10 Restaurants to Try Now

Santa Barbara’s restaurant scene continues to get better and better.

So much so, that a total of 16 Santa Barbara County restaurants have earned a stamp of approval from the MICHELIN guide, which foodies worldwide look to for guidance on the very best places to eat. The community is all abuzz over the announcement that two of our own beloved restaurants recently received the most coveted accolade, a MICHELIN star rating. Between these rising stars, some notable new openings, and tried-and-true classics, we’ve narrowed down a list of 10 restaurants worth planning a trip around today. Collectively, they offer a snapshot of what American Riviera dining is all about. Some serve breakfast and lunch, so it’s entirely feasible to pack them all into a three- or four-night itinerary, depending on your culinary ambitions. Reservations are highly recommended at most, so planning ahead is rewarded. And after you’ve locked those dining reservations in, don’t forget to book your room!

  1. Sushi|Bar Montecito:  With only 10 spots available for each of the three nightly dinner seatings, Sushi|Bar Montecito is very much a hot ticket—even more so now after earning one MICHELIN star. Expect an elaborate 17-course omakase experience with Chef Lennon Lee putting his creative spin on traditional Japanese sushi. This meal is more than a feast, it’s interactive theater and no two dinners unfold alike. You’ll watch the chef prepare every item with help from his team and engage with your fellow patrons throughout. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday
  2. Bell’s:  If you’re planning to spend a day in wine country, be sure to include a stop at Bell’s in Los Alamos, Santa Barbara County’s other MICHELIN star recipient. The cuisine here is a satisfying Californian twist on French by Chef Daisy Ryan. Lunch service offers more casual à la carte fare and walk-ins are welcome, while dinner is a fantastic, five-course prix fixe menu and reservations are generally a must. Lunch & Dinner Thursday-Monday
  3. La Paloma Café:  The newest addition to Acme Hospitality’s fine family of restaurants, La Paloma Café is a classic reborn. It occupies the 702 Anacapa Street space that was home to Paradise Café for decades. They returned it to its original name, updating the neon sign accordingly, and the outdoor patio received a major facelift—we love the ground level heating, which will make al fresco dinners even cozier as the nights get cooler. In terms of the menu, the “ranchero” cuisine has a Mexican influence, and many dishes are grilled over Californian oak. Dinner Wednesday-Monday, Brunch Saturday & Sunday
  4. Bettina:  If you love pizza (who doesn’t?!), try Bettina in the Montecito Country Mart. The charming, Italian-inflected eatery recently earned the MICHELIN Bib Gourmand endorsement for their creative, mouth-watering, wood-fired pizzas. The dough is fermented for 48 hours, the mozzarella is handmade, and produce comes from the farmers’ market. They even offer a gluten free crust option and a cheese-free rosso pizza for vegans. The menu also features salads and tasty antipasti. Lunch & Dinner Daily
  5. Barbareno:  What we love about Barbareno is their unique twist on hyper-local Central Coast cuisine and the cozy downtown neighborhood atmosphere. They look as far back as the area’s original inhabitants, the Chumash Native American Indians, when developing the menu. You can try pasta with acorn, Santa Maria Style BBQ, and fresh local catch, among other seasonal, locally sourced goodness. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday
  6. Aperitivo:  One of the newest hot spots to open recently is Aperitivo. Tucked on Haley Street downtown, this intimate Italian themed wine bar has extraordinarily tasty small plates. The pasta is handmade, there’s always fresh crudo on the menu, and the bread that serves as the base for their bruschetta offerings is made especially for Aperitivo by their neighbor, Oat Bakery. This is one place where you can’t make a reservation, so go on the earlier side to try to score a spot (they open at 4:00 p.m.). Dinner Wednesday-Saturday
  7. Bibi Ji:  Bibi Ji was an instant hit when it opened in 2018, becoming Santa Barbara’s first modern Indian restaurant. In addition to the vibrant, flavorful, very sharable cuisine made with local bounty, Bibi Ji also features a wine and beer list curated by co-owner Rajat Parr, a James Beard-award winning sommelier. The ambiance is hip and fun, and if you need yet another reason to put Bibi Ji on your list, it recently earned MICHELIN’s Bib Gourmand status, too.  
  8. Bouchon:  Our longtime restaurant partner Bouchon keeps getting better with age. As one of Santa Barbara’s original wine country cuisine restaurants, you’ll be hard pressed to find a wine list that reflects the local wine industry in a more comprehensive and compelling way. And the warm, attentive service is always top-notch, as is the seasonal cuisine. We love sending guests here for a special occasion, but it’s also well-suited to a simple feast with your friends or loved ones. Hot tip:  When you book our “Four Days, Three Nights in Paradise” package, a $50 dining credit with Bouchon is included. Dinner Nightly
  9. Olio e Limone:  Olio e Limone has a way of transporting your palate to Italy and charming you with European style hospitality. Chef/owner Alberto Morello is a native of Sicily and his refined restaurant in the historic theatre district has been a staple of Santa Barbara’s dining scene since 1999. The late Julia Child herself was a fan. The pastas are a definite highlight, and the daily specials are always worth asking about. Lunch & Dinner Tuesday-Sunday (no lunch service Sunday)
  10. Live Oak Café:  We might be biased, but our own Live Oak Café at the Best Western Plus Santa Barbara is a globally-inspired gem that locals also consider a “best kept secret” given its off-the-beaten path location. Start your day with the Pacific Rim Bacon Fried Rice or Harvest Breakfast Bowl. Entrée sized salads hit the spot when lighter fare is craved for lunch or dinner, while heartier hits include the Pork Belly Bahn Mi and Spicy Kimchi Burger. Cozy days call for a bowl of chili or Turkey Pot Pie, and we encourage you to always leave room for one of Molly’s made-from-scratch desserts. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner Monday-Friday; Breakfast & Lunch Saturday & Sunday