Best of Santa Barbara® 2021
Here Are the Results of Our Annual Reader Survey
By Charles Donelan | Photos by Brian Kuhlmann | Illustrations by Ben Ciccati
Congratulations, happiness, and respect to all the great, hardworking winners and runners-up in the Santa Barbara Independent’s Best of Santa Barbara® 2021 edition! You have persevered through the nonstop challenges of the last year and come out on top. Our readers have voted, and the results are in — they adore you.
Things around Santa Barbara are a lot better than they were a year ago, and you are a big part of the reason why. Tired? Yes. Determined? Absolutely. Grateful? One thousand percent!
If there was one baseline response throughout all the many messages we received in compiling this issue, it was the overwhelming sense of gratitude that’s shared in our community by businesses and customers alike. Business owners said they were grateful to their employees, to the people who patronize their services, and to the whole community for hanging tough and sticking together. Voters consistently accompanied their opinions with thank-yous and hosannas for the people and places who made their lives better in 2021.
One message that came through loud and clear from this year’s results is that the people of Santa Barbara have taken the pandemic-driven initiative to support local businesses to heart. Overall, our voters favored locally owned and family businesses across all categories.
And those families and owners reciprocate. When asked about their favorite part of what they do, dozens of respondents answered that they love knowing their customers by name and seeing them as neighbors and friends.
Nearly 14,000 people participated in the Best of Santa Barbara® voting this year, and they cast more than 450,000 votes over the 204 categories. As we do every year, we dropped some old categories and added some new ones. I’m not sure if there’s a pattern to what we’ve introduced, but if you’re eating a fried chicken sandwich right now, and sipping on a negroni, then you are right in step. That also goes for those of you who enjoy high-quality legal representation, live in a beautifully designed interior, enjoy knowing that your children go to a great after-school program, or get excellent care from your physical therapist, all of which are categories that joined the ranks of Best of Santa Barbara® in 2021.
Regardless of where you fit into the extraordinary range of Bests that our city has to offer, we thank you for helping us continue this longstanding and proud tradition of recognizing excellence in our community. If by “paradise,” what is meant is a place where good people gather to support one another, then we certainly do “live in paradise.”