One of my favorite things about living in Santa Barbara, (besides the beautiful ocean views, palm trees, vineyards, and all-around perfect weather)… the incredible food offered all around town. What I was most impressed with was the diversity among the food. Sure Santa Barbara is a beach town where you can get truly terrific seafood, but the town offers much more than that! From Mexican to Spanish style tapas, below you will find my absolute favorite places to eat in Santa Barbara. If you find yourself lucky enough to visit the American Riviera, you will definitely want to add these Santa Barbara restaurants to your list.
Best Places to Eat in Santa Barbara
For… Quick and Easy; On the Go!
Blenders in the Grass – Blenders is a plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, juice bar. Known for their particularly tasty acai bowls, it’s a quick and nutritious way to start your day. With three locations in and around Santa Barbara, I preferred to stop at Blenders on State Street. From there I would take my bowl down to the beach and enjoy a day in the sun!
Hours of operation: Monday-Friday 0700-2200; Saturday-Sunday 0800-2200
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams – Found on State Street (the main street in town), McConnell’s serves ice cream made from scratch. A shop birthed in Santa Barbara in 1949, McConnell’s mission is to make life a little “sweeter”. And by that they do! McConnell’s has also been called “the best in the world” by TIME Magazine. Today they also sell McConnell’s ice cream at the grocery store.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Thursday 1100-2230; Friday-Saturday 1100-2330
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach – Sitting on Hendry Beach, looking out at the Pacific Ocean is where you’ll find this gem; one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara! Particularly special for brunch, at the Boathouse sit on the patio or inside (the big windows still allow for looking out at the ocean) with a bloody mary watching the surfers catch their morning waves. Or head to the Boathouse for happy hour to watch the sky turn orange as the sun sets behind the San Ynez Mountains.
Hours of operation: Monday-Sunday 0730-2100
Brophy Bros. – Where the best spot in the house is at the bar, Brophy’s is the perfect place for a casual seafood lunch or dinner. With indoor/outdoor seating, the windows are usually open allowing for a nice breeze to hit you at the bar. Look out onto the harbor where the boats are docked while you enjoy some of the best seafood in town. Here’s the place to opt for an oyster shooter, especially if you’ve never had one!
Hours of operation: Monday-Sunday 1100-2200
Santo Mezcal – A hip and modern Mexican joint found in Hotel Indigo. With a flair on seafood, you’ll find more than your typical Mexican fare here. The perfect place for drinks and appetizers with friends before heading out for a night on the town!
Hours of operation: Sunday-Wednesday 0800-2100; Thursday-Saturday 0800-2200
Loquita – A funky, delicious Spanish style tapas restaurant found on the outskirts of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. While busy, the wait is worth it. Opt for indoor or outdoor seating; and my suggestion? Order the seafood paella.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Thursday 1700-2130; Friday-Saturday 1700-2230
Olio Pizzeria – A restaurant that has two sides, Olio e Limone Restaurante (fancier) and Olio Pizzeria (more casual); I preferred it for the pizzeria side. Think Italian fare in a cozy, Italian-esque setting. Not too fancy, but nice enough that you don’t feel like you’re in a pizza joint.
Hours of operations: Sunday-Saturday 1130-2200
The Lark Santa Barbara – The Lark is one of the better restaurants in Santa Barbara. A twist on modern American food, it’s the type of restaurant where family-style is suggested and sharing a community table with strangers is recommended. Having visited many times, my favorite menu item was “Surprise me!” The waiter/waitress never went wrong.
Hours of operation: Sunday-Saturday 1600-2200
Yellow Belly – A bit more off the beaten path, Yellow Belly is perfect for when you’re on the hunt for bar food… that’s elevated! An affordable and rustic restaurant with indoor/outdoor seating in a quiet part of town.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday 1630-2130; Friday 1630-2200; Saturday 1000-1400, 1630-2130; Sunday 1000-1400, 1630-2100
Zaytoon – As I said earlier, I liked Santa Barbara not only for their seafood restaurants, but I also liked Santa Barbara for its other types of restaurants. Zaytoon is one of them. A Lebanese/Middle Eastern fare restaurant, it’s the perfect place to sit on the patio, smoke hookah, and enjoy their weekly live entertainment.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday 1200-1400, 1730-2130; Friday 1200-1400, 1730-2230; Saturday 1300-2230; Sunday 1730-2130
For a town as small as Santa Barbara, it truly is a place known for its food. If you’re lucky enough to visit this beach town and you find yourself asking, “What are the best places to eat in Santa Barbara?” just know that you truly can’t go wrong. Any café on the side of the street will do, but these restaurants went the extra mile for food, ambiance, and atmosphere.
Have you been to Santa Barbara? What are your favorite places to eat at? Let me know in the comments below!