Bite into Santa Barbara Burger Week
These 14 Restaurants Are Serving $7 Burgers for Seven Days
By Indy Staff | March 10, 2022
Stretch out your jaws, sharpen those incisors, and hustle into hamburger heaven for the next seven days, as the Santa Barbara Independent’s fifth-ever Burger Week flares up on March 10, featuring 14 participating restaurants from the western edge of Goleta to the sands of Carpinteria.
The only thing similar about these 15 burgers — yep, one place is serving two again — is that they still only cost $7. Otherwise, each establishment is crafting creative spins on this classic American sandwich, and, as usual, it’s not just for red-meat eaters. While more than half feature the traditional beef patty as a base, alternatives abound, including poultry, pork, shrimp, and chickpea.
So indulge strategically in this bounty of burgers until March 16, and remember to post your patty pictures to social media by tagging @sbindependent on Instagram, @SBIndyNews on Twitter, and the hashtag #SBIndyBurgerWeek. You might even win one of the $25 gift certificates we are giving away from these same restaurants — perfect for even more burgers.
Bluewater Grill may be known for their seafood, but their Bar Burger is sure to lure you back on land. Their juicy four-ounce Angus burger is refreshingly simple in its preparation: just a tender beef patty, cheddar cheese, Little Gem lettuce, and tomato, sandwiched in a perfectly light brioche bun. Rather than being overwhelmed with sauces or piled so high you can barely wrap your mouth around it, this burger allows the taste of quality beef and fresh ingredients to shine through in every manageable bite, unmasked by superfluous additions.
Those bells and whistles can come in the form of the ocean view from Bluewater Grill’s top deck and their welcoming and professional service. Taking in a cotton-candy sunset over Stearns Wharf and pairing your burger with a delightful wine from their impressive list, such as Margerum’s crisp rosé, elevates the experience, while delivering on the classic flavors that make up a crave-worthy bar burger. If you’ve ever been frustrated by the thought of having to order fries separately, fear not: flavorful fries or handmade potato chips, which come on the side, definitely sweeten the deal. — Rebecca Horrigan
15 E. Cabrillo Blvd
Served at one of Santa Barbara’s most family-friendly restaurants, the Farm Burger stars a perfectly grilled beef patty, but the toppings are what would win the blue ribbon at any State Fair: caramelized onions, melting goat cheese, fresh lettuce and tomato, and the surprise knock-out, apricot chipotle jam, all oozing out of a lightly toasted brioche bun. Truly delicious, and a bit messy, but what great hamburger isn’t?
During my lunch, The Brewhouse was welcoming as always and filled with friendly folks, many coming from work, some with young kids, and others with their dogs outside under large umbrellas, sipping from the bowls that the restaurant puts out for visiting pets. But the real secret to the West Beach restaurant’s success is its amazing staff — the seasoned grilling crew, friendly bartenders, and truly outstanding Maria Yapur, who was overseeing all the service the afternoon I was there. The whole experience was relaxed and delicious. — Marianne Partridge
229 W. Montecito St.
The Sunrise Burger at Cajun Kitchen Café is an indulgent, well-rounded breakfast sandwich, tailored to the breakfast and lunch crowd that have been dining at the café since it was taken over by Richard Jimenez Sr. in 1984.
Like any good hangover cure, this burger is the equivalent of two full meals wrapped into one: a beef burger with cheddar cheese, onion rings, bacon, and a perfectly cooked sunny-side-up egg, with a spicy chipotle spread on each side of the bun. Once you pop the egg yolk, some smashing might be required to get a full bite of this burger. Despite its intimidating size, the Sunrise Burger isn’t a belly burster but a satisfying and filling meal sure to cure what ails you.
Jorge Peralta, Cajun Kitchen’s operations director, said the burger was created especially for the Burger Week celebration and is only available at the Santa Barbara and Goleta locations. (Sorry, Ventura!) So get the Sunrise Burger while it lasts, for this rich morning sandwich stays very true to the nearly four-decades-old roots of this early opening/early closing breakfast joint. — Jun Starkey
Only Santa Barbara and Goleta locations
Opened on East Cota Street in 2017, Foxtail Kitchen is a cool spot for warm Mediterranean hospitality. The dark wood walls, stacks of board games by the door, and string lights covering the ceiling in the main dining area create a relaxed and welcoming ambiance, but they’ve also got a small, cozy back patio decorated with foxes in tuxedos. I’m not usually one to choose the veggie option, but after trying the Falafel Burger, I think I now have to consider myself open to the possibilities. Atop a soft, pillowy bun sits a hefty serving of crispy falafel. And while this could be a tasty treat on its own, the toppings for this burger truly make it something special. Drizzled in tahini, this burger also has creamy avocado that spreads across your tongue when you sink your teeth in for a bite, which nicely balances the crunch from the fresh cucumbers and the tangy, juicy, pickled red onions. These both, along with a slice of tomato, stop the burger from ever feeling dry in your mouth. This burger is hearty without ever being heavy and left me satiated for the rest of the night. — Ricky Barajas
14 E. Cota St.; (805) 845-6226
The trouble with heading out for a burger when you’re starving is that the menu has oh-so-many other tempting options — at least at the little diner called Home Plate on the western outskirts of Goleta, which is a stellar example of deep-fried temptation. There to sample the Haskell’s Burger (one-third-pound beef patty with grilled pineapple, jalapeño and red onions, pickles, tomato, shredded lettuce, sweet-and-spicy aioli, and pepper jack cheese) and the Bubba Gump sammy (panko-fried shrimp, coleslaw, pickles, tomato, and chipotle cilantro aioli), we couldn’t resist the onion rings, sweet potato fries, and jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon. I regret to recall that we ate just about every bite. Groan. So good, washed down with some excellent iced tea and hot coffee.
The Sunday-morning crowd around us looked to be mostly enjoying omelets and other traditional breakfast foods, and mimosas were occupying a large table down the way that had a champagne bucket at the ready. About half a dozen tables dotted the quiet sidewalk outdoors, while indoors reminded me of an old woodie wagon. The open grill kitchen is fronted by knotty pine boards, with butcher-block tabletops, wooden chairs, and padded banquettes, making a clean and friendly interior.
The burger? Rich and satisfying. The shrimp? Crusty and crunchy with slaw. Stars? Definitely a five, especially for Home Plate’s proximity to Roundin’ Third. — Jean Yamamura
7398 Calle Real, Ste. C, Goleta
Though Kyle’s Chicken House in Isla Vista served as its exclusive testing ground, the Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich is being unveiled at all Kyle’s Kitchen locations for Burger Week. The sandwich — whose breasts are brined in buttermilk for 24 hours, hand-breaded, pressure-fried, and served in a brioche bun with spicy mayo and slaw — quickly became the most exciting thing on the I.V. menu after quietly launching in November, said general manager Michael Kling.
The rookie item is a chance for the brand to break the flavor-profile mold, putting a CenCal spin on a Southern staple. “Nashville Hot isn’t necessarily a spice level, as much as it’s a flavor itself,” explained Kling, noting that their seasoning notches 45,000 on the Scoville scale.
The experience is more of a slow burn than an immediate hit, but it will linger in and around your mouth. Let’s put it this way: The Nashville Hot Chicken offers an accessible level of heat. Not only that, but the crunch is *chef’s kiss* while the interplay between the pickles and “slawce” is a welcome accompaniment.
This multi-location rollout is a limited-time run, but if the response lives up the team’s expectations, it may go regular. Take it from the House honcho: “We anticipate people being thrilled with it and coming back in and asking for it a second and third time.” — Caitlin Kelley
Live Oak Café
Taller than it is wide and packed with a rainbow of flavors, the Kimchi Kalua Pork Burger at Live Oak Café needs to be tackled with utensils. I lifted it in my hands and took one bite just to prove I could, then quickly surrendered to my fork and knife.
Hawaiian-style kalua pork sauteed with cabbage is nestled atop a half-pound beef burger and further adorned with cheddar cheese, juicy grilled pineapple, and a layer of tangy kimchi. This delightfully sweet, salty, savory, and sour combination is enhanced by a generous dollop of house-made sriracha mayo on a toasted brioche bun. The result is a colorful, crunchy mélange that’s sure to satisfy the heartiest of appetites and excite epicureans who are in search of something more than “just” another burger.
It’s being served after 11 a.m. for dining in or takeout, but you’ll want to stay here to experience the atrium garden — with an actual aviary! — or a cozy booth in the dining room. This favorite locals’ spot recently restarted their happy hour, with a selection of wine and beers that will pair perfectly with this burger or anything on their extensive menu.
The Kimchi Kalua Pork Burger is served à la carte. Trust me: It stands alone. — Sarah Sinclair
2220 Bath St.; (805) 845-5193
Consider this particular burger a gracious gift to gourmands, as there’s no way Mesa Burger is making any profit off of this super-stacked Surf and Turf affair. At the core is the small chain’s custom-blended beef patty and on the outside are those soft-while-sturdy brioche buns, but everything else is specially developed for this complex creation: shrimp seasoned in paprika-chipotle powder, bacon cured by jalapeño, vegan black garlic aioli, and sweet-and-sour cabbage, with arugula and artisanal pepper jack cheese for good measure.
Given the detailed layering of ingredients, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Chef Tommy Mingori once worked in the Michelin-starred kitchens of Chef Massimo Falsini, and that he followed Falsini to Montecito to work at the Miramar. Mingori’s shift from tweezering microgreens to flipping burgers is a pretty common chef move in these pandemic-weary times, but his culinary chops continue to shine. As the Surf and Turf patty juices, its plump shrimp snaps and thick bacon crunches, and the whole meat masterpiece just melts into a seamlessly satisfying chew. — Matt Kettmann
Multiple locations; mesaburger.com
Padaro Beach Grill
With steady sea breezes, soothing reggae on the sound system, and the joyous cackle of kids in the sandbox, nothing screams “chill out” better than spending an hour or so at Padaro Beach Grill, where picnic tables, sea salt, and family vibes converge just steps from Santa Claus Beach. Throw a Billy Goat Burger in the mix, and your laid-back lunch or sunset dinner is complete.
This poultry-based sandwich surrounds a turkey patty (technically lean, yet as juicy as this meat can be) along with tomato, red onion, arugula, and a toasted brioche bun. But the goat cheese and balsamic vinegar are the true celebrities here, giving a creamy texture, tart edge, and slightly funky depth to the whole package.
It’s fulfilling as a meal, but without the heaviness that comes from beefier affairs. That leaves you feeling a bit lighter on your feet, whether you want to walk the sands while perusing the oceanfront mansions of Padaro Lane or take the longboard out for minute-long rides off Loon Point. And where else can you rock a tank top while chowing down in the wintertime? — Matt Kettmann
3765 Santa Claus Ln., Carpinteria; (805) 566-9800;
Petit Valentien, semi-secreted off State Street in charming La Arcada, lives a delicious double life. On weekdays and weekend evenings, it’s French, thanks to co-owner Rob Dixon. But for weekend brunch, you get to enjoy Ethiopian fare, thanks to co-owner Serkaddis Alemu. And now, for Burger Week, you get to relish both cuisines on one plate with the French/Ethiopian Vegetable Croquette.
Presented bunless, this three-bean veggie patty always mixes lentils, chickpeas, and black beans with onions, carrots, and beets. The rest, said Dixon, depends upon whatever else is freshest, from potato to eggplant. And you really get to sense the vegetables, pleasantly cubed up in the bean mix that remains relatively soft, except for the dusting of panko breadcrumbs that crisp up during the burger’s light fry. (That means the croquette is vegan but not gluten-free.)
What truly sets the dish off are the zippy Ethiopian spices worked in the mix that get a bit of a heat accelerant from a spicy avocado puree underneath. This is not a dish for heat-wimps: You will feel a definite slow-burn as you consume the croquette. The simple greens, tomato, and red onion salad, in its classic vinaigrette, makes for a good foil. — George Yatchisin
1114 State St., #14; (805) 966-0222
The Set Restaurant
Burgers or brunch? The Brunch Burger at Set Restaurant in the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort answers that question with a resounding “yes.” This substantial Angus beef patty on a brioche bun comes topped with a fried egg, swiss cheese, butter lettuce, and bacon-onion jam.
From the tasty first bite, I was glad I had not doused it with ketchup. The bacon-onion jam provides all the seasoning this burger needs. It’s not too sweet and filled with chunks of real bacon. The subtle flavor of swiss cheese plays up the pleasing contrast between the beef patty and the perfectly cooked fried egg. It’s a burger and a breakfast sandwich! The extraordinary view of the Channel Islands from Set’s gorgeous dining room and patio gives this Burger Week option an unmatched edge when it comes to atmosphere. — Charles Donelan
633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.; (805) 884-8418;
XO Santa Barbara
Though XO Burger may be the newest to the scene — the spot opened up just over a month ago and shares a roof with Dart Coffee in the heart of the Funk Zone on Yanonali Street — the small restaurant’s simple menu and brisket-blend smashburgers are already becoming a smash hit in Santa Barbara.
Sous Chef Caleb Laub said the restaurant tried a number of beef cuts before deciding on their signature 80/20 brisket blend, finding there was something special about the way the fat renders in just the right way when smashed on the flat top grill. Each burger starts with two 2.5-ounce patties slapped on the grill alongside a handful of paper-thin sliced onions. The thin patties cook in half the time of a traditional burger, and the onions become sweet as it gets color on the grill. “You really get that caramelization,” Laub said.
American cheese is melted on top, and the burgers are ready to build. A toasted Martin’s potato bun gets XO’s special sauce and a couple of pickles, and there you have it: the perfect melt-in-your-mouth comfort burger. If you’re like me and you caught the smashburger craze on social media, then XO is the perfect spot to get your thin-patty fix. — Ryan P. Cruz
121 E. Yanonali St.
Yellow Belly Tap
When it comes to meat, I’ve never been a fan of the whole salty-sweet thing. Ham and pineapple? Yuck! Fish and mango? No thanks! Yellow Belly, however, has finally and thankfully made me reconsider.
All the right savoriness is there in “That’s My Jam Burger” — well-peppered Angus beef, smooth American cheese, fresh iceberg lettuce, and Thousand Island dressing with a pickle-ish kick. But it’s the house-made onion jam, slathered on thick and proud, that steals the show and creates a multidimensional bite greater than the sum of its parts. When every bit of patty and bun was gone, I found myself mopping up the leftover jam with pieces of stray iceberg.
Talk to the chef and he’ll tell you the caramelized spread is made during a two-day process that involves lots of butter and brown sugar. The restaurant’s Royale with Cheese burger features a similarly created bacon jam, which I’ll have to try now that my horizons have been expanded.
And if you didn’t already know, Yellow Belly has one of the best beer and wine selections around. Pair their Burger Week star with a Boont Amber from Anderson Valley, Lunch IPA from the Maine Beer Company, or whatever sounds good to you. They have plenty of options. — Tyler Hayden
2611 De La Vina St.
No one will confuse Yona Redz’ fabulous birria torta with any variant of the hamburger, but it should inspire even the most ardent of agoraphobes to venture outdoors and join the teeming masses that make the 500 block of State Street perhaps the single best people-watching perch in town.
Birria traces its origins back to 1519 when conquistador Hernán Cortés placated the Mesoamerican people he colonized with excess goats that the Spanish invaders kept as a mobile food supply. Goat meat can be tough, so the good citizens of what would become Mexico slow-cooked it for hours in rich marinades laden with chili peppers, cumin, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Eventually, birria emerged as a culinary folk art, with every family claiming their own signature recipes.
Such is the case with Yona Redz, whose owner, Jonathan “Yona” Estrada, inherited his recipe — which blends seven or so spices in a five-hour stew — from his mother. The process can also be applied to beef or lamb, and most of what’s sold at Yona Redz is the former, though goat comes out on the weekends.
The beef birria torta is served on sliced fresh bolillo rolls with a generous application of chopped onions and cilantro, topped with a crisp, plancha-fried cheese. What sets the torta apart as a dining experience is the flavorful dipping broth, called consommé, that comes along. Think of a French dip, but more electrically alive.
Cortés the conquistador would eventually return to Spain, where he died in 1547 — bitter, disillusioned, broke, and the target of much litigation. Birria, however, lives on, triumphant and delicious at Yona Redz. — Nick Welsh
532 State St.; (805) 324-4039;