Santa Barbara has long been a weekend destination of the stars — mostly an older generation of film and television personalities who aren’t interested in Hollywood’s paparazzi scene.
It also has become a fine-dining destination, home to several outstanding restaurants in the downtown area. You also can eat and drink well just feet from the Pacific Ocean.
I’ve found that restaurants which offer great views — whether they’re high up in a big city skyscraper or alongside a scenic waterway — can sometimes be long on vistas but short on culinary quality.
While that can be the case at some of Santa Barbara’s waterfront restaurants, I’ve found two that not only don’t disappoint, but actually delight.
One is a bar/café with a great name: The Endless Summer (http://chuckswaterfrontgrill.com/about-es.html). Seafood is the specialty, the preparations are mostly simple but delicious, and the wine list is packed with well-chosen bottles.
The other is located on the touristy Stearns Wharf, but don’t let that discourage you from stopping in. Harbor Restaurant (http://harborsb.com/) also serves well-prepared, fresh seafood, and carnivores will enjoy the juicy, tender prime rib. The wine list is quite good, and the setting is quite romantic — making Harbor Restaurant a solid choice for Valentine’s Day.
While on the pier, stop by the Deep Sea Tasting Room, operated by Conway Family Wines (http://www.conwayfamilywines.com/Deep-Sea-Tasting-Room). It’s located in the former long-time home of Stearns Wharf Vintners, and is a great place to spend some time while waiting for a table at Harbor Restaurant.
The Santa Barbara waterfront is a great place for strolling and soaking in the sights. And, if you choose wisely, it’s also a wonderful place for a memorable wining-and-dining experience.