As a city already boasting an exceptional climate and pristine beaches, the excellence of Santa Barbara’s food scene feels almost unfair. In this gem of a city two hours north of Los Angeles, there are plenty of longstanding classics like Bouchon Santa Barbara, The Lark, La Super-Rica Taqueria, and so many more. If you’re in the mood for something new, however, here are seven recently opened restaurants in the American Riviera.
1. Bibi Ji
The lovechild of a celebrated chef (Jessi Singh of San Francisco and New York’s Babu Ji) and renowned sommelier/winemaker (Rajat Parr of Sandi Wineds), Bibi Ji serves reimagined Indian cuisine alongside a killer wine list. Pair your favorite vintage with the Santa Barbara uni stuffed with biryani (spiced rice).
Last September, the much-anticipated Hotel Californian opened on State Street—and with it the in-house restaurant Blackbird. The restaurant marries Old World luxury and West Coast vibes, delivering obsessively seasonal dishes and craft cocktails with a Mediterranean twist.
3. The Bear and Star
Drive north to Los Olivos to find elevated ranch cuisine in a cozy setting. One of those spots that’s more of an experience than simply a restaurant, The Bear and Star, sources much of what it serves from the family’s Fess Parker Home Ranch, which raises everything from heirloom fruit to Wagyu cattle.
This new Montecito spot proves that vegan cuisine can be both delicious and thoroughly chic. Plant-forward guru Matthew Kenney perfects the basics—think avocado toast served on turmeric oat bread, topped with shaved cucumber. Request a table in or near the patio for an enchanted-forest feel complete with lighted trees.
5. Santo Mezcal
Creative Oaxacan cuisine in the heart of the Funk Zone—what could be wrong with that? Absolutamente nada. Developed by the creators of the well-loved Los Agaves Restaurants, this concept offers the opportunity to taste new flavors in a beautiful backdrop. Don’t miss the mezcal cocktails mixed with cold-pressed juices and fresh herbs.
The heart and soul of Satellite is on the backside of the menu: It’s all about the wine. That’s never a bad thing, especially when paired with fresh-from-the-farm dishes. Snack on the crowd-favorite Cauliflower Powa, drizzled with parsley-coconut emulsion.
7. Smithy Kitchen + Bar
With cheery lighting and batten walls, you probably wouldn’t guess this restaurant was once a blacksmith shop. But look closely and little nods abound, like the flaming hearth on the patio and coal-roasted dishes dotting the menu. Come for lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, or enjoy sunset under the olive trees during happy hour.