Santa Barbara Restaurants
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 Lane, 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 East 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
1279 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Lucky's is known for its great American fare, which comes in the form of martinis, oysters, steamed artichokes with vinaigrette, turkey burgers, and of course, the requisite steaks and chops. It has a great old-world Rat Pack vibe and it's perennially packed, meaning it's always a fun night out. The bar is open late.
138 E. Canon Perdido St., Downtown
This is one of Santa Barbara's most celebrated restaurants, and we totally understand why: The focus is on farm-to-table fare (or, more specifically, the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market to table), and inventive spins on dishes you think you already know well. They also have a deep wine list, full of local California options.
3849 State St., La Cumbre
Wise people say that everything tastes better in either bowl or smoothie form, which is the abiding philosophy here: Specializing in hot porridge, acai bowls, and every manner of smoothie, this is one of those cheerful joints that entirely revolves around starting days right. They're onto something too, since it's booming: There are now four outposts across California, including a second outpost in Santa Barbara.
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