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Dinner Recommendations for Santa Barbara


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#1 mgaretz

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Posted 25 January 2010 - 11:22 PM

We'll be spending three nights (Monday through Wednesday) in Santa Barbara in early March as part of our honeymoon and I'm looking for good recommendations for dinner. At least one good steakhouse, the rest is open.

Thanks in advance!

#2 vice

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 01:14 AM

Lucky's in nearby Montecito for steak. For your other nights, I've been hearing really good things about Julienne, but be aware they're closed Monday and Tuesday.
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#3 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 08:14 PM

You can't go to Santa Barbara and NOT eat at La Super-Rica.

#4 christinajun

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 09:50 PM

I'm not sure about steak houses, but if you enjoy seafood you should stop by The Hungry Cat. They are closed on Mondays, but open for lunch and dinner the rest of the week. They also have great cocktails!

#5 Honkman

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 11:01 PM

Hungry Cat and Bouchon are two very good options. I know that a lot of people like Superrica but I think it is overrated. It's not horrible food but also nothing special.
Something more unusual - Coming myself from Germany I am always surprised how limited German food is the US. You mainly get food which is typical tourist food in German but nothing what really resembles the many different regions in Germany. Unfortunately even this tourist food you get in the US is often of very low quality (I haven't yet found a decent German restaurant in Southern California). The only exception I recently discovered is in Santa Barbara - Brummis. A small family-owned restaurant on upper State Street which serves manyn of the "classical" German dishes but on very high quality level.

Edited by Honkman, 28 January 2010 - 11:08 PM.


#6 mgaretz

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 11:33 PM

Thanks all = keep 'em coming!

#7 vice

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 01:21 AM

I'm going to put on my opinionated hat for a second (apologies...)

Super Rica takes a lot of heat. Undoubtedly that's partly because it gets a lot of hype, but I think part of it is also due to poor ordering. Don't order bare bones pork or steak tacos and expect them to be revelatory. They're not here or nearly anywhere. Unfortunately, I find the Super Rica Especial, more or less their signature dish, likewise underwhelming. But the freshly made tortillas are fantastic, so if the right nibbles find their way in there it's a great experience. Get the chorizo especial and the rajas. Enjoy.

The Hungry Cat gets a lot of props for their cocktails. I can't concur. Their menu is promising, but in execution they make a caricature of the market-driven, fruit-forward Californian style. The spirit in any given drink is buried underneath fruit and sugar so far as to be unrecognizable. Plus, lemon juice and no Peychaud's in a Sazerac? Some might say interpretation, I say unforgivable. Their seafood is spotty, but I've had some of the best sea urchin of my life there. For a while they were doing a frisee salad with lardons, urchin and a poached quail egg. You more or less dressed the greens yourself with urchin, runny yolk and vinaigrette. Absolutely exceptional. If you go and urchins are on the menu, they're a must.

German food: the proprietors of Brummis are very gracious hosts, but I find the food far surpassed by that at Dutch Gardens. It might be slightly less traditional, but much better executed. And while I'm usually the last to harp on ambiance (especially if the food makes up for a lack thereof), these two establishments couldn't be more different with respect to decor. Brummis is a sterile white-walled, tile-floored tomb. Dutch Gardens is a rustic, kitschy space with the option of pleasant outdoor seating.

As for fine-dining, Santa Barbara's options are depressingly few, ranging from conservative to derivative. The most intriguing menus I've come across are at Julienne and Square One. Also notable, Le Petit Valentin is a nice romantic spot that does French classics and bistro fare quite well.


So if I were spending three days in town, here's what I would consider:

lunch
Lily's Taqueria: tacos only. dirt cheap but really good. again stray from the ordinary - think head, cheek, tongue.
Super Rica: chorizo especial, rajas
Dutch Gardens (closed Sunday): schnitzel, bratwurst, potato salad, beer and plenty of it, chocolate cake!
Cold Springs Tavern (Sunday only): tri-tip sandwich. Up in the mountains, live music, beautiful views on the drive up and down.

dinner
Le Petit Valentin
Julienne
Square One
Hungry Cat


Foodwise, breakfasts are undistinguished enough to sleep through, though there are a couple options with nice views if you're so inclined.
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#8 Honkman

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 02:36 PM

I'm going to put on my opinionated hat for a second (apologies...)

Super Rica takes a lot of heat. Undoubtedly that's partly because it gets a lot of hype, but I think part of it is also due to poor ordering. Don't order bare bones pork or steak tacos and expect them to be revelatory. They're not here or nearly anywhere. Unfortunately, I find the Super Rica Especial, more or less their signature dish, likewise underwhelming. But the freshly made tortillas are fantastic, so if the right nibbles find their way in there it's a great experience. Get the chorizo especial and the rajas. Enjoy.

The Hungry Cat gets a lot of props for their cocktails. I can't concur. Their menu is promising, but in execution they make a caricature of the market-driven, fruit-forward Californian style. The spirit in any given drink is buried underneath fruit and sugar so far as to be unrecognizable. Plus, lemon juice and no Peychaud's in a Sazerac? Some might say interpretation, I say unforgivable. Their seafood is spotty, but I've had some of the best sea urchin of my life there. For a while they were doing a frisee salad with lardons, urchin and a poached quail egg. You more or less dressed the greens yourself with urchin, runny yolk and vinaigrette. Absolutely exceptional. If you go and urchins are on the menu, they're a must.

German food: the proprietors of Brummis are very gracious hosts, but I find the food far surpassed by that at Dutch Gardens. It might be slightly less traditional, but much better executed. And while I'm usually the last to harp on ambiance (especially if the food makes up for a lack thereof), these two establishments couldn't be more different with respect to decor. Brummis is a sterile white-walled, tile-floored tomb. Dutch Gardens is a rustic, kitschy space with the option of pleasant outdoor seating.

As for fine-dining, Santa Barbara's options are depressingly few, ranging from conservative to derivative. The most intriguing menus I've come across are at Julienne and Square One. Also notable, Le Petit Valentin is a nice romantic spot that does French classics and bistro fare quite well.


So if I were spending three days in town, here's what I would consider:

lunch
Lily's Taqueria: tacos only. dirt cheap but really good. again stray from the ordinary - think head, cheek, tongue.
Super Rica: chorizo especial, rajas
Dutch Gardens (closed Sunday): schnitzel, bratwurst, potato salad, beer and plenty of it, chocolate cake!
Cold Springs Tavern (Sunday only): tri-tip sandwich. Up in the mountains, live music, beautiful views on the drive up and down.

dinner
Le Petit Valentin
Julienne
Square One
Hungry Cat


Foodwise, breakfasts are undistinguished enough to sleep through, though there are a couple options with nice views if you're so inclined.


I guess we have to agree to disagree. I wasn't talking about the tacos at Superrica (which are really disappointing ) but some of their other menu items like the chorizo special which are OK but nothing special.(But I agree that their fresh tortillas are great). So far I had excellent experiences with their seafood and liked also their cocktails (which are often unusual takes on well-known classics which I often like more than standard cocktails). Dutch Gardens has the advantage of having a beer garden if you want to sit outside but only underwhelming food.

#9 mgaretz

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 12:02 AM

Thanks all for the recommendations - the date is just a little over two weeks away.

Any further thoughts from anyone?

#10 samgiovese

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 07:46 AM

I second Lucky's for beef; you also might consider the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch and for Italian, Olio e Limone.
"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
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#11 Carlsbad

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Posted 19 February 2010 - 06:31 PM

I'm not a big fan of this type of food usually, but we've had several great meals at The Palace Grill over the years.

#12 mgaretz

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 07:36 PM

Just thought I'd report back in and let you all know where we ended up and how the food was:

First night Ellen felt like German so we went to Brummis. The food was plentiful and while the beer selection was small it was good. I had Sauerbraten and Ellen had Krustenbraten. Mine was OK, but Ellen's was better. Both came with a dumpling (Klosse), spatzle and red cabbage. The dumpling was large but tasteless and gluey, the spatzle was decent and the cabbage was very good. Ellen had a Franziskaner Weisse (which she likes but I don't) and I had a Spaten on draft that I was told was an Oktoberfest beer - it wasn't - it was a nice Pils which is really what I wanted anyway. The service was excellent with the exception of not knowing what the beer was. Overall the experience was fair but not exciting.

The next night we went to Lucky's for steak. We were pretty wiped out from a day of wine tasting followed by a nap, but we felt like we had to eat. We both had the petite filet and a side of snap peas. The filets were decent but not outstanding - I've certainly had much better. The snap peas were the best part of the meal. Ellen also had a mushroom sauce with her steak that she enjoyed.

The last night we decided to walk State Street and see what struck our fancy. We eventually decided on Bouchon, but there was an event around the corner and we couldn't get seated in a reasonable amount of time, so we ended up at Cafe Buenos Aires. I had a mixed grill whcih was all good (especially the gilled veggies) except the sausage which was pretty bad. Ellen had a seafood dish that she said was exceptional.

After dinner we went to Spoons for dessert. Ellen had gelato and I had a chocolate sorbet. Yummy! Spoons was the highlight of our Santa Barbara dining!

(We went on to Disneyland where we had the two best meals of the trip and probably the two best meals I've had out in some time. The Napa Rose in the Grand Californian and Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel were both outstanding! Blew everything in SB away.)

#13 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 11:37 AM

Quick trip report from Santa Barbara where I spent a few days last week.

Part 1 - Hungry Cat
We had dinner the first night at Hungry Cat. I've been wanting to try that restaurant for a while now, being a fan of aoc/lucques in LA. This was a more casual setting (as expected). The drinks were nice, but not exactly spirit-forward as Dave already pointed out upthread. Nothing bad, but not great either. I had the Pimlico (described on the menu as: early times whisky, lime & orange juice, fresh mint). It tasted like a mojito and I would not have been able to tell that this was whisky.
Our young daughter was with us and they didn't offer any special menu options for kids, so we had to order a $16 burger for her, which was slightly annoying - she ended up eating only a very small portion of it and we had to slice it in half because it was way too thick for her.
We shared a plate of fried oysters for our appetizer (I believe it was $15 for 3 oysters.... the menu did not specify the number of oysters so this came as a surprise), then I had the clams with chorizo and kale, and my husband had the local king salmon with faro. We ended our meal with the chocolate bread pudding which I did not really care for.
Overall, the food was good, a little pricey for what it was, but nicely prepared. Small portions too - I am not a big eater but I would have been happy to see a few more clams on my plate.

King salmon
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Clams with chorizo.
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#14 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:24 AM

Part 2 - La Super Rica

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There was a fairly long line when we got there for lunch - we waited about 20 minutes before placing our order. We watched them making the tortillas as we were waiting which was fun. We got the Rajas and the Super Rica Especial. The Rajas are chiles and onions with a lot of melted cheese. The Super Rica Especial has roasted pasilla peppers, cheese and pork. Not super photogenic but definitely delicious.
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We also got some horchata which was nicely spiced (mostly cinnamon), a little on the sweet side.
Overall we liked this little taqueria a lot. It's completely unpretentious and everything was flavorful.

#15 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 28 August 2012 - 10:40 AM

Part 3 - Julienne

It looks like I kept the best for last. We had an excellent dinner at Julienne. The space was on the casual side but the cuisine was very elegant. Just looking at the menu I knew we were going to have a good time - it's always a good sign when every dish on the menu is something that you are tempted to order...

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My husband started with the flatbread with arugula, heirloom tomato and prosciutto. Very nice, although I have to say that the prepkitchen version is superior. The crust could have been a little thinner and crispier.

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I had the duck gizzard salad as my first course which was wonderfully prepared. Delicious with little pops of fresh grapes, however the amount of duck gizzard was strangely small. This was a theme that night and our only complaint about the meal. Maybe it's because I grew up in France and was raised on salade de gesiers, but I was expecting a larger portion of gizzards (which are a "cheap" ingredient anyway).

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For the main courses, the duck breast was cooked perfectly (aka pink) and accompanied by a hearty shell bean and cabbage ragout. Excellent and comforting but... small.

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The sweetbreads were juicy and well paired with ricotta ravioli, plenty of sweet corn and a touch of jalapeno. I would have been happier with 1.5 times the amount, although I am a relatively small eater.

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Since we were still a bit hungry, we ordered dessert which was a HUGE chocolate mousse which was rich - the way it should be. It was served with a bunch of Cracker Jacks which I did not enjoy (too hard, with a few unpopped corn kernels).


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We had an excellent time at Julienne and were happy to find this level of dining experience in Santa Barbara. I had to mention that the wine pairings were great and that they offer a lot of local wines. Service was very attentive.
We can't wait to go back.

#16 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 02:00 PM

Part 3 - Julienne

It looks like I kept the best for last. We had an excellent dinner at Julienne. The space was on the casual side but the cuisine was very elegant. Just looking at the menu I knew we were going to have a good time - it's always a good sign when every dish on the menu is something that you are tempted to order...


It looks like I inadvertently deleted the picture of the menu at Julienne. Here we go:

Posted Image

#17 tirgoddess

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:07 PM

Meeting my girlfriend to celebrate our 50th birthdays.  Looking for updated lunch and dinner suggestions, fine and casual dining.  Also welcome suggestions for a wine country tour for one of the days.  Last post for Santa Barbara recommendations is a bit old.  Square One is closed.



#18 FrogPrincesse

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:47 PM

For fine dinning, Julienne is not to be missed. See my review here. It is a small restaurant, about 20 tables or so, so make sure to book in advance. The Hungry Cat has great seafood, with an atmosphere that is more on the casual side (see here). For lunch, you can't go wrong with La Super Rica (see here).

 

Regarding the wine country tour, I like Zaca Mesa winery. They do a very pleasant tasting and have a lot of nice wines. The other one we really liked was Demetria Estate (by appointment only). Small selection with several really good wines and a spectacular setting. You can really relax and enjoy their wines overlooking the vineyards in a beautiful patio.


Edited by FrogPrincesse, 28 February 2013 - 01:48 PM.