20 Best Santa Barbara Restaurants To Try in 2024

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 | 0 Comments
group of friends eating at a mexican restaurant

The diversity of cuisine among Santa Barbara restaurants makes this Central California city a truly international dining extravaganza. State Street, in particular, is a hot spot, buzzing with exciting Santa Barbara restaurants from one end to the other. With miles of beachfront scenery and a climate that invites outdoor dining, Santa Barbara restaurants have a unique set of charms to offer locals and visitors who have an appetite for adventurous dining.

What should you add to your personal map of Santa Barbara restaurants? We’ve put together our 20 favorite places on the Santa Barbara restaurant landscape to give you some tasty options to start with. Whether you’re looking for appetizing domestic fare or feeling peckish for something from the other side of the world, these eateries are top-notch stops for bites that won’t disappoint.


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20 Best Santa Barbara Restaurants 

1. Toma Restaurant & Bar

You may not find a more enticing option among Santa Barbara restaurants than Toma Restaurant & Bar, a waterfront eatery that brings creative Italian cuisine to curious diners. Everything about Toma is infused with panache, from the warm lighting and contemporary cocktail bar to the pristine linens and precise table settings.

The Vibe

Elegance abounds, though in a more welcoming manner than most higher-end restaurants offer.

What to Order

Make sure to try the crispy semolina-crusted baby artichokes, preserved in sweet lemon aioli. If pasta is your preference, then tender rigatoni topped with Italian sausage and pomodoro sauce is the dish for you.

Toma Restaurant & Bar | 324 W. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$$

Crusted baby artichokes, preserved in sweet lemon aioli on a red plate
via Toma Restaurant & Bar

2. Zaytoon

Lebanese cuisine finds a setting among Santa Barbara restaurants at Zaytoon. This serene space gives enchanted garden vibes while serving some of the best global fare anywhere in California.

The Vibe

A focus on romantic ambiance makes this dining oasis a perfect date night destination.

What to Order

Beef sambosik, puff pastries filled with minced beef, onions, pine nuts and parsley, make a savory starter before a refreshing, healthful main meal, featuring shawarma, kebabs and cool watermelon salad.

Zaytoon | 209 E. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$

Shish kebab and salad with sauce
via Canva

3. Santo Mezcal

Modern Mexican cuisine makes the menu at Santo Mezcal, a flavorful find among Santa Barbara restaurants. If the goal of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara is to dazzle diners with artistic traditional dishes using local ingredients, then this sweet spot comes through with flying colors.

The Vibe

Exposed brick and industrial fixtures form an aesthetic partnership that generates warmth.

What to Order

The intriguing huarache de nopal fills your plate with a handmade corn tortilla topped with black beans, panela cheese and nopal, the flesh of the prickly pear cactus.

Santo Mezcal | 119 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$

Santo Mezcal is one of the best santa barbara restaurants
via Santo Mezcal

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4. Los Agaves

Pretensions melt away at Los Agaves, one of the most welcoming Santa Barbara restaurants for innovative Tex-Mex dining. Keeping kitchen prep a simple affair allows diners to appreciate authentic creations in their truest forms, with a dash of gourmet presentation.

The Vibe

Contemporary décor stirs the spirit, especially the eye-catching wall art and metalwork screens.

What to Order

With chiles norteños, you can enjoy poblano peppers filled with shrimp and cheese served atop fresh corn tortillas.

Los Agaves | Multiple Locations | $$

Two Poblano chiles stuffed with shrimp, cheese, and chipotle sauce
via Los Agaves

5. The Lark

There's no corner of The Lark that doesn't captivate guests with stylish flair and attention to detail, including the characterful menu. This eatery anchors the Santa Barbara restaurants found in the cultural district known as the Funk Zone; the name alone is a reason to plan a visit.

The Vibe

Easygoing meets elegance in a dining room that's perfect for brunch or dinner.

What to Order

Sink your fork into a plate of hand-cut pappardelle pasta peppered with English peas and poached eggs.

The Lark | 131 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$$

The Lark is one of the top Santa Barbara restaurants for pasta
via The Lark

6. Shoreline Beach Café

Beach times are well within reach at Shoreline Beach Café, one of the coziest Santa Barbara restaurants stationed on sandy shores. Enjoy hearty portions of seafood and diner fare while taking in the scenery or watching the action captured on the surf cams.

The Vibe

Surfer chic and beachcomber bliss make this al fresco café as laid-back as they come.

What to Order

Plant eaters can dive into veggie tacos loaded with peppers, zucchini and spinach, while pescatarians will be stoked to catch a plate of spicy seared ahi or grilled salmon.

Shoreline Beach Café | 801 Shoreline Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93109 | $$

Fish and vegetable tacos served with lemon and salsa
via Canva

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7. Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch

The cheeky name is just one of the fun aspects of Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch, a hub for mesquite-smoked barbecue prepared in the best Southwestern tradition. This is the Santa Barbara restaurant to mosey on into if a dish of meat and three sides is your idea of dining heaven.

The Vibe

Western bar-and-grill sensibilities mean subdued lighting, wood paneling and casual dress for everyone.

What to Order

Try a combo plate and sample the Ranch's signature chicken and tri-tip, coupled with tortillas, rice and beans.

Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch | 2618 De La Vina St., Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | $$

Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch is a popular Santa Barbara restaurant
via Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch

8. Joe’s Café

How friendly does the name Joe's Café sound? One of the most welcoming Santa Barbara restaurants around, Joe's has been keeping customers happy since opening in 1928, making it one of the oldest Santa Barbara restaurants still in operation.

The Vibe

Diner charm is the beating heart of Joe’s, captured in details like gingham tablecloths and glittering string lights.

What to Order

A French dip sandwich is a diner favorite, with your choice of tri-tip or turkey. The pies are made fresh, so save room for a slice or get one to go.

Joe’s Café | 536 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$

French dip sandwich on a ceramic plate
via Canva

9. Finney’s Crafthouse

An international menu and craft beers are the calling cards of Finney's Crafthouse. Fans of bar bites washed down with creative beverages will find a cozy set-up in this Santa Barbara restaurant, whether at the bar watching a game with a beer in hand or snuggled in a booth catching up with friends.

The Vibe

Brick walls, arched windows and black and white photos summon vintage energy.

What to Order

Grab a barbecue chicken pizza, a Bavarian pretzel and an Impossible taco salad for a global feast that puts the world at the end of your fork.

Finney’s Crafthouse | 35 State St., Ste. A, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$

Barbecue chicken pizza from a delicious restaurant in Santa Barbara
via Finney’s Crafthouse

10. Boathouse at Hendry's Beach

If Santa Barbara restaurants like Boathouse at Hendry's Beach were any closer to the sea, the dress code would require swim fins and scuba gear. Splashy close-ups of coastal views are the perfect accompaniment for the casual comfort dishes and seafood classics served here.

The Vibe

Rustic and nautical, with striped umbrellas dotting the shore to welcome diners for al fresco enjoyment.

What to Order

Make sure to try the Boathouse Signature Breakfast, featuring house-made snow and rock crab cakes under poached eggs, topped with chipotle hollandaise and served with avocado, salsa fresca and potatoes.

Boathouse at Hendry's Beach | 2981 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93109 | $$

Crab cakes under poached eggs, topped with sauce, served with avocado and potatoes
via Boathouse at Hendry's Beach

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11. Bettina

For Santa Barbara restaurants pizza lovers will adore, there's none better on the list than Bettina. Woodfired pies perk up this peppy trattoria, where sunshine is a featured ingredient in every dish and nobody leaves without their spirits lifted.

The Vibe

Adorable is the best word to describe this sweet eatery, with minty pastels popping against cool white walls and countertops.

What to Order

A king trumpet pizza comes with the eponymous mushrooms, plus crushed tomato and red onion for a zesty zap of fun flavor.

Bettina | 1014 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 | $$

Bettina is one of the trendy Santa Barbara restaurants
via Bettina

12. Loquita

Spanish traditions get the California treatment at Loquita, a Santa Barbara restaurant version of the beloved tapas bar concept. With regional similarities between the two, Spain and Santa Barbara are the perfect sister spots for Mediterranean-inspired specialties served with thoughtful drinks.

The Vibe

Lush and lovely, with whitewashed walls inside and a pergola garden-style patio outdoors.

What to Order

Try the Chuleta Paella with grilled Niman Ranch pork chops and marinated artichoke hearts, drizzled with rosemary aioli and topped with the tangy kick of pickled Jimmy Nardello peppers.

Loquita | 202 State St., Santa Barbara, California 93101 | $$$

Paella with pork chop, artichoke hearts, rosemary aioli, and topped with peppers
via Loquita

13. Cold Spring Tavern

Like a magical cabin tucked into an Old Western wood, Cold Spring Tavern brings an element of historical fantasy to Santa Barbara restaurants like no other eatery can. The tavern was once a stagecoach stop, lending a hearty helping of history and heritage to this singular dining experience.

The Vibe

A romantic, rustic glow makes this the perfect setting for special occasions and momentous celebrations.

What to Order

Ordering the Tavern Burger will get you half a pound of Angus sirloin cooked to your liking, piled high with the customary burger toppings.

Cold Spring Tavern | 5995 Stagecoach Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 | $$

Cold Spring Tavern is one of the laid-back Santa Barbara restaurants
via Canva

14. Santa Barbara FisHouse

No bones about it; Santa Barbara FisHouse is a fish lover's haven! As Santa Barbara restaurants featuring flavorful seafood options go, this prime pick gets its catches directly from local fishermen, taking their ingredients from boat to table. 

The Vibe

The seaside setting is as cool and comforting as the breeze coming in off the ocean.

What to Order

Lobster macaroni and cheese and coconut shrimp turn nearby crustaceans into rich comfort dishes perfect for savoring with your crew in tow.

Santa Barbara FisHouse | 101 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$

Lobster macaroni and cheese on a green ceramic plate
via Canva

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15. The Black Sheep

The Black Sheep is a brasserie-style eatery that brings French finery to the heart of upscale Santa Barbara restaurants. The international menu provides intriguing dishes for sampling in a tiny setting that's great for a date night.

The Vibe

Upscale without being stuffy, with special touches that make for memorable moments.

What to Order

Go for the coq au vin with Japanese turnips, Nantes carrots and garlic confit.

The Black Sheep | 18 E. Cota St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$$

Coq au vin with turnips and carrots
via The Black Sheep

16. Gala

Moments at Gala become a culinary celebration, infusing Santa Barbara restaurants with a festive spirit. This bright bistro brings a touch of continental class to restaurants in Santa Barbara, making the most of the European-like environment.

The Vibe

Wood and natural surfaces transport visitors to a serene, intimate world within a world.

What to Order

Rich with butter, Parmesan cheese and two types of forest fungi, the oyster mushroom risotto is sure to intrigue your taste buds.

Gala | 705 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara, California 93101 | $$$

Gala is one of the must-visit Santa Barbara restaurants
via Canva

17. Barbareño

At Barbareño, coastal cuisine among Santa Barbara restaurants becomes an edible art project with an ever-changing mix of tastes and textures to play with. Local ingredients are used as the raw materials for turning out dishes with deliciously modern personalities.

The Vibe

Earthy and welcoming, the best version of boho chic captured in dining room form.

What to Order

The fennel-fried chicken with housemade buttermilk ranch and carrot purée is a must.

Barbareño | 205 W. Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$$

Fennel-fried chicken and ranch with housemade buttermilk ranch and root vegetables
via Barbareño

18. Sama Sama Kitchen

Sama Sama Kitchen takes Santa Barbara restaurants to Southeast Asia for Bali-adjacent dining that aspires to bring people together. Ingredients from local farms get a new lease on life in recipes that bring cross-cultural freshness to the city's coastal cuisine scene.

The Vibe

Bright and airy, with minimalist styling that keeps the food in the foreground.

What to Order

With an order of signature wings or a saucy hot chicken bao bun, you can enjoy the excitement of an Asian culinary excursion without leaving town.

Sama Sama Kitchen | 1208 State St., Santa Barbara, CA | $$

Award-winning signature wings from local restaurant in Santa Barbara
via Sama Sama Kitchen

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19. Bibi Ji

Indian flavors are on delicious display at Bibi Ji, a colorful entry in the registry of Santa Barbara restaurants. This vibrant eatery shakes up the usual offerings from the Asian sub-continent and gives international dining a coastal makeover.

The Vibe

Lively and colorful, with a snappy sense of contemporary craftiness.

What to Order

The butter chicken tikka masala is a must. Make sure to try it with some coconut rice, made with aged basmati, fresh coconut and a special Indian spice blend.

Bibi Ji | 734 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$

Butter chicken tikka masala with coconut rice​​​​
via Bibi Ji

20. Lokum

Take a trip through Turkish bakery bliss at Lokum, a gem among Santa Barbara restaurants. Eaters with a taste for the sweeter side of restaurants in Santa Barbara can stop in for treats and traditional coffees.

The Vibe

Glowing lanterns and intricate tiled floors whisk visitors away to another time.

What to Order

A box of baklava in pistachio, walnut and chocolate varieties is a gift you'll be glad you gave yourself.

Lokum | 1019 State St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101 | $$  

A box of baklava in pistachio, walnut and chocolate varieties
via Lokum

Learn To Cook Santa Barbara Foods

Why not turn your dining room into your own personal Santa Barbara restaurant? With cooking classes in Santa Barbara, you can choose the menu and schedule a session with an expert chef with an abundance of expertise to share. Discover how regional ingredients factor into fresh dishes that you can recreate at home whenever hunger strikes.

There are no mistakes to be made when choosing among Santa Barbara restaurants. With sublime settings and a vast variety of cuisines ready to entertain every taste imaginable, the best restaurants in Santa Barbara are the ones that capture your heart from the first to the last bite. A wonderland of culinary discovery awaits in this coastal city for foodies who are lucky enough to have Santa Barbara restaurants in their dinner plans.

For even more ways to explore Santa Barbara and beyond, check out other experiences happening on Cozymeal.