Few cities in the world can boast as many restaurants per capita as Santa Barbara. There are nearly 400 in the greater Santa Barbara area, and during the summer months and holidays, nearly all are filled to capacity with diners from around the world. Our local wine industry has contributed to burgeoning number of establishments offering wine pairings along with gourmet meals.
The Lark, located in the wildly popular Funk Zone, offers monthly changing menus that are locally sourced and feature seasonal ingredients from the Central Coast. Meals are served family-style to encourage sharing. The bar serves classic and craft cocktails using artisan spirits, mixers, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. The expansive wine list showcases small Santa Barbara County producers and artisan winemakers from other regions. The restaurant is located at 131 Anacapa Street, just over block from the beach, with valet parking available. Reservations are a must at https://resy.com/cities/sba/the-lark with indoor and patio seating. Dressy casual attire is recommended and the prices are in the higher $$$ range.
Just a block off State Street, this lively and welcoming downtown trattoria has the charm of a hidden gem found on a side street in Rome. It’s especially romantic at night, and locals love it for the exceptional Italian cuisine and service. With a full bar and a great wine list, they serves lunch and dinner in a business casual atmosphere. Prices are moderate to high ($$+). Located at 37 E. Victoria Street on the corner of Anacapa Street; make reservations at (805) 884-9419.
At this downtown Santa Barbara restaurant, you can indulge in mesquite-grilled specialties, a wide selection of Mexican dishes, and delicious fresh fruit margaritas or a Mexican beer. Offering a taste of Mexico, the portions are generous ensuring you won’t leave hungry. On sunny days, the patio is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy your meal. They are open for lunch and dinner, and serving breakfast on weekends. The dress code is casual, and prices are moderate ($$). Located across from the historic Arlington Theater at 1324 State Street.
Chuck’s of Hawaii
Chuck’s has been a local tradition since 1967 and is known for serving the “Best Steak in Santa Barbara.” In addition to steaks, the restaurant offers a variety of fresh fish dishes. To spot the restaurant, look for the two Tiki Torches burning brightly on either side of the Hawaiian inspired front door. Inside, you’ll find red leather chairs, a low light lounge, and a great salad bar. Chuck’s has a good wine list and serves dinner only. The dress code is Hawaiian shirt-casual, and prices are moderate ($$). Located at 2883 State Street with ample parking behind it, and the phone number is (805) 687-4417.
Located downtown, Holdren’s is an elegant and timeless restaurant that boasts the oldest bar in Santa Barbara, still in use since 1918. The restaurant is known for serving great steaks, cut from Midwestern corn-fed beef, and fresh seafood that’s charbroiled over mesquite. Menu highlights include the “Cowboy Cut,” a 24 oz. prime bone-in ribeye, bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp, and Hawaiian Ahi. With a full bar and an extensive wine list they serve lunch and dinner with the dress code is dressy-casual. Prices are moderate to high ($$+). They are located at 512 State Street, and the phone number is (805) 965-3363.
The Palace Grill is a definitive contemporary American grill with a big Louisiana twist. The menu offers unique dishes such as the “Cajun Popcorn” (fried crayfish) and the Crayfish-stuffed blackened Fillet Mignon, and don’t miss the Cajun Martini (served in a jelly jar and limited to one per person). The restaurant has a lively, high-energy, fun atmosphere with guest entertainers, making it a favorite among many, locals and visitors alike. The Palace Grill has received several accolades, including being voted “Best on the West Coast” by Los Angeles Magazine and “One of America’s best restaurants” by the Zagat Guide. The restaurant has a good wine and beer list, serves lunch and dinner, and the dress code is dressy-casual. Prices are moderate to high ($$+). The restaurant’s address is 8 E. Cota Street just off State Street, and the phone number is (805) 963-5000.
Located across the street from East Beach, this restaurant is known for serving up the freshest local fish entrees in town. The place gets very busy during the locals’ happy hour and the bar food menu is extensive. Enjoy stunning views of Stearn’s Wharf from inside or on the ocean view patio. Many claim that they serves the best clam chowder in town, so you be the judge. The restaurant has a good wine list, serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. The dress code is beach-casual. Prices are moderate to high ($$). Located at 101 E. Cabrillo Blvd., and the phone number is (805) 966-2112.
Retro, golf-themed eatery & lounge known for thick cuts of prime rib & classic 1950’s cocktails; a tradition in Santa Barbara since 1956. Low light interior with comfortable tuck & roll red vinyl booths, and dark green walls, this place is really about the meat along with a host of other steak, chicken, fish and lobster entrees. Unapologetically meat-centric, this is not the place to go for fancy sauces and small portions. It is the only place I know of in Santa Barbara that serves Prime Rib Pot Pie. Enjoy the ambiance of a 1950’s dinner house hidden away behind a nondescript exterior, sandwiched between a nail salon and donut shop. Located at 3627 State Street, (805) 687-1616 with a full bar, small wine list, serving dinner only; dressy-casual with prices in the $$+ range.