgers and Taco spot — Average Entree Price: $17
My sister and I came here for lunch when she visited me for the 1st time & we loved dining with our toes in the sand. It’s located next to the harbor right on the beach. We both ordered the grilled shrimp tacos which were more of a local take, rather than authentic Mexican, but really tasty & fresh nonetheless! More than anything we just really love the relaxed beach vibe of this restaurant. They also serve drinks that you can enjoy with a view in colorful Adirondack chairs. So fun! When putting your name down make sure to ask for a table in the sand if you can on non windy days.
Upscale American — Average Entree Price: $25
We like going to Goat Tree whenever someone comes to town for brunch because everything is tasty and it’s located downtown on State St., right in the middle of the Funk Zone. All the food is yummy here – from the warm pastries to the Eggs Benedict and Monte Cristo sandwich. The Avocado Toast is also exceptional. They serve lunch and dinner here as well with a limited menu.
La Super Rica Taqueria
Hole in the wall taqueria — Average Taco Price: $5
One of Julia Childs’ favorite dives, this taqueria has a reputation for serving some of the tastiest tacos. They don’t have a website themselves but a quick google search will give you thousands of results with glowing reviews.
Yes, it is worth the wait in line!
Hole in the wall taqueria — Average Taco Price $2.50
Another incredible taqueria. This place is also very casual — order at a window, get a number and take a seat style. It offers authentic flavors and protein choices like lengua and cabeza (I stick to asada, al pastor and pollo asado personally.) They don’t stick exclusively to tacos, you can get burritos, tortas, or quesadillas as well. Great causal affordable lunch.
Casual Asian Fusion — Average Entree Price: $15
Such a fun fusion spot! With options like PB&J, Spanish Octopus and Donut baos there is a fun flavor for everyone. They also serve other asian favorites from Kalbi to Ahi Poke. The garlic noodles and the cauliflower are amazing! During the day the service is casual (order at the counter and wait for your number,) but for dinner they have an expanded menu with table-side service and cocktails. We love it for both meals!
Upscale sit down Mexican food — Average Entree Price: $25
We LOVE this place!! – no reservations but if you get in early you can put your name down and go have a drink somewhere while you’re waiting. Also part of my lunch list, Santo Mezcal is so good I added it to the list twice. We eat here regularly & we have loved everything we’ve tried. Emma and Walker love the spicy margaritas! Jeff and I like to split the lobster & rib eye tacos.
Special Occasion Italian — Average Entree Price: $40
I love this spot for a special occasion dinner or for visiting friends. They have amazing Italian food, a large wine list, and a spectacular waterfront location. It can be expensive but one of the the best restaurants in Santa Barbara. Jeff swears by the Bolognese.
Upscale Spanish Tapas — Average Tapa Price $20
One of our favorite places! Love the incredible tapas style food. This place is SO fun and the flavors of the food and cocktails are excellent. The vibe of the restaurant is energetic and you dine under draping lights and bougainvillea. If you’re new to tapas, they are small plates meant to be shared. We love to order a few tapas and finish with the seafood paella for the table. This place experiments with flavors which we love, but may not be the best experience for someone who is a picky eater. Be sure to make reservation at least a couple of weeks ahead of time.
‘Wine Country Cuisine’ French with local flare — Average Entree Price: $32
Bouchon offers fresh local ingredients and an extensive wine list. We love sitting outside. This place is another special occasion dinner spot because it’s a little more on the expensive side but worth the splurge. We love the food and the staff is always so sweet.
Olio e Limone
Pasta, Seafood and Pizza — Average Entree Price $25
The Italian is really good here.. We love the location and eat here at least once a month.
Pizza — Average pizza price $20
We’ve ordered this to go on many occasions. Really good and very authentic Italian crust. Order early as they get busy!
Italian– Average Entree Price $39
Yummy Italian. Love! They have locations in Santa Barbara and even a new location in Montecito that we love sitting outside at.
We order delivery from here all the time also.. it’s that good.
Elevated Coastal Californian — Average Entree Price $39
This hotel is romantic & beautiful. It sits high on the Riviera overlooking SB. Make reservations to sit out on the porch (our favorite and so pretty!) They have heaters but I still bring a wrap for my legs. From Brunch to dinner everything is excellent!
Elevated American Food – Average Entree Price $21
Great for drinks and dinner.. We love to go here for an early drink before the local crowds fill in and sometimes stay for dinner. The menu is small but everything is amazing. We love the vibe and jazz music playing in the background.
McConnell’s Ice Cream is a great place to stop for something sweet after dinner. We love the creative flavors, high-quality taste, and classic diner vibes. If you love ice cream this is a must.. even if you have to wait in line!
I hope you enjoy all of these restaurants as much as our family does! If you try one of these places or if you know a great spot we should go to next, please share in the comments below. If you’ve stumbled upon this article in anticipation of your trip to SB, I hope you have a fabulous time in our little beach town…
For more travel guides click here!
8 thoughts on “My Favorite Santa Barbara Restaurants”
Try Convivo at the Santa Barbara Inn Hotel. Delicious!!
Spent a month in Santa Barbara five years ago preparing for my daughters wedding at San Isidro Ranch. Hope you had a chance to have dinner there? It’s amazing! And romantic!
It’s been awhile since I’ve been there.. I need to go back! Thanks for sharing. xo
I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of your Santa Barbara Restaurant Guide. (You already have my email. Please do not generate duplicates.)
My birthday is coming up and I will be heading north to try one of your recommendations. (I’m in Ventura County, 8 minutes from the beach.)
Thank you so very much. ⚘⚘⚘⚘
Excellent job on this restaurant guide! My husband and I will definitely be making a trip to Santa Barbara soon.
Thank you Kristy
Thank you Kristy for always entertaining me with your information. I am absolutely 100% going to visit Sant Barbara in my travels. It looks so amazing and I love the ocean. I love everything you have done to your beautiful home and Maggie and Jeff. Keep posing and sending updates as this makes my day.
Thanks for all the recommendations…we are coming into town tomorrow for a 4 day visit and it was a great resource when making reservations and deciding on where to go eat.
Yay! Hope you had fun Elise!! :)