Cracking shellfish on the dock, authentic $2 tacos, and tri-tip sandwiches at an old stagecoach stop. You’ll find all this and more in Santa Barbara — one of our favorite cities in California. Hopefully, you’ll be convinced to go after reading about our must-do restaurants and bars in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara Shellfish Company
Spend the afternoon sitting at the end of the pier cracking fresh lobster, crab, or sea urchin. If you love seafood, this is the place for you. Products come directly from the fishermen (the owners are fishermen themselves). Lots of napkins and a nice day – you’ll be set.
Jeanine’s Restaurant & Bakery
This is our go-to for brunch. It’s crowded on the weekend but it has plenty of outdoor seating. Set in Montecito, you know there will be good people watching and lots of gorgeous flowers. Grab a mug of coffee and order their famous Banana Kahlúa French Toast.
La Super-Rica Taqueria
This is a famous taco joint best known as Julia Child’s favorite Mexican restaurant when she lived in Santa Barbara. There’s usually a line, so go early. Watch fresh tortillas being made by hand while you wait to place your order.
We have yet to go here, but it’s on our list. This is the famous steak house in Montecito where you go for martinis and a good steak. If it was good enough for Julia Child and Carol Brunette, it must be good. We love finding old-school glitz and glamour places where you can have a good dry gin martini and we think this would be the perfect place in Santa Barbara.
The Good Lion
Head to The Good Lion for the best craft cocktails in downtown Santa Barbara. It’s a dark bar that’s very popular with the younger local crowd. You’ll find cocktails using local produce as well as a natural wine list.
Go here for authentic tacos. It’s a no-frills, inexpensive taqueria where you’ll find an array of fillings to choose from for just $2 a taco. It’s out of the way, near the highway but still in downtown Santa Barbara. Similar to Super-Rica, you won’t have any service here. You order your tacos, they come right up, and you find a seat.
For a multi-course fine-dining Japanese experience, make a reservation at Yoichi’s. Set in what was previously a house, this small, intimate restaurant will craft a delicious tasting menu including fresh seafood, flavorful broths, and surprises along the way. They only offer a seven-course menu, however, now they do have items to go, including bento boxes with sashimi and rolls.
Bibi Ji is where natural wine and good Indian food meet. The food is delicious and if you like natural wine you’ll love the selections from sommelier Rajat Parr. We love Indian food, so when we saw the menu it was hard to choose. Everything was delicious but if you go (and you like uni) you must order the Uni Biryani. That is if they have any left. A hollowed-out sea urchin shell stuffed with biryani and topped with uni — is the most spectacular dish on the menu.
Cold Springs Tavern
Cold Spring Tavern was an old stagecoach stop in the pass going in and out of Santa Barbara. This is as local as you can get. On the weekends, they make the most delicious tri-tip sandwiches outside on the grills. Order your sandwich and grab a beer inside, then head outside for gorgeous scenery and entertaining people-watching.