S.B. Brewery

Santa Barbara Brewing Co. and Restaurant

501 State St., 730-1040

Many years ago, Europe lived on beer, a
combo of the ubiquitous beverage and a grainy stew made from the
ubiquitous beverage. Then came Budweiser, which almost destroyed
the golden beverage’s credibility. Fast-forward to today, and there
are breweries in every cool American town, our own notwithstanding.
Santa Barbara Brewing Co. makes brewski right in front of you in
its fine restaurant, and the masterminds had the funny audacity to
call their most popular beer Santa Barbara Blonde. Today, at the
end of history, everybody is happy, especially if they can have
some S.B. Blonde of their own.

Finalist The Brew House

S.B. Brewed Beer

Santa Barbara Blonde

Finalist Firestone Pale Ale

S.B. County Winery Red Wine

Sunstone Vineyards and Winery

125 N. Refugio Rd., Santa Ynez, 688-9463

“Yay,” said boisterous bacchanalian Elizabeth Gunn-Baumann, who
is very busy handling the winery’s E-commerce, but managed to take
a few minutes to talk to us. “I think this is the fifth win in a
row. It’s great. I also have to say I think it’s the merlot
everybody loves. We make a fantastic merlot because we grow it
organically, which brings out the fruit,” she said. “There are no
additives to get in the way,” she added, crediting owners Fred and
Linda Rice, who began planting vines in 1989 and opened their wine
tasting room in 1994.

Finalist Firestone Vineyard

S.B. County winery White Wine

Firestone Vineyard

5000 Zaca Station Rd., Los Olivos, 688-3940

“I would say that the award should go on the strength of all our
white wines,” said Firestone spokesperson Christopher Weir, not
meaning to sound like he’s avoiding the question concerning which
one the readers mean. There has always been a big commitment to
such white wines as gewürztraminer, chardonnay, and sauvignon
blanc, the last of which, according to Weir, is enjoying particular
popularity lately. But so have all the whites. “I think in the past
five years there has been a renewal of interest by the Firestone
family and its winemaker Kevin Willenborg. I think if you haven’t
tried a Firestone wine lately, you should. You will probably be
surprised,” he said.

Finalist Sanford Winery and Vineyard

Restaurant Wine List; Place for Wine

Wine Cask

813 Anacapa St., 966-9463

It’s certainly more than a wine list or a shop — it’s a central
meeting place for the downtown movers and shakers. It’s always been
a Mecca for hot dates, and as caterers, the place oils high-end
get-togethers admirably. But it did start out as a great wine store
before all this foodishness became widespread. The collection of
wine is fantastic and the pairing of drink with dinner is done on a
post-graduate level by the experienced chefs and sommeliers. The
Wine Cask lives up to its reputation.

Finalists Restaurant Wine List: Bouchon; Place
for Wine Tasting: Sunstone Vineyards and Winery

Beer Selection on Tap

Zodo’s Bowling & Beyond

5925 Calle Real, Goleta, 967-0128

There are 39 unbottled beers on the wall — and a
cider — according to bartender Kerby Neal. That’s just the tap
beers; there are about a jillion bottled beers, too. She thinks
Sunshine Wheat and Blue Moon, a nice little beer from Denver, are
the current best, but that’s just her taste. With seven domestic
and 32 foreign brews from which to choose, you should probably go
and make up your own mind. By the way, Neal is happy. “Isn’t it
exciting we won?” she asked non-rhetorically.

Finalist Santa Barbara Brewing Co. and

Coffee House; Iced Mocha

Santa Barbara Roasting Co.

321 Motor Wy., 962-0320; 607 Paseo Nuevo, 962-2070

“I’m blown away,” said Matt Moore,
director of S.B. RoCo’s wholesale operations. For 16 years, the
coffee shop has anchored lower State Street just above the freeway
bridge, and for most of those years has been voted S.B.’s favorite
coffee shop. But for many of the last 10 years another prominent
shop has monopolized the iced mocha prize. “We do one
thing — coffee — and we do it well,” explained Moore, who claimed
that the true small-batch roasting and dry cooling technique RoCo
uses makes them stand out in a crowd of beans.

Finalist Coffee House; iced mocha: The Daily
Grind — Coffee & Tea Station


El Paseo Restaurant

10 El Paseo, 962-6050

It’s been the center of the town since before World War II,
opened to the skies on balmy evenings and reflecting an authentic
Spanish mood and flavor. Of course, to be perfectly tuned into its
milieu, the bar should make a stunning sangria, and for all we know
it probably does. But year after year, the voters remember it for
the drink fostered in Mexico, the margarita. For a town saturated
in Mexican food and drink, it’s the street in Spain where the
people go to drink tequila, lime, and triple sec.

Finalist Acapulco Mexican Restaurant y

Hotel Bar

Hotel Andalucía

31 W. Carrillo St., 884-0300

“I assume they mean El Cielo bar,” said Tony DiRaimondo,
director of sales and marketing for the posh hotel that stands
close to Greyhound’s downtown depot. The high-end bar on the roof
(there’s also a bar in their restaurant) became instantly popular,
he said. “I think the view is great, they have nice drinks, and the
overall ambiance has made it the place to gather.” DiRaimondo likes
the rhythms of the bar, too. “It’s a place people go right after
work, say from 6 to 10 p.m. Then they go somewhere else. It’s nice
that way.”

Finalist Four Seasons Biltmore

Singles Bar; Place to Dance

Wildcat Lounge

15 W. Ortega St., 962-7970

Most of the bartenders like the fact that the Wildcat has a
theme for each evening. Sometimes it’s a deejay, sometimes it’s a
local band, and other times it’s gay night (that would be Sundays),
or maybe the night to bust the macarena. They even have a 1990s
nostalgia night. But mostly the place thrives on its
neighborhood-meets-the-downtown-club-scene straddling of worlds.
Whatever night you pick, the bar is usually sporting a crowd of
like-minded folk to scratch away with you.

Finalists Singles Bar: Sevilla; Place to Dance:
SOhO Restaurant & Music Club

Coffee by the Pound

Peet’s Coffee and Tea

3905 State St., Ste. 2, 687-9952

It may not be the strongest coffee in the world. And maybe
Muhammad Ali wasn’t really the greatest fighter. But who cares
about technicalities when you are faced with any magnificence, and
the perfectly oily, rich, and mind-tightening experience of
drinking Peet’s is brewed bliss. The reader’s agree — it’s the best
bean Barbarenos can buy.

Finalist Trader Joe’s

Stiffest Drinks

Joe’s Café

536 State St., 966-4638

For years now, the rivalry for strongest imbibition has waged
between Joe’s and Harry’s. It’s the kind of deadlocked,
push-me-pull-you fight a lot of journalists we know would like to
judge, many of whom have already warmed up for the bout. Barring
truly scientific analysis though, we’ll side with our readers who
voted for downtown this year. We urge all to drink responsibly, of
course, and also to appreciate that the readers who’ve been doing
all this research have found some serious proof.

Finalist Harry’s Plaza Café


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