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Where to Eat in Santa Barbara – a food and dining guide

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Its position close to the sea, and enviably proximity to fields and groves of fruit and vegetables, means that Santa Barbara's restaurants are obsessed with fresh ingredients. The exclusive location means that you'll find plenty of fine dining hotspots where a celebrity sighting is an everyday occurrence. However, there are also plenty of casual and cozy restaurants where you can enjoy good food for comfortably small price tags.
Typical dishes

 

 

The favorite dishes in Santa Barbara tend to involve ingredients that have been picked close by. Enjoy fresh guacamole created from sun-ripened avocados, or grab a jar of fat olives to take home with you.

The Mesa

 

The Mesa is close to the beach and has a charming small town feel, with red roofed Spanish style buildings, and small local restaurants with pavement tables. Alcazar Tapas Bar has an authentic Spanish atmosphere and you'll be able to enjoy a simple menu full of freshly prepared dishes, so that you can try a little of everything, with a glass of locally made wine on the side. Just down the road the small and unassuming Super Cuca's Taqueria is a local favorite, and at the counter you'll find a huge menu of Mexican dishes, cooked freshly for you to take away or enjoy in the sunshine on the outside tables.

 

• Alcazar Tapas Bar, 1812 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara; Tel: +1 805 962 0337

Super Cuca's Taqueria, 2030 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara; Tel: +1 805 966 3863

 

The Riviera

 

Just like it's European cousins in Italy and France, the Riviera has winding, steep roads that offer spectacular views across the glittering ocean. Here you'll find the rustic Stella Mare's with its French provincial dishes. In a distinctively rustic, shabby chic building, you can enjoy bright and open dining with floor to ceiling windows. Seafood and steak are specialities, fresh and from the grill, as well as French classics such as coq au vin. For a taste of Italy, the laid back Panino offers an authentic lunchtime experience, with sandwiches stuffed with prosciutto, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and other simple, hearty favorites.

 

• Stella Mare's, 50 Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara; Tel: +1 805 969 6705

Panino, 1014 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara; Tel: +1 805 565 0137

 

Montecito

 

Full of mansions and manors, many of which are owned by celebrities and wealthy business people, Montecito is an upmarket area and this means you'll find some of the best restaurants here. Trattoria Mollie often makes it into the top of critic's lists, and is a favorite with well-heeled locals. However, it manages to be unpretentious, with a menu full of fresh ingredients, and authentic, rustic Italian fare. The quaint Jeannine's Bakery & Café across the road is also a favorite meeting spot for locals, and you'll find it's pretty busy throughout the day. When you snag a table you'll be able to choose from a decadent menu, whether it's a laid back brunch or a freshly baked pastry you've come to enjoy.

 

• Trattoria Mollie, 1250 Coast Village Road, Montecito; Tel: +1 805 565 9381

Jeannine's Bakery & Café, 1253 Coast Village Road, Montecito; Tel: +1 805 969 7878

 

Downtown

 

During the day, Downtown's busy State Street is packed with shoppers, and it's a great place to grab breakfast or lunch in-between hitting the stores, with lots of charming places such as the Tupelo Junction Café. This airy restaurant is open from morning to night, serving a varied menu from decadent French toast or waffles smothered in maple syrup in the morning, to steak and sloppy joes for lunch or dinner. If you venture further down State Street, you'll start to see a lot of places offering seafood caught just off the coast, such as the lively Bay Roadhouse Bar & Grill. It has a relaxed atmosphere, with outdoor tables surrounded by palm trees, and a lively bar. Enjoy traditional favorites from fish and chips to crab cakes, shrimp tacos, or wild salmon.

 

• Tupelo Junction Café, 1218 State Street, Santa Barbara; Tel: +1 805 899 3100

Bay Roadhouse Bar & Grill, 202 State Street, Santa Barbara; Tel: +1 805 963 2215