Santa Barbara Seasons’ interactive guide to some of Santa Barbara’s best options for gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan food.
Santa Barbarans are known for their active and healthy lifestyles. At almost any hour of the day, the beaches, sidewalks, and tracks are bustling with locals working out and breathing in the salty ocean air. Complementing their active lives are oftentimes healthy diets, as well. Whether it’s a gluten/dairy intolerance or a mostly veggie diet, Santa Barbara offers delicious meals for any dietary restriction or need. Below are some of Santa Barbara’s best options for gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan food.
1-3. Backyard Bowls: Backyard Bowls opened its doors in Downtown Santa Barbara in 2008 and was the first of its kind. It is a revolutionary eatery specializing in acai bowls, hot porridges, smoothies and much more. They provide a healthy, delicious, and fast meal option for the people of the community while striving to minimize their earthly impact and promoting a more conscientious form of business in general. All of the items on the menu are dairy-free, and gluten-free granola can be substituted upon request. Open for breakfast and lunch, their Santa Barbara County locations are 331 Motor Way and 3849 State St. in Santa Barbara, and 5668 Calle Real in Goleta. $
4-5. Crushcakes: Crushcakes & Cafe is a beloved Santa Barbara bakery and cafe. With everything from cake pops to entire cakes, their bakery offers nearly all of their treats in a vegan or gluten-free version upon request. They also make one seasonal special cupcake and vegan cupcake daily. Their cafe also has many gluten-free breakfast items and the bread can be substituted for Udi’s gluten-free upon request. Located at 1315 Anacapa St. in Santa Barbara and 5392 Hollister Ave. in Goleta. $
6. Green Table: Described as “a healthy oasis for everyone,” Green Table provides a completely organic, gluten-free and vegetarian menu. The team at Green Table pride themselves in their 100% gluten-free dishes, using only almond and coconut flour instead of the processed flour common in many grocery stores. Their almond milk is made fresh every morning, and instead of sugar they use coconut nectar and dates to sweeten their dishes that call for wholesome sweetness. Open for breakfast and lunch, Green Table is located at 113 W. De La Guerra St. in Santa Barbara. $-$$
7. The Honey B: The team at The Honey B believe in wholesome, playful food that’s good for the body and the earth. They are proud to be a 90% vegan kitchen trying their best to source locally and organically. Their menu provides numerous vegan and gluten-free options, including all of their Bee Bowls and most of their breakfast items. It is described as “a hidden gem”, located at 602 Anacapa St. on the Antioch rooftop in Santa Barbara. It is open for breakfast and lunch. $
8. Lilac Pâtisserie: Lilac Pâtisserie is a dedicated gluten-free bakery and café located in downtown Santa Barbara. Husband and wife duo, Gillian and Alam Muralles, have worked for years in some of the most well-known bakeries in Southern California and are delighted to bring their beautiful and delicious gluten-free cakes, baked goods, and entrées to downtown Santa Barbara. A diagnosed Celiac, Gillian’s focus as a pastry chef has always been gluten-free baking as well as incredible custom cake decorating. They have been nominated as “the best gluten-free bakery” by USA Today and offer breakfast, lunch, desserts, and a long list of cakes for special occasions, including weddings. Some of their menu items include their homemade granola, The Lilac Vegetarian Sandwich, and a long list of cookies, cupcakes, tarts, and seasonal pies. Located at 1017 State St. in Santa Barbara. $-$$
9. McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams: The famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has been a Santa Barbara treasure since 1949. Although it is unchanging in its authentic taste and quality, it now has a line of dairy-free flavors that include Cookies & Cream, Dark Chocolate Chip, Eureka Lemon & Marionberries, Toasted Coconut Almond Chip, and Turkish Coffee. The ice cream is featured in a few favorite local parlors, such as Mission Street Ice Cream & Yogurt (201 W. Mission St., Santa Barbara) and I.V. Drip in Isla Vista (905 Embarcadero Del Norte). McConnell’s main shop is located at 728 State St., with a newly opened store at 120 State St. in Santa Barbara near the waterfront) and its delicious flavors can be found in grocery stores around the country. Open until 11:30 p.m., stop by for a midday sweet or a late night treat. $
10. Mesa Verde: Located on the beautiful Cliff Drive, Mesa Verde sports a menu with nearly all vegan or gluten-free items. Their gluten-free and vegan options include but are not limited to their Macadamia Butter Crostini, Cashew Cheese Board, Rajas Tacos, Picadillo Empanadas, and Polenta Fries. Many other items can be substituted with gluten free ingredients, as well. Their cashew cheese is one of their tricks for maintaining a delicious flavor while still accommodating for dietary restrictions. Open for lunch and dinner, Mesa Verde is located at 1919 Cliff Dr. in Santa Barbara. $$-$$$
11-13. The Natural Cafe: Originating in Santa Barbara, The Natural Cafe is a semi-casual restaurant with a famously healthy menu and an authentic ambiance. Their motto, “We turn good health into good taste, and good taste into good health,” could not be more accurate. They have an extensive salad list, an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian options, and multiple dairy substitutes, like their soy milkshakes and their soy mozzarella for their pizzas. Although there are plenty of naturally gluten-free options on their menu, gluten-free substitutes for certain items may be made upon request. Open for lunch and dinner, The Natural Cafe has locations at 361 Hitchcock Way and 508 State St. in Santa Barbara, and 6990 Market Place Dr. in Goleta. $-$$
14. Oliver’s: Oliver’s of Montecito offers a variety of gluten-free options among their “small plates,” salads, entrées and vegetable sides. With their items either clearly labeled as gluten-free or easily substituted upon request, Oliver’s has everything from GF Wild Mushroom Tostada to GF Pad Thai. Open for dinner, Oliver’s is located at 1198 Coast Village Rd. in Montecito. $$-$$$
15. Pizza Mizza: The La Cumbre Plaza pizza parlor, Pizza Mizza, now offers gluten-free substitutes for all of their pizza crusts, pastas, meatballs, and sandwiches. They make their Gluten Free pizza dough fresh everyday using Cup 4 Cup flour, developed by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. Order any of their famous pasta dishes gluten-free by asking for their high protein, gluten-free, chickpea pasta, or make any of their delicious sandwiches, paninis, or meatballs gluten-free by asking for Udi’s Gluten Free Bread. Open for lunch and dinner, Pizza Mizza is located at 140 S. Hope Ave in Santa Barbara. $-$$
16. Savoy Cafe & Deli: Savoy Cafe & Deli provides a healthy array of baked goods, salads, lunches and breakfasts. Their bakery has an extensive list of gluten free, vegan, and paleo options, including fresh cookies, muffins, cupcakes, cakes, pies, breads, and bars. Some highlights of these treats include GF Brownies with Mocha Ganache, their GF Nut free Carrot Spice muffins, and GF Banana Maple Walnut Bread sweetened with pure maple syrup. Their lunch menu provides many salads, braises, and sides that are gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian, along with a variety of main courses that include Coconut Curry Chicken (organic, gluten-free, and dairy-free), GF Chicken Marsala, and Kale Caesar with gluten-free croutons. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Savoy Cafe & Deli is located at 24 W. Figueroa St. in Santa Barbara. $-$$
17. Tacotuyo: Tacotuyo is an entirely vegan Mexican restaurant. It is the first restaurant of its kind on the Central Coast, and perhaps in California. It’s meant to be fun, casual, healthy, and communal. Taco Tuyo seeks to be a place where regulars can stop in for a quick bite to-go and where visitors can learn that Santa Barbara is the best place to showcase such healthful and flavorful plant-based Mexican food at a reasonable price. The most popular item by far has been the tacos. Ardent omnivores have praised their flavor, not missing “traditional” Mexican ingredients like dairy and meat. They also offer a tres leches cake that is both gluten-free and vegan. Open for lunch and reopened for dinner, Tacotuyo is located at 724 E Haley St. in Santa Barbara. $-$$
18. Viva Modern Mexican: Viva Modern Mexican is a local Mexican restaurant located in La Arcada Plaza on State Street. The staff strives to bring a vibrant Mexico City-inspired menu coupled with fun, friendly service to one of the most beautiful locations in downtown Santa Barbara. With their motto, “Live life large!” it’s no wonder that this little restaurant is one of Santa Barbara’s favorites. Luckily, those with special diets can dine there, too. There is an entire menu dedicated to vegetarian options, including Farmer’s Market Enchiladas, Cauliflower Steak, and the Beyond Meat Burger. For gluten-free customers, Viva Modern Mexican offers a special cauliflower tortilla or lettuce cups/wraps that can be substituted for any tacos, chips, or fajitas. Open for lunch and dinner, Viva Modern Mexican is located at 1114 State St. in Santa Barbara. $-$$
Editor’s Note: Did we forget some of your favorites? We’re always on the hunt for healthy eating options. Email us at editorial@Sbseasons.com with your suggestions for updates.