There are many great things to do in Santa Barbara, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains on California’s central coast.
The Spanish colonial heritage of the city is reflected in its architecture where Mediterranean-style white stucco structures with their distinctive red tile roofs dominate the downtown landscape.
Known for its upscale boutiques, innovative restaurants, thriving art scene, and outdoor adventures, Santa Barbara is a little bit Shangri-La. The city isn’t short on romance either. These 25 hand-picked restaurants in Santa Barbara bring the romance to your table.
1. Convivo Restaurant and Bar
© Convivo Restaurant and Bar
Convivo Restaurant and Bar is tucked inside the oceanfront Santa Barbara Inn on East Cabrillo. The contemporary chic vibe features a barrel-vaulted ceiling with modern sunburst chandeliers, vintage style wood floors, grand arched windows, and booth, banquette, and table seating. Private dining areas create an ideal setting for a date night. With an ever-changing menu, Convivo prepares their entrées on a wood grill using locally sourced ingredients. Entrée items include options like Pesce misto – mixed grill of seafood, Roman artichokes and salsa verde along with Sonoma quail – grilled ramps, English peas & fava bean farro, kumquat and crispy brussels.
901 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-845-6789
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2. Finch & Fork
© Finch & Fork
Located in the Kimpton Canary Hotel, Finch & Fork has burst onto the dining scene in Santa Barbara. Its interior is both elegant and homey, with wood beamed ceilings, ornate crown molding, and large windows with sheer curtains. The restaurant also features an upstairs area for lounging, with a great chandelier, intricately designed staircase, and brick flooring. This restaurant is ideal for a romantic dinner. Finch & Fork serves dishes prepared with fresh ingredients from local central California fishermen and farmers. With an eclectic menu of New American cuisine, items include rainbow trout, seared scallops, grilled salmon, and mouth-watering prime rib.
31 West Carrillo Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-879-9100
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3. The Lark
© The Lark
Located in Santa Barbara’s “Funk Zone” The Lark is nestled in the old Santa Barbara Fish Market building. This fabulously refurbished building has kept a lot of its old edge, exposed brick walls, opulent chandeliers, high exposed wood ceilings, and private dining rooms – all in wood to enhance the romantic dinner vibe. This restaurant utilizes the resources of the central coast as the backbone for their American-style cuisine. The Lark serves an eclectic menu of farm- and sea-to-table fare with options like roasted California chicken and Japanese Hamachi Crudo – avocado mousse, chicharrones, daikon radish, spicy pickled pineapple, candied peanut and lime mint. Al fresco dining is available.
131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-284-0370
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Jane is an upscale restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara’s Theater Arts District. This restaurant embodies the building’s history with wood beam ceilings, hardwood floors, wood tables and chairs including a large communal dining table, fireplace, and giant paned windows. Dual staircases lead to a second-floor dining area that opens onto a balcony with views of Arlington Theater and the distant Santa Ynez mountains. The restaurant serves California fare with menu options like Firestone red onion rings, grilled chicken piccata, veal marsala, and grilled salmon on cedar with margo relish, citrus sauce, seasonal vegetables, and potatoes.
1311 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-962-1311
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5. Loquita Santa Barbara
© Loquita Santa Barbara
The love affair between Santa Barbara and Spain is evident by the newest chica on the block Loquita Santa Barbara. White brick walls, a stainless steel open concept kitchen, a neutral color palette, and large French doors create a light-filled relaxing ambience at Loquita. A spacious outdoor patio with a modern wall fire feature is perfect for a romantic dinner. The food at Loquita is inspired by the traditional flavors of Spain featuring cold and hot tapas, grilled meats, wood-fired seafood, and three kinds of paella. Spanish wines dominate the wine list, and hand-crafted cocktails feature farmers’ market sangria and a cocktail program featuring Spanish vermouths.
202 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-880-3380, (website link)
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6. Restaurants in Santa Barbara: Barbareno
Reflecting the traditions and history of the Central Coast, Barbareño is one of Santa Barbara’s most stylish restaurants. This restaurant’s interior features hardwood floors, grand windows, pendant lighting, and decorative ceiling panels. The décor creates an open, airy, and homey feel to this modern restaurant. The New American menu changes seasonally to take advantage of the region’s abundant local produce. Menu items include Hamachi Crudo, Panzanella, Duck Bao Bun, and Oak Tagliatelle with acorn, wild mushrooms, charred oak broth, and smoked vegetables. Guests should try the Especial – lamb al pastor, fermented masa flatbread, shishito peppers, goat gouda, and salsa verde.
205 West Canon Perdido Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-963-9591
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7. Boathouse at Hendry's Beach
© Boathouse at Hendry's Beach
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach in Santa Barbara is a blend of exquisite dining and breathtaking views. The interior design features recessed lighting, white columns holding exposed raised ceilings with large wooden beams, a banquette along the windows with expansive views, and blue tablecloths and chairs that reinforce the restaurant’s nautical theme. Known as a premiere seafood restaurant with a sumptuous raw bar, it also offers a mouthwatering selection of prime meats. Favorites at the Boathouse include Split Bone-In Ribeye and Grilled New York Steak. And from the sea, Grilled Ahi Tuna and Spice-Rubbed Grilled Pacific Seabass are top picks.
2981 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-898-2628
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Located just off the main thoroughfare in downtown Santa Barbara, Bouchon offers a taste of France in California. This upscale restaurant has a French country vibe with original wood floors, French provincial furnishings, an open kitchen concept with a copper façade, and abstract art adorning the walls. French doors lead to a covered flagstone patio amidst mature trees, an ideal setting for a romantic evening. Bouchon acquires its fish from Santa Barbara’s Channel and its produce from the Central California countryside. Menu selections include Pan-seared Pacific salmon and Braised Kurobuta Pork Shank – caramelized onion, farro barley with pearl onions, braised broccolini, and blood orange-rosemary demi-glace.
9 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-730-1160, (website link)
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9. Ca' Dario Ristorante Italiano
© Ca' Dario Ristorante Italiano
Ca’ Dario Ristorante Italiano brings a taste of Italy to the heart of Santa Barbara. The restaurant serves gourmet Italian food in a rustic setting. The interior features dark wood ceiling panels, milk glass pendant lighting, brick and stone flooring, rich dark wood furnishings, framed photos and prints, and displays of vintage wine create a rustic ambience. White linen napkins and tablecloths, fine dinnerware and glassware, and displays of vintage wines say fine dining. The gourmet Italian cuisine at Ca’ Dario starts with fresh ingredients sourced from local farms. Menu items like Sella D’Angnello – grilled rack of lamb with roasted shaved garlic, olive oil, rosemary and sage quickly become favorites.
37 East Victoria Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-884-9419
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10. Chase Bar & Grill
© Chase Bar & Grill
Chase Bar & Grill on State Street has been a downtown favorite for its lively atmosphere and great New American and Italian food. The interior features a neutral color palette with framed Italian drawings, photos, and prints adorning the walls. Rich leather banquettes deliver comfortable seating at tables dressed in white linen. Utilizing central California’s local fresh ingredients and seafood to create its authentic Italian fare, Chase Bar & Grill specializes in piccatas and parmigianas. Ricotta-stuffed eggplant is one of the most popular menu items. For a little romance, diners can head out to the outdoor patio for an intimate dinner for two.
1012 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-965-4351
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11. Holdren's Steaks & Seafood
© Holdren's Steaks & Seafood
Holdren’s Steaks & Seafood on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara has been a staple of fine dining in this central California area. This modern restaurant has a saloon vibe to it. The interior features an exposed brick wall, pendant lights, an antique bar, high back leather booths, and artwork of the central coast adorning its walls. Outside patio dining is romantic with stringed lights, wrought iron furnishings, and white linen tablecloths. Guests can expect an American menu of hearty offerings like barbecue ribs, steaks, and seafood. Menu favorites include grilled Mahi Mahi, BBQ Wrapped Tiger Prawns, and Holdren’s signature steak – the Cowboy Cut.
512 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-965-3363
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12. Louie's California Bistro, Santa Barbara
© Louie's California Bistro
Louie’s California Bistro is located inside the iconic 130-year-old Victorian, Upham Hotel and Country House. This restaurant’s interior features hardwood floors, large paned windows, and banquette and table seating. The outdoor dining area has lighted trees and portable lamp warmers that make for a cozy and romantic dinner experience. Louie’s Bistro serves an eclectic menu of farm-to-table, New American style meals, with options like Louie’s Seafood and Shrimp Cioppino, Sesame Crusted Scottish Salmon, and Grilled Pork Chop – with chive mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, and Dijon mustard sauce.
1404 de la Vina Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-963-7003
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13. Mesa Verde Restaurant
© Mesa Verde Restaurant
Leading the vegetarian/vegan culinary scene, Mesa Verde Restaurant in Santa Barbara goes beyond the usual veggie wrap. The interior of this restaurant has a hip urban cabin vibe with concrete floors, wood plank walls and ceilings, rustic wood tables and chairs, and lots of windows that flood the dining area with light. The outdoor patio continues with a cabin porch ambience with potted and hanging plants, heat lamps, and views of the Pacific Ocean. The culinary team prepares dishes using fresh produce from five of the top local farms in the region. Menu favorites include mushroom alfredo, green plant bowl, and Turkish sweet potato saffron tagine.
1919 Cliff Drive, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-963-4474
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14. Milk & Honey Tapas
© Milk & Honey Tapas
Milk & Honey Tapas is a lively urban restaurant located in downtown Santa Barbara in the Historic Arts District. On one side of this restaurant, the interior design features a romantic fireplace, stone wall with a banquette, and modern Edison light chandeliers. The other side of this restaurant also features hardwood walls, recessed lighting, and wood paneled ceilings, creating a cozy atmosphere. Utilizing abundant fresh ingredients from the central coast, the eclectic menu at Milk & Honey Tapas is full of surprises. Guests should try the Flauta Yucateca – chicken axiote, jack cheese, crispy flour tortilla, cilantro, and roasted tomatillo salsa.
30 West Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-275-4232
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15. Olio e Limone Ristorante
© Olio e Limone Ristorante
The Historic Arts District in downtown Santa Barbara is home to Olio e Limone Ristorante. The interior features a glass wall wine cellar, light colored walls with dark wood trim, and large paned windows. The elegance in its crisp white tablecloths, recessed lighting, and stylishly arched doorways is the epitome of grace. Relying on the quality and integrity of the resources of the central California coast, Olio e Limone’s executive chef presents innovative dishes like Quaglie con Salsiccia, Polenta e Caponata and Costolette d’Agnello con Balsamico e Mento – New Zealand lamb chops and balsamic vinegar reduction sauce.
11 West Victoria Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-899-2699
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16. Opal Restaurant and Bar
© Opal Restaurant and Bar
A favorite with many of the locals in Santa Barbara, Opal Restaurant and Bar is located in the Historic Art District. This restaurant features a classic black and white checkered floor, decorative wood columns, casual pendant lighting, banquette and table seating and romantic red linen table coverings. Colorful artwork and large pane windows with views of downtown Santa Barbara complete the romantic vibe. The executive chef uses locally sourced ingredients to create American-style dishes with global influences. Entrées include items like lemon grass crusted fresh salmon – Thai curry sauce, sautéed Julienne vegetables, caramelized apple and orange zest, and basmati rice.
1325 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-966-9676
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17. Petit Valentien
Petit Valentien offers diners casual French fare in a charming European bistro setting. The restaurant’s interior features high ceilings, wood flooring, a soothing pastel color palette, marble tabletops, and subdued pendant lighting. A dramatic bar, cherry wood finishes, bold two-story arched windows, and vibrant artwork infuse the space with light and swag. Providing delicious French-inspired and Ethiopian cuisine, meals are prepared using only the freshest central coast ingredients. Entrées include items like filet of petrale sole, barramundi seabass, Sottish salmon, veal Milanese, bacon wrapped pork tenderloins, crisp skin chicken thighs, 8-ounce flatiron steak, and pan seared duck breast.
1114 State Street Suite 14, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-966-0222
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18. State & Fig, Santa Barbara
© State & Fig
La Arcada Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara is home to this New American-style restaurant, State & Fig. This sleek and stylish upscale restaurant features two floors of dining space, ornate chandeliers, and dark wood flooring with design elements like intricate crown molding, white columns, and carved banister rails. This restaurant is an ideal choice for a romantic night out. State & Fig has an ever-changing menu using only the freshest local products. Popular entrées include Lamb Sammy, Chicken Panini, Mac & Cheese, BLTA, and Kali Club – house roasted turkey, bacon, baby arugula, market tomatoes, avocados, basil aioli, and toasted sourdough.
1114 State Street Suite 18, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-965-1730
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19. Stella Mare's
© Stella Mare's
Stella Mare is a striking waterfront French-inspired eatery with several charming dining spaces, including a glass greenhouse overlooking the bird refuge. Guests will note the decidedly French flair with period furniture, stone fireplace, elegant crown molding, and tons of tiny design details. The glassed-in atrium continues the charming ambience, adding another fireplace. It’s a particularly romantic setting at night. California fare with French influences starts from the freshest ingredients the central coast has to offer. Guests can expect entrées like the Atlantic salmon burger, Tartine DE Saumon, and a Coq Au Vin – French braised chicken in white wine, with bacon, lardons, mushrooms, onions, garlic, green peas, and egg noodles.
50 Los Patos Way, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-969-6705
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20. The Black Sheep Restaurant
© The Black Sheep Restaurant
The Black Sheep Restaurant is a stylish eatery offering guests American food with Asian influences. The vibrant interior features paintings by local artists adorning the brightly colored walls, a giant front window, concrete floors, an octagonal ceiling with Edison lights, and table and bar seating. The eclectic vibe crosses multiple dining rooms. The restaurant offers a seven-course tasting menu that uses only the freshest locally sourced ingredients. Menu items include entrées like braised rabbit a la flamande, sweet and spicy glazed poussin, and scallop crudo – an organic Peruvian red salad with ruby grapefruit, Aleppo chili powder, grapefruit, yucca chips, topped with orange mirin dressing.
26 East Ortega Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-965-1113
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21. Toma Restaurant and Bar, Santa Barbara
© Toma Restaurant and Bar
Located on West Cabrillo Boulevard on the waterfront, Toma Restaurant and Bar has been serving award-winning dishes with harbor views since 2013. A vine covered façade welcomes guests to the sunny Italian eatery. Inside, the compact restaurant features a massive marble bar, subdued sconce lighting, beamed ceilings, oversized arched windows, and spectacular, bold artwork adorning the walls. Toma is known as a premier Mediterranean, Italian-inspired restaurant that sources local farms for the freshest ingredients. Guests can expect entrées such as grilled octopus, Gnocchi, Lasagne, and Cioppino – fresh fish, prawns, scallops, crab meat, calamari, clams, and saffron tomato broth.
324 West Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-962-0777, (website link)
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22. Wine Cask Restaurant
© Wine Cask Restaurant
El Paseo is one of many historic locales in Santa Barbara. Wine Cask Restaurant is located in the heart of the El Paseo complex. The late 19th-century building is the epitome of Spanish elegance with an ornately carved wood beam ceiling, large arched bay windows, and Spanish tile that takes guest back to Old California. The executive chef focuses on fresh, seasonal ingredients to prepare dishes. Wine Cask offers five and eight course tasting menus, with entrées like seared sea scallops, duck breast, Santa Barbara black cod, home-made pasta, and braised pork shank with heirloom beans, kale, corn & miso emulsion, and fava leaf. Guests will find an extensive wine collection here.
813 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA, Phone: 805-966-9463
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23. Zaytoon, Santa Barbara
In downtown Santa Barbara, Zaytoon has been the staple of fine Mediterranean cuisine for over a decade. This stylish restaurant’s interior features light textured drapes hanging from its raised ceiling, dark wood tables and chairs, and crisp white tablecloths. The outside area finds guests in a Garden of Eden with a large fountain surrounded by a plethora of colorful flowers and firepits in the middle of every table – an ideal setting for a date night. The chef at Zaytoon uses high quality local and seasonal ingredients to prepare restaurant dishes. Entrées include selections like Lamb Kebab, lemon chicken, and chicken Shawarma.
209 East Canon Perdido Street, Santa CA, Phone: 805-963-1293
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