10 Spots To Sip, Savor And Stay In Downtown Santa Barbara


As the American Riviera with a glamorous past, weekenders from Southern and Northern California won’t have to travel far to get the same, relaxed and chic vibe along the azur blue ocean. Visitors can stroll leisurely along palm-lined State Street through the beautifully preserved ca. 1920s Spanish Colonial Revival neighborhood, shop, hang out at the beach or visit the historic sites. In today’s Downtown Santa Barbara, grand 1920s murals contrast with edgy graffiti walls in the Funk Zone, refined Spanish tiles and bougainvillea-covered arbors meet neon lights and converted warehouses for a fresh take on this classic coastal destination. Here are ten stylish spots to sip, savor and stay in Downtown Santa Barbara.

Eat – Loquita

Photo by Rob Stark

With a restaurant history that goes back to 1906, today the cuisine and wines at Loquita are largely Spanish such as paella cooked to order, tapas and pinxtos.

Photo by Rob Stark

Designer Doug Washington of August Studio honors the neighborhood’s Spanish Colonial past with modern references, such as the 150-year-old solid copper-brass paella pans as wall decor, hand-carved Baroque-style framed mirrors behind the bar and an outdoor, dual fireplace lined with sardine cans set as subtle ‘tile’.   202 State Street, Santa Barbara

Eat – Bibi Ji

Photo by David Mendoza

Bibi Ji refers to the mothers and grandmothers of India who welcome guests with the utmost hospitality. At Bibi Ji in Santa Barbara, the hospitality includes delicious, modern Indian fare using the freshest local ingredients. Think Uni Biryani, Tandoori Quail, Coconut Curry with local halibut and Chana Masala. Guests are transported into this bold world with rich, jewel tones, portraits of Indian figures and a global wine bottle display by James Beard-award winning Wine Director and partner Rajat Parr. At night, the interiors are energized by neon pink lighting and lively music. 734 State Street, Santa Barbara

Taste – Les Marchands

Photo by Erin Feinblatt

Les Marchands is a wine merchant, tasting room and eatery designed by August Studio in the manner of a Parisian wine bar, combining the old with modern urban influences in this spacious ca. 1920s converted warehouse. Floor-to-ceiling wine racks were handcrafted by Dan Bush from a reclaimed 226-year-old Douglas fir. The distinctive chandeliers were custom-designed by Washington inspired by fixtures in NYC’s Grand Central Station.

Eat – Tyger, Tyger

Photo by Rob Stark

The eye-popping colors at Tyger Tyger set the stage for the vibrant flavors of southeast Asian food, such as their Crispy Chicken Wings with caramelized fish sauce and Thai Kampachi Ceviche with coconut, aji chili and seagrass. The spaces designed by August Studio are filled with lanterns evoking the outdoor food stalls in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. 121 E. Yanonali Street, Santa Barbara

Imbibe – Test Pilot

Bringing the breezy ocean feel indoors, Test Pilot focuses on modern, tropical cocktails with a cool, 50s vibe reminiscent of Trader Vic’s.

Think tiki head bar stools, basket weave pendants, cane chairs and a helm chandelier. 211 Helena Avenue, Santa Barbara

Taste – The Valley Project

The terroir-driven wines of owners Seth Kunin and Magan Eng’s Valley Project are visually described throughout the tasting room in chalk drawings by LA artist and storyteller Elkpen. The showcase is an intricate, 450 square foot focal mural that resulted from long discussions about Santa Barbara’s varied microclimates. 116 E Yanonali St Ste B, Santa Barbara

Eat – The Lark

Photo by Erin Feinblatt

Situated near the train station in the Funk Zone, The Lark Restaurant is named after a former Southern Pacific Railway luxury Pullman train that travelled between LA and SF. August Studio captures the fun, and the style, from that period in an imaginative way. Enclosed dining booths with repurposed pews are lined with subway tiles that harken to its rail past. Custom and earthy torched pine walls, wood tables and oxidized steel counters contrast with one-of-a-kind antiques and flea market finds. The cuisine is new American fare and share such as Slow Cooked Smoked Pork Shank, Half Roasted Mary’s Chicken and Cast Iron Roasted Beef Ribeye. 131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara

Eat – Smithy Kitchen + Bar

Photo credit Smith courtesy VSB

At Smithy Kitchen + Bar, owner and designer Steve Hermann creates a breezy, casual and welcoming spot with an all-white palette and lots of greenery tying in counter, table and outdoor dining spaces. Cushy banquettes and brass finishes add a polished counterpoint to reclaimed tabletops and schoolhouse chairs. 7 East Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara

Stay – Hotel Californian

Photo courtesy Hotel Californian Visit Santa Barbara

In a total re-imagining of the original 1925 Hotel Californian, Martyn Lawrence Bullard combines California Spanish Colonial architecture and Moorish interiors in a fresh, modern and elegant way with lush, richly-colored mid—century furnishings against clean, monochromatic tile. Steps from the ocean and the Funk Zone, the hotel is a little oasis of its own with lavish gardens, paseos, plazas and fountains to stroll. 36 State Street, Santa Barbara

Fine Dining – The Silver Bough

Photo By Cecilia Rosell, Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara

In nearby Montecito at the Montecito Inn, owner and Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee has opened The Silver Bough, the ultimate luxury dining experience that is immersive theatre in three “acts” for eight guests per evening. In the intimate 400 square-foot, Carrera marble-lined space including a 16-foot, Brazilian quartzite chef’s counter, the mesmerizing design are the dishes. 125 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara