Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa Barbara’s Best New Restaurants for 2013

I eat for a living. As the restaurant reviewer for a Santa Barbara newspaper for seven years I eat…a lot. I get to travel and sample foods from various countries and judge at food and wine events, so I’m always near food, thinking about food, eating food or wondering about my next food. About 40 restaurants opened in 2013 and many are forgettable; many are good, but only a few fill a void with unique, creative food, service and ambience. So listed in alphabetical order are my favorite spots which opened in Santa Barbara for 2013. Check them out!

Georgia’s Smokehouse Here’s the truth – Santa Barbara sucks for BBQ, until this great food truck rolled into our lives. Stunningly tender ribs, pulled pork and spot on sauces proves that a food truck 
can be flat out awesome. Try the Bacon and Cheddar Hush Puppies, delightfully crisp deep-fried 
balls of dough mixed with cheese and bacon and topped with sea salt, seriously that’s a no-brainer. 
Their Smoked Burger is topped with whiskey-caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes with 
clean and focused flavors and a hint of sweetness. The Smoked Baby Back Ribs are wonderfully 
fall-off-the-bone tender ribs coated with a tangy vinegar-tomato sauce that has great citrus and heat. 

At the Paso Robles Winemaker's Cookoff judging competition

Paloma Mexican food goes where it should have gone years ago – out of the dull realm of tacos and beans, and into seasonal South American dishes with spicy sauces and real flavor. You must order the Chile en Nogada, a Pasilla chile stuffed with walnuts, pine nuts, ground beef, peaches, spices and topped with a creamy, slightly sweet sauce and dotted with pomegranate seeds. A seasonal dish from Puebla Mexico, this offers a great balance of heat and texture. The Enchiladas Paloma is a shrimp and cheese enchilada topped with a creamy chipotle sauce that actually has a potent roasted smoky quality the way chipotle is supposed to be. Oh, and there are 100 tequila’s for your consideration…woo hoo!

5764 Calle Real, Goleta, 805/681-0766

Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. PALOMA

The real deal- Greek salad in Crete.

Sama Sama Not familiar with Indonesian food? Great – here’s your intro. They use rotating local farms where they get their vegetables. The foods are simple and rustic but loaded with flavor and finesse including the Tempe Rice Bowl of sweet soy glazed crispy tempe, mixed with coconut rice and topped with a gado-gado salad of thin sliced cucumber, zucchini then mixed with a peanut dressing. Hands down, one of the best vegetarian dishes in town. The Nasi Goreng is fried rice mixed with diced carrots, celery, garlic and broccolini with a fried egg on top and then dusted with green onion, and served with shrimp crackers. Uncomplicated but very gratifying food. 1208 State St., Santa Barbara, 805/965-4566

Tuesday - Friday 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m., & 5:30-10 p.m., Saturday 5:30-10 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.  SAMA SAMA

The best Caesar Salad I've ever had in Tijuana!
Seven is located in the hip, new, trendy Funk Zone and this under the radar spot, really a bar with killer food, is as unpretentious as it is hard to find. No address, no signage – they think it’s a cool like that. It’s actually annoying, but forgive that (and the weak service) and go for Chicken and Waffles with infused maple in the chicken, their Cali Slaw (an awesome riff on Cole Slaw featuring herbs du Provence, or any of their sandwiches (named after the seven deadly sins) and yes, their mouthwatering pulled pork sliders. Simple bar foods done exceptionally well! They have a back patio, exposed brick interior, some cool cocktails and rotating art. 224 St. Helena, Santa Barbara, 805/845-0377, Monday - Friday 5 p.m. - 1 a.m.,  Saturday & Sunday Noon - 1 a.m. SEVEN

The Lark is named for an overnight Pullman train that serviced Santa Barbara for 60 years. Their Caramelized Cauliflower Gratin is an instant classic with texture, heat and spice. Gruyere cheese is mixed with preserved lemon, chili flake, bacon, breadcrumbs and cauliflower, then baked - absurdly wonderful. The Roasted Mary’s Chicken is brined then air-dried making it extraordinarily moist, served with brown butter polenta, butternut squash, and a maple Sherry chicken juice. Crispy Brussels Sprouts are a mix of Medjool date, sesame, lime, and garum for a savory element. The result is a dish of great balance and texture, with a sweet note as a counterpoint to the vegetal sprouts.

131 Anacapa, Santa Barbara, 805/284-0370,

Tuesday - Thursday, & Sunday 5-10 p.m., Friday & Saturday 5-11 p.m. THE LARK

Me and the Mrs chowing down in Innsbruck,  Austria

Toma sits in the former Eladio’s spot near the harbor and this is an absolute gem. Love, love, love the Tuna Cones which are comprised of diced ahi sashimi, ginger, sesame, soy, chile, and chives stuffed into a crisp sesame seed cone - think of this as an ice cream cone for adults. Also excellent are their pasta dishes, grilled romaine salad, and braised short ribs, frankly it doesn’t matter, it’s all so damn good with exceptional service – a shortcoming of far too many restaurants everywhere. 324 W. Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara, 805/962-0777

Nightly 5-10 p.m. TOMA

And be sure to read my weekly reviews every single Friday in the Santa Barbara News-Press to see what's what in the culinary world here. I cover everything from high-end to holes-in-the-wall.


  1. You are right about all of these restaurants, my favorite is Sama Sama

  2. Hi Grace: Thanks for the comment. I hope more people check out these restaurants!

  3. Hi really nice blog. Thanks for sharing... if you find restaurants in Santa Barbara then visit now... really these restaurants was amazing.

  4. Nice blog and this blog is the content is the really helpful to anyone and this blog provide the good information and you upload the pics in this blog is the really nice and thanks for sharing.

    Ventura Catering

  5. Santaranch12, thanks for the comment. Hope you can make it to some of the restaurants listed here!