There are dozens of great restaurants in Santa Barbara at every price point. It can be so hard to choose (and sometimes harder to get a reservation). Here are five completely different experiences; from waterside to funky to elegant. Each venue has great food, and is a wonderful choice for a celebration, be it birthday, anniversary, or “I just got a raise and want to spend it all in one place.”
The ranch itself was part of land titled in 1769 by the King of Spain which became a way station for Franciscan monks, then a working citrus farm. During its heyday, over 300,000 oranges and 100,000 lemons were harvested here and packed in the sandstone building that is now the Stonehouse Restaurant.
The grounds surrounding the restaurant are exquisite, and there are many different seating areas, both inside and out. Some outside seats have an ocean view. There are fireplaces in every seating area, and heated floors outside for year round comfort. The menu is elegant and classic, with a nice mix of seafood and meats. Examples of entrees include truffle honey glazed duck breast, morel mushrooms, duck confit, pencil asparagus, fava beans and classic steak Diane flambeed tableside, signature mashed potatoes, haricots verts, and brandied cremini mushroom sauce. There are very limited choices on the menu for vegetarians, vegans or other special needs.
Address: 900 San Ysidro Lane, San Ysidro Ranch
The Lark is located in a former fish market in the Funk Zone arts district, home to surf shops, art galleries and part of the popular Urban Wine Trail. The restaurant’s name comes from the overnight Pullman Train of the Southern Pacific Railroad that serviced Santa Barbara from the early 1900’s until the 60’s.
Be prepared for some type of spiced popcorn for the table (like curry) which can be addictive! There are a number of vegetarian choices, with the crispy brussel sprouts getting many rave reviews. There are equal number of seafood and meat based entrees, including Cast Iron Mediterranean Branzino (with muhamara, english peas, walnuts, pickled lemon, charred fennel and pea tendrils) and Buttermilk Fried Chicken (with smoked date caramel, amba aioli, pickled cucumbers and scallion.)
Address: 131 Anacapa St
This Indian restaurant is located in a nondescript part of town with an easy-to-miss entryway. Inside is a long dark bar, large family portraits and a stuffed peacock. There is interior seating as well as on front and back patios. The partnership that makes it special is James Beard award winning sommelier and wine maker Rajat Parr and chef Jessi Singh (with restaurants in NYC and San Francisco).
If you aren’t already well versed in Indian cuisine, the chef’s tasting menu is the way to go (maybe even if you ARE well versed in Indian cuisine). The not-to-miss dishes are Mr. Tso’s Cauliflower, Santa Barbara Uni Biryani, and the Curry Sampler Platter. For dessert–the Kulfi Popsicle with cardamom, honey and pistachio. Don’t forget the wines–Parr’s own labels (Domaine de la Cote and Sandhi) as well as other local organic, biodynamic and natural wines.
Address: 734 State St
The Black Sheep is located in downtown Santa Barbara with an eclectic vibe that matches decor with food. Inside are brightly colored walls adorned with pictures by local artists, lighting with Edison bulbs and table and bar seating. Outside seating has been added, as well.
Food is classified as New American with Asian influences, using freshest ingredients available. The menu is varied, and includes such items as Potato Gnocchi with Lobster, Veal Sweetbreads and Peaches and Burrato. The menu changes frequently, so expect the unexpected.
Address: 26 E Ortega St
We end this short list with the “original Santa Barbara Wine Country Restaurant.” This is definitely a place to have a reservation, and a reason to celebrate. The food is French, and the atmosphere is elegant French farmhouse. The owner is passionate about Santa Barbara, so you will find over 40 Santa Barbara sourced wines by the glass.
The menu is meat-heavy, with limited choices for vegetarians or vegans. Examples of menu items include their signature Bouchon Duck (with maple-glazed duck breast and confit of thigh with succotash of sweet corn, fava beans, leeks, applewood smoked bacon and Windrose Farm butternut squash with port-thyme demi glace) or Lobster Pot Pie (spring pea and Yukon gold potatoes in lobster-mushroom veloute, puff pastry dome, Madeira creme).
Address: 9 W Victoria St
As of now, all of these restaurants are open, but we strongly suggest that you make reservations in advance and be aware of changing conditions. If you have questions, please don’t ask us at The Eagle Inn for alternate suggestions.