19 Best Restaurants & Bars In Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a picturesque beach town located on the Central Coast of California. The area is known for its outdoorsy vibe and connection to nature, from epic hiking trails to pristine surf. California wineries play another prevalent role in Santa Barbara, and there are plenty of tasting rooms and vineyards throughout the Funk Zone. That said, the food scene in Santa Barbara is also worth exploring. Despite being on the smaller side, this part of California is home to a top-notch culinary scene that continues to expand and grow. From offering the best types of sushi to pizza to Mexican cuisine, Santa Barbara truly has it all. Though wine is the most popular libation in town, SB is also home to several cocktail bars that give places like Los Angeles a run for its money.

Whether you're looking for tasty tacos on the go or a fancy dinner spot to celebrate something special, this coastal gem has plenty of options for every occasion. Looking to plan a food-filled weekend on the American Riviera? We've got you covered with this list of the best restaurants and bars in Santa Barbara.

19. Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey is a local hotspot serving one of the tastiest tapas lists in town. One of the best things about Milk & Honey is that there truly is something for every kind of diner on the menu. Since everything is served tapas-style, it is best to order a wide array of dishes for the whole table. For starters, the Some Brie Sauce is a decadent and comforting dish you won't want to miss.

Other appetizer highlights include the bacon-wrapped Date with A Pig and the Manchego y Membrillo. More filling menu items such as the pollo con crema tacos and the PB&J sliders shine as main course options. That said, don't skip on sides like the Brussels sprouts and patatas bravas with chili garlic aioli.

18. Loquita

Located just blocks from the beautiful Santa Barbara shore, Loquita brings Spanish cuisine to the California coast. With a wide array of hot and cold tapas to order from, guests choose from a plentiful menu serving local ingredients prepared in a classic Spanish style. In addition to the selection of small bites, the chef-driven menu offers entree-sized portions of wood-fired grilled seafood and meats, as well as the crowd's favorite, a seasonal yet classic paella recipe.

Whether you choose to sit down for a full-tasting meal or grab a seat at the bar for sangria or one of the signature gin and tonics, Loquita's bites and beverages are bursting with flavor. Check out the Spanish favorite patatas bravas for an authentic tapas staple, a dish made of Yukon gold potatoes, a bright and spicy brava hot sauce, and a roasted garlic aioli.

17. The Good Lion

The Good Lion is a local craft cocktail bar known for embracing Santa Barbara's reputation as the "American Rivera." The interior is dimly lit and inviting with an air of mystery, and the bar top is a popular spot among creatives, writers, and other locals looking to kick back and enjoy an innovative libation.

The menu is ever-changing at this cozy cocktail spot, rotating weekly to include the finest fruits, herbs, spices, and produce from the Central Coast. The current selection of drinks includes a libation for every palate. From the sweet and refreshing Strawberry Fields Forever made with blanc vermouth, rose wine, strawberry, rhum agricole, lemon, orange, and mint, to the esteemed Dry Negroni concocted with London dry gin, Cocchi Rosa, Gentian Amaro, and rosé, you can get lost in loads of good flavor.

16. Bettina

Located in the high-end Montecito neighborhood, Bettina brings Neopolitan types of pizzas and naturally leavened bread to the Santa Barbara food scene. Chef duo Rachel Greenspan and Brendan Smith work tirelessly to create a menu that is both elevated and approachable, sustainable and supremely delicious. The menu changes often and features the freshest ingredients sourced from local farmers' markets. Moderately priced and packed with flavor, Bettina is a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant for clear reasons.

Each pizza is formed from naturally leavened dough, made only with organic flour, and fermented for a minimum of 48 hours. The mozzarella is hand-pulled in-house daily, and the sauce is made from organic canned tomatoes from Bianco DiNapoli. From the classic margherita to the rich and decadent carbonara, the quality ingredients shine through in each Bettina dish. Though most people come for the pizza, they stay for the appetizers. The Cacio e Pepe Arancini is an absolute standout, and the crispy rice ball is topped with Calabrian chili oil for the ultimate spicy starter.

15. Arigato Sushi

Located on State Street in the heart of charming Downtown Santa Barbara, Arigato Sushi boasts a delicious, high-quality sushi menu. From classic rolls to one-of-a-kind contemporary twists on nigiri preparations, freshness and bright, bold flavors are the hallmarks of this local favorite spot.

The a la carte Honmaguro Carpaccio dish is an absolute must-try. Thinly sliced bluefin tuna is balanced with masago, micro greens, watermelon radish, and a garlic vinaigrette that adds an ideal burst of flavor. Arigato Sushi also offers a selection of vegetarian dishes for plant-based diners, many of which are just as delicious as any seafood counterpart. The Magic Mushroom nigiri is a fan-favorite, featuring shiitake, maitake, enoki, shimeji, and eringi mushrooms that are mixed with asparagus, avocado, and chives. It is also topped with luxurious white truffle oil, providing unctuous flavor.

14. Test Pilot

Looking for a festive spot to grab a drink? Test Pilot creates innovative cocktails in an inviting and tropical setting. This funky spin on a traditional tiki bar offers both indoor and outdoor seating areas, allowing guests to grab a drink and snap a picture in the impeccably designed tropical wonderland.

The signature cocktail list at Test Pilot is impressive. A signature drink called the Test Pilot is made with a house rum blend, clove, bitters, and an airy absinthe foam whipped into a spicy yet refreshing tiki libation. One of the most unique quenchers is an alcoholic twist on a Thai iced tea made with Thai tea-infused rum, coconut, passion fruit pearls, lemon, Trinidad bitters, and Caribbean allspice. Grab a glass of fresh young coconut water to ward off the hangover and enjoy a slice of tropical bliss at Test Pilot.

13. Mony's Tacos

In a town full of delicious Mexican fare, Mony's Tacos is bringing simple yet supremely delicious tacos to the Funk Zone. The prices are remarkably low, while the quality of food and service is consistently high. Stop by after a day enjoying the various wineries and breweries in the neighborhood, and gorge on authentic Mexican tacos, burritos, and other staple classics. Mony's offers seven house-made salsas to be enjoyed with any dish, providing a burst of every flavor from spicy to mild, smoky to citrus-forward.

Be prepared to wait in line if you head to Mony's during peak hours, but rest assured the food is worth the potential wait time. From the first bite of chips and salsa to the last sip of a margarita, Mony's delivers every time.

12. Bouchon

Bouchon is setting the standard for Santa Barbara fine dining. With a passion for breathing fresh life into classic dishes, the chef-driven menu at Bouchon highlights fresh, local ingredients. From fish caught fresh in the Santa Barbara Channel, produce sourced from local farmers, and an extensive local wine list, it doesn't get much more nourishing than Bouchon.

Start off with the warm pecan and goat cheese tart, a buttery, flakey crust filled with incredibly smooth bliss. The duck dish has become a signature at Bouchon and has been on the menu for years. The maple glazed duck breast and confit of the thigh are served atop a succotash of sweet corn, fava beans, leeks, applewood smoked bacon, and butternut squash dressed with a sweet and herbaceous port demi-glace. If it sounds luscious, know that it tastes even more so.

11. The Pickle Room

The Pickle Room is a must-visit for those looking to immerse themselves in a local nightlife favorite. This deli meets bar boasts low prices for food and drink across the board and is a hotspot for friends and families to gather every night of the week.

The Reuben egg rolls are an ingenious combination of a classic crispy fried egg roll filled with the comfort food classic Reuben meat. With a name like The Pickle Room, it's only natural that the crispy fried pickle bites are a hit. The sliced pickles are coated in a panko breadcrumb dredge and served with an apricot chili sauce and ranch. Pickle Room's bartop serves up beers on draft, a wide array of cocktails, and, of course, a discounted pickle back shot for the fully briny experience.

10. The Lark

Another Funk Zone favorite, The Lark, blends a taste of the South with California coastal cuisine local to the neighborhood. With a dedication to locally and responsibly sourced ingredients and a menu designed to showcase Santa Barbara's best food, each dish is full of flavor and character, a reason it ranks as Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2022.

Enjoy a signature cocktail on the outdoor patio as you watch the stunning Santa Barbara sunset, or take a seat at the 24-seat communal table and relish in the incredible food with friends. Wherever you choose to dine, check out the brown butter cornbread to start, a fluffy and decadent loaf with wildflower honey and crispy rosemary. The Post Oak Smoked Superior Lamb Ribs are a perfect choice to enjoy The Lark's incredible preparation of both protein and local herbs and produce. Succulent and tender lamb is balanced beautifully with pickled Fresno chiles, sheep's milk feta, Medjool date caramel, crushed pistachios, and mint to create a cohesive dish showcasing the best Santa Barbara has to offer.

9. Carlito's Café y Cantina

Located directly across from Santa Barabara's famed Arlington Theater, Carlito's Café y Cantina is the perfect place for dinner and a drink before a night at the theater. The expansive outdoor patio allows guests to enjoy the temperate Santa Barbara weather with an award-winning margarita in hand. Further, the cantina is stocked with an impressive array of 100% blue agave tequilas paired with seasonal and classic margaritas and other signature tequila cocktails.

The food at Carlito's Café y Cantina takes a modern approach to authentic Mexican classics. From a classic halibut ceviche served with guacamole and salsa Fresca to an Italian twist on a quesadilla filled with roasted eggplant, tomato, basil, asadero cheese, cilantro pesto, guacamole & sour cream, each bite is exciting and delicious at Carlito's.

8. Jane

Jane is a family-owned and operated local treasure. Every element of the Jane experience is designed to make diners feel an inviting sense of comfort. There are romantic balcony tables overlooking State Street, a floor-to-ceiling fireplace, and a shared communal table in the warm dining room — because, when you dine at Jane, you are treated like family.

The menu at Jane is diverse, offering an array of classic California dishes with something for every preference and palate to appreciate. In search of something light and refreshing? Try the seared ahi and garlic shrimp salad made with watercress, butter lettuce, cucumber noodles, daikon sprouts, and a sesame vinaigrette. More of a meat eater? Don't miss the grilled filet mignon served with a mushroom and herb cream, seasonal vegetables, and potatoes. No matter the entree, make sure to grab a slice of the celebrated coconut cake to round off your Jane experience.

7. Shaker Mill

Located on Lower State just minutes from the beach, Shaker Mill is the perfect spot for an al fresco specialty cocktail. The indoor-outdoor design allows patrons to enjoy the ocean breeze from the funky chairs, spacious lounge area, or stylish bar top. The decor is tropical yet stylish, reflecting the energy of the Santa Barbara nightlife scene.

While Shaker Mill is known for its tropical, blended, and tiki-style drinks, one of its best-kept secrets is the sweet and energizing espresso martini shots, a delicious off-menu local favorite designed to boost your energy and excite your taste buds. For something more classically tiki, check out the Miami Vice, a blended drink designed to be shared that combines the always-popular strawberry daiquiri with a piña colada to create the ultimate frozen cocktail.

6. Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar is located in Santa Barbara's beloved Public Market. If you catch a craving for noodles, this is the place to go. The soups are perfect for warming up on a cold and cloudy day, while the summer rolls are the ideal light appetizer to start a hearty meal. The Hangover Noodles are a local favorite with a solid amount of spice and a savory and sweet oyster sauce.

Patrons can also take advantage of the weekly noodle specials. Mondays feature Thai fried rice, while Fridays bring Bangkok wings, with plenty more in between. One of the best things about visiting Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar is that you can grab a bowl of noodles before heading to one of the other eateries in the Santa Barbara Public Market. We like to keep our options open, but it's hard to leave on an empty stomach at Empty Bowl.

5. Convivo

Are you looking for dinner with a view? Convivo has everything from great wine to spectacular ocean views, making it a quintessential Santa Barbara eatery. Though there is indoor seating, the spacious patio is the ideal spot to enjoy dinner. Despite being located in The Santa Barbara Inn, Convivo is not a typical hotel restaurant, only frequented by local guests. The Desert Flower cocktail with Mezcal and strawberry juice is a refreshing option that pairs perfectly with the scenic surroundings and brings in imbibers from all across town.

When it comes to food, the lamb meatballs and charcoal prawns make for grand appetizers. If you're craving veggies, the shishito peppers with spicy crema and cotija cheese are wonderfully vegetal, warming, and savory. The house-made pasta is another can't-miss, with the seven-hour veal bolognese being the star of the show.

4. Bibi Ji

Bibi Ji is an Instagrammable spot serving up modern takes on classic Indian dishes. Its mission is to bring the rich and spicy flavors characteristic of Indian cuisine to the SB food scene. Whether you choose to dine on the private back patio and enjoy the ocean breeze or take a seat in the vibrant and excitingly decorated dining room, the atmosphere and interior design are just as exciting as the menu at Bibi Ji.

Check out the sample platter to enjoy tastes of the most popular and tasty dishes. In addition to the incredible food, the wine list curated by James Beard Award-winning sommelier Rajat Parr offers is full of local, organic, and sustainable wines that pair beautifully with the modern Indian cuisine being served.

3. Brophy Bros

If you're dining in Santan Barabara, it's reasonable to want to sit right by the ocean. Brophy Bros. is a legendary seafood joint that offers views of the harbor in a casual yet classic setting. The daily specials are the freshest option, ranging from grilled swordfish to piccata-style halibut. Each special is served with crispy french fries, creamy coleslaw, and a house salad. When it comes to hot apps, the garlicky oysters Rockefeller are the food of choice, while the cold combo is a great option for getting a small but refreshing taste of everything.

If seafood isn't your top pick, the Brophy Burger is a simple classic, while the fried chicken sandwich adds some spice to the beloved Louie spread. Vegetarians and plant-based eaters will appreciate the black bean burger, and there is a separate kid's menu for those dining with children.

2. La Super-Rica Taqueria

According to Forbes, La Super-Rica Taqueria was one of Julia Child's favorite places to eat while living in Santa Barbara. Rather than being seated and served, guests order at the window at La Super-Rica, making this a great option for those on the go. This ultra-casual taco joint serves its delicious food on paper plates, proving that quality and taste is the most important component of any dining experience. If you're extra hungry, the tacos de bistec should do the trick.

Similar to a carne asada taco, the tacos de bistec is much larger than your standard street taco, filled to the brim with salty, thinly sliced beef. The quesadillas are also a major hit, but overall, the food at La Super-Rica is simple, timeless, and consistent.

1. Sama Sama Kitchen

Last but certainly not least on our list of Santa Barbara must-tries is the unique and bold Sama Sama. This Michelin-recognized spot serves Southeast Asian cuisine driven by local produce, protein, and other Central Coast ingredients. The truly authentic cooking at Sama Sama is a great way for diners to delve into a delicious cuisine that may feel unfamiliar, and many dishes pack a spicy punch.

The crispy rice salad combines puffed rice, juicy pork sausage, pickled red onion, cucumber, and a fried egg. It's topped off with aromatic herbs, zinging lime, and fish sauce, creating a vibrant and exciting dish. Pair with a craft cocktail, draft beer, or selection from the local wine list for the full Sama Sama experience.