Visiting Santa Barbara in a few weeks and need some restaurant recommendations. Looking for nice food and wine, with a relaxed atmosphere. Any help would be appreciated....
Original Post
The Wine Cask is our favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara. It can be as formal or as relaxed as you want. There is no real dress code other than the old "shirt and shoes". Many times I've seen well-groomed (probably super-rich) people there in shorts and a T-shirt. The food is definitely on the formal neuvo to French side. Fantastic but $$$$ wine list. And go there between 10am and 5:30pm and check out one of the best retail wine shops in California.

The "hip" in spot is Lucky's in Montecito. Dress is more yuppie-casual than the Wine Cask i.e. probably no T-shirts. The food is completely different also being a high-quality steak house. This is the place to be "seen". One time I was there and my party was seated in a small room with only two tables. We were a party of five and the other table in the room was a party of three including Carol Burnett, her husband and her manager. I tried to talk her into doing her "tarzan" yell but she didn't oblige. "Only when I'm on stage or really, really drunk", she said. Mr. Lucky is the guy who came up with Lucky Jeans (pants).

Also:
Citronelle (very disappointing)
Olio e Limon (fancy Italien)
Molly's (casual Italien)
The Harbor (on the warf--fair sea food)
Sage and Onion (disappointing)
Bouchon (Looks wine-friendly but isn't IMO)
Carlitos on State St. (casual but very good Mexican)
La Cava in Montecito (same owners as Carlitos; fancier Mexican)
Tom

The Beach House in Montecito is great for breakfast, right off 101 (sorry, forget the exit), its an older, 2 story white house. my favorite dish there is the Eggs Benedict Big Grin

also, theres a restaurant out on the pier of State St. (i forget the name again - sorry, havent been there in a few years... sad, im less than 2 hours away, used to go all the time). anyway, the restaurant is 2 stories, nicer on the bottom, casual to the point of throwing peanut shells on the floor, on the top. its near The Harbor that davidn recommended...
I have nothing but good things to say about Bouchon. I think corkage is $20 or $25 but have always had a great experience--memorable evenings. Also, the last time we were in the area, it is a bit out of central SB but at the Bacara resort, Miro has really stepped it up and very BYO friendly. And as for atmosphere- it can't be beat!
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Originally posted by davidn:

Carlitos on State St. (casual but very good Mexican)
Is Carlitos the Mexican food place that Julia Childs raved about?
quote:
Originally posted by Bella Donna:
quote:
Originally posted by davidn:

Carlitos on State St. (casual but very good Mexican)
Is Carlitos the Mexican food place that Julia Childs raved about?


You're thinking of La Superica.
Haven't been to Carlito's, but LSR kicks ass. Just stopped there last week after a project in S.B. and had their Especial plus an order of sopes de pollo with their fabulous salsas. Fantastic. BTW, it's Julia CHILD, no "s".
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Originally posted by benchland:
quote:
Originally posted by Bella Donna:
quote:
Originally posted by davidn:

Carlitos on State St. (casual but very good Mexican)
Is Carlitos the Mexican food place that Julia Childs raved about?



You're thinking of La Superica.

They're different, and Superica is overrated.
I've read mixed reviews about La Super Rica. Some people say it's the best, some say it's overrated. I saw a picture of it and it looks like a free-standing hole-in-the-wall authentic Mexican joint that is self-service and benches to sit on outside. Carlito's looks more like a nice little Mexican restaurant with actual service.
quote:
Originally posted by Bella Donna:
I've read mixed reviews about La Super Rica. Some people say it's the best, some say it's overrated. I saw a picture of it and it looks like a free-standing hole-in-the-wall authentic Mexican joint that is self-service and benches to sit on outside. Carlito's looks more like a nice little Mexican restaurant with actual service.


Nonetheless I'd recommend a stop at Superica just because its a SB food landmark, you can decide for yourself. The food is completely different at each place.
BD, that is true. LSR does not excel in your typical gringo mex fare like tacos and burritos. I think they only have them on the menu because they feel they have to. But their "special" stuff is great. I had a veggie tamale w/cream sauce last year that was amazing. I'm with Julia on this one...
The only service available at Superica is the food. Fresh and authentic and nothing more. No frills so if you want someone to fill your water, you should look somewhere else. If you want fancy mexican food, go to Napa Valley. If you want something tasty, go to Superica.
I live just south of santa barbara and visit almost every weekend.

Go to Sevilla for gourmet. It's been recently bought, remodelled with a seemingly botommless budget, and the food is outstanding. Their wine list is very good and in my opinion are far better than Bouchon, Sage and Onion, Wine Cask, etc. This is my #1 recommendation.

Go to Holdren's for steak, it is by far the best SB has to offer. They often have Kobe ribeyes as a special.

Go to Arnoldi's for Italian food and a very nice Italian wine list.

Go to Brophy's for the freshest fish in SB and great harbor atmosphere.

La Super Rica is wonderful in my opinion. One of the top three mexican places in town, including Los Arroyos and Taqueria El Bajio on Milpas Street. I would suggest those for lunch, as they're quick and don't offer a fine dining experience that you may want for dinner/night.

Cold Springs Tavern up on the mountain. It looks like a log cabin, it's in the woods, and they serve game specials (venison, bear, mountain lion, ostrich, etc). Really neat place.

Sakana in Montecito is the best sushi i have ever had.

Tupelo Junction and D'Angelo Bakery are great breakfast spots.
Carlitos on State
A hip place with tasty Mexican-American food.

La Cava (in Montecito)
Owned by Carlitos. Fancier and more expensive.

El Paseo
A huge dining room with a roll-back canvas roof for sunny days. We like the food a lot; pretty traditional stuff. It is immediately behind The Wine Cask.

La Superica
A stand-in-line outside around-the-corner and eat on a covered (I am being nice if I call it a) patio. REAL Mexican food like you would get off-the-street or in a bazaar in Mexico. Fresh ingredients. Fresh home-made tortillas. This is a destination place to eat. Last time we were there we got there before they were open to avoid the long lunch line. Lo and behold they were actually there and cooking. We walked right in (although the place wasn't really open) and they welcomed us and took our order. We proceeded out to the patio to wait for them to call us to pick up the food. There were three other people eating. We struck up a conservation. Turns out it was Bo Derrick (10), her teenage daughter and her (Bo's) boyfriend.

I know of no Mexican food in the entire world that is worth taking home over 1000 miles.

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