best restaurant santa barbara

Dinner in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara offers choices for history/culture buffs and connoisseurs alike. Santa Barbara, also called the “American Riviera,” has a climate that has been compared to the Mediterranean, which coincidentally makes it a perfect destination for European and American cuisine (Fine restaurants and excellent hospitality in Santa Barbara make it a perfect getaway). The scenic highway, the coast, and the historic downtown are all picturesque settings that make nights out and dinners in Santa Barbara top-notch compared to other cities. Here is a comparative review on three restaurants that combine taste, culture, history, and atmosphere for exceptional dining experiences in Santa Barbara.


One TripAdvisor reviewer wrote of Stella Mare's Bistro: "Appearing out of nowhere, as if from Midnight in Paris, Stella Mare's is an island of French charm and sophistication--and at reasonable prices"

The Parisian inspired restaurant is charmingly detailed in French signs, such as the one overhanging the rustic main dining room that says: "herboriste," or French for herbalist. Stella Mare's prides itself on fresh ingredients. It is well-lit with natural light from the glass atrium. The food is authentic, affordable and delicious with catering available for special events. Fascination enough, Stella's bistro originated as a colonial house built by Captain W.H. Johnson in 1872, which was then located in Santa Barbara's historic downtown. In 1962, the house was relocated to its current location, closer to nature, next to a bird refuge, where it served as an antique shop until 1966, before it became Stella Mare's Stella Mare’s has several greenhouses that overlook the bird refuge, which make it as close as possible to nature.


When in need of a good pizza, look no further than Olio's pizza. Located on West Victoria Street, Olio’s speaks for itself with locals and visitors of Santa Barbara both coming back for more. Olio's pizzas are made in a brick fireplace that accentuates the authentic Italian experience. The interior display includes an assortment of traditional Italian sausages hung on the wall below a mantel of customary spices and oils. Menu choices include Bruschetta made with prociutto and bruschella accompanied by artisanal Italian beer. Inspired by the wine bars (enoteche) found near almost every Italian piazza, the idea for Olio's developed from the original restaurant, located next door, called Olio e Limone Ristorante, which was opened in 1999. Olio's offers a casual alternative to the original restaurant’s black tie Italian.


For a seafood dinner in Santa Barbara, the aroma at Beachside Bar-Café is unparalleled, combining history and ambiance in the beautiful Goleta Valley. If traveling from Santa Barbara’s city center, the distance to Goleta is definitely worth it. Right on the beachfront, diners have spoken of the sound of the waves heard while enjoying their food. The restaurant overlooks the ocean and the pier and provides a multitude of outdoor seating in summer. Some other restaurant highlights include a shellfish bar, a vivacious happy hour with well-made cocktails, and an fireplace providing warmth for winter dinning. The seafood is hearty and delicious. Besides the rich seafood, Beachside Bar-Café is also rich in history. The Goleta Slough was used by whalers in the 1800s, before it became a Marine Corps air station in 1942; it acted with important military prowess for the onset of WWII (Beachside Bar Cafe). Beachside Bar-Café may be among one of the top restaurants with atmosphere in Goleta, Spanish for schooner, which thrives on fresh seafood and sea air to appease its happy customers.


Don’t shy away from trying these new restaurants on your next trip to Santa Barbara. No matter your cuisine of choice, these restaurants will leave you satisfied. As one might say, go coastal or go home!