Getaway Guide: Santa Barbara
September 1, 2012
You know those reports about the economic disaster gripping California? They’re not talking about Santa Barbara. The SoCal Shangri-la perches on the Pacific, comfortable in its privileged position as summer playground to the rich and famous. Thankfully, it eschews Hamptons-like snobbery for laid-back California casualness, which makes it the perfect weekend getaway.
Santa Barbara emphatically embraced California fusion cuisine back in the day, but the food towers have toppled in favour of a laid-back, local-ingredient-driven scene based around the weekly farmers market. In this room every dish comes with a provenance lesson: Paso Prime Ranch beef from Paso Robles duels with local spiny lobster for some 50-mile love. The weighty wine list shines under $50—a rarity for these parts. 30 E. Ortega St., 805-963-1012. Seagrassrestaurant.com
Brophy Brothers Restaurant and Clam Bar
It’s usually best to avoid any restaurant that sells its own T-shirts, but this famed upstairs joint on the West Coast’s oldest operating wharf happens to have the best view in town. Over steamer clams and a glass of the house Brophy Clark Pinot, you could be sitting next to local Steve Martin, who counts himself a regular. 119 Harbor Way, 805-966-4418. Brophybros.com
La Super-Rica Taqueria
Don’t let the soul-crushing lineups at this taco shop deter you. What’s good enough for Julia Child (who was rumoured to stop by every Tuesday) is good enough for us. No doubt, she was just as enraptured with the dedicated fresh tortilla maker in the tiny kitchen as we are. 622 N. Milpas St, 805-963-4940
Urban Wine Trail
In addition to forever damning Merlot, Sideways blew the cork off the local wine scene; thankfully, the Napa-esque tour buses have yet to descend. This collection of 12 wine-tasting rooms right downtown means no zigzagging through the foothills whilst drinking. Don’t miss the Margerum Wine Company (813 Anacapa St., 805-845-8435. Margerumwinecompany.com), a boutique outfit with killer Syrahs and Sauvignon Blancs—the latter making an entry this year on Wine Spectator’s coveted Top 100. Urbanwinetrailssb.com
The Granada Theatre
This iconic playhouse opened in 1924 yet still dominates as the tallest building in a city that caps building height at 60 feet. From the symphony to the ballet to Broadway, its marquee also routinely features A-listers like John Malkovich’s recent one-man performance in The Infernal Comedy. 1214 State St., 805-899-2222. Granadasb.org
Butterfly and Hammonds
At the area’s two famed beaches you’ll be hard-pressed to choose between gazing at the shore’s million-dollar manses and the romantic sunset. There’s surfing, too. A more secluded option is to head just north of downtown along Shoreline Drive until you hit the Thousand Steps at Santa Cruz Blvd. Don’t mind the hyperbole (there are actually only 250-ish steps); descend them and you’ll find yourself flanked by ocean and cliffs. Make sure it’s low tide or there’s also no beach.
This strip packs in everything you need (local Daniel Gibbings Jewelry for handmade pieces in 20-karat gold) and everything you don’t (Navajo-style tourist kitsch). Start with a coffee at the French Press (1101 State St., 805-963-2721) and a brioche at Renaud’s (1324 State St., 805-892-2800. Renaudsbakery.com): now you’re set to stroll the shops that span 10 walkable blocks from Sola Street down to Gutierrez Street. Don’t miss Diani (1324 State St., 805-966-3114. Dianiboutique.com) for its encyclopedic collection of hipster labels like Alice by Temperley and Isabel Marant.
Recalling Santa Barbara’s distinctive Spanish colonial architecture with hand-painted tiles and wrought-iron detail, this boutique hotel delivers on romance with a breezy plantation-style interior. Drinks on the rooftop patio are best taken by the outdoor fire as you ponder the Ponzi scheme that will enable you to move to this town. 31 W. Carrillo St., 877-468-3515. Canarysantabarbara.com
Four Seasons Resort—The Biltmore Santa Barbara
This circa-1927 sprawling Spanish colonial gem is technically in Montecito, a five-minute drive away, but is easily the most iconic lodging for miles in any direction (and far from the hassle of coffee-toting locals on cruiser bikes). Expect the usual over-the-top treatment of a Four Seasons property, with an added bonus: hotel guests have access to the private and historic Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club—which looks like a set built for
Mad Men on the water—across the street at Butterfly beach. 1260 Channel Dr., 805-969-2261. Fourseasons.com/santabarbara
Harbor View Inn
Not everyone in town receives monthly syndication cheques, so hail this family- and wallet-friendly option that nails prime beachside location and laid-back vibe without the need for a second mortgage. Grab your morning cappuccino at the artisanal State Street Coffee on the ground floor (29 State St., 805-963-0780)—you can sign it to your room—and head out. 28 W. Cabrillo Blvd., 805-963-0780. Harborviewinnsb.com