It used to be that hotel dining was short on creativity and long on convenience and predictability. Not anymore. Say goodbye to ho-hum hotel dining and hello to inventive cuisine in elevated eateries with vibes from oceanfront elegance to rustic Valley chic. Whether you crave a steak by the ocean or ceviche near the vineyards you’ll find it in this delicious buffet of options…
and you just might want to check in.
Tried and True with a View
A trifecta of tried-and-true faves that have undergone renovations, transformations or spiff-ups are now better than ever. And they have views, views, views. Bella Vista Restaurant at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara gets high marks for its stunning oceanfront setting across from Butterfly Beach in Montecito (sunset, anyone?), roomy terrace and always on-point contemporary Italian cuisine. Belmond El Encanto is perched atop a seven-acre hilltop property with sweeping city and ocean views. California coastal cuisine focuses on local ingredients including fresh herbs from the chef’s garden and cheese made from the milk of Ellie, the resort’s cow. Angel Oak at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara gives new meaning to the traditional steakhouse. You’ll drink well, too, from a 12,000-bottle wine cellar, while you gaze at the ocean from both the dining room and patio.
NEW Kids on the Block
The Monarch, the new restaurant and bar in the Montecito Inn, has hit the ground running with its wood-burning hearth cooking and rustic-elegant feel. At the helm are husband and wife chef-owners Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee. Dishes are made from über-local ingredients and served family style. Don’t miss the short rib, slathered with red wine and mustard and slow roasted fireside. Poised to open soon at the Inn is sister restaurant Silver Bough, a high-end chef’s tasting menu concept.
Blackbird, the signature restaurant in the new Spanish Colonial Revival-style Hotel Californian, delivers a touch of old Hollywood glamor just a block from the beach. Sip an inventive cocktail in the sleek dining room and nibble creative Mediterranean-influenced dishes from the spacious open kitchen. The menu changes often, but you might find grilled octopus with chorizo, whole roasted branzino or rib-eye steak with bone marrow.
Goat Tree is the Hotel Californian’s casual, all-day dining café with al fresco seating and fresh fare with a hint of Mediterranean flavor. This place works in a lot of ways. Grab a coffee, cold-pressed juice, pastry or full breakfast; load up your picnic basket for wine tasting or the beach; or swoop in for lunch or dinner. Think charcuterie plates, flatbreads, inventive salads, sandwiches and burgers, pastas and fried chicken.
By the Sea
At Convivo in the Santa Barbara Inn, you can settle in to the contemporary dining room or out on the heated patio with views of East Beach. Chef and co-owner Peter McNee keeps it fresh with a seasonal menu of flatbreads and pizzas from the wood-fired oven, house-made pastas, fresh crudo and salads, and roasted seafood and meats. Spit-roasted chicken with harissa and the zesty Moroccan herb sauce chermoula is a sleeper hit.
At Finch & Fork in the Kimpton Canary Santa Barbara, Executive Chef Peter Cham kicks American dishes up a notch or two while showcasing bounty from our local farmers and fishermen. The dark-wood-paneled downtown setting just oozes
comfort. Sip a craft cocktail or glass of Santa Barbara County wine and dig into the likes of melt-in-your-mouth short rib, rainbow trout with toasted hazelnut brown butter, and macaroni and cheese studded with bacon.
Located in a sister property, the surf-inspired Kimpton Goodland in Goleta, Outpost epitomizes California cool. Friend groups and date-nighters flock to the poolside outdoor tables or colorful dining room. Executive Chef Damien Giliberti turns out such flavor-packed plates as pork belly bao buns, seared salmon atop romanesco puree, caramelized sweet potato with crispy chickpeas, and bright, fresh tuna crudo. Insider tip: try the seasonal cocktails and weekly ramen nights.
Variety in the Valley
The Bear and Star, located at the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos, sources much of its beef, poultry and produce from the Parker family’s nearby 714-acre ranch. The décor combines Western-style elegance with comfort. Chef and partner John Cox calls the food “refined ranch cuisine.” We call it delicious. Though the menu is seasonal, look for mainstays Wagyu filet mignon, deviled ranch eggs and pan-seared sea bass. Sip from a list of Fess Parker Winery, Santa Barbara County and international wines.
You’ll feel transported to Europe at First & Oak in Solvang’s Mirabelle Inn, as you sink into velvety and leather banquettes in the chic dining room. The dining concept is a chef’s tasting menu consisting of three, four or five courses. The seasonal menu changes frequently, but you’ll always find layers of flavors, a play of textures and artful presentation. Dishes have included truffle-roasted cauliflower, hearty lobster bisque, fresh fish, pork belly and risotto.
The boutique Hotel Corque in Solvang is the home of contemporary farm-to-table eatery Root 246. Chef Crystal “Pink” DeLongpre puts her personal stamp on such dishes as grilled shrimp with peanut mole, roasted Santa Barbara halibut and Niman Ranch St Louis ribs with a slab of cornbread. Produce is from local farms and animal proteins are responsibly sourced. Tipple from an extensive local wine, craft beer, cider and signature cocktail list.
Mad & Vin, which translates to “food and wine” in Danish, is located inside The Landsby hotel in Solvang. The design is clean and contemporary with a touch of traditional Scandinavia and mid-century-modern. Chef Beto Huizar spotlights fresh Central Coast ingredients in his wine-country inspired cuisine. Expect dishes like lamb osso bucco with mole demi-glace, skillet-charred local fish with sparkling wine beurre blanc and grilled rib eye steak with smoky blue cheese butter.
The Gathering Table at the Ballard Inn lives up to its name with a welcoming dining room, fireplace and casual warmth. Whether you sit at the communal table or not, Chef Budi Kazali’s French-Asian inspired cuisine is perfect for sharing. Look for cozy winter dishes like lamb lollipops with Jerusalem artichokes, seared Maine scallops and braised short ribs. You’ll see why this is a go-to spot for a happy and well-fed mix of locals and visitors.
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.