How to spend a perfect day sampling the food of Santa Barbara

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Santa Barbara is known for its diverse culinary scene and wide array of wineries. Photo by Shutterstock.

With stunning views, a world-class wine culture, and a fabulously thriving food scene, Santa Barbara is one of the best destinations for a weekend getaway from LA — without going far. 

Eater’s Mona Holmes gives the lowdown on how to spend a day sampling the Central Coast’s culinary delights.


Holmes says the best way to get yourself ready for the day is by loading up on carbs and coffee. 

“I love Oat Bakery. They use organic oats and unbleached flour, and they produce a huge range of breads and pastries and also really good coffee,” she says. “I'm also a big fan of pan dulce from a traditional Mexican bakery, and Panaderia Veronica has been around for decades. … And if you need some extremely strong coffee, just go into Lokum. It's a Turkish cafe, the strongest coffee that you'll ever have, along with, of course, Turkish delight and baklava.”


Holmes says you can’t beat grabbing a slice of pizza at Bettina

“I don't know what they do to that dough but … it's phenomenal,” she says. “If you're not in the mood for that, they've also got some wonderful pastas. And I'm a big fan of great wines, and their wine list is one of the best I've seen in that region.”


Speaking of wine, Holmes says there are plenty of places to sample the regional specialty, both in town and in the nearby vineyards. 

“You can drive 30 minutes to the heart of Santa Ynez Valley, and just go from winery to winery and experience those tasting rooms,” she says. “You can also do a walking tour of downtown Santa Barbara, and just hop from winery to winery.” 

Holmes particularly recommends Melville Vineyards in Lompoc and Roblar Winery downtown. 


One option is to share tapas at Loquita, where the food is just as delightful as the decor. 

“I don't know what they do to their potatoes, but they're just outstanding. … And it's just got charm in the room, it’s just a really colorful space,” says Holmes.

Honor Bar is another solid pick for a casual sandwich or pasta dinner. 

“They also have a really great deal for anyone who comes in a little bit early, where you get a prix fixe meal,” says Holmes. “It's one of those great places where you can sit at a bar and really enjoy just the scene.” 


If you have a hankering for something sweet on your way back to the train or your car, make a pit stop at Tondi Gelato

“They make their gelato fresh every day. They buy their ingredients from the farmers market right on State Street, which happens every week,” says Holmes. “And they’re open late, until 10 o’clock. So you have time to make that trek to Tondi, all the way down to the train station, and then sleep your way home on the train.”

For more on the Santa Barbara culinary scene, check out this itinerary and map from Eater LA.