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 14 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.)
Gene Montesano, owner of Montecito’s Tre Lune Ristorante & Bar among other popular joints, has opened up a second Italian trattoria just moments from Stearns Wharf that is bound to impress. Due Lune Cucina emits the identical old Italian glamour as its sister restaurant, and the spot’s classic simmering sauces, fresh pastas, and leafy salads will leave you craving more. Stop by for a savory breakfast or lunch on the open-air patio where you can bask in the sun while taking in the sights of bustling Cabrillo Boulevard, or enjoy dinner under twinkling outdoor lights.
LOCAL TIP: Try pairing the vongole (fresh clams sautéed in white broth with garlic crostini) with a crisp sauvignon blanc, the tasting notes of the vino and seafood complement each other terrifically.
(1 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Breakfast served daily 7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.; Lunch served daily 11:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; Dinner served daily 5:00 p.m. to close.)
Finney’s Craft House & Kitchenjoins 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.)
Locavore Kitchen (“locavore” meaning those who strictly eat locally-grown produce) adds rustic flair to classic Californian cuisine. Think mouthwatering roasted rabbit leg with a sherry mustard sauce and goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms in a white wine mushroom beurreblanc. The Central Coast is renowned for its abundant harvests, and Locavore Kitchen showcases simply delectable dishes one can enjoy straight from our area’s bountiful backyard. Pair one of the spot’s wide variety of California wines with your meal for a fully immersive locavore experience.
LOCAL TIP: Because of Locavore Kitchen’s prime location, you can make a night of it and catch a show at the New Vic Theatre or the Arlington Theatre, which are both just steps away.
(21 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Lounge Bar Friday 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Saturday & Sunday brunch 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
If you haven’t fallen in love with Santa Barbara yet, the quaint and charming neighborhood of La Arcada, with its mom-and-pop shop and delicious restaurants will sweep you off of your feet. And what would a charming neighborhood be without Italian food? The latest addition to this lovely part of town is Italian restaurant Mizza Artisan Pizza & Cuisine, which serves authentic Italian food with pasta and pizza dough made daily in-house. Enjoy a glass of wine paired with their squid ink tagliatelle, on their rustic outside patio facing the bustling State Street. With a classic Italian menu and an attentive and educated staff, this eatery is everything you want from a night out in The American Riviera®.
LOCAL TIP: Join Mizza Artisan Pizza & Cuisine for Bubbles & Brunch every Sunday between 10:00a.m.-3:00 p.m.
(1112 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Open daily 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
The Monarch is the brainchild of Chef Phillip Frankland Lee, and is considered by some to be the crown jewel of Montecito Inn. Sophisticated yet minimalistic, the hot-spot serves up classics like yellowtail crudo and spot prawns to name a few. The tantalizing dishes are meant to be shared family-style, so everyone in your party can sample the wide variety of meats, vegetables, and sides the locale has to offer. Don’t forget to end your meal with a flight of chocolates made in-house or freshly fried lavender donuts.
LOCAL TIP: You can choose to sit at either a standard table or at the bar for your meal, both complement the intimate atmosphere and make for a great date night.
(1295 Coast Village Road, Montecito, CA 93108. Wednesday – Sunday 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Bar stays open until 12:00 a.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.)
Rotisserie-fired meats are the name of the game at Roost, so bring your appetite to this intimate eatery on vibrant State Street. Known for its fresh seasonal veggies and evergreen menu, Roost offers starters, salads and sandwiches along with enticing entrees like the wagyu sirloin accompanied by wilted greens and roasted rosemary potatoes. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a slice of creamy Roost cheesecake or shortbread cookies with lemon curd.
LOCAL TIP: Sip and swirl $6 happy hour wines and ½ off all beers prior to your meal; Small nibbles are also available to tide you over before dinner.
(1305 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Dinner served Monday – Saturday 5:30 p.m. to close; Happy Hour is Monday – Friday 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 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.)
When legendary chef John Downey put farmer Tom Shepherd’s name on his menu in the mid-1980s, he kicked off a trend not only for Santa Barbara, but the entire world. This region has been all about farm-to-table since long before that term became marketing catnip. Visit any local farmers markets, and you’re sure to bump into chefs loading carts with…