In Santa Barbara, there’s no better way to enjoy a meal than by pairing it with seaside views and the splendor of the great outdoors. Lucky for us (and you), Santa Barbara’s restaurant community continues to maximize its outdoor dining spaces and has creatively elevated its al fresco footprint so you can savor regional cuisine in beautiful outdoor settings.
To view a full list of restaurants with outdoor dining experiences, click here. For those looking for specific, stand-out recommendations, use this guide to dine by neighborhood in the Santa Barbara South Coast.
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Mother Nature gives an extra boost to the airflow at waterfront establishments that pair serene ocean views with delicious fare. After your meal, take a stroll along the Cabrillo Bike Path.
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily from their iconic location right above Hendry’s Beach—aka Arroyo Burro Beach. Securing a table on their existing outdoor patio is even more enviable these days given the incredible setting, especially at sunset. Consider Boathouse for a hearty brunch, fish tacos, and burgers or a massive seafood platter and martinis.
Convivo Restaurant & Bar is outfitted with a prime patio that looks directly out onto the mellow swells of East Beach. The setting is elegant enough for a special occasion while being equally relaxed for casual happy hour sips and bites. The Mediterranean-inspired menu features wood-fired flatbreads and pizzas, house-made pastas, bright salads and smaller plates.
A relative newcomer to the dining scene from a longtime Santa Barbara restaurateur, Okuspecializes in Asian-fusion cuisine prepared with the freshest seafood and seasonal produce. Think sushi, dumplings, Thai noodles, and artful preparations of local catch like spot prawns and sea urchin. In addition to their patio dining room and rooftop bar, Oku added outdoor seating adjacent to the restaurant that lights up at sunset with strategically placed lanterns and glowing heat lamps.
Santa Barbara FisHouse is nestled on Cabrillo Boulevard with views of the beach and Stearns Wharf. Serving lunch and dinner daily, the breezy patio area features a firepit and string lights that add extra ambiance after the sun goes down. Naturally, the menu is seafood-centric and as fresh as it gets. And you’re welcome to bring your pups.
The closest you can get to being on the water without hopping on a boat is spending time on Stearns Wharf, where you can hit Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. The casual eatery originated as a fish market and has been serving the local community and visitors for more than 40 years. Best known for their crab dishes, they also make a mean shrimp ceviche, lobster roll, and clam chowder. Dine on the limited patio or order to-go and enjoy your meal on the beach.
You can literally sink your feet in the sand at West Beach when you dine at laid-back Shoreline Café. The café features both a big patio and a selection of tables right on the beach. Their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus feature Mexican dishes and classic Californian fare that appeal to a wide range of dietary preferences. Plus, it’s very kid-friendly!
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Between State Street’s big transformation into a pedestrian promenade and the continuation of creative parklets, Downtown and the Funk Zone channel that European outdoor dining vibe—with a Californian twist, of course.
One of Santa Barbara’s most romantic restaurants, Bouchon Santa Barbara expanded their outdoor dining to include seating tucked in the courtyard and laneways of Victoria Court. A few tables are situated on an elevated outdoor deck and the overall al fresco ambiance feels very European—complete with peek-a-boo views of the Arlington theatre’s spire. Between the stellar service and artful presentation, bouchon has maintained their signature relaxed fine dining flair. It’s a top choice for celebrating a special occasion or simply feasting on standout wine country cuisine in an intimate setting under the stars.
Health conscious diners and the sustainably-minded flock to Green Table on De La Guerra for vegetarian and gluten-free daytime eats. The restaurant is also popular with matcha fans thanks to the vast selection of drinks and smoothies. Place an order and grab a seat at its new boho, eco-chic parklet just across the sidewalk from the storefront.
Another top Tapas spot, Loquita can be found in the Funk Zone on lower State Street. The dinner-only restaurant’s patio oozes Santa Barbara ambiance, from the tile work to the abundant bougainvillea. A recent patio expansion makes it possible for more lucky diners to savor their Spanish flavors and deliciously noteworthy gin and tonics.
Pizza is also the star of the table at Lucky Penny in the Funk Zone. The simple menu of griddled paninis, wood-fired pizzas, salads and small plates bursts with vibrant seasonal flavors. A new parklet adds even more outdoor space for patrons. And you can still get your best shot in front of the often-Instagrammed penny wall!
Spanish tapas and award-winning cocktails are on the menu at Milk & Honey. The lounge-y restaurant tucked off State Street on Anapamu expanded their patio seating to include a newly created parklet. You can also opt to order to-go from the charming “Tuk Tuk,” where locals are beelining for Taco Tuesday family meals.
A longtime local favorite on a quieter stretch of State Street, Opal Restaurant & Bar offers expanded outdoor seating with views of the historic Arlington Theatre marquee. Opal is serving dinner nightly, with many items from the menu regulars know well and love—pizzas, pastas, seafood and classic entrees like filet mignon and chicken picatta.
Diners can now savor cuisine from the popular vendors at the Santa Barbara Public Market in an expanded patio seating area along Victoria Street. Victoria Street is currently closed to car traffic between Chapala and State Streets, and the Public Market created an inviting parklet near the front entrance complete with hedges and umbrellas. There’s even a big TV screen for sports fans who want to tune into the MLB and NBA action. So, order your food and beverages inside at spots like Empty Bowl, Fala Bar, Corazon Cocina and Wabi Sabi Sushi Bar, and then settle in on the patio to relax and enjoy.
Family-run Shalhoobs Meat Company is quintessential Santa Barbara through and through. Its Funk Zone restaurant was already appointed with a sizable outdoor patio on a concrete lot—it’s a comfortable, relaxed place to enjoy barbecued delights featuring mindfully-sourced proteins and produce.
From Summerland and Montecito to Goleta, these eateries are slightly off-the-beaten path. Tried-and-true local go-to’s with attractive outdoor seating options, it’s worth your while to seek them out.
Located between upper State Street and Goleta, Creekside Restaurant & Bar is open for patio dining every day of the week. Covered with a canopy for sun protection, picnic tables line the sizable space where diners can dig into all-American fare.
If you find yourself in the Summerland vicinity, make a point to grab a bite to eat on the sunny patio of Feast inside Field + Fort. The café’s menu was made for an elevated picnic, with lovely locales like Lookout Park and Summerland Beach nearby. The breakfast items, sandwiches and heartier “feasts” provide gourmet fuel for days spent in the water or on the trails.
Over the hill in wine country, Hitching Post 2 created a nice, roomy outdoor tent on the grounds of their legendary restaurant property. That means you can still enjoy their signature Santa Maria-style barbecue grilled over red oak in an alfresco country western setting. From steaks and seafood to artichokes and ribs, any dinner at Hitching Post 2 pairs well with their equally beloved range of Hartley Ostini Hitching Post wines. If you visit during the day, the winery on the same grounds serves lunch and has picnic table seating under the shade of trees.
The patio vibe of the Montecito Jeannine’s Restaurant & Bakery location is another top outdoor choice among this equally esteemed local mini-chain’s four outposts. They’ve added some sidewalk café tables to extend the garden-like setting of their original lattice-fenced patio area. The breakfast and lunch menus are inherently brunch-y and healthy.
Last but most certainly not least is Oliver’s of Montecito. This heavenly, plant-based eatery has transformed its outdoor patio into a luxurious retreat along Coast Village Road. Except for Monday nights, Oliver’s is open daily for outdoor dinner service with delectable small plates and entrees filled with fresh veggies and accompanied by tasty drinks in a cozy, safe ambiance.