A fresh crop of new restaurants in Santa Barbara is spicing up the already delicious culinary scene. As far as we’re concerned, there’s always room for more good eats in our fair city surrounded by organic farms, family-run ranches, avocado and citrus orchards and the seafood-rich Santa Barbara Channel. And you’re going to want to sample what these new dining establishments are cooking up with Santa Barbara’s abundance of local ingredients. Beyond savoring the food, there’s newly designed spaces to check out and ambiance to rate—if you’re a proactive Yelper or OpenTable devotee. Anyone who lives to eat or considers dining out entertainment (a.k.a. “eatertainment”) knows that unique, crave-worthy thrill of trying a new spot for the very first time. So, here’s a guide to 10 new Santa Barbara restaurants that should be on your radar when hunger strikes next time you visit.
Santa Barbara was in need of a contemporary Indian cuisine restaurant and that’s exactly what Bibi Jidelivered—and then some. Bibi Ji is the fourth in a collection of acclaimed sister restaurants with locations in Australia and New York City. The Santa Barbara iteration is the culmination of a partnership between Chef Jessi Singh and renowned Santa Barbara sommelier turned winemaker, Rajat Parr of Sandhi Wines. They bring the vibrant spirit and flavors of India to The American Riviera®. While the wine selection is naturally a standout, beer connoisseurs will go crazy for their rotating line-up of six limited run, small keg draft beers and the 40-plus beers on offer.
LOCAL TIP: Opt for a beer ($20) or wine pairing ($30) to let their experts select the perfect sipping companion to each course.
(724 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Tuesday-Sunday happy hour 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. and dinner from 5:00 p.m.; Friday-Sunday lunch 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.)
Blackbird is the “signature” dinner-only restaurant in the new Hotel Californian on lower State Street. It has seriously culinary cred courtesy of Chef Alexander La Motte, a Culinary Institute of America grad who worked under two living legends: Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. The space is dark and elegant, the service is highly attentive and the Mediterranean-inspired food is artfully presented. So it’s a great choice for a special occasion, but there’s no need to save it just for that because it’s too delicious to stay away—even if you just pop in for a drink and appetizer at the bar, which stays open a bit later than the restaurant.
LOCAL TIP:Order the Flat Bread appetizer and have your mind blown by the exquisite simplicity of the tart preserved lemon spread.
(36 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Daily dinner 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
Part of a small Southern California chain that started in Newport Beach, Bluewater Grill made itself right at home on The American Riviera® with a prime position on Santa Barbara’s main waterfront drag near Stearns Wharf. Sustainable seafood is the specialty of this casual, family-friendly eatery offering dozens of different types of seafood. They source directly from local fishermen and even operate their own swordfish harpoon boat in season. Expect to find locally harvested uni on the menu thanks to Chef Chanel Ducharme, who was formerly chef de cuisine at The Hungry Cat Santa Barbara.
LOCAL TIP:Take advantage of the very generous happy hour Monday through Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. when you can fuel up on a robust menu including oyster shooters, fish tacos and shrimp sliders for a steal of a deal.
(15 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Sunday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
Finney’s Craft House & Kitchen joins the boom in new businesses occupying recently completed buildings on bustling lower State Street near the Funk Zone. This is the second location for the gastropub-style eatery established in Westlake Village. It’s the kind of place you can bring the kids, settle in to watch a game with friends or drop in for late night eats. When it comes to the food, think American comfort food classics (like hot wings, chicken and waffle bites, crispy tacos and burgers) made with fresh ingredients and elevated with a gourmet twist. Beer is definitely the focus here with more that 30 craft beers on tap, but there are plenty of Californian wine and cocktail options as well.
LOCAL TIP: Finney’s offers several gluten-free options and dogs are welcome on the patio.
(35 State Street, Suite A, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Sunday-Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.; the kitchen stops serving an hour before closing.)
Montecito Inn partnered with Chefs Phillip and Margarita Lee—the husband and wife culinary team behind SoCal’s Scratch Restaurants—to open a few new eateries in the historic Coast Village Road hotel. Frankland’s Crab & Co. is the first concept of the trio to open (the other two are slated to open later in 2018). The “Modern Shell Shack” specializes in casual, hands-on seafood, so head here when you have a hankering for crab, clams, lobster and oysters—raw, steamed, fried or sandwiched. Frankland’s charming, cheerful setting is super Instagram-friendly, too. The food is presented on metal trays or in disposable craft containers with lots of branded parchment paper in the mix. Even their takeaway bags are cute.
LOCAL TIP:The lobster grilled cheese is so sinfully divine, it will blow your mind.
(1295 Coast Village Road, Montecito, CA 93108. Open daily 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
At downtown’s Mosto Crudo, chef and co-owner Tiziano Fioretti blends his Italian roots with co-owner Alejandra’s Garcia’s Spanish heritage to craft innovative small plates served in the cozy, European-style café-bar. As the name implies, the tapas and wine bar works wonders with raw foods, especially local seafood and produce. Charcuterie, crostini and imported cheeses are also on the menu. If you don’t feel like making decisions, opt for the Chef’s Selection tasting menu (five dishes for $50 or eight for $80). The space has a creative, bohemian vibe between the Edison light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, rotating art gallery and regular live music line-up.
LOCAL TIP: Stop by for the late night happy hour on weekends from 10:00 p.m. to midnight.
(7 West Haley Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Tuesday- Saturday 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.)
Oat Bakery is cooking up all kinds of healthy and organic baked goodness in the downtown wholesale production facility and storefront opened by husband and wife team Louise Ulrich and Lou Fontana. There’s no such thing as empty calories with their nourishing, Scandinavian-influenced breads since everything they bake—100% by hand—is packed with protein and fiber. They even make vegan and gluten-free varieties. The satisfying flavor punch of their buns, baguettes and loaves comes from superfood ingredients like whole grains, spinach, carrots, kale, herbs, nuts, seeds and oils. Accompaniments include bread-friendly spreads like hummus, pesto and aioli. And on Tuesdays and Saturdays Oat Bakery offers an extended farmers’ market menu while supplies last.
LOCAL TIP: Go earlier in the day for the best selection, and pick up fixings for a tasty picnic at the beach or park.
(5 West Haley Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Monday-Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday farmers’ market extended hours 3:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.)
You don’t need to be a vegan to appreciate the food crafted by Chef Craig Riker at Oliver’s. In fact, once you take a bite, you’ll forget it’s all plant based. From the artichoke “crab cakes” and chickpea niçoise salad to the cauliflower bucatini and wild mushroom tostada, there’s a surprising richness to the meat-, egg- and dairy-free cuisine. Even the libations are “healthy.” The cocktail menu is based on high-end spirits and juices sourced from Juice Ranch, a local company that also sources from the region’s farms. The wine and beer list also has a local bent. The elegant, earth-toned space with vaulted wood-beam ceilings exudes a tranquil Zen vibe that enhances the nourishing nature of the wholesome culinary experience.
LOCAL TIP: If it’s a nice night, request a table on the heated terrace to dine under the stars and trees aglow with twinkle lights.
(1198 Coast Village Road, Montecito, CA 93108. Sunday-Thursday 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.)
Satellite can be whatever you need at any given time—a farm-to-table restaurant, wine bar, bottle shop, caterer, entertainment venue or wine school. Wine education is a major focus of this inviting fluid space in the heart of downtown. Owner Drew Cuddy shares his passion for wine with guests at regularly scheduled themed tasting events. Chef Emma West (former owner of the now-closed critical darling Julienne) is the talent behind Satellite’s seasonal cuisine that can be enjoyed onsite or to go. The snackable food pairs beautifully with the wine list that features smaller producers from around the world. Beer is also on tap with local draughts and a broader bottle selection.
LOCAL TIP: Satellite offers internationally recognized WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) courses on wine for beginners and connoisseurs alike. Sign up in advance and plan a visit around your wine schooling.
(1117 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Monday-Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Sunday 11:00 a.m. to sunset)
With proprietor Steve Hermann behind the design, it’s no surprise that Smithy Kitchen + Bar on Anapamu Street is an Instagrammer’s dream setting. The light, bright, easy-breezy dining destination features a variety of stylish indoor and outdoor seating options. The design skews rustic and organic with whitewashed walls, a mix of reclaimed wood and marble tables and perfectly placed plants. Chef Lauren Herman was the longtime chef de cuisine at Suzanne Goin’s a.o.c. in Los Angeles before relocating to Santa Barbara with her wife, Christina Olufson, who happens to be Smithy’s pastry chef. Both women are working some serious magic with Santa Barbara’s produce. And produce is also the star of Smithy’s innovative cocktail program.
LOCAL TIP: Request a table on the courtyard, which is one of the most inviting settings to dine alfresco in all of Santa Barbara.
(7 East Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Daily happy hour 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and dinner from 5:00 p.m.; Monday-Friday lunch 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.)
Summer in Santa Barbara only means one thing, there’s no shortage in happenings around town that celebrate the vast wine, culinary, music, and cultural scenes our Mediterranean mecca has to offer. Whether you and your crew have a fondness for swirling wine, dancing the night away, tasting flavors from around the world, or embracing the traditions of a myriad of cultures, Santa Barbara has a feast and festival for all.
Santa Barbara is a perfect getaway for foodies. From world-class chefs to the everyday food lover, The American Riviera® provides a place where fresh ingredients mingle with innovation and beautiful spaces. Culinary experts flock to the area for its proximity to deliciously fresh seafood and local, unique wine varietals. Plus, the year-round growing season and bounty of farm-fresh ingredients makes…