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

Hi John,

After the fun of clicking away at your website for the last two hours I thought maybe you’d just know the perfect dinner spot for our team of 10 somewhere between highway 154 and Stearns Wharf. Here’s my wish list:

  • No long table where we can’t see/talk to folks at the other end, prefer round or more flexible setup
  • More casual than formal
  • Not too loud
  • Midrange in price ($25 budget per person); specials would be great it’ll be Weds at around 5:30pm
  • 2 vegetarians, 1 gluten-free, a couple of foodie locavores and a couple of big appetites
  • Outside dining would be great but not as important as food (for instance I went back to Zaytoon over the weekend and confirmed that while fun the food was mediocre)
  • Happy hour buffet would be cool or something that gives the opportunity to mingle before the meal

Any recommendations for a fun, relaxed spot that feels special but not intimidating?

Thanks in advance! I always flip to your page first in the Independent. Food “gossip” is the most tasty!


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11 Responses to QUESTION OF THE DAY

  1. Christine says:

    I always recommend State & Fig for this sort of thing. There is outside patio seating but it’s busy with people walking by. I’d call and ask about their upstairs seating. You could have the whole space to yourself. Their food goes all the way from vegetables (not sure if true vegetarian) to yummy “sinful” pork dishes, steaks and burgers. 965-1730
    *By no means am I associated with State & Fig, I’m just a frequent customer who truly enjoys their fresh, creative food and friendly, professional service.

  2. Meridith says:

    I also agree on State & Fig upstairs.

  3. Barbara says:

    I love State & Fig, but it won’t meet the round table requisite. The $25 a head limitation is also a problem in our area.

    You may want to look at Padaro Grill in Carpinteria — really good food, outside/casual dining is available and it’s lovely, right by the ocean.

    Also in Carp is Giannfranco’s Trattoria, which has a beautiful outside patio with round tables, that might accommodate your group. Although the big plate dishes could price over $25/pp, their pasta and main course salad will be in range and their food is outstanding. They have gluten free pasta that’s amazing and wonderful vegetarian choices too.

    You might also contact Arnoldi’s — Cota at Olive in SB — they’ve got patio dining by the bocci court and good, homestyle italian food.

    • Christine says:

      Your Carp recommendations don’t meet the “somewhere between highway 154 and Stearns Wharf” requisite…

      Upstairs at State & Fig is flexible and fairly private from downstairs.

  4. Carol says:

    Cafe Stella has a private dining room and they cordon off part of their outside patio for private room guests.

  5. Bonnie says:

    Arch Rock Fish has a private room and a great happy hour!

  6. VT says:

    Holdren’s has a nice semi-private room for 10. Maybe Happy Hour at Cadiz then walk across the street to Holdren’s for dinner. Happy Hour Buffets are a thing of the past. Avoid Gianfrancos. WORST service ever.

  7. LoFi Girl says:

    The Palace for big groups! Nothing is more fun or relaxed and the food and service are top notch!

  8. ML says:

    I find it hard to believe that you can meet the $25 pp with most of these places, especially Holdren’s, Arch Rock Fish, or the Palace. Granted we have drinks and apps but my fiancé and I never walk away from these places at under $100 for the two of us! Cafe Stella is in the perfect PP and they do have outdoor seating, maybe call ahead and see if they can meet your criteria!

    My personal recommendation would be Petros around the 1500 block of State Street! They have mostly outdoor seating in their courtyard across the lovely Arlington Theatre and they will work to accommodate larger groups. We had a party of 12 and they allowed us to use a less traditional arrangement so that we were all able to talk. The food is fantastic- we’ve never had a bad meal there and its one of our go to spots! The entrees top out around $25 but there are lots of tasty options under $20- and I believe a lot of the ingredients are locally sourced. They have specials everyday, and a lot of the entrees that appear carnivorous can be changed to vegetarian if you just ask! Plus, they have a lot of vegetarian salad options as well as the majority of their appetizer menu, I often make a meal by order a few of their “smaller” plates! I’m gluten free and it’s never an issue here for me to find something that I can ingest without indigestion. Also, at 5:30 they are usually pretty slow (at least when I’ve been in!), so you may have the dining area to yourself- perfect for a little privacy and getting the full attention of the waitstaff.

    Best of luck in your restaurant hunt!

  9. Mari says:

    I second State & Fig -they are always so nice and helpful. The owner Marisa worked within my budget whenever I need corporate catering for my work and can do customizations within reason. Café Stella is also a popular one and has a great outdoors area- I believe they could easily fulfill the happy hour before (3-6 daily) and then transition to a solid dinner service. Most of Café Stella’s food is under 20$ (even under $15!).

    I’ll have to put in my 2 cents on Petros: it’s been inconsistent and service can be spotty – I’ve had 1 good experience here and that was with the most basic meal – chicken souvlaki. Other times I’ve had the pork chop and the salmon and both were overcooked; portion size was moot since I didn’t eat much of either but the presentation is overall unimpressive. They overseason and at times it’s like biting into a salt-lick. While they try well, I’ve never gotten the impression that service would be able to handle a large group with discerning tastes and preferences. Maybe I’ve just gone on off days.

    While the food isn’t knock-your-socks off, Arnoldi’s excels at serving and handling large groups. Wines by the bottle would be your best bet here.

    Also you might want to try Opal! Their corkage fee there is very reasonable too.

  10. Jessica says:

    Eladio’s Restaurant! As I’ve been told, Eladios now offers private dining spaces in their bar, main dining room and outside patio. Happy hour is great and the views are even better!! They can definitely accommodate vegetarian and gluten free eaters. Eladios is a hidden gem!

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