If you can help reader Melissa please leave a message in the blog.

Hello Restaurant Guy,

I am bringing a group of highly affluent folks to Santa Barbara in April, 2015. They are snobby about eating good food and drinking good wine. But! They have taxed me with staying on a budget. Do you have any recommendations for a restaurant that will seat all 40 of them at the same time? Preferably, the restaurant will:

1.       Have AMAZING food at an affordable price
2.       Have enough room to seat 40 people at one time
3.       Have AMAZING wine at an affordable price
4.       Serve Santa Barbara typical food (seafood, farm to table, ect…)
5.       Prefer to be close to State Street or fun bars
6.       Have a decent atmosphere

Thanks for any help you can offer!

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26 Responses to QUESTION OF THE DAY

  1. jeremy says:

    Affluent and snobby for amazing food and wine but unwilling to pay for it?

  2. Dianne says:

    Let them cook for you.

  3. Christine says:

    “Stick to a budget” but you don’t say what the budget is. $5/person or $500 per?

    bouchon’s private room only holds 20, but that was what I was first thinking. You might want to contact State & Fig to see if you can rent them for a private event. Great local food and wine and prices are far from astronomical. Right across from S&F is Petit Valentien, you might give them a ring too, we had a group of 30 a couple of years ago for the holidays. I would also recommend Seagrass.

    All three hit 5 of the 6 requisites, I just don’t know about how they handle your second one. Good luck and have fun!

  4. DosPassos says:

    Highly affluent but incredibly cheap

  5. Laurie says:

    You might want to try the gourmet dining room at SBCC – hits most of your requirements except for fabulous wine. Plus it is just a darn cool program. Decent pairings but no choices and not amazing wines. I’ll bet you could arrange to pay corkage to bring some special bottles.

  6. Bob says:

    John, I think you’ve been trolled. This person can’t possibly be real.

    • Gary says:


      I’m bringing an interesting, somewhat eclectic, group of out-of-towners to Santa Barbara in a couple of weeks and I wanted your and your readers’ advice on where to take them. Here are the wrinkles:
      1) There are a couple of 100 of them — possibly up to 1,000
      2) They’re mostly of Middle Eastern origin (so there will be some specific dietary preferences e.g. fresh fish — wild, NOT farm raised; loaves of fresh bread — preferably gluten-free)
      3) They’re adamant about eating outdoors — a hill somewhere would be great. I hear there’s going to be a pretty amazing guest speaker.
      4) Their budget is $50 — total.

      I’m hoping you and your readers can come up with something truly MIRACULOUS! Thanks in advance,

      Pope Francis

  7. Art says:

    State and Fig, if they can acomadate 40

  8. debbie symons says:

    you’ll get what you pay for!
    the restaurant that had amazing food and great wines for really cheap, views of the ocean and right on state street just went bankrupt.

  9. Lynn says:

    Bistro 1111 (overlooking East Beach and the ocean) is a great place with good food. It’s located in the Hyatt Hotel Mar Monte across from the Cabrillo Pavillion. Also, the Montecito Café on Coast Village Road is really good and popular (no views).

  10. Mari says:

    “AMAZING food” and “AMAZING wine” at a decent price…. for 40 highly affluent snobs.

    Wow – while we are supposed to be helping you, you might want to do the legwork yourself so that you could vouch for the restaurant. Nothing speaks than having personal experience. I’m sure telling your guests, hey I like this place versus hey, yelp likes this place will instantly adjust their critical mindset. Going into a restaurant with blind high expectations is unfair to that establishment – when I find local gems that have great food/wine for likewise reasonable prices, it’s because it meets my personal tastes. Also please keep in mind that cooking for large groups is MUCH different than having an enjoyable relaxing meal with an intimate few so some of the restaurant’s personality gets lost which makes that experience special.

    That being said, I understand that a lot of restaurants here have subpar overpriced food – if I wanted, say an amazing steak entrée that goes for approximately 35$, I’d most likely be disappointed 80% of the time. I echo the above recommendations – Petit Valentien has an amazing steak entrée for $20 some-odd and does it right. State & Fig does a nice job also. Not sure how they’ll perform for 40 people though. Finch & Fork is doing better with their food lately and recently handled a party of 20 pretty well and consistent throughout. Arnoldi’s is a big group favorite because of the bocce and good group service, but for actual Italian food is meh.
    Toma has amazing food but you’d probably have to rent that out and, surprise, be willing to pay at least 50/person excluding beverages. Sama Sama is tasty and probably could handle a lot of people in their back outdoor area – group of 10 of us recently ate there and with an adult bev each, came out to 35$ inc tip, so that’s do-able if you mind your drink intake. I attended a wedding reception at SoHo for 100 people and the food (buffet style) was surprisingly good – keyword being surprisingly.

    TIP: for amazing wine, I’d bring my own and pay the corkage fee – just check the restaurant’s qualifications. You’ll save a lot of money there and lo and behold, if you know your wines perhaps it’ll be a chance to impress your snobby guests.

    Good luck – and yes, do let us know what you decided to go with.

  11. Jordan says:

    The Harbor Restaurant on Stearn’s Wharf. Fills all of your needs and then some!

  12. Ed says:

    Hopefully, they’re not “taxing” you with anything else? You know who those affluent and snobby foodies can be about passing the buck….

  13. Erin says:

    Bahahahaha. This is a joke I am sure. If not give me a break….ridiculous!

  14. Virginia says:

    What about the private back room at Harry’s! Not State St. (only a preference) , good food and wine. Don’t forget to serve Kangen Water.

  15. Mike says:

    Wine Cask. Or rent a banquet room at the Biltmore and have them take care of your snobby, yet affluent, yet frugal “foodies”. Afterwards they can stroll to Coast Village road and drink at Lucky’s.

    Or, maybe stroll straight into the ocean.

  16. Debra says:

    Hard to be “snobby”, and want amazing food, but being on a “budget”, they won’t get the 6 star experience they want. I would suggest The Biltmore, (they have everything and more), or San Ysidro Ranch for brunch or dinner. In SB, if it’s fine dining you want, you have to pay, and with these two places, they are very accommodating to your every need, and more. You’ll get what you pay for, so don’t skimp!

  17. Carol says:

    I’d really be interested if you come up with anything. I just don’t think SB has any sophisticated big city outstanding restaurants. I think the best you can do is to redefine their experience so that they’ll be enjoying lots of other things in SB, but not a supreme restaurant.

    Having said that, lately I have been to Bucatini’s at 436 State Street for both lunch and dinner- delicious. It is a small “Santa Barbara feeling” place because Santa Barbara is not that big on “show”. So just tell them to dress comfortably, not demand perfection, and enjoy themselves.

  18. David says:

    I had my law firm employees come up for the night and we ate at Zaytoons. It doesn’t meet all of the requirements of your list but honestly nothing does here in town. It was fun and the food is great. I would strongly suggest that you order off the menu. They directed us to this group meal and it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

    It’s too bad El Paseo Resturant can’t get their experience down better. Every time we go there, the service is pretty bad. You would think they could also make it a cool experience with music, etc.

  19. Peter says:

    Well, if the writer of the question is for real, the place that comes the closest in terms of being able to handle the group and is quite competent at the other requirements is probably Opal. Their side dining room could do it. Quite a few items under $20….and some outstanding ones in the $20 to $25 range too. One of the better values in town. If Petit Valentin could accommodate the size of the party, that would have been my first choice though.

  20. Laura Brooks says:

    Opals has the food quality and wine you want. They do have high contracted room fee and setup charge. No decent downtown
    restaurant can do it under $60/ person if including wine. I’ve held events at Louie’s in the Upham. Owners were very cooperative. Last time they had difficulty promising me the side room due to Upham may need it. But call. That is only 2 blocks off State. Tupelo Junction will close for larger parties. Call Pascucci’s. Any group over 20 you will run into fees and setup charges as well as flat 18% tip.