Luxury Las Vegas

Santa Barbara: Culinary Delight By The Sea

October 2015

The city of Santa Barbara is something out of foodie’s dream. A strip of land along California’s Central Coast, more than 400 restaurants dot the streets, impressive for a town of just 90,000 residents. Fishermen cast off piers along the glittering Pacific at all hours of the day as joggers and cyclists mosey down beachfront paths. The soundtrack of seagulls punctuates the background noise of crashing waves.

In town, visitors and locals bustle between eateries, almost all dishing out food grown in farms close by. With a temperate climate (one often compared with the French Riviera), Santa Barbara’s growing season is year-round and known for bumper crops of citrus, strawberries and vegetables such as broccoli. The seafood here is to die for and served in some fashion at most dining outposts.

Wine lovers can also rejoice thanks to the existence of 200 wineries dotting the rolling hills of Santa Barbara County. Known as one of the most diverse viticultural regions in the world due to its seaside locale, lengthy growing season and low rainfall of around 30 cm per year, visitors can drive 30-60 minutes from Santa Barbara’s city center to taste more than 50 varietals.

This distance is considered doable for those looking to venture out, but can be seen as too far for persons who’d prefer to browse shops and stay close to town. The latter visitor was the inspiration behind what is now called the Santa Barbara Wine Trail, a collection of wine tasting rooms within walking distance of State Street, the city’s main tourist center. Regardless of your tastes, you are sure to find your culinary match in Santa Barbara.

For help planning your trip, go to santabarbaraca.com.

WHERE TO STAY

For looking for a luxurious option close to the action, you can’t go wrong staying the Canary Hotel, steps from State Street. Named after the Canary Islands in the Mediterranean, the hotel has a Southern European feel with a lobby of Spanish-style tiles and worn wood bookcases and spacious, well-appointed rooms.

Two miles up the road is the secluded Belmond El Encanto, a chic property dating back to the ‘20s that sports several acres of gorgeous gardens and an infinity swimming pool. But if retro is more your style, opt for The Goodland, a year-old property with an upscale surfer vibe in nearby Goleta.

WHERE TO EAT

Santa Barbara’s sea urchin—a regional delicacy—is best when tried at The Hungry Cat (delicious cocktails are also served here). Those looking for local delights like the Egg McMuffin (invented here—don’t worry, this version is a welcome upgrade from that of McDonald’s) are smart to head to Barbareño, a new bistro that focuses on Central California cuisine. The Lark, located inside a historic fish market in the city’s hip “Funk Zone,” is another delicious spot with meat, seafood and vegetarian options (and a welcoming outdoor patio).

WHERE TO DRINK

Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail opened about 10 years ago in the Funk Zone and it is the to spend an afternoon. Belly up to the bar at Santa Barbara Winery and order a taste of Chardonnay. The alien-themed Area 5.1 Winery and Tasting Room specializes in blended wines, and next door you will find Riverbench, a welcoming tasting room with brown leather wrap-around couches and soft wood-paneled walls. Just down the trail is the Wine Collection of El Paseo, a one-stop shop with six tasting rooms.  A list of wine tasting rooms can be found at urbanwinetrailsb.com.

WHERE TO SHOP

Food lovers spend Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings downtown at the Santa Barbara farmers markets. This is the best place to chat with local vendors and get the freshest produce—make sure to try some olive oil from Joëlle Olive Oil and snag an apple pie from the Solvang Pie Company. The Wine Hound, locally voted “best wine shop,” is situated on State Street and run by a team of wine experts with more than 60 years in the business, making it the perfect place to purchase a pre-picnic bottle.  

WHAT NOT TO MISS

October marks the seventh anniversary of epicure.sb, a citywide celebration of all things food. The month will be filled with events including a “quick fire” challenge with celebrity chef Cat Cora (Food Network fame), tequila and tamales tasting with Chef/Owner Richard Lambert of Santa Barbara Tamales To Go, and a farmers market and wine tasting tour (every Saturday all month). More than 55 local businesses will be participating. For more information, go to santabarbaraca.com/epicuresb.

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Katie Morell specializes in feature writing, breaking news and corporate communications.