By far and way the most read newspaper on the South Coast is the Santa Barbara Independent. Their readers are asked each year to name their favorites places in dozens of categories. The winners are revealed each October in an annual Best of Santa Barbara® issue of the popular paper. It comes with great anticipation not just for the businesses hoping to get the top honors, but also from the readers. They were the ones to choose either with an online ballot or by filling out their choices on a special page and mailing it in.

For many residents it is an annual guide to some of the best paces to eat, shop, go camping, go surfing, get medical care, take care of their pets, or have their cars repaired. With so many categories there is likely something useful to everyone.

The same day that the annual "Best of" edition from the Santa Barbara Independent has hit the racks a special paid event called the "Best Fest" is held and includes a meet and greet atmosphere with the winners. Many of the restaurants, bars, breweries, bakeries, and wineries are on hand to serve their winning items and encourage the guests to come by.

Eating categories include: Appetizers, Bagel Shop, Bakery, Barbecue, Breakfast, Breakfast Burrito, Burger, Burrito, Carpinteria Restaurant, Chinese Restaurant, Clam Chowder, Corner Store, Cupcakery, Doughnut Shop, French Restaurant, Fresh Fish Market, Frozen Yogurt Shop, Greengrocer, Health Food, Ice Cream Shop, Indian Restaurant, Italian Restaurant, Late-Night Eats, Mexican Restaurant, Montecito Restaurant, Noodle Bar, Nutrition Store, Pizza, Place to Buy Bread , Produce Stand, Salad Bar, Salsa, Sandwich, Santa Ynez Valley Restaurant, Seafood Restaurant, Sidewalk Café/Patio, Steak House, Stellar Service, Sunday Brunch, Sushi Restaurant, Tacos, Tapas, Thai Restaurant, Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant, and Veggie Burger.

Drinking categories include: Beer Selection on Tap, Bloody Mary, Coffee House, Funk Zone Spot, Happy Hour, Juicery, Margarita, Neighborhood Bar, Place for Craft Cocktails, Restaurant Wine List, Restaurant with a View, S.B. County Brewery, S.B. County Winery, S.B. Wine Tour Company, Smoothie Bar, Stiffest Drinks, Sunday Brunch, Tea Selection, Urban Tasting Room, Valley Tasting Room, Wine Bar, and Wine Shop