Best of Santa Barbara® 2020
by Leslie Dinaberg
Handlebar Coffee Roasters
“We want the community to know how thankful we are,” said owner Kim Anderson. “It goes without saying that COVID has affected everyone in some way, some worse than others. However, the community has been there for us to make sure we endure, amazing! We in turn hope to show our thankfulness by providing support and strength to those we can lend a hand to. Times like this show how everything comes full circle and compassion and kindness are the driving force.”
Runner-Up: The Daily Grind
Vices & Spices
Blue Booth opened his little coffee and tea hideout on upper State Street in 1975, and the homey atmosphere of this small San Roque neighborhood spot has been brewing a rabid fan base ever since. Still family owned, Vices & Spices has an impressive and ever-growing collection of fine tea leaves, specialty coffees, exotic spices, and botanicals. There’s also a great selection of unique gifts from around the world.
Runner-Up: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Juicery * Smoothie Bar
Blenders in the Grass
“Thank you for voting us Best Of year after year. We very much appreciate it,” said Keric Brown, owner of the popular juice bar, which opened its first store in Isla Vista in 1995. With stores throughout the California coast, Blenders is still headquartered in Goleta. Being named the best “means we remain a valued part of the community, which has always been our goal,” said Brown.
Runner-Up (Juicery): Juice Ranch
Runner-Up (Smoothie Bar): Backyard Bowls
Bloody Mary * Happy Hour * Sunday Brunch * Restaurant with a View
Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach
The sparkling views of the Pacific, just steps away from the sand and featuring ocean-inspired décor and a glassed-in patio, are more than enough to beckon us to the Boathouse. But even better are the fresh seafood selections, excellent cocktails (including a terrific happy hour), and brunch delights such as the smoked salmon eggs Benedict and huevos Hope Ranch. You may come for the view, but you’ll come again and again for the food and the drinks.
Runner-Up (Bloody Mary): Brophy Bros. Clam Bar & Restaurant
Runner-Up (Happy Hour): Lure Fish House
Runner-Up (Sunday Brunch): Jeannine’s Restaurant & Bakery
Runner-Up (Restaurant with a View): Belmond El Encanto
Beer Selection on Tap * Funk Zone Spot
Lama Dog Tap Room + Bottle Shop
“It’s a great feeling to be able to put an idea into fruition and have it succeed,” said owner Pete Burnham. “I also want to say thanks to our employees. Lama Dog could never have won Best Of without having the best crew in town. [The award] is a rare bright spot in an otherwise gloomy year. I can’t wait to see everyone close-up and mask-less again!”
Runner-Up (Beer Selection on Tap): Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
Runner-Up (Funk Zone Spot): Shalhoob’s Funk Zone Patio
S.B. County Brewery
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
Excited to win Best Of honors, as well as for a new collaboration with Flying Embers Hard Kombucha in the Funk Zone taproom, owner Jaime Dietenhofer is also reflective about this year. “Being a brewery in 2020 has been nothing short of challenging,” he said. “It is still an uphill battle with the restrictions, but we are taking it all in stride and having a positive attitude. All of the local breweries have fought hard to do what we love most.”
Runner-Up: M. Special
Valley Tasting Room
“When my parents, Brooke and Mike Carhartt, opened our ‘shack’ tasting room in 2005, they vowed to be open ‘for the people,’” said co-owner/winemaker Chase Carhartt. “To them, that meant eight hours a day, 364 days a year, for 15 years straight. The only thing to stop that record was a global pandemic. In that way, I am proud of our commitment to our craft and the folks who support it.”
Runner-Up: Folded Hills
Urban Tasting Room * S.B. County Winery
Grassini Family Vineyards
Named Best Urban Tasting Room and Best S.B. County Winery for the third consecutive year was particularly meaningful to Grassini Family Vineyards as they shifted urban tastings to an outdoor space in El Paseo. CEO Katie Grassini is especially grateful for the team members. “They take the added task of cleaning and sanitizing everything between each visit so seriously and still manage to serve everyone with a genuine smile behind their face masks.”
Runner-Up (Urban Tasting Room): Margerum Wine Company
Runner-Up (S.B. County Winery): Au Bon Climat
S.B. Wine Tour Company
Sustainable Wine Tours
“Our greatest joy and opportunity is being able to curate and share an amazing day with you in our stunning wine country, and provide you with an incredible, delicious, and unforgettable experience in the world and wonders of small-batch sustainable wine making,” said owner Scott Bull. “To be voted for and acknowledged by all of you for succeeding in these efforts is an indescribable honor. Thank you for being the joy that drives us every day. We raise our glasses to you!”
Runner-Up: Captain Jack’s
Restaurant Wine List
[See Eating: French Restaurant]
Santa Barbara Wine Therapy
Therapy is always in session at Wine Therapy, and no appointment is necessary! As reader Yolanda said, “The drinks are amazing, and it’s a great place to hang out with friends.” Between the expansive, dog-friendly patio in back and new outdoor seating on State Street, local beer and wine, frosé of the day, cornhole, and shelves and shelves of board games, everything about this friendly, unpretentious place encourages guests to pull up a chair and enjoy themselves.
Liquor & Wine Grotto
“Being named the best by the people is validation of the hard work both Jason Herrick and I have put in over the last 11 years,” said proprietor Brian Brunello. Established in 1976, the Montecito shop specializes in quality, small-production wines from around the world, with emphasis in California, French, and Italian wines. The store was well-equipped when the pandemic hit, using delivery service and its Dutch door (horizontally split in half) to serve customers from a safe distance.
Runner-Up: Renegade Wines
Martini * Stiffest Drinks
Harry’s Plaza Café
“To our very loyal, best customers who voted for us, we thank you for your continued support and hope very soon we will see you inside for our best martini,” said GM Kevin Hebert. “Adapting to the major changes we had to face in just a couple days — from all dining inside our wonderful restaurant to all to-go — was the biggest hurdle for us. But the cocktails to go (served in pint-sized Mason jars) helped us.”
Runner-Up (Martini): The Good Lion
Runner-Up (Stiffest Drinks): Joe’s Café
The readers have spoken, crowning Santo Mezcal margaritas the best in town for the third year in a row. Their comments say it all: “Refreshing and consistently great margaritas as well as the biggest mezcal selection in town,” “The best tequila selection and the best bartenders,” “The best tasting margaritas, and they are so artfully crafted,” and “I love their margarita because they use fresh ingredients and it has a great kick to it without being overpowering.”
Runner-Up: Carlitos Café y Cantina
Place for Craft Cocktails
The Good Lion
“In light of how difficult a year 2020 has been for our industry, the story we are happiest to share with your readers is one of gratitude,” said Brandon Ristaino, managing member of The Good Lion, voted Best Place for Craft Cocktails. “We are thankful and relieved to have survived this catastrophe thus far, and it is due to our amazing team, my amazing wife, and our amazing guests that we’ve been able to do so.”
Runner-Up: The Imperial
The Pickle Room
“Appreciation for a great cocktail lounge never goes out of style,” said Pickle Room owner Clay Lovejoy. “Bob Lovejoy [Clay’s late father] had a vision to keep this neighborhood bar going, and surely had the blessing of Tommy Chung [the owner of the historic Jimmy’s, which once was in the spot],” said Bar Manager Willy Gilbert. “All of us at the Pickle Room strive to continue the legacy that belongs to those two remarkable human beings.”
Runner-Up: The Press Room
* This asterisk indicates the winner won in multiple categories.