The Absolute Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara, California
From Michelin award-winning restaurants to tried-and-true favorites and more.
Unparalleled in its beauty and often referred to as the “California Riviera,” Santa Barbara is a coastline jewel of a town that’s only about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, making it an accessible day or weekend trip. Beloved for the sparkling oceans that dot its coastline, a growing fine-dining scene, and the best vinos from Central California wine country, Santa Barbara has proven to be an ideal road-trip during the pandemic—it was one of the first cities in California to grant restaurants permission to expand outdoor seating to parklets and streetside patios. Now restaurants across the city are open for indoor and outdoor dining, with no masks required for vaccinated patrons.
From new classics to the tried and true, local favorites to award-winning establishments (plus a few with Michelin distinctions), these restaurants exemplify Santa Barbara’s eclectic culinary scene. Whether you’re in the mood for fine dining in ritzy Montecito, Indian cuisine downtown on State Street at Bibi Ji, Mexican fare at Corazon Cocina, or clam chowder along the waterfront, here are the 17 best restaurants in Santa Barbara.
After years of pop-ups, Malibu favorite Broad Street Oyster has finally opened its Santa Barbara outpost, a casual walk-up window decorated with lifesavers, nets, and other fishy apparel, in the heart of the action on State Street. Rumored to serve the best lobster rolls this side of the Mississippi, diners can choose whether they prefer their lobster served hot with butter or chilled with mayo. You can also order sea urchin, clam chowder, or clam strips, to name just a few worthy options.
How to book: Walk in or order takeout by calling 424-323-4401.
A vegan restaurant that highlights the cuisines of Spain, Sicily, North Africa, and the Middle East, Mesa Verde uses only organic produce from Santa Barbara’s farmers market. The warm hospitality will make you feel welcome from the moment you walk through the door, so settle in on the garden terrace or enjoy the views of the open kitchen. If the restaurant’s Michelin status is any indication, you’ll want to try one of everything. But if that’s not possible, start out with the Brussels Mushroom Tacos or the Mediterranean Bowl with falafel, quinoa tabbouleh, hummus, grilled flatbread, pickled beets, sun-dried olives, cucumber, and cashew yogurt. A selection of beer and wine by the bottle and glass are also available.
How to book: Walk-ins accepted or make a reservation by calling 805-963-4474. Order take-out online.
With locations in Santa Barbara and Goleta, Jane Restaurant has been churning out house-made creations for over 30 years. The Santa Barbara restaurant is located in the heart of the Theater Art District on State Street in a historic Spanish building. If you’re lucky enough to be seated at a balcony table, you’ll enjoy views of the mountains, but really you can’t go wrong with any seat in the house. The eatery serves classic Californian cuisine, accompanied by a wine list that highlights Central Coast wines. Highly recommended are the Chicken Piccata and Grilled Salmon on Cedar, and be sure to treat yourself to the Creme Brulee for dessert.
How to book: Walk in or make a reservation by calling 805-962-1311. Order takeout online.
Stonehouse Restaurant is a rustic retreat nestled in San Ysidro Ranch resort’s 500 acres of land. You’ll be surrounded by lush gardens, citrus and olive groves, while the restaurant itself is housed inside a 19th century citrus-packing house. But that’s not the reason it received the Michelin Plates distinction—Executive chef Matthew Johnson showcases dishes such as the Parmesan Crusted Halibut, and the Garden Herb and Vegetable Risotto includes fresh herbs and vegetables from the on-site organic garden. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, try a Warner Margarita, which is made with a secret mix.
How to book: Make reservations online or call 805-565-1720.
This two-story oceanfront restaurant serves Asian-inspired fare ranging from sushi rolls to Crispy Korean Cauliflower and Saigon Wings. The surf and turf menu runs the gamut from Sashimi Tacos to larger format Kalbi-style Short Ribs and Japanese A5 Miyazaki Wagyu. Oku also serves craft cocktails and wines, plus Japanese sake and whisky flights. Plan your visit during sunset and sit on the rooftop to enjoy the spectacle.
How to book: online.
A contemporary Spanish restaurant with timeless style, Loquita is full of locals and visitors alike. With executive chef Jasmine Shimoda at the helm, you can expect traditional Spanish flavors and tapas plates like Patatas Bravas, Pulpo, and Tortilla Española. If you’re a fan of paella and aren’t in any particular rush, there are a few different paella dishes with seafood and meat options (even one for vegetarians!), but the dish takes 30 minutes to prepare, so get your order in as soon as you sit down. Loquita has a noteworthy gin and tonic program, and a selection of wines from different regions of Spain.
How to book: online.
Southeast Asian-inspired cuisine such as Crispy Duck Salad, Pan-Seared Octopus, and Steamed Coconut-Saffron Mussels are just a few of the options you’ll see on the menu at Sama Sama. You’d be remiss not to order the star dish—a mound of Mie Goreng noodles (a spicy Malaysian delicacy). The cocktail menu is not to be ignored, with options like Joselito, with Verde mezcal, ancho reyes verde, green chartreuse, pineapple, orgeat, lime, and fresh herbs. Cozy up at a communal table on the cozy string-lit patio, or take a seat at the large wood bar that has an impressive selection of aromatic herbs.
How to book: Book reservations via Tock. Order takeout via their website.
Following the success of Pasta | Bar, a pasta tasting menu concept in Encino, chef/owner Philip Frankland Lee’s Michelin-starred omakase restaurant is located in the Montecito Inn and offers a 17-course menu for $145 per person that includes a welcome cocktail and dessert—a bargain for the quality and quantity of sushi you’ll be eating. Make your way over to the intimate counter with only ten prized seats, and enjoy the view as the chefs provide an unforgettable night of nigiri and other delicacies from land and sea.
How to book: via Tock.
Located Downtown on State Street, Bibi Ji combines local produce with Indian culinary influences to offer a fresh take on traditional dishes. The Crispy Cauliflower tossed with chili garlic sauce and the Butter Chicken are must-haves, while the Uni Biryani is a local delight you won’t find anywhere else. You can also pair your meal with wine selected by co-owner and three-time James Beard award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr.
How to book: Make reservations via Tock. Order online for delivery and take-out.
Admire chefs and bakers through the clear glass window at this local bakery, as they prepare scratch-made buttermilk biscuits, granola, and even homemade ricotta. Pop in for grab-and-go pastries and picnic items or stop by during breakfast or lunch to take down the Smoked Pastrami Reuben or Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich, with sides like Crispy Smashed Fingerling Potatoes. An array of artisan breads are baked daily, such as the Rosemary and Parmesan Levain. The restaurant also shares a space with Santa Barbara Wine Collective, so you can pick up a bottle while you’re there.
How to book: Walk in or order takeout online or by calling 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. You’ll find pizzas decked out with market-fresh ingredients like maitake mushrooms and house-made pork sausage, plus a tempting carbonara pie, or settle in with the Milk-Braised Casitas Valley Pastures Pork Shoulder that’s served with creamy polenta. Located in the Montecito Country Mart, Bettina was given the Bib Gourmand stamp of approval by the Michelin Guide last fall.
How to book: via Tock. The bar is reserved for walk-in diners.
This farm-to-table restaurant in the Funk Zone is a local favorite. The changing menu pays tribute to the four seasons, showcasing the region’s bountiful produce with plates that come out looking like a work of art. The Cast Iron Cauliflower Gratin and the Grilled Spanish Octopus represent popular choices. They’ve extended their parking lot to accommodate al-fresco seating, but make your reservations in advance as this local spot typically books up.
How to book: online.
Flor De Maiz
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 lots of taco options on the menu. Found along the waterfront, this Oaxacan restaurant specializes in mole, which even makes 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 next Mexico vacation.
How to book: Make reservations by calling 805-770-2963. Order online for pick-up or delivery.
Field and Fort
Field and Fort is a 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. Enjoy your selections on their dreamy patio or better yet, picnic at Lookout Park.
How to book: Walk-ins only or call 805-770-7897 for pickup.
The family-run 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: Walk in or order takeout via their website.
Perfect for a laid-back 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 local 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 11:30 am–8 pm. Reservations are recommended.
How to book: Call 805-770-1700 for reservations or order take-out via website.
Santa Barbara has no shortage of affordable Mexican restaurants and Corazon Cocina, located in the Santa Barbara Public Market is no exception. The fried fish tacos never disappoint, nor does their Sal De Mar Ceviche, made with whatever fish is in season and 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 with kale and quinoa, and cheese quesadillas mixed with farmers market seasonal vegetables.
How to book: Walk in or order takeout via their website.
Santa Barbara is one of Leila Najafi’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.