Day trippin’ in Santa Barbara

15 Mar

What’s up? It’s Jason. Just thought I’d take a sec to write a bit about my recent day trip to Santa Barbara.

If you’ve never been to Santa Barbara I highly recommend it. It is a very beautiful short trip up the 101, just 2 hours from Los Angeles. The down town area has an old Spanish vibe, filled with restaurants, wineries, and boutique hotels. I would love to own a place there. Unfortunately since places there do not come cheap, for the time being, I will just have to make the drive as often as I can, which is exactly what I did this past Saturday.

I usually like to stay overnight but this time my girlfriend and I attempted a day trip. We belong to the Santa Barbara Winery wine club and were headed up to their wine and cheese “pick up” party. They pour some of their reserve wine, have good cheeses, you save on shipping fees, and it’s always a great excuse to get up there.

After SB winery we hit a few of our favorite stops. I think that instead of just telling you where we went Saturday, I am just going to give you “Jason and Sara’s guide to Santa Barbara”. This research has been years in the making, and we have narrowed the wineries and restaurants down to a not-so-select few. We stopped at a few of these places on Saturday, but here is the narrowed down list of our favorites.

Wineries: (I strongly recommend sharing a tasting rather than having your own. This way you don’t get too schnockered and can sort of sober up between tasting rooms which helps to actually remember the tastings.)

* Santa Barbara Winery. Tastings are $5, and it’s usually about 6 to 7 wines. They are so consistent, especially for the price. They continue to produce fantastic wine, hence us being members.

* Municiple Wines. It’s down the street from Santa Barbara Winery back behind Kunin wines. Kunin is ok, kind of overpriced for what you get. Municiple is super affordable, the people are amazing, and it’s about as “mom and pop” as you’re going to get, except the owners are in their 30s. My girlfriend and I call them “our people” and like to linger around with them when we go. We are also a member of this winery.

Jaffurs. They taste out of their little warehouse on the southern side of Santa Barbara, which is about 5 minutes from downtown. They have really good wines, and are decently affordable. They tend to get a little smarmy (one of the tasters rolls his R’s like he’s French when he describes the wines despite most likely being from Modesto).

Carr. Great wines and a really cool place to taste. They have a warehouse with a neat little “pouring bar” to the left when you walk in. They have a Syrah called “Harvest Girl” that’s really good. We always buy a couple of bottles when we’re there. If there’s another wine on the tasting menu we like, we’ll usually spring on that too.

NOT WINE BUT: Telegraph beer co. is right night door to Carr, so if you are so in the mood, you can try a beer sampling as well. (Another example of why it’s best to share tastings…)

There are many more wineries and we have been to nearly all of them but we have found the above to be our personal favorites.


Elements. Whenever we have time we like to stop at a restaurant called Elements for what is known as a “Fire-tini”. This is a habanero infused vodka martini that pretty much rips your mouth off, but could be the best thing made with habenero’s ever. They make it with a blood orange puree and a sugar rim. They have great food too.

Wine Cask/Intermezzo Bar and Café. The Wine Cask is an actual fine dining restaurant, and Intermezzo is more of a small bites/tapas bar. They are in the same building but are two separate places owned by the same owners. Sara (my girlfriend) worked here for a couple of years when she was in college. The place actually shut down for about a year because they changed ownerships and the new owner sunk the place. The original owner, Doug Margerum, with a few other respected restaurant owners and investors, re-bought the place, and got it back going again. Since then, it has picked up where it left off. It’s a great place to grab a drink, have a small bite, or eat a nice meal. I heard that they recently opened up a tasting room with Doug’s wine, which I bet is good because he produces some really good wine as well.

Sea Grass. Amazing fine dining restaurant. One of the priciest ones around but also the most romantic. A fantastic choice for just the two of you.   

Julienne Restaurant. We’ve only eaten here once, but it was something to remember. Some of the ex-chefs of Wine Cask started this place and it has done quite well for itself. It’s small, but absolutely incredible. We want to eat here again soon.

Hungry Cat. Best oysters in town. We only go here for oysters now, even though they have a really good seafood menu. There is a location in LA near the corner of Vine and Sunset that we frequent as well.  

Petit Valentien. Cute little French restaurant tucked back in a little alley way. It’s probably the most affordable place to eat at from the above mentioned restaurants, and had some great food. Recommended if you don’t want to break the bank and still have a good, romantic meal.

So… that sums up Santa Barbara for me in a nutshell. I hope this helps you if you want to spend a day, or a weekend in the area. Next up, Santa Ynez area…but I’ll probably leave that one for April to write. She’s the pro.


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