The postcard-perfect setting and sun-soaked weather are reason enough to fall for Santa Barbara, but the incredible variety of local food and wine will inspire your true devotion. With access to some of the best home-grown produce and seafood anywhere, Santa Barbara’s chefs have made the entire region a destination for cuisine that showcases incomparably fresh ingredients.
In this ChefsFeed profile, follow chef Bob Oswaks of Bob’s Well Bread in nearby Los Alamos as he visits some of his favorite spots in and around Santa Barbara, highlighting the people and places that make this area the Epicenter of Fresh. From the iconic taquerias on Milpas Street to five-star Italian fare found northwest of the city in the scenic Santa Ynez Valley, you’ll discover delicious places to eat and drink no matter where your adventures take you. Find out more about each of the featured locations below—it’s a great start for your can’t-miss dining list.
The storied Sanford Winery established the Santa Rita Hills of Santa Barbara County as one of the world’s best pinot noir and chardonnay regions. You can swirl, sniff and sip these legendary wines without even leaving the city when you visit the Sanford Winery Tasting Room, tucked into the charming tile-lined La Arcada courtyard downtown. For an extra enlightening wine experience, make a reservation for a Vertical Tasting, which emphasizes the nuances that each unique year brings to the vineyard. Learn More
Amid the art galleries, converted warehouses, surf shops, murals, and vintage boutiques of Santa Barbara’s flourishing Funk Zone neighborhood, you’ll find The Lark in the historic Santa Barbara Fish Market Building. Meals at The Lark are served family style and meant for sharing, and the food and libations menus change frequently to celebrate the seasonal bounty of the Central Coast. Choose from tasty small plates, farm-fresh vegetarian dishes, mouth-watering seafood and irresistible desserts like vanilla bean cheesecake or blood orange mousse. Learn More
Frequent out-the-door lines at La Super-Rica Taqueria are a testament to the flavorful and authentic Mexican offerings at this laid-back Santa Barbara mainstay. Boasting an endorsement from none other than Julia Child, La Super-Rica is worth the pilgrimage and the wait. The tacos are an obvious must-order, no matter whether you opt for steak, chorizo, adobado or one of each. Don’t miss the daily specials or the crowing-gem La Super-Rica Especial dish of cheese-stuffed pasilla peppers, delectable marinated pork and tortillas. Learn More
At the northern gateway of the Santa Ynez Valley is the small town of Los Alamos, home to a burgeoning creative community and to chef Bob Oswaks’ own Bob’s Well Bread Bakery. With a breakfast menu to die for and Stumptown coffee at the ready, it’s an excellent first stop for your day in Los Alamos. Not only are the beautiful artisan breads and pastries handmade, the bakery also makes its own jam and butter in house. The Egg-in-a-Jar breakfast is a must, with a poached egg (from a local farm, of course), bacon, gruyere, chives and crème fraiche atop purple potatoes and accompanied by crisp toast soldiers for dipping. Don’t forget a chocolate almond croissant to go! Learn More
Take a break from the city and day-trip to the rolling hills and picturesque vineyards of the Santa Ynez Valley, just 35 miles from Santa Barbara. After a day of exploring, settle down for a feast at S.Y. Kitchen in the town of Santa Ynez. This beloved restaurant offers elegantly simple and modern Italian cuisine in the welcoming atmosphere of a farmhouse. Sample homemade pasta, oak-grilled chicken and wood-fired pizza paired with a carefully-curated local wine list. Or try a cocktail from the imaginative bar program that rotates to feature the best botanicals, fruits and herbs of the season. Learn More
Make sure you come hungry to The Hitching Post II, also located in the San Ynez Valley. For more than 30 years, this Buellton institution has been dishing up classic Santa Maria-style barbeque, a style of cooking that dates back to the Spanish rancheros. The smell of steaks sizzling over the open red-oak fire beckon all the way from the parking lot, and you can actually watch the kitchen hard at work over the barbecue behind glass indoors. Start with grilled artichoke or beer-steamed Santa Barbara mussels, and then dig into a flawless top sirloin, filet or Angus rib chop. The Hitching Post also makes its own acclaimed wines, the ideal complement to a Santa Maria barbecue spread. Learn More