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Top 15 Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Our favorite spots to eat around the city.

If you’re wondering why Santa Barbara is called The American Riviera, I compel you to examine the sunswept beaches and the ocean waves gushing against Stearns Wharf.

chef decorating meal plate at santa barbara california restaurant

There is a graceful beauty about the place that lures you in with its Spanish architecture, its stunning red roofs, and its unbeatable weather. If you like the sun and the sea, Santa Barbara is a true heaven on earth.

Ideally situated on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara is a stellar seafood destination. Freshly caught and prepared, the seafood is stunning and delicious.

But it’s more than just another town by the sea: food is a culture unto itself in Santa Barbara. If you wish to experience classic American fare with an Old West twist, you’ve got it. If you want farm-fresh Spanish cuisine, you can find it here.

Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara

  1. Loquita Santa Barbara
  2. The Lark Santa Barbara
  3. Bibi Ji
  4. Toma Restaurant & Bar
  5. Barbareño
  6. La Super-Rica Taqueria
  7. bouchon Santa Barbara
  8. Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
  9. Sama Sama Kitchen
  10. Yoichi’s
  11. Cold Spring Tavern
  12. Mesa Verde Restaurant
  13. Santo Mezcal
  14. Arigato Sushi
  15. The Black Sheep

Santa Barbara has a lot to offer its hungry guests. Let’s walk through the best of the best in this beautiful place.


Loquita Santa Barbara

202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-880-3380
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Santa Barbara might as well be the Mediterranean of North America. Its climate and terrain mirror the ideal conditions from which Loquita springs.

This traditional Spanish restaurant doesn’t have to work too hard to create an authentic feel. Featuring classic Spanish cuisine, conventional Spanish wines, and an authentic Spanish atmosphere, the Loquita experience is divine.

Chef Jasmine Shimoda works tirelessly with her team to create a unique, authentic environment.

The seasonal paella is exquisite, featuring the freshest ingredients and the most delicate seasonings.

The Mercado Lechuga comes with an avocado pistachio puree that I still have dreams about. I highly recommend starting with the tapas, however.


The Lark Santa Barbara

131 Anacapa St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-284-0370
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Situated conveniently in the middle of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone on Anacapa Street, The Lark memorializes the overnight Pullman train that once serviced the area in the early 1900s.

With a full bar and a community table, The Lark strives to bring people together. Grab some friends and test out the delicious options, like the caramelized cauliflower starter dish.

The Creekstone Beef Tartare comes with shaved black truffles and green peppercorn aioli. And don’t forget about dessert! The Chocolate Tahini Brownie is more than just another brownie. It’s an experience unto itself. Don’t miss out!


Bibi Ji

734 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-560-6845
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Who says you can’t get good Indian cuisine in Santa Barbara? Not me. After experiencing the contemporary, relaxed setting of Bibi Ji, my eyes opened to a whole new world of cuisine excellence.

Situated on State Street, just a few blocks from Stearns Wharf and the Pacific Ocean, Bibi Ji delivers on a new level of quality and exciting food.

Located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s art district, Bibi Ji plays on the area’s culture to create a unique experience that is both familiar and completely refreshing.

The expert sommelier Rajat Parr and Chef KK Bheemarao work together to curate a perfect selection for patrons.

The Halibut Moilee Curry uses local halibut and Kerala sauce to create a taste sensation that sticks with you long after you’ve left.


Toma Restaurant & Bar

324 W Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-962-0777
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A picturesque waterfront experience is a perfect cure to any ailment, and Toma Restaurant & Bar offers just such an environment for anyone willing to have their minds blown by brilliance.

Rated as the premier restaurant in Santa Barbara, Toma utilizes locally sourced ingredients that are always fresh and cooked to perfection. As much as they focus on food, the staff at Toma has a passion for service that makes the entire dining experience a true delight.

The perfect meal at Toma, in my opinion, looks something like this: start with the Warm Chevre Custard, served with crostini.

Follow that up with the delectable Gnocchi, replete with Argentinian red shrimp and black truffle butter. Add some grilled asparagus on the side and follow it all up with their classic Creme Brulee.


Barbareño

205 W Canon Perdido St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-963-9591
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This downtown Santa Barbara restaurant offers local Central Coast cuisine that communicates something bold about the area. The menu embodies this historical point, centering on our place in space and time.

Barbareño delivers truly Californian cuisine. With the feel of a local neighborhood establishment, the place offers a welcoming environment and delicious food.

You can’t go wrong with the Santa Maria BBQ, a plate of goodness that you won’t find anywhere else in the universe.


La Super-Rica Taqueria

622 N Milpas St, Santa Barbara, CA 93103
Phone: 805-963-4940

If you’re looking for a casual dining spot to laugh, eat good food, and enjoy the beautiful Santa Barbara weather, then La Super-Rice Taqueria is the place for you.

The Taqueria checks all the boxes by serving up delicious Mexican cuisine like tamales and fish tacos.

Rumor has it that one of Julia Child’s favorite places to eat was La Super-Rice Taqueria. Whether that’s true or not, it wouldn’t be hard to see why she loved it here. It is simple and intimate, yet the food is an explosion of flavor aimed to please.

I highly recommend the Tacos de Bistec, at least for your first visit. You’ll find that the environment, the food, and the reasonable prices will make this one of your favorite spots as well.


bouchon Santa Barbara

9 W Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-730-1160
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Dinner in Santa Barbara ought to be a fun affair every so often. Making reservations, getting dressed up, and taking that special someone out for a night on the town is easy when you have options like Bouchon Santa Barbara.

Picking one option might be more complicated than you anticipated. Of course, lobster pot pie is one of the greatest inventions known to humanity.

But if you aren’t in a lobster mood, then the Bouchon Duck is served with an exquisite maple-honey glaze.


Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

230 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Phone: 805-966-6676
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With the Pacific Ocean next door, it’s not hard to see why the seafood industry is booming in The American Riviera.

Situated on Stearns Wharf, literally overlooking the ocean all around, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company offers the best of the best in freshly-caught seafood.

The food is incredible, and it’s worth visiting more than once to experience every option available.

Local favorites include the shrimp scampi, the shrimp tacos, and the lobster tacos. If I had to pick just one from this wild assortment, I don’t know that I could do it.


Sama Sama Kitchen

1208 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-965-4566

Sama Sama means “together” or “same to you.” This kitchen puts a California twist on Southeast Asian cuisine.

Living by the model outlined in its name, Sama Sama creates a relaxed, friendly environment for fine dining enthusiasts and novices alike.

The Vietnamese Wings bested all the wings I’ve ever had before, and that’s saying something. The Crispy Duck Salad features a sweet chili-fish sauce that changed my life for the better.

And the Hot Chicken Bao was, quite simply, to die for; that honey-cayenne butter put the finishing touch on an already perfect meal.


Yoichi’s

230 E Victoria St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-962-6627
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Yoichi’s will forever hold a special place in my heart. This traditional Japanese restaurant features a multi-course experience that brings Japanese culture and cuisine to the Central Coast of California.

That is the best advice I can give you: trust your server. Listen as the server explains the process of the eight courses, ask them for their recommendations, and remember that their job is to give you the experience of a lifetime. Give those things a chance, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Cold Spring Tavern

5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone: 805-967-0066

Suppose you’ve ever wanted to eat lunch or dinner at an old stagecoach depot. In that case, this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for: Cold Spring Tavern is situated on the San Marcos Pass, tucked away not too far from Santa Barbara.

The Tavern captures the feel of the authentic American West, serving traditional American fare in a log cabin in the woods. Live music during dinner provides a pleasant backdrop to a truly charming dining experience.

If you go for dinner (which I suggest you should), keep in mind that it’s open Friday and Saturday evening.

Do yourself a favor and order the Venison Stuffed Mushroom appetizer. Follow that up with the Buffalo Burger or the Cold Spring Chicken. Both are juicy, hearty options that you won’t regret.


Mesa Verde Restaurant

1919 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Phone: 805-963-4474
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The great thing about Santa Barbara restaurants is they have something for everyone. Whatever your preference or need, there is bound to be a restaurant that fits the bill.

Mesa Verde is one of those restaurants. It’s a 100% vegan, plant-based dining experience that hosts gluten-free options in an authentic Mediterranean style.

It’s a hip place to grab some food, with brunch options and outdoor seating. So grab some friends and check it out.

Start yourself off with a sharing plate of flatbread and hummus. It’s the best way to get into the Mediterranean vibe.

Next, you’re going to want to try the Mediterranean Bowl. With pistachio, pickled beets, and cashew yogurt, experiencing this particular meal is necessary. Embrace the complete experience.


Santo Mezcal

119 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-883-3593
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Modern Mexican cuisine has never looked so delicate, delicious, and attainable. At Santo Mezcal, the executive chef Ricardo Garcia has curated a menu of fresh, authentic quality.

He uses only the best ingredients, locally sourced and changing each season. His menu is always exciting and enticing.

Taco Tuesday is a great way to acclimate yourself to the Santo Mezcal experience. With a delicious taco selection starting at $3.95, you can’t find better options for the price.

Once you’ve been properly introduced, it’s time to stay for dinner. The Tacos de Ribeye is the most succulent dish in all of California.

At least that’s my opinion after experiencing the delicious ribeye tacos with rice and beans and guacamole.


Arigato Sushi

1225 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-965-6074
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Sushi has yet to make an appearance on this list. It’s well past time to remedy that. At Arigato Sushi, you’ll experience an innovative take on the classic sushi dish. It’s unlike anything I’ve witnessed before, and it made me like sushi even more (if that’s possible).

Situated on the historic State Street, just two minutes from the Santa Barbara Art Museum, Arigato Sushi presents a unique and exciting experience for all patrons.

Call in advance for reservations, or grab some takeout and sit in a park. Either way, your experience here will not be in vain.


The Black Sheep

26 E Ortega St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-965-1113
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On Ortega Street, in a cute little building, The Black Sheep restaurant graces Santa Barbara locals with its oddities and uniqueness. Founded by the Perez family, Black Sheep believes it’s alright to be a little bit weird.

Black Sheep offers an incredible selection of menu items using organic and locally sourced materials.

I highly recommend the Risotto of the Night, served with black truffle oil. And if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try a cocktail, the Hibiscus Lemon Drop is surprising and pleasant at the same time.


Final Thoughts

It’s no wonder that Santa Barbara is such a popular tourist destination. Situated in the heart of the Central Coast area, its climate and backdrop create a dreamlike experience that you can’t find elsewhere. It truly is The American Riviera.

And the food only helps. The options are abounding, the variety is astounding, and the quality is unbeatable.

Santa Barbara restaurants are some of the best in the state, and I think I’ve made a compelling case as to why.

Did we leave a restaurant out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment, and we’ll check it out!

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Written by Brian N

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.