It’s hard not to love Santa Barbara -- a coastline jewel of a town where the sparkling ocean meets the majestic Santa Ynez mountains. It’s also conveniently only 92 miles away from Los Angeles which means it’s the ideal road trip destination for quarantine-weary Angelenos. In the era of COVID-19, the city of Santa Barbara was one of the first to allow restaurants to expand outdoor seating to parklets, so expect some spacious and creative outdoor dining options. Whether it’s a picnic meal to-go, or dinner outdoors overlooking Stearns Wharf, here are 18 restaurants you can safely dine at the next time you’re in Santa Barbara.
This two-story oceanfront restaurant serving Asian-inspired fare is one of the newest options in town, which also features an oceanfront rooftop with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The surf and turf menu includes dishes such as seared scallops, miso yuzu black cod, kalbi-style short ribs, and Japanese A5 Miyazaki Wagyu but you can’t go wrong with any of their sushi offerings. How to book: Via OpenTable
Field and Fort is a local vintage home decor store featuring furniture and housewares but it also houses Feast, an all-day farm-to-table cafe. Sandwiches like the chicken tarragon or roast beef with whipped feta and harissa are perfect for a mid-afternoon bite. Choose curbside pickup or order food to-go and enjoy on their dreamy patio or better yet, picnic at Lookout Park. How to book: Via website
Loquita is full of locals and visitors alike and fortunately, the best seat in the house is on the outdoor patio which has now been extended. You can expect traditional Spanish flavors and tapas like patatas bravas, Spanish pulpo, and black tiger prawns that come out sizzling on a cast iron pan in a bath of garlic and brandy. If you’re a fan of paella, and aren’t in any particular rush, there are a few different paella dishes with seafood or meat options (even one for vegetarians!) but the paella takes 30 minutes to prepare, so get your order in as soon as you sit. Don’t forget to order a glass of their sangria to start. How to book: Via Tock
No trip to Santa Barbara is complete without at least one clam chowder bread bowl and there’s no better place than on Stearns Wharf. This version is so good you’ll be eating every last bite, down to the soggy bread at the bottom. Take your bread bowl and sit outside to enjoy ocean views. How to book: 805-966-6676
Perfect for a laidback lunch or a picnic sandwich to-go, Bossie’s Kitchen is a no-frills corner spot started by two Lucques alums. The (mostly) healthy menu is driven by the farmers market and includes salads, sandwiches and plates with grilled meats but don’t skip out on the weeknight specials menu or you might just miss the pork belly and coconut rice, or chicken pot pie. You can’t miss Bossie’s Kitchen -- just look for the big white cow sculpture on top of the restaurant. The outdoor patio is open for dining Wednesday-Saturday from 11:30am-8pm. Reservations are recommended. How to book: 805-770-1700 for reservations or order take-out via website
Crispy duck salad, pan-seared octopus and Chinese sausage fried rice are just some of the options you’ll see on the menu at Sama Sama. You’d be remiss not to order the star dish which is the mound of Mie Goreng noodles (a spicy Malaysian delicacy). While they’re not currently offering the happy hour menu (one of our faves in Santa Barbara), they are still open for lunch and dinner so stop in, get a table on the cozy string-lit patio, and enjoy a flavorful meal outside. How to book: Via OpenTable
Santa Barbara has no shortage of affordable Mexican restaurants and Corazon Cocina, located in the Santa Barbara Public Market is no exception. Their fried fish tacos never disappoint as well as their Sal De Mar ceviche, made with whatever fish is in season, served on a crispy tortilla with chunks of refreshing watermelon and avocado. The menu also offers plenty of options for vegetarians like the cauliflower tacos, Corazon salad made with kale and quinoa, and cheese quesadillas mixed with farmers market seasonal vegetables. How to book: Order takeout via website
Inspired by the abundance of fresh ingredients in Santa Barbara, and keeping with the hotel’s Mediterranean vibes, the menu at Goat Tree is a blend of California and Mediterranean flavors that come together to create beloved dishes like shakshuka, falafel and quinoa bowl, and a lamb wrap smothered with tzatziki. However, the more traditional brunch items like avocado toast, chicken and waffles and egg frittata are also worth trying. Goat Tree also offers a spacious patio which faces State Street. How to book: Via OpenTable
The family-operated bar and restaurant is situated on the harbor so you can grab a seat on the patio, feast on fish and enjoy the view while throwing back a cold one. The menu has an extensive list of fresh seafood but the grilled mahi mahi or Cajun sea bass are not to be missed. They don’t take reservations so expect to wait anywhere from 30-60 minutes for a table. How to book: Order takeout via their website.
Following the restaurant's success in Encino, this 10-seat omakase restaurant located in the Montecito Inn brought their intimate dining experience outside. The reservations-only restaurant offers a 17-course menu for $125 per person that includes a welcome and farewell cocktail, and dessert — a bargain for the quality and quantity of sushi you’ll be eating. You will start your evening by checking in at the hostess stand, inside the hotel (not the restaurant), where Japanese whiskey and an unforgettable night of nigiri awaits. How to book: Via Tock
Since 1918, the gorgeous oasis perched high above the mountains inside the Belmond El Encanto Hotel has been charming diners with its breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Perfect for a romantic date night dinner (don’t miss the sunset) or Sunday brunch, the restaurant at Belmond El Encanto offers California coastal food, great drinks and chill vibes. Whether you’re a guest staying in one of the 92 suites or just dining at the restaurant, you won’t want to leave this beautiful property. How to book: Via OpenTable
Bibi Ji uses Indian culinary influences combined with local produce to offer a fresh take on traditional dishes like curry, tandoor and grill, and naan. Mr. Tso’s cauliflower and the uni biryani are must haves and you can also pair your meal with wine selected by Rajat Parr, co-owner and three time James Beard award-winning sommelier. Seating is available outside on their private back patio for to-go orders placed online but check their website for times. How to book: Via Tock
At this local bakery, you can admire chefs and bakers through the clear glass window as they prepare scratch made buttermilk biscuits, granola and even homemade ricotta. Pop in for a healthy breakfast or picnic sandwiches and goodies like the Cuban sandwich or Nashville hot chicken sandwich with sides like house pickled veggies or marinated olives. The restaurant also shares a space with Santa Barbara Wine Collective so you can pick up a bottle at the same time. How to book: 805-880-3383
Run by a pizza-obsessed couple who met while working at Roberta’s in Brooklyn, the duo eventually made the pilgrimage to the west coast and opened up this cozy pizzeria with a unique seasonal menu where you can find pizzas like the maitake mushrooms, summer peach or roasted cauliflower pizza. They are only open for take-out, delivery, and curbside pickup with reduced hours from 12pm to 8:30pm daily. The dining room is closed but you can enjoy your pizza to-go on the courtyard. How to book: Via Tock
You might be thinking of the Honor Bar in Beverly Hills and wondering if it’s Santa Barbara sister location also serves the highly-praised fried chicken sandwich. We’re here to tell you, yes, they do. Currently, the outdoor patio is open for dining and the restaurant is situated along Coast Village Road in Montecito which is lined with boutiques and cafes perfect for a post-meal stroll. How to book: Order takeout from ChowNow
The chef from Los Agaves brings you Flor de Maiz, which literally means corn flower, and is a pretty good indication that you can expect a lot of tacos on the menu. Located on the waterfront, this Oaxacan restaurant also specializes in mole, even making its way to the cocktail menu in drinks like The Oaxaca. Enjoy beautiful views of Stearns Wharf from the patio as you daydream about your (likely all too far away) next Mexico vacation. How to book: 805-869-6524
A hodgepodge of local eateries and artisanal shops under one roof If you’re looking to get a taste of local flavors, look no further than the Santa Barbara Public Market: a food-lover’s dream, for some of the most popular eateries in the neighborhood. Tantalize your taste buds as you walk by freshly baked goods from Enjoy Cupcakes, smell the coffee beans roasting from Green Star Coffee and taste the oils at il Fustino.
This farm-to-table restaurant in the Funk Zone is a local favorite. The menu pays tribute to the four seasons showcasing the season’s bountiful produce with plates that come out looking like a work of art. They extended their parking lot to accommodate alfresco seating but make your reservations in advance as this local spot typically books up. How to book: Via Tock
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Santa Barbara is one of Leila’s favorite SoCal beach towns, mostly because she spends most of her time eating while she’s there. Follow her food adventures in Santa Barbara and around the world on Instagram at @LeilasList.