Santa Barbara Restaurants
Folded Hills Tasting Room
1294 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
A local friend let us in on this cute tasting room in Montecito’s Lower Village, a short walk from the Miramar. We like to drop in for a glass after lunch. The family-run Folded Hills winery grows its vines—organically—in the Santa Ynez Valley. Staffers are just as charming as they are knowledgeable, and after tasting a flight or two, signing up for the Folded Hills wine club (expect two six-bottle shipments annually) seems like an entirely reasonable idea.
1014 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Saturday nights are ripe for pizza and a beer, so Montecitans tend to agree. Bettina’s white subway tile and olive-green shiplap interior hums with chatter and a low-key raucousness that half convinces you you’re in a hipster pizzeria in Brooklyn. (The owners are New York transplants, and the vibe follows.) Call us purists, but we’re partial to their simple margherita pie. Blistered edges, sweet-sour tomato sauce, flecks of basil, and a drizzle of grassy olive oil is even tastier with a green salad and robust glass of Brunello. In our book, a restaurant is only as good as the sides and snacks (or, in this case, spuntini) on the menu. No meal at Bettina is complete without an order of the cacio e pepe arancini to get the Saturday night going.
1028 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Before she opened Merci in the lovely Montecito Country Mart, chef and owner Elizabeth Colling cut her teeth at the Ritz Escoffier School in Paris. She followed that with stints at Spago and Bastide. And now, every Saturday, dozens of locals line up to indulge in Colling’s resolutely French brown-butter-soaked waffles Suzette. The café itself is a blush-colored cocoon of wicker seating, marble tables, and the welcoming scent of fresh bread hot out of the oven. Roll up early, commandeer a table, and slowly work your way through the patisserie case alongside what feels like half the town. Our standing order: Merci’s Cali spin on breakfast brioche (they add nut butter) and runny eggs. Even the toast tastes better here—served with a French smear of herby cheese instead of plain old butter.
1198 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Oliver’s is the kind of upscale vegetarian restaurant we wish would open in LA (preferably next to goop HQ). Thanks to Santa Barbara’s balmy climate, indoor-outdoor dining makes sense. At Oliver’s, the transition is seamless—the warm wood and blue-grey of the interior opens out onto a tree-laden patio strung with lights, and the long French doors are always open to catch the breeze. Dishes like sweet potatoes smothered in herbs and chili, jackfruit tacos, and nutty, toasted farro risotto with fried sage are satisfying and so tasty. The cocktails—made with cold-press juice, kombucha, and premium-grade liquor—are practically virtuous, and the enchanted-treehouse vibe, especially in the early spring, is irresistible.
Chaplin’s Martini Bar
1295 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Montecito needed Chaplin’s. The martini bar fills the lonely space left by the closure of Frankland’s Crab and Co. in the storied Montecito Inn. Owners Phillip and Margarita Lee wanted a place that was elegant, moody, and evocative of old Hollywood as much for themselves as for the locals. Chaplin’s evokes a bygone era with its dark walls, red drapes, and plush leather booths. It’s a moody, glamorous spot for a martini (or whatever you’re drinking). The menu is, of course, inspired by what Charlie Chaplin himself might have ordered in the ’20s and ’30s when he was knocking around Santa Barbara. Gin abounds in old-timey cocktails like the corpse reviver with lemon and dry curaçao or the French 75, which we’re especially keen on (the sparkling wine and lemon keep it light). That’s not to suggest that whiskey lovers should get panicky. The Sazerac-style Vieux Carré cocktail—a muddle of Old Overhold rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, and vermouth—is all you need with a dish of olives before dinner.
Finch & Fork
31 W. Carrillo St., Downtown
Fresh, California cuisine meets American classics at Finch and Fork, where the dishes are prepared simply (think only a few select ingredients each) to perfection. There are different daily specials (i.e. burger and beer, pork and cork) and just-caught seafood on the menu. Although the brunch line-up is particularly awesome, this is a solid choice for any mealtime.
119 Harbor Way, Harborside
Located on the waterfront, this is an always packed, lively and fun place to come for great, fresh fish dishes with the family. The clam chowder and fish & chips are especially popular.
Padaro Beach Grill
3765 Santa Claus Ln., Carpinteria
A favorite spot for family dinners in Carpinteria (just a few miles from Santa Barbara), Padaro serves up casual food like burgers, quesadillas, nachos, and fish tacos in a beautiful setting. Order your food on arrival and then find seating on their expansive lawn outside and take in the ocean views. This is a super kid-friendly place with a big outdoor area and a sandpit.
600 Olive St., Lower State
A friend with kids said this old school (i.e., it was established in '37) Italian joint is a huge hit: You get to dig into Spaghetti Alle Vongole, grilled salmon, and a pages-long wine list on the lovely patio out back, while they can spend any downtime playing Bocce on one of the two adjacent courts.
Pane e Vino
1482 E. Valley Rd., Montecito
"My dad brought me to this Italian trattoria for a special dinner when he came up to visit when I was at UCSB. It still serves all the delicious and seasonal Italian dishes you’d expect in a warm, welcoming setting. Choose between the cozy interior or the vine covered outdoor patio for lunch or dinner." -GP
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