If there was ever a person to dole out Santa Barbara recs, it’s Tara Jones. As the owner of the city’s first–ever food tour, Eat This, Shoot That!, Jones corrals visitors to the coolest restaurants and wine–tasting rooms in the Funk Zone. “I decided to combine the two things I'm really good at, which is eating and taking photos,” she tells Tasting Table.
Jones tasks herself with keeping up with the area’s dining and wine scene—a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. “The food scene here is pretty incredible. For a small city of less than 100,000 people, we have a ton of restaurants. And they're all good,” she says. “I hear from people who come on the food tour and say, 'We keep coming back and we try different restaurants every time, and they're all good.' It's an anomaly, but it's true.”
If Jones had a day to herself in Santa Barbara, how would she spend it? By surfing, brunching and sipping tiki cocktails, that’s how.Photo: Jeannine's Bakery via Website
Jones’s perfect Santa Barbara day would start out at a leisurely pace. “I would sleep in a little,” she says. “Then I would go to brunch at Jeannine's Bakery. The banana–Kahlúa French toast is incredible.” Besides the famous French toast, the friendly, family–owned bakery also serves up lobster Benedicts on the weekends.Photo: Twenty20
“Then I would head to the beach and do a little surfing or stand–up paddleboarding. For surfing, I would go to Little Rincon. It's a fun little surf spot that’s very locals–only. It's where we hold the Rincon Classic, Santa Barbara’s quintessential surfing contest. These days, I just stick to the little baby waves with my longboard. It's a nice way to disconnect from technology.”Photo: Tasting Table via Website
After a morning of surfing, Jones would refuel at one of Santa Barbara’s most popular taco joints, Mony’s Mexican Food, known for its epic salsa bar consisting of unique varieties like pistachio and spicy peanut. “I would go to Mony’s in the Funk Zone for a super–tasty taco. Then I would go back to the beach, read a book and sleep off my Mexi–coma.”Photo: Tasting Table via Website
Next up? A dinner that’s worth getting dressed up for. “I would treat myself to dinner at the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch,” Jones says, referencing a rustic getaway with Parmesan–crusted California halibut and a patio illuminated by twinkle lights.
After dinner, Jones would take in a concert under the stars at the city’s historic amphitheater, followed by dessert at a Santa Barbara institution. “I'd catch a concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl and do a nightcap or a dessert at Harry's. It’s one of the only places in town that serves pie—apple, meringue, Key lime.”Photo: Tasting Table via Website
Then it’s one more tiki drink before last call. “For a laid–back night, I head over to Test Pilot,” Jones says, a bar that specializes in boozy slushies and outdoor seating. Try the Suisse Family Robinson for a crowd–pleasing tropical cocktail.