Santa Barbara: Casual, Affordable Eats

by Rachel on February 20, 2010

Affordable Eats in Santa Barbara:

Even we obsessed cooks take a break from the kitchen occasionally.  Affordable eats in Santa Barbara that will satisfy fussy home chefs and hungry families include Jane on State Street downtown, Los Arroyos on Coast Village Road in Montecito, Brophy Brothers at the Harbour, Tupelo Junction for breakfast/lunch and if you need to be in La Cumbre Plaza – my Dad’s old haunt, Pizza Mizza..  If you get to SB soon – give one of these a try.  Brief Reviews below, and let me know if you think there are other spots that should be added to this list.  All of these restaurants are extremely family friendly – even Jane, which is a bit more posh than the rest.

Jane feels to me like a more affordable version of Suzanne Goin’s newish restaurant The Tavern in Brentwood, CA.  This is a complement to Jane in that I’m a huge fan of Suzanne Goin.  However, I find The Tavern seriously pricey, even by LA standards.  Head up the road to Santa Barbara and visit Jane.  The sandwiches are creative, hip, and well priced.  They make me want to go home and work on my sandwich making skills.  Suzanne Goin has the fine art of the forward thinking sandwich down to a science.  Jane is a strong second to The Tavern in this category.  I haven’t yet had dinner at Jane, just a number of luscious lunches.  I hope to get there for dinner soon.  Jane, 1311 State Street, SB.

I expect good Mexican food to be in abundance in Los Angeles however, from my perspective, it is not.  Santa Barbara boasts two of the best local Mexican food offerings around.  Much has been written about La Superica, so I’ll leave that one largely alone.  Though I understand its draw, its non-pork offerings are limited and as a consequence its menu is too narrow for me.  My family’s favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara is Los Arroyos.  Family owned and run, Los Arroyos began as a small Mexican restaurant on a side street in the part of town where one finds construction supply stores and auto body shops.  A few years ago it made the big leap and moved to Montecito and it has been packed ever since.  It offers a full menu with traditional Mexican food from burritos to sopes and everything in between.  The food is super.  It’s fresh, full of flavor and true to its roots.  I am partial to the Chicken Sopes, my sons adore the Burrito Mojado and/or the Crispy Tacos, and my husband is partial to the Taquitos.  The freshly made guacamole is some of the best around.  No reservations necessary though it can get crowded right at noon in tourist season.  Los Arroyos, 1280 Coast Village Road, Montecito.

Another fresh, affordable, tasty option in Santa Barbara is Tupelo Junction on State Street downtown.  Super popular for breakfast and brunch, it serves great lunches too.  Most of the food is “California Cuisine” in a healthy, casual way.  There is nothing fussy about Tupelo Junction.  The food is abundant and well prepared.  I’m partial to the Fried Chicken Salad with corn bread and buttermilk dressing, my husband adores the Salmon Salad, and my son who has eaten all over the world claims the White Cheddar Burger with Caramelized Onions is the best burger he’s ever had.  The other interesting dish we tried recently was the BLT made with Fried Green Tomatoes.  It’s a tad spicy and magically delicious.  Make a reservation if you want to go on a Sunday, or any busy holiday weekend.  Weeknights are quieter, particularly when the tourists are elsewhere.  Tupelo Junction, 1218 State Street, SB.

Brophy Brothers has been drawing tourists and locals to its busy, crowded spot above the Harbor forever.  Some of the tourists show up because of the view.  The locals come for the food.  The clam chowder is excellent and has been day in and day out since I was a teenager.  The Shrimp Louie is generously sized, has a first-rate dressing and lots of super fresh vegetables.  You can’t go wrong with the Fish and Chips, nor the Steamed Clams and the Oyster Shooter – it’s perfect.  Brophy Brothers, 119 Harbor Way, SB.

Disclaimer – my father recently retired as the long-time head Chef at Pizza Mizza in La Cumbre Plaza.  Though he’s no longer there, many of his mainstays remain on the menu.  It’s definitely the best pizza in town, and for a casual Italian restaurant it has a number of exemplary soups (thanks to my Dad).  Try the Tortilla Soup, or the Potato-Leek, or whatever is the soup of the day.  The Greek Salad is great, and the pastas are fresh and full of flavor.  Pizza Mizza, 104 S. Hope Avenue, SB.

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