Recommended Santa Barbara Restaurants
Santa Barbara provides residents and visitors a wide variety of dining options, and is said to have more restaurants per capita than any city in the U.S. We have compiled a short list of our favorite Santa Barbara restaurants to help you begin your journey through the local wealth of dining experiences.
Affordable Mexican food at its best offering a very diverse menu. You order at the counter, fill up or create your salsas at the salsa bar, and then sit down to enjoy your food. The restaurant is always busy, and while the interior is charming, the noise can make intimate conversation difficult.
This restaurant is owned and operated by the same family as Los Agaves and is a longstanding icon of top quality Mexican food in Santa Barbara. They have a nicer location on Coast Village Road and another location downtown that is better suited for a quick lunch. The food is the same excellent quality as Los Agaves, though the menu is more limited. The Montecito location does offer you the nicer, “sit-down and order” dining experience. Their margaritas, salsa, and guacamole are all top notch.
With its diverse menu, great service, and live music, Carlitos is definitely a local favorite with a good ambience. All the dishes are superb and if you like Coconut Prawns, this restaurant has the best ones I’ve ever tasted.
Flavor of India
Without a doubt the best Indian food in town, it also happens to be one of our favorite restaurants. You don’t have to take our word for it though, as it gets voted the Best Indian food in Santa Barbara by local publications every year. Raj and his family cook incredible food along with friendly and “family” service. We consider this one of our homes away from home and go here for dinner often. We recommend the Chicken Curry and Chicken Korma, but you can’t go wrong regardless of the dish you choose! They also have great vegetarian options, and the lunch buffet is also excellent and reasonably priced.
Meun Fan Thai Cafe
The food here is absolutely superb and we haven’t been disappointed with a single dish we have tried. The dining area is all open so you may not have as much privacy as other restaurants in town, and the service on occasion can be slow. That said, the food more than makes up for it, and if you come back often, you become “part of the family” and then will be hard pressed to find more friendly servers and staff. The restaurant and servers also are very kid friendly. Some of our favorite dishes include Rice Soup (incredible flavor), Drunken noodles, and both the red and green curries. This is currently our most frequented restaurant.
Often voted one of the best meals in Santa Barbara, you can’t go wrong with Pascucci and their large menu and affordable prices. The food is well prepared and fresh. The service is good and the setting is romantic, albeit a bit noisy sometimes (again due to the crowds). They don’t accept reservations, so go early and expect a wait (10-15 minutes on weekdays or 20-35 minutes on weekends).
Listen to the waves crash under your feet at this incredible seafood restaurant on the pier. You can enjoy walking from State Street or just drive onto the pier and park in the special lot. This is a more expensive dinner ($15-$25) but well worth the experience. Try to get in shortly before sunset to add even more to your dining experience.
The Habit offers amazing “Charburgers” where you can order a quality burger customized just as you like it. Add pastrami, teriyaki, or BBQ bacon to stack your burger high or add a salad or onion rings as a side. And you cannot leave without getting one of their shakes made from real ice cream. The food is always fresh (you will smell it from the street), the service is unbeatable, and you can enjoy knowing that the chain was founded right here in Santa Barbara. We also have the ever popular “In N’ Out” Burger, and while we enjoy that on occasion, the quality of food and the more diverse menu has turned our heart’s affection towards The Habit.
Renaud’s is an authentic, contemporary French patisserie and bistro. It is so popular that seating can be hard to find at certain times of day, but any wait is well worth their delicious food! Renaud’s pastries, homemade candies, and breakfast and lunch menus are all excellent. Most especially, their croissants are to die for!
Jeannine’s Bakery and Restaurant is a Santa Barbara staple, with its fresh, homemade fare that ranges from breakfast to sandwiches and salads to delectable baked treats. Jeannine’s is known for its charming, comfortable ambience, though service at times can be hit or miss.