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Santa Barbara Restaurants

9 W. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 730 1160

One meaning of the French word bouchon is wine cork, so it's no surprise that you can sample 40 Central Coast varietals by the glass at this cozy downtown restaurant. Chef/owner Mitchell Sjerven pairs wines with dishes using produce from the local farmers' market, meat and poultry purchased from neighboring micro-ranches, and lots of freshly caught fish. Offering a French-inspired take on California cuisine, Bouchon turns out starters such as pumpkin soup with chanterelle mushrooms and hearty entrées like venison loin with wild-chestnut puree and local organic arugula, or a bourbon- and maple-glazed duck served with a succotash of fava beans, apple-smoked bacon, and butternut squash, a menu favorite for nine years. Ask for a table on the patio or by the glassed-in kitchen, where you can see everything.

Open nightly at 5:30 pm.

Brophy Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar
119 Harbor Way
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 966 4418

Action central on the harbor, this long-established seafood spot jumps all year, especially on weekends, when the wait for a table can be an hour or more (they'll give you a pager so you can wander around the marina; no reservations are taken). The biggest complaint here is the noise level, but no one gripes about the legendary Bloody Marys, clam chowder, or West Coast cioppino—California's interpretation of the Italian tomato-based stew filled with mussels, red snapper, and clams, topped with Parmesan cheese. In addition to a regular menu, there's a daily fresh-fish selection. For kicks, try an oyster shooter: a fresh bivalve served in a shot glass with cocktail sauce, Tabasco, and Parmesan cheese. The best seats are on the balcony overlooking the wharf.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11 am to 11 pm.

Ca' Dario
37 E. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 884 9419

Old World ambience plus a chef from Lake Como add up to a perfect pasta experience. Dario Furlati has been rolling out gnocchi dough since he was a small boy in Italy, where he learned to cook from his two grandmothers. One taught him fish dishes and risotto, and the other shared her secrets for preparing poultry, biscuits, and gnocchi. Naturally, Grandma Ida's gnocchi is a signature dish, though it's served only on Thursday nights. Other favorites include the house ravioli with browned-butter sage sauce, and osso buco (braised veal shanks, paired with saffron risotto). Furlati goes over the top when it comes to specials, offering 12 each night.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Sundays 5 to 10 pm.

1212 Coast Village Road
Montecito , California
Tel: 805 969 8500

Cozy banquettes, sunflower-yellow walls, a brick fireplace, and live Spanish guitar music set the mood for tapas at this lively, family-friendly restaurant. Chef Onofre Zuniga serves Nuevo Latino cuisine (a blend of Mexican, Spanish, and South American flavors), and entrée favorites include paella valenciana (saffron rice mixed with chicken, clams, mussels, shrimp, and chorizo) and rock-shrimp soft tacos with papaya salsa and homemade tortillas. There's outside dining, and La Cavita, a private dining cottage and terrace, can be reserved for groups of up to 40 people. Bar specialties include mojitos, sangria, and hand-shaken margaritas made from blue-agave tequila.

Open Mondays through Fridays 11 am to 11 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 8 am to 11 pm.

21 W. Victoria Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 564 7100

This low-lit restaurant in a 19th-century house feels a bit like a wine cellar, with its brick walls and archways. But its hidden nooks, fireplace room, private dining area, and patio cabanas also create the perfect venue for an intimate meal. Formerly owned by Kevin Costner, the restaurant is now run by Michelle Mastrangelo, with chef Ron True, former chef of Gramercy Tavern in New York, cooking the cuisine du jour. Try the Limo Ride, a $55 chef's tasting menu (six courses), or sample from the raw bar. Alternatively, order the free-range Uruguayan filet mignon or the carpaccio of beef on a bed of arugula with truffle vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan. The lounge serves a bar menu until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Specialty drinks include a tiramisu martini (Godiva chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao, Frangelico) and a Cosmo-piphany, a variation on the cosmopolitan made with mango juice.

Open daily 5:30 to 10:30 pm.

Hungry Cat
1134 Chapala
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 884 4701

Owned by husband and wife team David Lentz and Suzanne Goin (who also own the original Hollywood version of Hungry Cat in addition to L.A.'s favorite small-plates joint, A.O.C.), this bistro is something of an upscale seafood shack for foodies. The menu offers a raw seafood bar, excellent cocktails, and seafood specialties from local waters, including the elusive Santa Barbara spot prawn and sea urchin. Drinks could be a little stiffer and the portions a little larger, but the food itself, from the fresh-caught monkfish to the piled-high onion rings, is sublime.

Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 5 to 11 pm, Thursdays through Saturdays 5 pm to midnight, and Sundays 10:30 am to 10 pm.

La Super-Rica Taqueria
622 N. Milpas Street (corner of Alphonse Street)
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 963 4940

Super-Rica is one of Santa Barbara's most cherished spots, even though it's on the fringe side of town and basically just a white taco stand with turquoise trim, a walk-up window, a tent-covered dining area, and white plastic chairs. It was a favorite of Julia Child, who spent her last years in Santa Barbara. Handmade tortillas form the basis of the menu, which includes tacos, taquitos, chilaquiles, tamales, and a variety of sopes. The food is fresh, made right in front of you, and so good that loyal Super-Rica fans will drive up from Los Angeles just for tacos and the tamal de verduras, a vegetarian tamale made of chayote, cheese, corn, zucchini, potato, chile strips, and tomato with a cream sauce. There's always a daily special, such as chile poblano stuffed with cheese and beef, chicken, or pork.

Open Thursdays through Tuesdays 11 am to 9 pm.

Opal Restaurant and Bar
1325 State Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 966 9676

The always-packed Opal is known for its eclectic world-influenced cuisine and extensive wine list, with 300 vintages and 30 wines served by the glass. The bar does specialty martinis, such as the Perfect 10 (half Absolut, half Tanqueray Ten) and a mandarin-ginger cosmopolitan, and stocks more than 35 varieties of vodka. For starters, order the shredded phyllo-wrapped tiger prawns flash-fried and served with a coconut-curry dipping sauce. Signature entrées include the warm seafood salad (a mix of prawns, scallops, ahi tuna, and salmon served on baby spinach and salad greens) and the herb-grilled filet mignon served with whipped truffle-buttered Yukon potatoes and a wild-mushroom cream sauce laced with port and marsala.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5 to 11 pm, and Sundays 5 to 10 pm.

Trattoria Mollie
1250 Coast Village Road
Montecito , California
Tel: 805 565 9381

The Ethiopian born, Rome-trained Mollie Ahlstrand earned her cooking stripes at Arturo's, a favorite of the late Pope John Paul II's. Now she's plating up divine dishes in her eponymous Montecito trattoria, which has earned an equally elevated following. One of her biggest fans, Oprah, loved the turkey meatballs so much that she featured them on her TV show. Besides the homemade fresh pasta Bolognese and those turkey meatballs (entrées $22–$28), Mollie is known for her margherita pizza with layers of mozzarella, basil, and tomato, her addictive ciabatta, and creamy vanilla bean, chocolate, and coffee gelatos.

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 7:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm.

Wine Cask
813 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara , California
Tel: 805 966 9463

On the historic El Paseo courtyard, the Wine Cask occupies part of an early-20th-century building that was once home to the De la Guerras, descendants of the Presidio commander. Originally known as the Gold Room, the restaurant still has the original stone fireplace carved with the family crest, and hand-painted beamed ceilings. It's no wonder so many vintners and oenophiles come here—there's a 50-page wine list and 20 vintages available by the glass, and a sommelier on hand to help pair that perfect wine with the bistro-style Californian cuisine and impressive cheese menu featuring European and California cheeses. Sunday and Monday nights, they serve a six-course prix-fixe dinner ($100 with paired wines; $65 without wine), but it must be ordered by the entire table. The menu changes seasonally, depending on what local produce is available. Among appetizers, there's a Hawaiian escolar with avocado, poached watermelon, and yuzu sauce, and a three-cheese tomato tart. Signature entrées: grilled Kobe beef top sirloin in black-truffle sauce alongside local baby root vegetables and wild king salmon in a smoky muscat crème with beluga lentils, baby fennel, porcini mushrooms, and cipollini onions. If you like the wine you had with dinner, you can pick up a bottle next door at the Wine Cask store.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Saturdays 5:30 to 10 pm, and Sundays 5:30 to 9 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.