Hi friends! I hope you’ve missed me. Life’s been just a little crazy lately, ya know, raising a tiny human, buying a house, all that good stuff, but I’ve missed chatting with you in this little corner of the Internet and I’m going to make a sincere effort to be better about checking in.
Today’s post is one I’ve been wanting to write since January, but it required just a little bit of field research on my end and goodness knows how difficult even the tiniest of outings can be when there is a small babe involved. As you’ve probably heard, Santa Barbara County got hit HARD this winter. First there was the Thomas Fire, followed shortly thereafter by the Montecito Mudslide, both of which caused massive evacuations, homes lost, injury and death. They hit our little towns hard, and an area once known for its plethora of local businesses is now facing more vacant storefronts than it has seen in a long, long time.
While I was hearing about all of these great places being forced to lay people off, cut back hours or completely close their doors to business, I realized that, although I am passionate about sharing my favorite restaurants, wineries and breweries when I’ve traveled to other cities, I’ve never featured some of my go-to spots in my own town. And, in these uncertain times, they certainly deserve to be recognized now more than ever.
If you’re headed to the Santa Barbara area in the near future, I urge you to check out as many of these local eateries and drinking establishments as possible. And if you haven’t been here yet, I think it’s about time you planned a trip! It’s a beautiful little oasis in the middle of California that is truly one-of-a-kind. They don’t call it the American Riviera for nothing!
Full disclosure: I haven’t had the opportunity to stay here yet, but let me just tell you I like what I see. The entire Hotel Californian property (which also includes numerous restaurants and storefronts) is reinvigorating a recently humdrum State St. It’s beautifully decorated, classy and did I mention their rooftop pool?
I’ve eaten at (and enjoyed) the first two eateries they’ve opened, Blackbird and Goat Tree SB, and I think the entire area could be just what downtown Santa Barbara needed.
Formerly The Fess Parker – A DoubleTree by Hilton Resort, I have to give my former employer a mention because there are BIG things happening here. As you can probably guess by the name change, the hotel is going through a huge rebranding. They’ve been remodeling the lobby, meeting and guest rooms to give the resort an updated, beachy feel and I can’t wait to check them out now that the official name change has taken place.
All I can say is thank goodness we finally have a bakery with a legit storefront in town! Helena Ave. Bakery offers a consistent selection of fresh bread and delicious baked goods as well as a huge assortment of grab-and-go lunch options that are perfect for a day of wine tasting or brewery hopping in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
Another Funk Zone gem, Lucky Penny is the place to go for tasty wood-fired pizzas, bountiful salads and hearty sandwiches. And did I mention they also sell frozé? You also must try the mushroom bruschetta appetizer. I’m working on my own version to post on the blog as we speak!
Of course, I have to mention the hubs’ and my very favorite restaurant for date night, whenever we have guests in town, birthday or anniversary, or any other celebration we can think of. Seriously, we’ve tried so many other “nicer” restaurants in town and nothing compares. Aside from the Brussels sprouts (which are OMG to-die-for and ALWAYS on the menu) the Lark’s menu changes seasonally yet never disappoints, and everything is served family style, so you get to taste a little bit of everything! I also should mention that Helena Ave. Bakery, Lucky Penny and The Lark are all related, so it’s no wonder they all made my list of top places to visit!
I couldn’t leave out Santa Barbara’s hippest new wine bar that offers a delicious farm-to-table menu to boot! I love this place for its unique, sometimes kooky wine selections, blind tasting night and veggie-heavy food items that change based on weekly Farmer’s Market offerings. Yoga Pants Salad, you have my heart!
This used to be our “neighborhood joint” when we lived at our old place, and you can bet we’ll still be making regular visits even though we live a bit further away now. It’s locally owned with a great wine and beer selection and tasty pub-like food. They also offer brunch on the weekends, have a patio (yay for dog-friendly establishments!) AND we feel perfectly comfortable bringing the little babe with us. So many bonuses!
Santa Barbara is home to its share of breweries, that’s for sure, but Third Window consistently stands out to us. Even with a frequently rotating menu, the beers are consistently top-notch and, unlike many of today’s newest breweries, they are NOT solely focusing on IPA’s, which is perfect for me since I’m not much of a hops fan!
I’m so glad I stumbled across this gem of a tasting room! With its main winery and tasting room in Paso Robles, August Ridge recently opened a smaller tasting room downtown, just off La Arcada. Because they specialize in Italian varietals, they’re a welcome change from Santa Barbara Wine Country’s largely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay focused repertoire. I’ve loved everything I’ve tasted from them and need to plan another trip back soon to restock!
Handlebar Coffee has been a Santa Barbara establishment for many years, but its newest location on upper De La Vina Street has everyone abuzz. It’s much bigger than the downtown location, with a great outdoor seating area, a full-service kitchen to make tasty breakfast and lunch offerings, plus beer and wine on tap! They also do lots of fun pop-ups and benefits for local organizations. We have yet to attend any but we hope to soon!
If you’re a cheese lover like me, you’re not going to want to miss this stop. I was so happy when what started as a small, local cheese and wine shop that hosted my favorite annual Sparkling Wine & Cheese Pairing Class every year tripled in size to open its own café, only to see it have to shutter the restaurant portion after this winter’s hardships. I have high hopes they’ll once again be able to operate in their full capacity, but until then you can still buy lots of delicious goodies at their shop and support a great local business at the same time!
I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty jealous that Carp has this awesome food establishment in its repertoire. You know I’m all about balance and tasty, quality food, and TFL delivers on all fronts. They offer plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes, but also plenty of non-special diet items…and it is all soooooo good! Not only do they serve lunch Monday-Friday (try the Crack Bowl…it will not disappoint) they also have a stellar catering program AND offer cooking classes. I know where I’ll be eating lunch every time I’m in the area!
Okay, Lucky Llama is probably THE cutest little coffee shop in Santa Barbara County. Their coffee drinks are top notch, but they also make delish acai and oatmeal bowls. It’s the perfect place to plop down with your laptop and get some work done or meet a friend to catch up on the lovely outdoor patio. Plus, it’s totally kid-friendly, which I’m learning to appreciate more and more these days!
What a one-of-a-kind tasting room! The Apiary specializes in mead but also offers ciders and lots of other interesting fermented elixirs. My dear friend @gojohannogo and I shared the tasting flight and it was the perfect way to take a little foray into the world of mead and everything related. I’m not sure I’d be able to drink large quantities of the different options, but it was so fun to experience all the different flavors. Definitely pay them a visit if you’re looking for a change-up from your average winery or brewery!
Our favorite pre-Costco shopping trip stop for a refreshing beverage. They have lots of entertaining names for their beers like Meat & Potatoes Porter!
Another great (newer) brewery in the Goodland that’s always sure to have a food truck or live band on hand, especially on the weekends. It’s also got some good outdoor space and is kid-friendly!
This hip little eating and drinking establishment at a Holiday Inn turned Kimpton hotel is just what Goleta (“the Goodland”) needed. It’s a great spot for Happy Hour or brunch, and another one we feel completely comfortable bringing the baby to. If you’re lucky to visit on a Sunday during the summer, you might just catch a raging pool party, live DJ and all!
These are all just a few of my favorites, and I’m sure there are some places that I missed. If you know of any, please leave them in the comments below! I’m all about supporting local right now and love discovering new places. Until next time!