It’s fairly easy to eat well in Santa Barbara County. Some very lucky people actually live here with the rolling hills, red tile roofs, and easy beach access. The rest of us tend to come here for work, pleasure, or higher education. Food and wine lovers also have several annual events to encourage a visit to Santa Barbara County such as the Santa Barbara Wine Festival, the California Wine Festival, and the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association Celebration of Harvest.
Whatever your reason for being here, we wanted to share our Favorite Food Destinations in Santa Barbara County. So whether you are wine tasting through one of the five AVAs, planning your day after a food and wine event, or just hanging around the area, these are the places we highly recommend you seek out.
Favorite Restaurants in Santa Barbara County
Hitching Post II – Established in 1986, this restaurant is your key to experiencing “Santa Maria Style BBQ.” Sourced from small packers in the Midwest (Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas), the Cornfed beef here is cut and grilled over an Oakwood fire. If you’re not in the mood for beef, other grilled choices include Prime Rib of Pork, Baby Back Ribs, Rack of Lamb, Quail, Chicken Breast, Turkey Breast, or Duck Breast. If you become a convert, their unique blend of salt and spices called Magic Dust is available for sale. 406 East Highway 26, Buellton (805-688-0676)
Jane – This fabulous bi-level restaurant is in the heart of Santa Barbara, right on State Street. The setting at Jane is classy but comfortable and the service is excellent. The salad selections are superb, particularly the Boston Lettuce Salad with Sliced Pears and a Blue Cheese & Honey Dressing. We also loved the Grilled Pasilla Chiles, and our favorite burger is the Macho Burger (with Pasilla Chile, Jack Cheese, Avocado, Tomato, Red Onions & Spicy Chipotle Mayonnaise). Family owned restaurant, named after the owner’s grandmother (whose pictures adorn the walls). 1311 State Street, Santa Barbara (805-962-1311)
Jeannine’s Restaurant – This local favorite for breakfast and lunch (with 25 years of experience) has three locations. Jeannine’s is frequently crowded but they are also used to handling a large to-go contingent eager for their scones, muffins, breads, and other baked goods. Simple, well-made food here made with wholesome and, whenever possible, organic ingredients. 15 East Figueroa and 3607 State Street in Santa Barbara (805-687-8701) and 1253 Coast Village Road in Montecito (805-969-7878)
Panino – If you’re working your way through the tasting rooms in downtown Los Olivos, Panino is the place you should head for lunch. This storefront is part of six in the County, and you’re sure to find something to satisfy your cravings among their 30 sandwiches and 10 salads. 2900 Grand Avenue (805-688-9304) in Los Olivos, but also at 5666 Calle Real (805-683-3670) in Goleta, 1014 Coast Village Road (805-565-0137) in Montecito, 834 Santa Barbara Street (805-963-3700) in Santa Barbara, 475 1st Street (805-688-0608) in Solvang, and 3569 Sagunto Street (805-688-0213) in Santa Ynez
Pattibakes – You can find these products at many stores throughout the County, but why not just go to the source? Founded in 1996 by Patti Wicks, Pattibakes prides itself on homemade baked goods, made from scratch, just like your grandmother used to make. Options include Muffins, Tarts, Scones, Bars, Coffee Cakes, and Cinnamon Rolls. Come see, smell, and then eat freshly baked goodies at this hidden-in-the-back location. 240 East Highway 246, Suite 109, Buellton (805-686-9582)
South Coast Deli – Incredible sandwiches, freshly made to order, at locations throughout the County. Your options include Cold Sammies, Toasted Sammies, Panini, Tossed Salads, and Salad Sammies. Even the Iced Tea and Coffee are high quality here. 1436 Chapala Street (805-560-9800) and 10 East Carrillo Street (805-845-4600) in Santa Barbara, 185 South Patterson Avenue (805-967-8226) in Hollister, and 6521 Pardall Road (805-770-2669) in Isla Vista.
Trattoria Grappolo – Outstanding friendly Italian bistro off the beaten path that is well worth the journey, but you should probably make a reservation first. Trattoria Grappolo was founded in 1997 by Chef Leonardo Curti and Daniele Serra and the crowds are here because it’s a favorite for locals and the tourists are drawn by the food and the chef’s reputation. In fact, the food is so good you’ll want to buy their cookbooks and luckily they sell all three of them here. We highly recommend the pasta dishes, and the Rollino Veneto appetizer which is a cross between a Rolled Pizza and a Tomato-Basil Bruschetta. 3687 Sagranto Street, Santa Ynez (805-688-6899).
Other Favorite Food Purveyors in Santa Barbara
C’est Cheese – The name alone sold us, but there truly is a great selection of cheese (and accompaniments) at this store staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people. They also have an extensive online store. Family run, founded in 2003, they are planning to expand in size and services in 2013 so there will be even more ways to appreciate their offerings. 825 Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara (805-965-0318)
Chocolate Maya – Just off of State Street is this gem of a chocolatier. Come for beautiful treats utilizing flavors such as Pomegranate, Jasmine, Rose Water, Passion Fruit, and Nutella. Owner Maya Schoop-Rutten scours the world looking for pure, luscious chocolates from ethical plantations to use in her confections. Our favorites here include Dark Chocolate with Fresh Basil, St. Germain in Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate with Honey and Champagne, and Dark Ganache with Habañero, Cinnamon, and White Chocolate. 15 West Gutierrez, Santa Barbara (805-965-5956)
The Daily Grind Coffee & Juice Station – A coffee and juice house with plenty of seating (both inside and out) and a wide selection of self-serve coffees each day. This family run business has been around since 1995, and it’s across the street from McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream in case you and your friends can’t decide between a sugar rush or a caffeine rush. 2001 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara (805-687-4966)
Farmers Market – The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association was founded in 1983 to provide California farmers with the opportunity to sell their products directly to the community, and currently represents about 130 growers. The Markets are open year-round, 6 days a week, at various locations throughout the County including Carpinteria, Goleta, Montecito, Solvang, and Santa Barbara. Please check the link for locations and seasonal hours.
The French Press – Excellent and busy coffee house in the center of downtown Santa Barbara, the espresso drinks here are made by talented baristas. Using Verve coffee, the hot coffee here is made with a French Press, and the iced coffee is cold brewed. Frequently more customers than seats, the quality of the coffee here is to blame. 1101 State Street (805-963-2721)
Los Olivos Grocery – Technically in Santa Ynez, this small country store is a smart place to go in order to buy quality breads, cheese, and wine to create your own picnic. Or, you can just order sandwiches, homemade soups, or rotisserie meats at the deli counter. This is also one of your local sources for Pattibakes products. 2621 Highway 154, Santa Ynez (805-688-5115)
McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream – Founded in 1949, the ice cream-making process here (using a one-of-a-kind, artisanal small batch French Pot Process) is a highly guarded trade secret. Come here for excellent Ultra Premium Ice Cream based on high-quality ingredients, as locals and visitors have been doing for decades. In additon to the usual suspects you can also find flavors like English Toffee Crunch, Salted Caramel Chip, Chocolate Raspberry, Island Coconut, and Turkish Coffee. 201 West Mission Street, Santa Barbara (805-569-2323)
Olive Hill Farm – Whether you like Olive Oil as a dipping sauce, a cooking ingredient, or both, this store is a worthwhile diversion while in Los Olivos. Multiple olive oils from many producers are available for sale here, and you can create your own tasting journey to help you select your purchases. They also have an online store. 2901 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos (805-693-0700)
Simply Pies – Simply Pies was founded in 2008 by Nancy Blau and Hana Miller and this small but fabulous bakery specializes in fresh, well-made pies, quiches, pot pies and cheesecakes based on fresh, locally sourced, and organic ingredients. Sweet pies are available in large or small sizes, or by the slice. If you can’t decide, aim for the pie based on whatever fruit is in season. They also offer Gluten-Free, Vegan, and No Sugar Added pies. Lovely people, lovely pies, you really should come here. 5392 Hollister Avenue, Santa Barbara (805-845-2200)
The Winehound – Our favorite wine store in the area, heading towards a new location (Section 1E of La Cumbre Plaza, north of Macys and East of Vons) sometime in November. Great selection for local, national, and international wines, the owner and his staff are friendly and helpful if you need advice. Currently at 1221 Chapala Street in Santa Barbara, soon to be at 3849 State Street, Suite I-163 in Santa Barbara (805-845-5247)
These are our favorite food destinations in Santa Barbara County. Please let us know what places you think we’ve missed, or need to make sure to try out.
While you’re in the area, if you want to know our Favorite Wineries in Santa Barbara County, that list can be found here. To see our Favorite Food Destinations in other areas, please click on the “Favorites By Wine Region” button on the navigation bar above, and follow the drop-down menu to the area that interests you.