Santa Barbara is the kind of place where one minute you’re cruising along the shoreline on a stand–up paddleboard, and the next you’re digging into cornmeal–fried West Coast oysters at the hippest restaurant in town. In other words: vacation paradise.
Farm–to–table or sea–to–table dining is almost a way of life in Santa Barbara, where local chefs transform fresh, local ingredients with the sort of inventiveness that has earned the town its reputation as America’s Riviera®. Here are five Santa Barbara restaurants where the food is as good as the atmosphere; in other words, you’re in for a delicious, and highly Instagrammable, treat.Photo: Angel Oak via Website
Bacara Resort & Spa went all out with Angel Oak, its new high–end steak and seafood restaurant showcasing the culinary knowledge and classical training of Parisian executive chef Vincent Lesage. The seafood tower is almost as impressive as the restaurant’s panoramic ocean views, showcasing some of the most captivating sunsets over the Pacific. The menu is packed with indulgent offerings, from Santa Barbara's famous uni and Kobe beef to a decadent dessert called the Candy Bar, which—well, you’ve got to order it to believe it.
2 The LarkPhoto: The Lark via Website
It’s not easy to score a seat at The Lark’s massive wooden communal table—or at any table in the house, really. The constantly packed indoor/outdoor restaurant is located in a former fish market right in the heart of the Funk Zone, Santa Barbara’s ultra–hip arts district.
The Lark sources ingredients from area farms, and its menu consists of addictive, family style dishes: crispy Brussels sprouts with Medjool dates, harissa and honey–glazed Jidori chicken, and funnel cake drizzled with malted milk cremeux and triple–chocolate ice cream.
3 LoquitaPhoto: Loquita via Website
Santa Barbara is known for its stunning Spanish–inspired architecture, but if it’s the flavors of Spain you crave, Loquita, The Lark’s new sister restaurant, is the place to go. Sit outside on the fireplace–equipped patio and start with tapas (like Spanish octopus or chicken croquettes). Then, choose among three different paellas, and wash it all down with a sangria dotted with fruit from the farmers’ market or a classic G&T.Photo: Tasting Table via Website
Sama Sama means “you’re welcome” in Indonesian, and that expression of gratitude and thanks perfectly sums up the homey, friendly vibe of Sama Sama Kitchen. Nosh on Indonesian street food–meets–California dishes like tempeh tacos and crispy rice salad made from local ingredients. And don’t miss the back patio, where twinkly lights and an overgrown kitchen garden make for one snap–worthy setting.Photo: Barbareño via Website
Did you know that the Egg McMuffin was invented in Santa Barbara? The team behind Barbareño does, since the restaurant’s entire mission is to define and celebrate the cuisine of California’s Central Coast.
The neighborhood gem transforms local ingredients into eggamuffins (a version of the classic McD’s breakfast sandwich), Santa Maria tri–tip, quail à la Spanish and a darn fine bacon burger topped with pickled avocado and miso made from local pinquito beans.