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Fine Dining in Santa Barbara

Discover the best restaurants in santa barbara

a plate of food on a tableAlthough it’s always been home to fantastic dining, Santa Barbara has grown into a foodie’s paradise, offering world-class dining that caters to the needs of any palate. During your visit, after you enjoy one of the best wine tours in Santa Barbara of course,  be on the lookout for menus and wine lists highlighting our local bounty! 

The region’s agricultural history, unique Mediterranean climate, and knowledgeable farmers, ranchers, and growers have combined to support a booming food culture that rivals the top food scenes of Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and other more established food meccas. This makes a “food & dining tour” one of the main attractions in Santa Barbara

A key characteristic of the region – and one that sets it uniquely apart from almost any other top dining destination – is its prime positioning at the ‘north/south’ divide of the state. Its location allows it to take advantage of cooler, northern temperatures, and warmer southern temperatures, resulting not only in tremendous natural biodiversity, but also the presence of many micro-climates that allow agricultural crops to thrive year-round. 

As the 13th top agricultural county in the state, Santa Barbara is internationally recognized for some of its most abundant crops, including strawberries, wine grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, avocados, and more.

Due to its agricultural heritage and the quality of the food grown here, Santa Barbara restaurants take great pride in highlighting the absolute best from California’s central coast farmers and vintners – and not just because it’s trendy…this is just the way it’s done! You’ll find local fruits and vegetables mixed into many dishes seasonally, alongside local seafood and meat options. 

So get ready! From farm-table-experiences, sushi, and seafood on State Street in Santa Barbara’s downtown, to California cuisine and Asian-inspired dishes in the Funk Zone, to great Mexican food and steak houses in Montecito – it’s all here! 

As you review some of our favorite restaurants below, keep in mind that these are only a small slice of what the Santa Barbara Wine Region has to offer. And whether you choose the Lark, Bouchon, the Boathouse, Arigato, Ca’Dario, or any of our other recommendations, rest assured that you won’t be disappointed. 

Bon appetit!

fine dining restaurants

Santa Barbara has many fine dining establishments within city limits. You can find intimate and romantic restaurants that require advanced reservations or more relaxed dining environments where you can walk right in and find a table. Whether you’re on a first date with a new love or are on a fine dining foodie adventure with your partner or small group, you won’t be disappointed by these great selections.

 

steak houses

After a day of wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley, sometimes a great steak is exactly what you crave. The three recommendations below are all in Santa Barbara, but don’t forget that beyond Santa Barbara’s city limits, there are other steakhouses in the Santa Ynez Valley and northern Santa Barbara County.

Sushi restaurants

When dining in Santa Barbara, whether you’re looking upscale or a bit more casual, finding a great sushi spot to satisfy your cravings is an easy task. While high-quality, fresh sushi restaurants are sprinkled throughout the region, from Goleta to Montecito, this one is our favorite – hands down.

seafood restaurants

Santa Barbara is on the water, so fresh catches abound. And don’t forget that a unique confluence of warm, southern waters and cooler, northern waters make for an extremely diverse marine ecosystem that provides an amazing bounty from the great Pacific. Whether you’re taking a walk down Stearns Wharf or exploring the harbor, for an authentic Santa Barbara ’taste of the sea’ that features the freshest fish, oysters and mollusks, scallops, octopus, and more, here are a couple of our favorite local seafood restaurants you’re sure to love:

vegetarian & vegan restaurants

We know that many visitors to Santa Barbara are on the lookout for not only the freshest, tastiest food, but also the healthiest. So, for our friends interested in a more health-conscious (and sustainable) dining experience, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from that feature local, organic, vegetarian, and vegan options. These are two of our favorites.

california cuisine

What is California Cuisine, exactly? We suppose there are many definitions that could fit the bill. Our recommendations feature fresh veggies, seafood, and meats, and range from traditional California faves to more exotic tapas and fusion dishes. Take a look at our list, or just take a walk down State Street and you’ll undoubtedly find something to suit your needs.

italian restaurants

Does anything go better with wine than Italian? We think not. Santa Barbara is home to some long-time favorites that pair some of our best wines with celebrated local ingredients for the perfect dining experience. Take your pick from this brief list, featuring restaurants with different price points, different vibes, and different ‘fan favorite’ dishes. Wherever you land, relax, enjoy, and raise your glass!

mexican restaurants

You can’t leave Santa Barbara before a dining room experience at one of these top local Mexican restaurants. Authentic, delicious, and as spicy as you want it, our local Mexican cuisine is an absolute must. Don’t forget to also seek out some of our smaller ‘taquerias’ that may not be as suitable for a sit-down dinner with your friends and family but which are no doubt perfect for a quick lunch. Whatever you’re in the mood for, from the vibrant Coast Village Road area in Montecito to bustling State Street downtown,  here are a few of our favorite spots for excellent Mexican cuisine:

casual local restaurants

No matter how sophisticated or luxurious your Santa Barbara wine experience, SB knows how to keep it casual. In fact, it’s encouraged. So join us! Keep it casual and dine where the locals dine! These restaurants are winners the day after your wine tour when you can relax, put on your flip flops, and enjoy a beer or a cocktail on an outdoor patio with a plate of killer comfort food and a bunch of new friends.

Breakfast

You can’t survive on dinner alone, and after a long day of wine tasting and possibly a night on the town, you’re gonna need some fuel. Whether you’re looking for a traditional all-American breakfast, a hearty omelette, light pastries, or a morning mimosa, these breakfast hotspots are a sure bet.

Scott’s Personal Recommendations (in order)

Take a look at these top recommendations from Sustainable Wine Tour’s Owner, Scott Bull. You’ll find some of Santa Barbara’s gems here, including a Funk Zone favorite (the Lark), an oceanfront view (Boathouse), and more!

  • Bouchon (French, fine dining, upper State St)
  • The Lark (CA cuisine, farm to table, Funk Zone)
  • Loquita (Spanish Tapas, Funk Zone)
  • Santo Mezcal (Gourmet Mexican, lower State St)
  • Olio Pizzeria (Italian, gourmet flatbreads, semi-casual, Upper State St)
  • The Boathouse (CA cuisine, beachside, ocean view, Mesa)
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