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.
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.
1280 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
There are three Los Arroyos locations (the Santa Barbara outpost downtown is the one that started it all, though we've only tried the one in Montecito), and they all share a menu of Mexican food that hits the spot—the kind that’s prepped fresh daily, using tried-and-true family recipes and local ingredients. It's all comforting and reliable, though the crab enchiladas and chimichanga burrito are particularly good. There are also eight kinds of salsa, all of which go nicely with the two-dollar tacos on Tuesdays.
1212 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
This is the kind of family-run restaurant where the house-made chips and salsa materialize without ever having to ask and every seat—whether it’s a booth in the main dining room or a table on the patio overlooking the pretty Mission-style facade—is the best in the house. The menu offers options to scratch a number of culinary itches, whether it’s Spanish tapas or traditional Mexican standbys (the mole tacos are legendary). The generous happy hour is a favorite among the after-work crowd. Get the blood orange margarita. Trust.
Montecito Coffee Shop & San Ysidro Pharmacy
1498 E. Valley Rd., Montecito
This cafe shares space with an old-timey, packed-to-the-rafters pharmacy, which means that unless you know to look for it, it’s easy to miss. The service here is limited to breakfast and lunch, both of which are pretty basic—really, you want to come for the pancakes. What’s more, is that the pharmacy itself is weirdly great. The shelves are lined with everything from perfume and fancy skin care lines to basics like Advil and shampoo.
1253 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Everything about this Santa Barbara institution—including the somewhat unorthodox ordering system—is legendary. Some 30 years ago, Jeannine’s signature scones helped put the original Downtown SB location on the map. These days, the lobster Benedict and Kahlua-soaked banana French toast keep all three locations slammed at brunch time, while crisp salads and fresh, no-frills sandwiches leave lunch crowds happy. That’s not to say the baked goods haven’t held up over the years: The currant scones and homemade cookies are as good as ever. There are also two locations in Santa Barbara, one on State Street and the other on Figueroa.
1046 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
Sushi purists might find the miles-long menu—rife with elaborate specialty rolls (the merry-go-round is a local favorite) and Asian fusion fare—a bit overwhelming, which is why it’s best to consult a server before committing. But the sashimi is always super fresh and the flavor combinations, though a bit surprising at times (see: blooming onion roll), never disappoint. Don’t skip over the sake list, it’s the best—and deepest—in town.
1255 Coast Village Rd., Montecito
This newcomer is technically part of the Hillstone/Houston’s restaurant chain, but who doesn’t love a Houston’s, right? Being that it’s more bar than restaurant, the menu leans heavily on elevated bar food: The coleslaw-topped burger and crispy chicken sandwich are both insane; the kale chicken salad, though undoubtedly lighter, is just as satisfying. Since reservations are not taken in advance, getting a table—whether outside or in the dimly-lit dining room—can take close to an hour, but the stellar drinks make the wait more than bearable.
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