Best of Santa Barbara® 2020

From Burgers to Braces, Here Are the Results of Our Annual Reader Survey

By Leslie Dinaberg | Photos by Daniel Dreifuss | Illustrations by Ben Ciccati

Published October 15, 2020

In a world that can feel overwhelmingly full of bad news these days, it’s awesome to be the bearer of some good news for a change. One of my favorite things about writing this section is how genuinely happy people are to hear from you!

Still, writing the 2020 ode to the Best of Santa Barbara® was somewhat bittersweet. Even the most vibrant business sectors are exhausted from all of the quick pivots necessary and the sheer rush of business coming in, and then everyone else is either effectively shut down or treading water as fast as they can just to survive.

Because of all the turmoil in the world right now, the Independent’s powers that be did consider hitting the pause button on this annual business celebration. But a survey of advertisers and past winners was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing to offer kudos to our favorite people and places of business. Skipping Best of Santa Barbara®, they said, would eliminate one of their biggest boosts during one of their toughest years ever.

Apparently, our readers were “all in,” as well. We had our highest-ever participation this year, with more than 19,000 people (compared to 14,000 in 2019) casting more than 600,000 votes (450,000 in 2019). The results are once again an eclectic mix of nods to our historic and often family-owned businesses and a few beloved chains, as well some newcomers to the list. This includes new categories that sound a bit like a Jeopardy question: Takeout, Parklet, Curbside Pickup, and Cannabis Dispensary. (I’ll take “Essential Services in 2020” for $200, Alex.)

Thanks to your help, we crowdsourced a total of 207 categories of “bests” in the categories of Sporting Life, Looking Good, Eating, Drinking, Out & About, Romance, Little Creatures, Housing, Living Well, Driving, and Media. In a year where supporting hometown businesses is more important to our community than ever, I can’t think of a better place to start than this list.