Travel

Montecito Restaurants

Establishment neighborhood
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.
Bettina
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.
Merci
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.
Oliver’s
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.
Los Arroyos
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.
Cava
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.
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