Pasadena Magazine’s Guide to Santa Barbara Dining

Santa Barbara was recognized in the recent Michelin Guide, with 13 restaurants given nods—but here are a few other spots you shouldn’t overlook when planning a culinary getaway.

The only restaurant in South Santa Barbara to receive a Michelin star, chef Phillip Frankland Lee’s omakase gem Sushi by Scratch Restaurants (formerly SushiBar) serves 17 courses at an intimate counter with 10 prized seats where you can see all the action firsthand. But this is not a buttoned-up traditional experience—for one thing, youthful, talented, and tattooed sushi chefs who are easy on the eyes are building your sushi bites. And while they do have sake, the mixology program here is also shaking things up.

“It feels so incredible to be recognized at our Montecito location,” says Lee. “The Santa Barbara community has been so wonderful to us since we arrived, and we couldn’t be prouder to be included.”

The menu is on a continuous but slow rotation based on what fish is in season, but some of the greatest hits always on the menu include the signature bluefin tuna otoro with Japanese whiskey and caramelized pineapple; hamachi with sweet corn pudding and sourdough breadcrumbs; cold-smoked albacore with freshly grated wasabi root, homemade ponzu, and crispy onions; and roasted bone marrow with fresh wasabi and homemade soy sauce. Lee’s partner, pastry chef Margarita Kallas-Lee, makes a makrut lime ice cream bonbon with rice and sesame shortbread that has become a cult favorite.

If you want to snag a highly coveted seat at the bar, set your Apple watch for 10 a.m. on the first of the month, or you can join a waitlist. If you still can’t get a reservation, the beauty of this little slice of Montecito is that you can walk to other amazing restaurants that have stood the test of time—from Lucky’s for a steak and martini to Hillstone-owned The Honor Bar for sublime burgers (and its only location where you can grab pizza to go).


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Nearby, the old Malibu Farm space at the Rosewood Miramar beach resort morphed into The Revere Room with an all-day menu by chef Massimo Falsini that utilizes the on-site garden and local purveyors. For something a little more formal, cross the railroad tracks to Caruso’s, which was awarded the Plate distinction by Michelin (but, in our humble opinion, robbed of an official Michelin star). The ocean view will cure whatever is ailing you, and so will the seafood selections, prix-fixe menu, and Johnnie Walker Blue–laced budino. It should also be noted that the only other new Plate nod was given to modern-Indian eatery Bibi Ji on State Street.


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The Bib Gourmand category of the Michelin guide highlights top-quality food with a budget-friendly price. Newly added to that list is Loquita in the Funk Zone for paella, croquettes, and strong G&T cocktails; Bettina in the Montecito Country Mart for pizza; and Corazon Cocina (off State Street), inspired by Mexican street food from Guadalajara.

Poised for a future spot in the guide, Satellite on State Street is a vegan haven by Emma West (formerly of Julienne, which Anthony Bourdain famously claimed was the best place to eat in the area). Don’t miss the signature “Yoga Pants Salad” with the best farmer’s market bounty, or the mushroom mole tacos. Must have meat? Order any of the dishes to go and add your own salmon or steak on the side. They also have an incredible natural wine program and sell by the bottle, perfect for grabbing before you head home for dinner.