Eating like a Local: Breakfast
The California way seems to be more about brunch than breakfast. Especially in Santa Barbara, it just sounds more “Santa Barbara-esque” to say “Let’s do brunch”. So be it.
Plus, if you’re on vacation, hopefully, you’re sleeping in and it is more the brunch hour anyway. Lastly, if you’re “brunching” then it seems more acceptable to order that bloody Mary or mimosa, right? Give yourself permission; you’re on vacation. You’re welcome.
I’m going to give you the top 10 suggestions for breakfast/brunch places and little stops on the way to make your vacay even more memorable. *Note: These are not listed in order of my preference.
1. Cajun Kitchen
Locally owned and operated for more than 30 years, this is a local favorite. There are 4 locations, but my favorite happens to be on De la Vina Street (less crowded and quainter). Their biscuits are to die for as is the chicken fried steak. Oh and the beignets … don’t get me started on the beignets with syrup. And they are one of the few restaurants who have the green tabasco on hand (despite me asking all of them to get it). I love that spicy goodness on breakfast food.
2. Shoreline Cafe
Take a drive along the ocean on Cabrillo Street and head toward SBCC -- you’ll reach Shoreline Café. I’ll preface by saying it can be a lot of tourists, but locals love it too. It’s also right across the street from SBCC (ya know, the place you want your kid to go to college so you can visit them in SB). Here’s why I love Shoreline – it’s RIGHT on the beach – as in your toes are in the sand while you wait for your pancakes. Speaking of pancakes, theirs are made with OJ so there’s a hint of citrus flavor.
3. Moby Dick
Heading back down Cabrillo Street and onto the pier, Moby Dick is a long-time favorite for breakfast and brunch by both locals and tourists. The view of the ocean, kayakers, sailing boats – take it all in while sipping a mid-morning cocktail. I wouldn’t doubt it if you’ll be headed back from lunch or dinner. While you’re there, go to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center (both kids and adults love this place!)
4. Tupelo Junction
Slightly away from the beach (don’t panic, it’s only 5 minutes away), is Santa Barbara downtown. It is so beautiful, charming and quaint (it’s a little mind-blowing actually how lovely it is). There you will find Tupelo Junction (right next to the historic Granada theater). I would tell you what they’re famous for (such as the vanilla dipped French toast with homemade berry sauce), but then again, locals will tell you that Tupelo is pretty much famous for everything on their menu. Good luck choosing.
5. Scarlett Begonia
Let’s stay downtown for another little-hidden gem off the beaten path (State street). Scarlett Begonia is tucked in a lovely little spot off State street in an area called Victoria Court (take note, because in my dinner suggestions I will give you a pizza suggestion also in Victoria Court). Scarlett Begonia is a tiny little place, but the lattes and breakfast are both divine. I suggest the lemon ricotta pancakes or one of their cinnamon rolls.
6. Crush Cakes
Just a few blocks away from Scarlett Begonia is Crush Cakes Café. In fact, both are near the Arlington Theater (you have to see the inside of the theater – the ceiling is painted like a sky!) I digress. Crush Cakes – instantly you feel your heart move into nostalgia when you read on the wall “You’ll always remember your first crush.” Ahh. The “Hangover helper” is delicious breakfast sandwich with eggs and smoked Applewood bacon. And … they have red velvet pancakes. Yes, you read that correctly – Red. Velvet. Pancakes. P.S. they make the most delicious cupcakes too, so be sure to grab one for later! P.P.S. Enjoy Cupcakes in the Public Market are my favorite cupcakes in town and you can also get them in Los Olivos at Saarloos winery and pair them with the wine tasting. Now you’re really living the California lifestyle. You’re welcome.
7. Paula's Pancake House
On that note of Los Olivos (wine country 45 minutes north of SB on Highway 154), let’s take a quick detour – you must go to Paula’s Pancake House in Solvang order the Danish pancakes. They are my favorite pancakes in all of SB County! And then while you’re in the area, go to Sarloos in Los Olivos and get the Enjoy Cupcakes and pair it with a glass of vino. Go hiking up Figueroa Mountain if you really feel like you shouldn’t have eaten pancakes and cupcakes all in one day.
8. Jeannine's Bakery
Let’s get back to a staple in Santa Barbara – Jeannine’s. It’s definitely a local favorite. There are 3 locations and all are lovely in different ways – one uptown (parking is tight and the scenery is not as enjoyable as the other locations; downtown and my favorite – Jeannine’s in Montecito. If you’re the small-town Colorado girl who gets star struck like myself, then you might want to keep your eyes open. It is Montecito after all. Everything is divinely delicious, including their one-of-a-kind carrot cake and I don’t even like carrot cake.
Back to the water and the beach – The Boathouse at Hendry’s beach. They are known for their bloody Mary’s (believe me, you’ll want to selfie with it as it takes on a personality of its own) and The Boathouse is also quite famous for its poached eggs over homemade crab cakes. While the view inside is great (all windows), if the weather is nice (almost always), then outside is the best! It’s also a dog-friendly beach!
10. Beachside Bar Cafe
Now, let’s say your kid does go to SBCC and does so well that he or she transfers to UCSB. Luckily Beachside Bar Cafe is just down the road (literally 1-minute drive from the campus entrance). Right on the beach, with a view of the ocean, pier and UCSB, locals and students alike love this place. And a bonus – they play oldies music (60’s and 70’s).
I can’t help myself – I have 2 bonus suggestions for you. I can’t leave them out as they are two of my favorites. They are:
1. Super Cucas. You don’t go here for the atmosphere. Locals go here for the authentic Mexican food. The breakfast burritos are huge and mouth-watering. There are two locations. Get them to-go and head to the beach or for a hike; that’s what us locals do. You’ll fit right in.
2. Now, I live in SB and I have all of these amazing choices for breakfast, but sometimes, I gotta get outta dodge, so I head to my favorite little beach town Carpinteria. I go there for Jack’s Bistro. I go for the bagels, but also for the “bomb breakfast burrito”. Then I usually just spend the day there – little shops, antiques, beautiful beaches. Believe me, it’s worth the 20-minute drive. (hint: look for my write up on places to go and things to do in Carp – I love this little town!)
So remember, in Santa Barbara we “brunch”, which is good too because we like to enjoy cocktails and no one wants to do that for breakfast, but brunch … well, brunch is entirely different. Enjoy tourist-ing like a local~
*Note: I’ve chosen these restaurants for: delicious food AND noteworthy experience (unique/beautiful atmosphere, staff) AND for the budget-conscious