Known for its entrepreneurial spirit and down-to-Earth vibe, Goleta is home to several successful tech companies and the prestigious University of California Santa Barbara. A hub of innovation and big ideas, the “Good Land” is a laid-back city of 30,000 residents that also welcomes a steady flow of visitors who come for the academia, business, and leisure opportunities—think golf, craft beer, the beach, farms, and festivals. In recent years, several new hotels and restaurants have opened their doors, further elevating Goleta’s culinary cred. Between destination restaurants, local hangouts, and “sister” restaurants of popular regional establishments, our guide to Goleta’s must-try restaurants will help you find the best bites in The Good Land.
The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara is a large luxurious resort on the northern end of Goleta overlooking the Pacific. Home to six dining concepts, its elegant fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, is the top draw and a locals’ go-to for special occasions. Chef Efe Onoglu brings his extensive global experience working in some of the world’s top kitchens to create an ever-changing menu of refined classics showcasing such delicacies as Wagyu beef, local abalone, and Santa Barbara uni. The restaurant is famed for its 12,000-bottle wine cellar as well as its stunning ocean views framed by floor-to-ceiling windows. Angel Oak serves dinner nightly from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Learn More
Considered Goleta’s neighborhood bakery, Anna’s Bakery has been in business since 1990. While they are best-known for sweet treats and baked goods like cakes and pies, Anna’s offers savory items for breakfast and lunch as well—think breakfast burritos, soups, and salads. The gourmet sandwiches are prepared with freshly made croissants and breads and come with your choice of cookie. Lunch items are available daily from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and the bakery opens at 6:00 a.m. every day of the week, catering to early birds. Learn More
Cal Taco Fresh Grill has been feeding Goletans since 1987. The fast-casual outpost specializes in straight-forward Mexican and American classics. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., you can stop by for a breakfast burrito in the morning, a char-burger for lunch, or a customized taco salad in the evening. Kids can choose from chicken tenders, cheese quesadillas, burgers, and bean burritos. This is very take-out-friendly fare if you’re looking for a bite to bring to the beach or a picnic in a park. Learn More
Established in 1995, Cody’s Café is a longtime locals’ go-to for comfort food classics served in a casual atmosphere with surfboards adorning the walls. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus include daily and seasonal specials, while menu staples include country-fried steak and eggs, tri-tip sandwiches, and burgers. With a full bar at the ready, your brunch can be paired with Bloody Mary’s, margaritas, or mimosas. Please note Cody’s is currently limiting hours, serving from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., with private dining and group bookings available for evening dinners. Learn More
The original Freebirds in Isla Vista (near the university) has a cult following among UCSB alumni for its build-your-own burritos. The takeaway spot was opened in 1987 by a UCSB student, and it went on to become a national chain, Freebirds World Burrito. The OG burrito joint remains under local ownership and is not part of the chain. The burritos, tacos, and salads are as huge and satisfying as ever. Freebirds is open from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. every day of the week. Learn More
Locally owned and operated, Hollister Brewing Company has been a tried-and-true staple of the region’s craft beer scene since opening in 2007. The brewpub always has at least 15 different beers on tap, but folks come here for the food just as much as the beers. The gastropub menu features items like duck fat fries, free-range chicken wings, burgers, salads, and more. Open daily from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., pop in for a bite and brew, and check out their online calendar or social media channels for updates on specials, happy hours, and events. Learn More
Jane at the Marketplace is a family-owned and operated establishment with three generations of roots in the Santa Barbara South Coast’s dining scene. A tribute to the family’s matriarch, Jane, the restaurant specializes in classic American bistro fare with a European influence. You’ll find hearty salad bowls, wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers on the menu, plus pastas and artfully prepared entrees like filet mignon and grilled salmon. Jane is open for lunch (11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) and dinner (4:00 p.m.-8:30 p.m.) Tuesdays through Sundays, with a popular happy hour running from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Learn More
Nikka Fish Market and Grill is a reliable neighborhood staple for quality, budget-friendly seafood. A diversity of international cuisines influence the various seafood dishes offered, and for those who like their fish plain and simple, basic preparations like grilled and charbroiled fish come with a potato cake, salad, and steamed veggies. A casual dining experience, patrons order at the counter, and food is brought to your table—inside or outside. Nikkia is open Tuesdays through Sunday for lunch (11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m.) and dinner (4:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.). Learn More
Old Town Coffee is not your ordinary coffee shop. This community gathering place serves up beer and wine, live music, trivia nights, food pop-ups, and more. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, they offer extended evening hours until 10:00 p.m.—and turn off the wi-fi at 5:00 p.m. to encourage interaction and unplugging. Of course, the coffee is excellent if you’re looking for a place to get a Gibraltar, latte, or cold brew. Old Town Coffee opens at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays and 7:00 a.m. on weekends. Learn More
The Leta Hotel is home to CAYA Restaurant, a vibrant locale that reflects the hotel’s youthful and stylish persona. The menu is inspired by southern California street foods and beachy bites, such as fish tacos, bao buns, and oysters on the half shell. The cocktail program is a big draw, which boasts the region’s best selection of agave spirits, along with a strong local wine and beer list. Dinner is offered daily from 5:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Learn More
Goleta is home to a number of local favorite “mini-chain” restaurants that originated in surrounding neighborhoods and brought second or sister locations to the Good Land. Locals love having these restaurants right in their own backyard now, and visitors benefit from additional opportunities to sample some of the Santa Barbara South Coast’s greatest hits. Take On the Alley, the casual concept from the team behind Brophy Brothers. OTA, as it’s known, serves breakfast all day as well as burgers, tacos, and fish and chips. Cajun Kitchen and Jeannine’s Restaurant & Bakery are two other excellent breakfast and lunch options.