Top 5 Best Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Keys 2 the Coast has chosen five of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara.  With over 300 restaurants in Santa Barbara, this was a deliciously difficult task for our trusted recreational foodies.

Our methodology was to carefully select establishments that have gone the distance to delight locals and visitors, for many years.  A combination of delectable dishes, superior service, an inviting environment and a menu with an assortment of unique and sensational dishes, won our fabulous five status.  The fact that the food was as visually appealing as it was tasty, was just icing on the cake. Speaking of cake, each of our picks offers exceptional desserts.

Where is the best restaurant in Santa Barbara, California? Our Top 5 Picks:

Ca’ Dario Ristorante, Santa Barbara FisHouse, Stella Mare’s Bistro, Toma Restaurant and Arnoldi’s Café win our top status.  Let’s talk about them alphabetically, because they are all so good, it would be difficult to rank.  Narrowing it down to five was tough enough and ranking the best of the best would be a futile effort.

Arnoldi’s Cafe

Arnoldis Santa Barbara Restaurant DishesArnoldi’s commitment to heritage, history and family recipes have made the restaurant popular since 1996.

Arnoldi’s Cafe, located at 600 Olive Street was founded in 1937 by Giuseppe and Ilda Arnold.

Count on authentic Italian food, like Gnocchi, that is served proudly with stripes of red, white and green sauce. It’s the best you’ll ever enjoy. The Lasagna Bolognese, “wow!”, is all I will say. Pair it with a Brander Cabernet and you’ll be in calorie heaven. Arnoldi’s Café offers indoor and outdoor seating and tries out a game of bocce ball out back.  It’s a guaranteed good time, with delicious cuisine.

Ca’ Dario Ristorante Italiano

Ca' Dario counterCa’ Dario has multiple locations. Try them all!

Ca’ Dario Ristorante Italiano, now has multiple locations, but the original at 37 E. Victoria St. is a Keys 2 the Coast favorite.

Try the Italian classic, Minestrone, Ravioli, Caesar Salad or one of their specialty pizzas. They suggest having it with a side of infused olive oil, for dipping the perfectly prepared crust.  The restaurant is quaint and the service is consistently friendly. It’s no wonder that they have expanded in Santa Barbara and Goleta. Count on classic Italian deliciousness!

Santa Barbara FisHouse

FisHouse Macadamia nut seabassThe Fishouse Macadamia Nut Seabass, rice and snap peas are a favorite.

Santa Barbara FisHouse, at 101 E. Cabrillo Blvd, is located on the waterfront.

A large bar area is a good place to start, before your meal.  You can choose to sit inside or on their outdoor patio, to breathe in the ocean air, while enjoying your meal.

The FisHouse beacons me back, for their consistently fresh and delicious Macadamia Nut Sea Bass. It’s baked and topped with Macadamia nuts and a Bruere Blanc Sauce and served with snap peas. Finish it off with an Americano and Tiramisu and you’ll be hooked.

Stella Mare’s Bistro

Stella Mares delicious desert

Stella Mare’s decadent desserts can derail your commitment to just try one bite.

Stella Mare’s Bistro, was founded in 1996.  It is located near the bird refuge, at 50 Los Patos Way, and is a top choice in the French Restaurant category.

The open atrium feels and décor are as inviting as being in a friends living room, from soup to nuts its excellent.  For true temptation, you simply must try the Tarte Au Chocolat.


Cocktail at Toma in Santa Barbara

The Dining is delightful at Toma. The full bar is a great start with excellent wine choices and signature cocktails.

Toma Restaurant is amazing, in every way. It’s our top choice for a date and will keep you coming back.  The tough decision is “Do I have what I had last time because it was soooo good? Or, do I try something new?”

Located at 324 W.  Cabrillo Blvd, it is the most charming place for a romantic meal. The Italian, Mediterranean menu offers classic and unique dishes, like black spaghetti and homemade Gnocchi. Prepare yourself for the toughest decisions at Toma.  We recommend making a reservation and taking a long walk on the beach before dining and enjoying this phenomenally great restaurant.

It’s not difficult to find good restaurants in Santa Barbara while enjoying the beauty of the beaches, mountains, colorful bougainvillea and classic Spanish architecture.  We encourage you to tantalize your taste buds with our Fab 5 Best Restaurants that have been enjoyed by visitors and locals, for many years, bringing full bellies, delightful memories, and wonderful experiences to share with families and friends.

(Donna Polizzi is a travel writer and founder of Keys 2 The Coast.  Keys 2 The Coast is a trusted travel resource for the California Central Coast and Beyond.  We share our favorite places to “Wine, Dine, and Explore.” Visit Keys2theCoast.Com or Facebook Keys2TheCoast.)