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Eat Local in Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is located on the southern end of the central coast of California. It is a city that Ashley spent four years of her life in, going to school for archaeology and that would ultimately lead her to moving to Rome and meeting me. Since we moved to the Central Coast back in March we have been wanting to write an article about Santa Barbara. We just needed to find a little time off and explore explore one of our favorite beach towns.
Originally, Ash and I were set to adventure through Los Angeles at the end of August. Unfortunately plans feel through and we were left with a couple days free and no where to go. Ash and I could not let those precious days off together go to waste so we hopped in our car and drove south.
Santa Barbara is the southernmost city on the Central Coast and is home to some of the best dining and nightlife on the Central Coast. This elegant city has a dynamic food scene and beautiful wine country to go with it. It’s a foodie paradise and we have created our 24hr guide of how to eat your way through Santa Barbara.
La Arcada 9 East Figueroa
When Ashley and I decided that we wanted to take a quick 24 hour trip to Santa Barbara we knew we wanted to have breakfast. Eating out for breakfast is not something that we get to do a lot since we work so much, especially on the weekends when many people go out to brunch. Ash and I decided that we were going to go to breakfast and enjoy a couple of glasses of mimosas.
Jeannine’s Bakery was our savior as we arrived just in time for a hearty breakfast that was going to get us ready for a day of eating and drinking. Jeannine’s Bakery is a perfect place to sit on their great patio and enjoy a warm summer morning. Or, if you can’t make it on one of the many days when Santa Barbara is having perfect weather you can always grab a seat inside where art deco lighting and columns create a open and spacious dining area.
I was feeling classic so I went with the Challah French Toast with warm sticky maple syrup. I was a little kid again as I dove in and devoured this wonderful morning dish. Of course, I washed it all down with a couple mimosas. The challah bread was warm, fresh and with just a subtle sweetness. Adding fresh berries and a sprig of mint even made this dish Instagram worthy!
Ashley went a little classier and ordered the smoked salmon plate with freshly baked bagels. It was delicious as I snuck a few bites off her giant platter of smoked salmon, cream cheese, bagels, freshly slice tomatoes, red onions, and salty capers. Ashley, like me, washed it down with a couple of mimosas.
Jeannine’s Bakery is a perfect place to start your day in Santa Barbara. Ash and I are really happy that we stopped by and enjoyed their wonderful patio. In addition to having amazing main dishes for breakfast they also have a full pastry selection including a variety of scones, muffins, coffee cakes, croissants, and plenty more. Also if you are driving up from the Los Angeles area you can always stop at their original location in the quaint town of Montecito just south of Santa Barbara. Either way you can’t go wrong with this bakery that has been a staple of the Santa Barbara community for 30 years!
The French Press
1101 State Street
We all know how breakfast can result in the need for a nap, especially after a few mimosas, so after our filling breakfast we knew we needed to find something to jolt us awake! So we headed up State Street to this cool coffee shop that does wonderful espressos, giving us that jolt we so badly needed!
The French Press is a hip modern establishment with a fairly laid back vibe. Ashley and I enjoyed some espressos while playing our favorite card game Scopa, which is an Italian card game that is often played over some coffees or beers. The French press was a perfect little pit stop to give us that much needed zap of energy. It is clearly a favorite hangout for both locals and college students alike and many people we taking advantage of their laid back vibe and taking long coffees with friends or with their laptops.
Finch and Fork
31 West Carrillo Street
After coffee we enjoyed our day strolling down the sunny streets of this beautiful central coast city. We did a little window shopping and popped into a couple of tasting rooms and enjoyed some wine but it was time for a great lunch place to recharge.
Ashley and I decided to spend our one lunch in this city at Finch and Fork, a trendy farm to table restaurant that whipped up some tasty cocktails. We arrived just before they closed for lunch because we got caught up drinking wine; go figure. But they graciously let us in and we settled into our banquette excited for the meal ahead.
We started out with some cocktails to cool us down from the hot afternoon. I went with something tropical and decided on the Guava Margarita. I love guava so I could not pass up such a wonderful drink. It was refreshing and well balanced and did the trick, especially since it had some spice to it as well. Ashley went creative and ordered the Delayed Flight. This was a refreshing citrus cocktail with vodka, grapefruit and lime served in a highball glass. Ashley’s thirst was quenched and it was time for some food. With our cocktails in front of us, I ordered some tasty oysters to slurp down and relax while we waited for our lunch to be prepared.
For our main lunch Ashley ordered the fish tacos with freshly grilled yellowtail with an avocado salsa, jicama, and pickled salsa. I went with the ahi tuna banh mi the was filled with fresh ahi tuna, pickled vegetables, cilantro, jalapeño, sesame seeds, and garlic aioli. Finch and Fork has a wonderful selection of international inspired dishes using local cuisine. We love seeing what chefs can create when they have such wonderful diversity of produce! It is definitely one of the many benefits of living in California!
To conclude this wonderful lunch we had some coffee and shared the fire roasted milkshake with an added shot of whiskey, because why not? The milkshake was over the top delicious. It had some caramelized banana ice cream, whiskey and a fire roasted meringue top. Carpe diem after all!
Finch and Fork is a lovely stop for a relaxed lunch that is truly showcasing the best of Santa Barbara’s local produce, fish and farms!
131 Anacapa Street
The sun was setting so that meant it was time to start thinking about dinner. Ash and I had a long day but one of the main reasons we came down was to check out The Lark, located in the newly renovated neighborhood of the Funk Zone. This is the place to be in Santa Barbara, it has everything you need for a good evening out. It was also completely new to us. The Funk Zone did not exist when Ashley was in college so it was a new and unique experience for both of us.
The Lark is popular so Ashley and I reserved a table online earlier that morning and we were able to get one of the last tables. If you want to go here, make sure to plan ahead before you visit and make a reservation. You can walk in and wait but I would suggest on just calling ahead.
Ashley and I arrived excited about this popular restaurant known for featuring a bounty of fresh ingredients that are source locally from the Central Coast. We were a little early for our reservation but we checked in and then went up to the bar to grab a before dinner drink (because you know, we hadn’t had any that day….). A couple of seats just happened to open up at the bar so we sat at the bar and decided to just have dinner there and give our table to somebody else. A lot of times Ashley and I prefer the bar then waiting for a table. We love being able to talk to the bartenders and get an inside scoop of the restaurant and also talk to locals about their favorite things to do in town.
This restaurant is fantastic. There are large communal tables and an outside patio. The building used to be an old fish market and there is still a sense of market chaos as the chatter of patrons mingles with the open kitchen.
Ashley and I decided that we would share a few dishes so we could get a taste of the restaurant as a whole. The Lark’s menu is divided into “Snacks”, “From the Farm”, “From the Ocean”, “From the Ranch”, and “Platters” so we had to had to round out our meal here by sampling something from the Farm, the Ocean and the Ranch.
We started with “The Farm” and sampled a summer melon salad that was presented on a long plate with fresh watermelon, juicy honeydew, and cantaloupe topped with a with a jalapeño watermelon vinaigrette. This fresh summer dish got our appetite going with its sweet fruit and a bite from the jalapeño.
We followed this up with “The Ocean” by indulging in two dishes. First we had the yellowtail hamachi crudo with avocado mousse and jicama. This dish was one of the most beautifully presented dishes we have seen but it was devoured so quickly thanks to the fact that it was as delicious as it was beautiful. We seriously contemplated ordering seconds.
We were then served the caramelized gulf coast shrimp with mussels, pancetta, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a yukon gold potato puree. I don’t think we have ever had a better potato puree. I thought Ashley was going to ditch me to live in Santa Barbara just to have the shrimp and the potato puree everyday!
Then came my delicious treat from “The Ranch” of the grilled bone marrow. The deliciously salty, buttery, gelatinous substance that you slurp down happily smiling. It was served with some the best homemade rosemary corn bread that is just made to sponge up all the juices from the bone. This was an amazing dish and I suggest it for anyone feeling adventurous!
From there we skipped dessert, had coffee, and then skipped off into the night under Santa Barbara skies.
Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant
131 Anacapa Street, Suite B
Ash and I love wine bars and Les Marchands is a gem in the center of the Funk Zone. Ash and I enjoyed a couple glasses of wine with charcuterie before we headed around the corner for dinner at the Lark. This is another really trendy and hip kind of place set in a low lighting with a bar seats and tables both inside and outside.
Like we do, Ash and I sat up at the bar and explored our options. Les Marchands has a wonderful wine list with a great international and local selection of wine. Ashley and I had a mixture of whites and reds as we devoured a plate filled with charcuterie. We couldn’t resist grabbing a glass of the Muscadet after hearing all about it from Somm: Into the Bottle. We were gratified to find a wine bar that showcased both international and local wines and the charcuterie was to die for and you can customize it based on your likes.
This is a perfect little place to sit with a glass of wine before heading over to the Lark or if you like, you can even have dinner here. The menu was comprised of a mix of California and international including avocado toast, octopus a la plancha, and lemon brined fried chicken. We may have to swing by for dinner next time!
Wine + Beer
38 W Victoria St, Shop 113
Before lunch Ashley and I decided to go explore the Santa Barbara Public Market that opened a few years ago. This market is filled with vendors ready to serve you some tasty treats including fresh poke and homemade cupcakes.
In the middle of the market is a wine and beer shop called Wine + Beer and it delivers on its name. It has a wonderful selection of both wine and beer and gives you the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a tasting, a glass, or even a bottle of wine with food that you brought in. Surprise, surprise we sat up at the bar and enjoyed some wine. You can get wine by the glass from anywhere between $9 to $28 dollars or enjoy a flight of 4 beers for only $11 or a flight of 3 wines for $20 dollars.
I decided to go the glass of wine route and tried a delicious Gazerra Pinot Grigio from Sicily and then also a Pinot Bianco from Alois Lageder in Italy. We had just come back from Healdsburg and done a tasting at Bergamot Alley on Pinot Blancs, Rieslings and Grüner Veltliner so we were willing to dive deeper and explore that world a little more. Ashley decided to get a flight to continue in that trend as well and enjoyed a sampling of Santa Barbara Grüner Veltliner from Tatomer, the Von Winning Riesling from Germany, and the Rake Rosé of Pinot Noir from Los Alamos.
Ashley and I really enjoyed this place. It had a great vibe and Ash and I enjoyed searching through their bottle collection that borders the space. The gentleman who served us was fantastic and is the one who suggested for us to go over and enjoy wine at Les Marchands. We even ran into him at Les Marchands later that night!
If Ashley and I lived in this wonderful city this would be a local hang out for the both of us for sure. And we would probably just call our visit there “research”.
212 State Street
We were in Santa Barbara and like any great city, its has its own wine country attached to it. While we were exploring the Funk Zone we stopped in at Kalyra. They have three tasting rooms one in the Funk Zone, one in Santa Ynez Valley (the main wine region just outside Santa Barbara) and The Evolution of Wine in Buellton.
This is a fun little tiki room themed tasting room that reminded us of the Disneyland’s Tiki Room extravaganza, which I loved. So we bellied up to the center round bar and enjoyed their tasting, especially their Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer which hit the spot of this sunny afternoon. Kalyra has a relaxed vibe, a reasonable tasting fee of $12 dollars and fits perfectly in this neighborhood.
The In Between
Cutler’s Artisan Spirits
137 Anacapa Street, Suite D
Cutler’s Artisan Spirits tasting room might have been the find of the day. It is a small local distillery that just got their tasting license. It is the only distillery in the Funk Zone and everything is still done by hand. The family, The Cutler’s, have been distillers since prohibition and you can even see his grandfather’s old still in their small tasting room.
While there, we tasted their selection of vodka, gin, whiskey, bourbon, and apple pie whiskey. All the ingredients they used for their spirits are locally sourced which we fully support. We loved the experience so much, and we got a bottle of bourbon to go. Ashley was pretty excited to buy her first bottle of bourbon. And I have to say, it is becoming one of my favorite bourbons to enjoy at the end of the night.
The Good Lion Cocktail Bar
1212 State Street
Okay, it has been a long day and you are stuffed from dinner but you still have enough energy to go to a bar. Ash and I would suggest taking a stroll over to The Good Lion Cocktail Bar. It is a very busy and hip bar the has a variety of classic and creative cocktails. Ash and I enjoyed a couple of well balanced and delicious cocktails before we decided to call it a night. The Good Lion Cocktail Bar is the perfect way to end the night and is a must visit, especially if you are loving the revitalized speakeasies as much as we are!
The Orange Tree Inn
1920 State Street
With all the eating and drinking in Santa Barbara, you are probably going to want to hunker down for the night. Santa Barbara abounds with places to stay but we choose a funky little inn on Upper State Street called the Orange Tree Inn. This place was inundated with Europeans when arrived and I am not sure whether that is due to the fact that it pops up immediately on Booking.com or because we are drawn to the same things as a lot of Europeans. This funky little hotel actually has a pool and the rooms are very spacious and comfortable. Plus it is walking distance from downtown! The Orange Tree Inn is a great option if you want to stay in SB!
Goodnight Santa Barbara!
Santa Barbara is trendy city with a laid back surfer vibe with an abundance of character. Ashley holds the city close to her heart as it is a city she spent four years of her life studying archaeology and will always be apart of her identity. We love this city and love to see their innovative culinary scene grow along with their wonderful selection of local wine, spirits and beers. Santa Barbara will always be one of our favorite foodie destinations; we seriously love to eat local in Santa Barbara. If you can only make it for one night you can’t go wrong with these places! But if you can, try to spend more time because there is still so much more of Santa Barbara to explore!
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