Santa Barbara is an extremely difficult place to dislike. After all, it has great culture, excellent wine, and sits on one of the most aesthetically pleasing strips of coastline in California. And that’s to say nothing of all the excellent restaurants there, too. Needless to say, this glorious beach town 90 minutes north of LA is one of the best weekend getaways in Southern California, and right now, we could all use one of those. Here are 20 of our favorite places to eat outside while you’re there.
Loquita opened in 2016 and quickly became one of our favorite restaurants in town. Why? The modern tapas menu and outdoor patio setting go toe-to-toe with the best in Santa Barbara. Sure, the price point is higher than more casual spots around the Funk Zone, but if you’re looking for an upscale dinner with great cocktails (that isn’t stuffy at all), Loquita is a place where we’ll always send you. The pulpo and the churros are must-orders.
Bibi Ji isn’t just our favorite Indian restaurant in Santa Barbara, it’s one of our favorites in all of Southern California. And now, they’ve taken advantage of their shaded back patio to assure safe, socially distant outdoor dining. Their current menu is slightly pared down, but whether you order the butter chicken, crispy cauliflower, or fish of the day, know you’re still in for an unforgettable meal.
Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. was founded on the pier in 1980 as a place for local fishermen to sell their fresh catches. Slowly, they started taking the seafood being sold and turning it into clam chowder, crab cakes, and lobster pasta until it became a full-fledged restaurant. Our recommendation is to bypass their regular menu and go straight for the daily specials instead. Here you’ll be rewarded with the freshest seafood in Santa Barbara, with killer views on their patio to match.
Smack in the heart of the Funk Zone, this massive, modern restaurant inside a former fish market is the pride and joy of Santa Barbara. If The Lark was in LA, dinner on their beautiful wrap-around patio would be one of the hardest reservations in town, because the food is simply that good. It’s still one of the hardest reservations in Santa Barbara, so go ahead and make a reservation online right now.
This is our completely made-up term for the group of three connected and very delicious concepts - Olio Pizzeria, Olio Crudo Bar, and the more upscale restaurant Olio e Limone. Though Crudo Bar is still currently closed, both the Pizzeria and Olio e Limone are open, with excellent outdoor options going along Victoria St. The food at both is quite good, so it really depends which feels right for your situation. That said, the squid ink calamari at Olio Pizzeria is easily the best calamari we’ve ever had.
Just down PCH in Carpinteria, Little Dom’s Seafood is one of the newest restaurants along the coast and sports a big patio that can fit around 40 guests (reservations only). If you’re wondering if this spot has any relation to the Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, it does, but with a menu that leans far heavier on all things marine life. There’s a full seafood bar with everything from raw oysters to live uni to cold smoked salmon, plus big entree items like squid ink malfadine and fish piccata. That said, they also have pizza and their famous rice balls.
You’re staring at the glorious structure that is The Lark, and suddenly you notice something in the corner of the parking lot that resembles an upscale construction trailer. Welcome to Lucky Penny, The Lark’s casual, all-day sibling that’s a fantastic lunch option when you’re too wine-drunk to walk anywhere else. Most people sitting outside at this order-at-the-counter spot are eating pizza, but don’t ignore the sandwiches either - they’re just as good.
Located in the Santa Barbara equivalent of the “Fisherman’s Village” in Marina del Rey, Brophy Bros. is an all-out tourist magnet. However, it’s a tourist magnet with good food and some of the best views in Santa Barbara. You’re sitting outside on the water, so the move here is obviously seafood, but more specifically, the clam chowder. Yes, it’s 82 degrees out, and no, we don’t care. In fact, we just ordered two more cups.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy lunch spot in the Funk Zone, head immediately to Metropulos. This family-run Greek market/deli sells a gyro sandwich that will shake you to your core, plus a giant menu filled with other tasty sandwiches, salads, and baked things you’ll put in your bag for later. Just be sure to get there early, because they close at 5pm.
This little order-at-the-counter Mexican spot has some of our favorite sopes in the world. Perfectly crisp, yet perfectly doughy, they come in vegetable, chorizo, or chicken tinga. Or, just get all three for $8. Enjoy them all on their new outdoor dining space.
Barbareño specializes in Central Coast cuisine, which essentially means good versions of food everyone likes to eat, like burgers, pasta, and BBQ. The space is modern, with a large front patio perfect for a date night that won’t burn a whole through your wallet. Get the tri-tip and and the Baked Californian for dessert.
This bright, modern restaurant downtown is serving the kind of Indonesian-fusion you might not expect to find in a town that believes burritos are meant to be eaten at all three meals of the day. Sama Sama is a tad pricey, but the food is delicious and unlike anything else in Santa Barbara. Their leafy back patio is the perfect space for a casual dinner with a few friends.
This upscale French restaurant serves one of the finest meals you can have in Santa Barbara. It’s expensive and you’ll definitely need a reservation, but if you’re in town on a romantic trip of any kind, Bouchon’s meat-and-seafood heavy menu and multiple string-lit patios are exactly what you want.
Located inside The Santa Barbara Public Market, Corazon Cocina is a seafood-heavy Mexican food counter that’s an ideal spot to grab a low-key lunch while you’re roaming around downtown. Order any of the seafood tostadas (the yellowtail-and-watermelon-covered Sal De Mar is our go-to), and don’t skip out on the mole chicken taco. The entire market has an expanded patio space going along W. Victoria St.
Anybody who’s spent more than a boozy Saturday in Santa Barbara knows about Los Agaves on Milpas, a well-established Mexican restaurant. Santo Mezcal is their more upscale spot in the Funk Zone, serving modern Mexican food like massive plates of ceviche (get the halibut and ahi tuna), shrimp covered in creamy mezcal sauce, and an octopus in adobo dish you’ll be thinking about all weekend. They also have excellent cocktails, all of which can be enjoyed on their expanded front patio.
This tiny sushi spot right on State St. is serving quality raw fish at the high prices you would expect. That said, it’s good enough that you’ll want to eat on their nice front patio anyway. Arigato’s menu is pretty big, but our move is to stick to the nigiri and sashimi sections - you can get a mayo-covered specialty roll anywhere. Also, ordering that jalapeno yellowtail over and over again until you’re full is a move we wholeheartedly approve of.
Zaytoon is a solid upscale Lebanese restaurant with one of the best patios in all of Santa Barbara. With string lights, foliage everywhere, and big tables with fire pits in the middle, it’s the perfect spot for everything from an anniversary dinner to when you just want to impress the sh*t of someone.
This takeout food window/beer hall is the best place to drink craft beer in Santa Barbara, with some pretty strong bar food as well. You order your food at Nook (get the lobster mac and cheese), then stroll over to their outdoor patio and proceed to drink your afternoon away with their 19 taps and over 300 different varieties of cans and bottles.
Helena Avenue Bakery
Tucked in the alley between Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and The Lark, Helena Avenue Bakery is home to our favorite baked goods in Santa Barbara and a great spot to get some carbs in your stomach before all the tasting rooms open. They have an extended back patio with six or so tables.
Shalhoob’s is a family-run butcher shop/restaurant that’s been in the Funk Zone for over 40 years. While we fully recommend ordering their packaged meats for your at-home feast, their sprawling patio is a great place to hang out, drink some beer, and enjoy SB’s endless sunshine. The patio has its own menu and we love the burger, tri-tip, or fried chicken sandwich.