Milk and Honey Server Jamyn Birchim with a plate of Manchego y Membrillo


Milk & Honey

30 W. Anapamu St.; 275-4232;

For those who like to graze on delicious bites of a variety of flavors, the tapas topper Milk & Honey continues to fit the bill to a tee, offering everything from a Peck of Pacific Pickles to a plethora of sliders (try the luscious Lamburginis, made with lamb, golden raisins, pesto, and mint). “The award is a beautiful reminder that we are still able to remain relevant and appreciated over so many years in a very challenging industry,” said chef/owner Alvaro Castellanos Rojas, who also concocts a mighty tasty cocktail when he’s not running sister spot Alcazar Tapas Bar and the new Glass House Cocktail Garden. “We’d like to send out a very warm and sincere thank-you for the continued support over the past 12 years!”
Runner-Up: Loquita

Thai Restaurant • Noodle Bar

Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar

38 W. Victoria St., Ste. 109; 335-2426;

Since its 2014 debut in the Santa Barbara Public Market, locals have been lining up to fill their bellies and their bowls at the slurp-worthy Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar. It’s been a hit from day one. Co-owner Emre Balli recalled, “It was our very first day, we had only four people working, and we were running like chickens with our heads cut off. Service was over, and we had to close at 6 p.m. because we sold out everything. We did the cleanup, then looked at each other and started laughing hysterically.” His favorite part of the job is “to serve delicious food to a community that I see as an extended family, and to see our customers leaving Empty Bowl smiling.”
Runner-Up (Thai Restaurant): TAP Thai
Runner-Up (Noodle Bar): Nikka Ramen

Ice Cream Shop

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams

Two locations;

Santa Barbara’s favorite ice cream makers have been cranking out frozen deliciousness since 1949. Eva Ein, co-owner, chef, and head of R&D responded to the Best of Santa Barbara® award. “‘The best’ is a pretty subjective term, like, ‘What’s better, chocolate or vanilla?’ But it’s wonderful to be recognized for how hard we all work at McConnell’s and how committed we are to churning out the finest products we can. We love Santa Barbara ​— ​it’s our home and our history. It’s a huge thing to be recognized in our hometown by the fans we most care about.”
Runner-Up: Rori’s Artisanal Creamery

Health Food/Nutrition Store

Lazy Acres Market

302 Meigs Rd.; 564-4410;

“We pride ourselves on being a community-based natural foods market that believes in putting the customer first,” said Bryan Feil, store director at Lazy Acres, which has been voted Santa Barbara’s best health food/nutrition store year after year. Feil and his team are responsible for the success of the original Lazy Acres market. He said, “Being authentic and providing the most innovative, fresh, and exciting food and supplements available is what we have been all about since 1991. Many of our customers shop with us on the Mesa because of the friendly, genuine service, and we are very thankful to receive the award.”
Runner-Up: Whole Foods

Corner Store

Santa Cruz Market

Two locations;

“We know that independent grocery stores are almost extinct, and we work that much harder to show our customers the personal service and quality products that only a locally owned business can provide,” said Santa Cruz Market owner Tom Modugno. “We hope when they come see what we have and compare our meat and produce prices to the big chains, they’ll be pleasantly surprised. Many folks have, and they come back to see us over and over again. In fact, we’re on a first-name basis with lots of our regular customers. We try to keep that small-town feel,” he said. “Being considered the best corner store is an honor we don’t take lightly and will only make us that much more committed to satisfying our customers.”
Runner-Up: Cantwell’s Market & Deli

Produce Stand/ Greengrocer

Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market

Multiple locations; 962-5354;

“We are very honored for the recognition. We really appreciate the ongoing support from the Santa Barbara community,” said Sam Edelman, executive director of Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market. The first market was held at the Santa Barbara Mission in 1979 and was among one of the first 20 farmers’ markets in the State of California. Today, there are six markets throughout the county, six days a week. “The farmers’ market is such an integral part of the complete Santa Barbara experience, and it is our incredible community that makes it so special. We offer a product unmatched to anything else out there. This sort of direct access to food sourced directly from those who grow it is something truly special,” said Edelman.
Runner-Up: Tri-County Produce

Frozen Yogurt Shop


Two locations;

It’s easy to go wild at Yogurtland. With dozens of flavors (birthday cupcake batter, strawberry shortcake pop, and pomegranate lime sorbet are but a few) and a delightful assortment of toppings to choose from, the possible combinations are endless. The staff urges guests to serve themselves and think of their empty cups as empty canvases. It’s no wonder this cool, creamy treat is our readers’ choice for best frozen yogurt shop for several years running.
Runner-Up: Mission Street Ice Cream


Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro

Multiple locations;

“I love looking at our showcases in the morning when they are full and untouched. It is amazingly beautiful,” said Renaud Gonthier, CEO and pastry chef of Santa Barbara’s favorite bakery, which began here in 2008 and now has six locations in Southern California. Luckily, our favorite pastry chef loves bringing his tasty touch of Paris home to S.B. “Santa Barbara is a great niche for us. Customers see the business and the humans behind it. It takes a lot of labor to do what we do well. I also love the local vibe, and I am a big outdoor fan.”
Runner-Up: Jeannine’s

Place to Buy Bread

Hook and Press Donuts

D’Angelo Bread

25 W. Gutierrez St.; 962-5466;

“My favorite part of my job is that I get to do what I love, every day, and with my family,” said Santa Barbara’s favorite bread maker and master baker Dietmar Eilbacher of D’Angelo. “My absolute favorite time is actually Saturday mornings, when my kids ​— ​Syd, Jack, Lucas ​— ​and my wife, Elli (yes, that’s her spicy chicken sandwich on the menu), are all working at the bakery with me.” Customers are particularly enthusiastic about the sourdough levain and kalamata olive sourdough these days, said Eilbacher, adding a big thank-you to the people who voted for D’Angelo. “Knowing that our customers enjoy what we create every day from scratch makes all the difference!”
Runner-Up: Oat Bakery

Mexican Restaurant • Burrito • Salsa

Los Agaves

Multiple locations;

Considering how much good Mexican food there is in Santa Barbara, Los Agaves’ quick assent to area-favorite status is pretty remarkable. Family owned and operated, Carlos Luna opened his first location on Milpas Street on Santa Barbara’s Eastside in 2008. Now with multiple locations around town, there is always a line at each and every one. The key? Fresh ingredients and a menu peppered with a mix of old-standbys (like the Best of Santa Barbara®–winning burritos) and inventive cuisine such as the piping-hot, stone-bowled “land and sea” molcajetes, Chile Poblano Campestre, and spicy Camarones à la Diabla.
Runner-Up (Mexican Restaurant, Salsa): Los Arroyos
Runner-Up (Burrito): Super Cucas


Crushcakes & Café

Multiple locations;

Perhaps the secret to crushing our honors year after year is that Crushcakes cupcakes are made from scratch each morning using real butter, sifted harvest flour, melted Belgian chocolate, and freshly pureed fruit. As their website promises, “Nothing comes out of a box … that is until you get them home and pop them into your mouth!!!” With outposts in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria, owner Shannon Gaston and her team not only bake their way into our hearts with cupcake flavor faves such as buttermilk crumb cake, peanut butter cup, and lemon drop, but they also offer vegan and gluten-free options and an assortment of pies and cakes, and they can even do keto and sugar-free cakes on request.
Runner-Up: Enjoy Cupcakes

Bagel Shop

Jack’s Bistro & Famous Bagels

Two locations;

Bagging best bagel bragging rights since it opened in 1995, Jack’s Bistro & Famous Bagels is the go-to spot for yeasty wheels of deliciousness in every flavor imaginable ​— ​plain, onion, poppy, cinnamon, rye, everything, pumpernickel, bially, salt, sesame, garlic, power, whole wheat, egg, jalapeño, sun-dried tomato, blueberry, cranberry, chocolate, cheese, cheese with onions, mushroom, and basil ​— ​as well as an assortment of cream cheese and pizza bagels. With locations in Carpinteria and on Milpas Street, Jack’s also offers a full menu of breakfast (served all day) and lunch items that are sure to delight.
Runner-Up: I.V. Bagel Café

Carpinteria Restaurant

Padaro Beach Grill

3765 Santa Claus Ln., Carpinteria; 566-9800;

“The funniest things happen almost daily at Padaro Beach Grill,” shared Will Ransone, owner of Carpinteria’s best restaurant. “When little kids come up to the counter without their parents and make up the wildest stories of why they need another ‘Gummy Burger’ with their Kid’s Meal ​— ​the stories are priceless, and we always relent.” He continued, “Carpinteria is a wonderful community with an amazing quality of life. The ocean, beaches, islands, mountains, and people are what make this area so desirable. I can’t think of a better place to go to work every day. Our customers have such an incredible appreciation for being part of our success, and that is very motivating and gratifying for everyone involved. Santa Claus Lane also has other great restaurants, caterers, surf shops, home décor, and boutiques ​— ​it’s awesome.”
Runner-Up: The Palms

Montecito Restaurant

Los Arroyos

1280 Coast Village Rd.; 969-9059;

“This award represents #MontecitoStrong and a sincere thank-you to everyone who came together and stood in solidarity. I am beyond grateful for the support of my employees and our locals,” said Los Arroyos owner Tony Arroyo of his win. One of the funniest things that’s ever happened? “It was a busy evening, the reservation book was full, and I was standing at the host stand when a customer walked up to me asking if Tony was working because they ‘knew’ him, and if he was working, he would have sat them right away,” shared Arroyo. Funny, sure. But we also understand that Los Arroyos’s fresh, craveable, homemade Mexican food is worth a little fib!
Runner-Up: The Honor Bar

Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant

Industrial Eats

181 Industrial Wy., Buellton; 688-8807;

Foodies have been flocking to Buellton since Jeff and Janet Olsson opened Industrial Eats in late 2013. It’s a casual, order-at-the-butcher-counter-and-share-your-table-if-it’s-crowded (and it’s always crowded) kind of place where oysters, uni, and butter beans pair with salty meats and clever pizza combos. One of Jeff’s favorite funny memories is of a Sunday afternoon, when “‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ was blasting in the restaurant, which was full. Pretty soon, the entire room was belting it out in a perfect Poison singalong.” As to the future, he said they’ll be “hopefully still growing. I really want an oyster bar. And a soft-serve ice cream machine.”
Runner-Up: S.Y. Kitchen

Fresh Fish Market

Santa Barbara Fish Market

117 Harbor Wy., Ste. A; 965-9564;

About 30 yards from the ocean, in a humble corner of the harbor, lies the Santa Barbara Fish Market, the only area commercial fisherman’s direct outlet to the public and Indy readers’ choice for best fresh fish. With a focus on locally harvested seafood products, it’s been the prime place for about 1,000 weekly customers ​— ​not to mention nearly 100 restaurants in the tri-county area ​— ​to buy fresh-off-the-boat seafood since it opened back in 2000.
Runner-Up: Kanaloa


Cajun Kitchen

Multiple locations;

A comfort-food staple, owned by the Jimenez Family since 1984, it’s no wonder that Cajun Kitchen has been Indy readers’ pick for best breakfast over and over. “There are many great businesses in Santa Barbara; we are honored to be amongst them year after year,” said operations manager Jorge Peralta. “We appreciate our customers’ loyalty over the past 35 years. We have felt the love from the local community over the years, which helps keep us motivated. We work daily to improve with the hope of being a breakfast staple in the community for years to come.”
Runner-Up: Jeannine’s

Sunday Brunch

[See Drinking: Bloody Mary]

Late-Night Eats

The Blue Owl

5 W. Canon Perdido; 705-0991;

Everyone’s favorite go-to after a night on the town, the Blue Owl’s Asian-inspired dishes are equally tasty for lunch. Owners Julie and Matt Crivellaro said their favorite part of the job is “making people happy and satisfied with their experience at the restaurant. Being the best means being even, in terms of being able to offer the same quality every day, in terms of food, service, and environment. This award is rewarding to all the people working every day at the Blue Owl … not without a snag, but we are doing the job!” As for the funniest things, “Being a late-night spot definitely helps seeing funny and weird things, but shhhh ​— ​whatever happens at the Blue Owl during late night stays there.”
Runner-Up: Dave’s Dogs Grill

Salad Bar

Savoy Café & Deli

24 W. Figueroa St.; 962-6611;

With more than 40 healthy ingredients to choose from and an impressive variety of hot and cold dishes that cater to the gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian set, it’s no surprise that the salad bar at Savoy Café & Deli is our readers’ top pick year after year. Paul Shields, who owns the business with his wife, Kathy Shields, said his favorite part of the job is, “interacting with employees and customers. It feels like a big family most of the time.” He continued, “It’s nice to be awarded ‘the best,’ but the most important thing for us is to do our best in providing service.” In business for 14 years, Shields said, “Having grown up here with Kathy, it’s special to be able to live and work in Santa Barbara, especially working with our sons. We are so grateful!”
Runner-Up: Whole Foods

Chinese Restaurant

China Pavilion

1202 Chapala St.; 560-6028;

When locals crave standard chicken, beef, shrimp, and veggie dishes (orange chicken and walnut shrimp are particularly popular), or the weekend dim sum delights, China Pavilion is our readers’ go-to for Chinese food. “My favorite part of the job is seeing absolute satisfaction from our guests,” said Peter Chen, owner and executive chef of the perennial winner. “Our restaurant is here to stay for many more years to continue proving the finest Chinese cuisine to our wonderful Santa Barbara community.”
Runner-Up: Mandarin Palace

Doughnut Shop

Hook & Press

1131 State St.; 689-6820;

“Years ago, when Hook & Press was just a dream, I would visualize sitting down to work at a table at my own doughnut shop, sipping on a cappuccino that I made, and watching as happy customers enjoyed my creations. Now I get to do that every day,” said John C. Burnett, who owns Hook & Press along with Denisse Salinas. Popular flavors at the new area fave include the Browned Butter and the POG (Passionfruit, Orange, Guava), said Burnett. “Being the best means that you are willing to rise to the challenge every day ​— ​even if that means getting up for work when others are just going to bed ​— ​and refusing to settle for mediocrity. It is a huge honor to be named ‘The Best’ in our first year, but there is still much to be done as we aim to make Santa Barbara a doughnut destination.”
Runner-Up: Spudnuts Donuts

French Restaurant


9 W. Victoria St.; 730-1160;

The culinary influence may be French, but for a menu that makes the most of regional ingredients ​— ​with vegetables sourced from local farmers’ markets, meat purchased from local ranchers, and a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning all–Santa Barbara County wine list ​— ​our readers know that bouchon is simply merveilleux. “I was fortunate enough to perceive early on in my career that hospitality suited me to a tee and have always loved the interaction with my clientele,” said owner Mitchell Sjerven. “I get to meet so many people from all walks of life and all sorts of places, resulting in a unique perspective, I feel, as every night is different.”
Runner-Up: Stella Mare’s

Indian Restaurant

Flavor of India

3026 State St.; 682-6561;

A loyal customer base has kept Flavor of India on upper State Street busy since 1991. The perennial winner serves North Indian cuisine such as saag paneer, tandoori chicken, samosas, curries, lentil-laden dishes, dal makhani, and raita. A good choice for vegans and vegetarians, everything in this family-owned restaurant is made from scratch (even the cheese for saag paneer). The popular lunch buffet is a great way to try something new.
Runner-Up: Bibi Ji

Italian Restaurant


Multiple locations;

“Being the best is what we aim for. Every day. It’s an honor to be recognized that way for our efforts,” said Fernando Gomes, GM of Ca’Dario Ristorante, which will soon open a Montecito location. The trattoria remains an enduring favorite for delicious northern Italian food. “We work as a tight-knit unit, and that is essential to our success.” Gomes shared this funny ​— ​and romantic ​— ​memory: “People like to select this spot to ‘pop the question.’ One guy was a little nervous on such an occasion and dropped the ring, prompting all the nearby guests to aid in the search. Eventually it was found, and the whole place erupted in cheers and congratulations.” We guess she said, “Yes,” just like Indy readers.
Runner-Up: Via Maestra 42

Beachside Bar Cafe.

Seafood Restaurant • Clam Chowder

Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant

119 Harbor Wy.; 966-4418;

“Our favorite part of the job is delivering an experience that leaves the customer and our team feeling happier than when they arrived,” said John Bennett, operating partner of Brophy Bros., the always jam-packed harbor hot spot, which was our readers’ pick for best seafood restaurant and best clam chowder. It’s also hard to resist the patio views of the Pacific, the mountains, and the mariners unloading their catch of the day. “This award raises the bar. It means we have to live up to the customer’s expectations,” said Bennett. “The locals are amazing. We really love this community.”
Runner-Up: Lure Fish House

Sushi Restaurant

Arigato Sushi

1225 State St.; 965-6074;

Arigato means “thank you” in Japanese, and Santa Barbarans have been showering praise ​— ​and awards ​— ​on the popular sushi restaurant since it opened back in the days before cell phones. The sushi menu features more than 65 rolls and is a great mix of exotic and familiar. The cooked dishes such as Grilled Garlic Arigato Beef and Miso Glazed Black Cod (for culinarily challenged friends) are also excellent. They don’t take reservations, and there’s always a wait ​— ​but in the case of Arigato Sushi, it’s also always worth waiting for!
Runner-Up: Sushi Teri

Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant • Veggie Burger

The Natural Café

Multiple locations;

“Being voted ‘best’ by our guests/your readers is extremely gratifying. It’s always nice for our staff to be identified as outstanding in our field,” said Natural Café Founder/Managing Partner Kelly Brown. “We try hard to create an environment that is more than just a job and a paycheck. Eating well and taking care of yourself is a way of life and serving people to this end is an honorable activity.” His favorite part of the job is “seeing guests we first served 26 years ago … and hiring and working with the kids of kids who worked for us over the years! They’ve been eating in the [restaurants] all their lives, and it’s always interesting to see them discover what it takes to serve our guests in the style they are used to.”
Runner-Up (Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant): Mesa Verde
Runner-Up (Veggie Burger): Mesa Burger


South Coast Deli

Multiple locations;

Serving up sandwiches since 1991, the South Coast Deli is a Best of Santa Barbara® winner many times over, and deservedly so. With four locations (two in Santa Barbara, one in Goleta, and one in Isla Vista), it’s easy to find a favorite sammie or two. I’m a fan of the SCD Grilled Cheese (cheddar and jack with their house-made garlic-Tabasco mayo, house-roasted pasilla chile, tomato, and red onion) and the Gobble Gobble (roasted turkey breast with cranberry thyme cream cheese, red onion, and radish sprouts on toasted wheat). The salads are also good, with a nice variety of options. Our only complaint is it’s crowded during peak lunch hours ​— ​but it’s good enough to be worth the wait!
Runner-Up: Three Pickles


Shalhoob’s Funk Zone Patio

220 Gray Ave.; 256-7353;

It makes sense that Santa Barbara’s first family of meats and poultry should be the ones behind the choice for best barbecue. “This award means a lot to us. Evolving into this Funk Zone eatery has been a huge leap of faith. Winning this award shows that our leap was not taken without a comforting embrace from the community to help pad our landing,” said owner LJ Shalhoob. “We have a saying around here, ‘Quality is never sacrificed for profit.’ With more than 45 years in business, we have become known for high-quality food. I was literally born into the business of making people happy through food.” Grandfather and Shalhoob Meat Co. Founder Jerry Shalhoob still checks in every day and “dines here quite a bit, so if we start to slip, we can be sure to hear it from him!”
Runner-Up: Woody’s BBQ

Steak House


1279 Coast Village Rd.; 565-7540;

“We are totally honored and flattered,” shared Leonard Schwartz, general manager and executive chef of Lucky’s. “Our favorite part of the job is providing a comfortable venue for guests to enjoy a good meal,” he said. His team cooks up top-notch steaks, chops, and seafood, as well as chicken entrées, wonderful salads, and six different potato dishes. The adjacent bar is also a favorite among locals. “Being ‘the best’ means worrying about the many details that go into a good dining experience,” said Schwartz.
Runner-Up: Chuck’s of Hawaii


The Habit Burger Grill

Multiple locations;

The original Habit opened in Goleta in 1969 and is still going strong 50 years later. While the chain has gone nationwide, the S.B. stores are still locally owned by the founding family. As for the long term, they “will continue serving Santa Barbara just as we have for the past 50 years,” said owner Brent Reichard. He added, “My favorite part of the business is working with people who enjoy what they do. Being the best to us means serving a product that considers price point combined with quality and consistency. We are very grateful to everyone who voted for us. Our goal is to be as loyal to our customers as they have been to us.”
Runner-Up: Mesa Burger

Breakfast Burrito

Super Cucas

Multiple locations;

In town since 1991 (the website says they were the very first taqueria established in Santa Barbara), Super Cucas is known for their ginormous, forearm-sized burritos. You won’t find canned beans or any other less-than-fresh ingredients at Super Cucas, and their meat is well-seasoned and superior to most. The Best of Santa Barbara®–winning breakfast burrito (big enough for a high school water polo player to eat just one) includes 20 different offerings, with ingredients like eggs, chorizo, beef, cheese, potatoes, sausage, ham, carnitas, pastor, jalapeño, chicken, chile relleno, huevos rancheros, beans, rice, salsa, guacamole, and more in every conceivable combination.
Runner-Up: The Daily Grind


Lilly’s Taqueria

Two locations;

“My favorite part of the job is the day-to-day interaction with people from different parts of the world, ethnicities, and age groups. The feedback we obtain from those doubters, after they’ve devoured three or four steamed tacos, satisfies us,” said Jose Sepulveda, owner of Lilly’s Taqueria. There are no Taco Tuesdays (they’re closed) at Lilly’s two locations, but every other day of the week, people from all walks of life line up for a variety of tacos that include the standard veggie, chicken, beef, and pork as well as the more exotic beef head, cheek, eye, intestines, lip, and tongue. The funniest thing that’s ever happened? “Definitely watching our close friend [record holder for most tacos eaten] devour 26 tacos in one sitting,” said Sepulveda.
Runner-Up: Corazon Cocina


Rusty’s Pizza Parlor

Multiple locations; 564-1111;

“We know that there are so many fantastic places to eat in Santa Barbara, so to be chosen as the best again is such an honor. It is a reflection of our managers’ and employees’ hard work to consistently make the highest-quality pizza and give the best service,” said Rusty’s Pizza owners Carol Duncan (CEO) and Tyler Duncan (president). The family opened Rusty’s Roast Beef in Isla Vista in 1969 and soon converted the cuisine to Indy readers’ favorite pizza, becoming a treasured area institution along the way. “This means the world to us, knowing that our community continues to love our pizza and service.” And as for the future? “We are always looking for better ways to serve our customers, so who knows, maybe pizza delivery by drone?”
Runner-Up: Olio Pizzeria

Stellar Service

The Palace Grill

8 E. Cota St.; 963-5000;

“Winning Stellar Service is rewarding as a stand-alone endorsement, but even more so, for us, is that we’ve been acknowledged for our service over 30 times in our 34-year history,” said Michael DeRousse, who owns the Palace Grill with his wife, Sandy DeRousse. He added, “We look for and try to hire people who have what we call a ‘hospitality soul,’ taking a genuine satisfaction in providing a memorable experience to a guest that goes beyond or is at least equal to a financial paycheck. We have servers who have been with us for most of our existence and whose children are now working for us. We are in many ways a family, and we hope that’s how our guests feel ​— ​like they’ve come home to family.”
Runner-Up: bouchon

Sidewalk Café/Patio

Shoreline Beach Café

801 Shoreline Dr.; 568-0064;

“Santa Barbara is such a perfect place for our business because of our climate and our patrons,” said General Manager Cameron Pyles. “Our unique environment at Shoreline Café provides a one-of-a-kind dining experience for our guests. We want everyone to be able to enjoy great food, creative cocktails, all the while experiencing dining on the beach. Santa Barbara’s mild climate helps us achieve that. Our patrons are truly what makes our business successful.” To those who voted for them, Pyles would like to say, “Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Our team at Shoreline strives hard to create a lasting impression on every guest that passes through our doors. It really is special for readers to choose us over anyone else.”
Runner-Up: Paradise Café