Are you ever going to talk about the absolutely DISMAL results of the S.B. food scene in the recently published Michelin guide ? The truth is that there are simply NO fine dining available in S.B. There are a number of “eateries” where you can get food to keep you fed when you do not feel like cooking at home, but NO place where you really WANT to go out to to thoroughly ENJOY yourself .. So why aren’t you commenting on this ?

– Dugan

I try to stick to news and leave my opinion out of it which nobody cares about anyway. That being said, I wouldn’t say the 2019 Michelin Guide results (in which no local restaurant received a star) is a smoking gun for an unfavorable local dining scene. It could also be that Michelin didn’t spend a lot of time and money here (they don’t eat for free) and just added Santa Barbara as a covered region to sell more guides. – The Restaurant Guy

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11 Responses to QUESTION OF THE DAY

  1. E says:

    I didn’t expect many restaurants in SB proper to warrant consideration for a star. It sounds like there are a couple newish ones in Montecito, but the only Santa Barbara restaurant I thought they’d consider is Yoichi’s. However, I’m not really sweating the lack of fine dining around town. There are several nice-ish restaurants around town where I thoroughly ENJOY myself (Black Sheep, Sama Sama, Barbareno, Toma, Zaytoon, Loquita, Mezza Thyme, Lark, Middle Child, Jane, Arigato, Bibi Ji, RIP Smithy).

    While I think the biggest problem in the SB food scene is lack of food trucks, I actually wish the fast casual places in SB had better quality and variety. Places that get this formula right (Shalhoob, Nook, Buena Onda, Mony’s, RIP Goa Taco) are outnumbered by the ones that are bland, unimaginative, and overpriced for the quality.

  2. Carol says:

    Arrigato is the best, for any city!

  3. Sus says:

    The phrase ‘fine dining’ makes me gag. Yes, I have eaten at 4 stars, and at hole-in-the-walls, both splendid. If you need stars to understand what tastes wonderful, that is sad.

  4. JS says:

    The thing with Michelin is they don’t just rate a venue on food, but rather a combination of food, decor/vibe, and service. Santa Barbara has several (ok, a couple) decent places to eat, all mentioned above (except Smithy/Smith/whatever’s next for that spot IMO). What’s truly lacking is a combination of all three and any semblance of service standard. We’re fortunate to live in a beautiful town but let’s face it … there is no semblance of anything representing a culture of service here. Zero.

    Spots like Black Sheep generally do a great job of putting out quality, inventive, and interesting dishes. If you’re a local there and they know you, they do a great job of making you feel welcomed and valued.

    The problems in this town arise when you start to expect things like “coursing” a meal, clean glasses and flatware, attention to empty bread baskets and water glasses, stable tables, and proactive refilling of adult beverages. Further, for those of us who dare to go out to eat at 8pm or (gasp) 8:30pm, good luck. Chairs start getting stacked and tip-outs start around 9:00 after they dump the entrées on your table while you’re still, “workin’ on” your appetizers. That is, if you’re fortunate enough to find a place that will stay open until posted hours and can stomach the host/ess’ eye-roll at your arrival.

    Arigato and Black Sheep mostly excluded from the above, except the concept of “coursing” which we work around by ordering one course at a time, which I know the kitchen hates.

    Working in high-end hospitality in world capitals, I look forward to coming back home to SB but there’s simply no comparison with the service culture found in New York, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Dubai, and Mexico City. Until that changes dramatically, which it never will because our service demographic is 95% transient, Michelin is just wasting their time here and fostering a false sense of hope by restauranteurs in Santa Barbara.

    There’s some good food happening here but to decry the lack of Michelin stars is like holding up a mirror and expecting to see something very different looking back.

    • Gary says:

      Of course, there’s no comparison to NY, SF, London, etc. They’re all enormous population centers. You’re in little ol’ Santa Barbara, for heaven’s sake. Just relax and enjoy what’s here!

      • JS says:

        The comparison is only required when people are shocked and dismayed that none of our SB restaurants are featured as Michelin-worthy. They are not. Not one. Not because of food, necessarily, but because of a poor service standard. And until we, as locals, demand a higher level of service then we’re destined to get what we get.

        Because we’re so relaxed.

        Until that point, we just enjoy what we get and employ our workarounds so that desserts, and entrées don’t share the same crowded table space as appetizers we’re still, “workin’ on”. We’ll examine our linens and move to the spot of the table that seems more wiped-down and we’ll keep looking at our glasses and pointing out the lipstick marks from poor cleaning.

  5. Dugan says:

    I respectfully disagree with your comment that : “It could also be that Michelin didn’t spend a lot of time and money here (they don’t eat for free) ” for 3 reasons :
    1) When the new California guide was announced a few months ago , Michelin specifically mentioned their intention to review S.B.
    2) The “didn’t want to spend the money” argument doesn’t hold : They have all the money they need to go eat wherever they want. When they review the 2 and 3 stars places in S.F. they spend way more than they’ll spend in any S.B. restaurants and they don’t hesitate to do it. Those 2 and 3 stars in S.F. (and the area) have ridiculously priced wine lists (where they mark up the wine by a factor of close to 10 , which is outrageous) and which does not seem to penalize them Michelin wise.
    3) Michelin clearly spent quite a bit of time in S.B. since they noted 11 restaurant as “one plate”, as quoted from the Independent :
    “11 establishments were listed as “Plates,” where, according to Michelin, “inspectors have discovered quality food.” They are Barbareño, Bella Vista at the Biltmore, Belmond El Encanto, Blackbird at the Hotel Californian, the Lark, La Super-Rica Taqueria, Los Agaves, the Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, Smithy’s Kitchen + Bar (now closed), Yoichi’s, and, in Solvang, First & Oak.”.
    I eat “quality food” at home every day and when I go out, I’m looking for MORE than just that.
    The only award given by the guide are the “Bib Gourmand” for Mesa Verde (which amply deserves it) and Sama-Sama which I have not tried personally but which friends of mine like a lot.
    To find those two, you really need to spend time scrutinizing the S.B. restaurant scene.Mesa Verde is stuck between a gas station and a 7-11 and you don’t just stumble upon it by chance.

    So yes : they did spend time and money on the S.B. restaurant scene, there just isn’t anything here that meets their star standards, and this is a real pity especially given the wealth distribution in the S.B. basin ..

  6. Brandon from Goleta says:

    I remember when you used to buy a spiral bound Thomas Brothers map as a way to find your way around. I also remember when Zagat was relevant. I’m not underestimating the prestige that’s attached to a Michelin star rating but c’mon. There’s very few that care, even amongst foodies, and their relevance is fading, not growing, even with expanded geographical coverage.

    I’m pretty sure I don’t know a single person who’s purchased a Michelin guide in their lifetime. Michelin tires, yes.

  7. BH says:

    Chuck’s Steakhouse fits the bill. Best restaurant in SB.

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