The Best Restaurants for a Special Dining Experience in Montecito

Here’s where to dine in the Santa Barbara enclave.

sunset by beach
Caruso’s.

Located less than two hours north of Los Angeles, Montecito is a picturesque beach town known for its pristine coastline, breathtaking homes and affluent residents. Montecito is also home to some of the fanciest and most esteemed restaurants in Santa Barbara County, making it a culinary hotspot for visitors and locals alike. From a breathtaking dinner by the beach to an exclusive 17-course omakase experience, there is far more to this tiny California town than meets the eye. Get ready to dine in luxury at the best restaurants in Montecito.

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A lightly charred piece of fish topped with yellow jelly on a black square plate.
Sushi by Scratch. Sushi by Scratch

Sushi by Scratch 

1295 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Sushi by Scratch, formerly known as Sushi Bar, is a Michelin-starred restaurant located at the legendary Montecito Inn. There are just 10 spots at the sushi counter, and there are only three seatings a night, resulting in a very intimate and exclusive vibe. Upon arrival, guests are taken to the hotel lobby and treated to a special cocktail, which they can sip while they wait to be seated. Sushi by Scratch is a cohesive experience, so all guests are ushered into the restaurant and seated at the same time. Once dinner has commenced, guests are taken through a 17-course culinary journey that features one-of-a-kind nigiri creations such as rich bone marrow and nori-wrapped albacore. If all 17 courses are finished with time to spare, patrons are given the option to enjoy some surprise culinary treats before dessert. 

A fancy restaurant interior at nighttime with curved black booths, massive windows, and white table settings.
Caruso’s. Caruso's

Caruso’s 

1759 S Jameson Ln, Montecito, CA 93108

Caruso’s at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel takes fine dining to another level. This Michelin Guide restaurant sits right on the shore, allowing guests to watch the sunset while listening to the waves crash against the sand. At dinner, guests select  a three-course menu or a four-course menu, along with either the standard or elite wine pairing. Enjoy light starters like hand-pulled burrata, charred octopus or a refreshing yellowtail crudo. If you opt for the four-course dinner, you’ll choose between quality pastas like the mushroom risotto and beloved carbonara, before indulging in a rich entrees such as the Sonoma spring lamb or hibachi-grilled tenderloin. Once you’re done with dinner, head up to the Manor Bar for a nightcap in the timeless, library-esque bar. 

restaurant with bar chairs
Bettina.

Bettina

1014 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Bettina is the ultimate place for pizza when dining in Montecito. The wood-fired pizzas transport patrons to Italy with every bite, while the bright, bistro-style ambiance provides the ideal backdrop. The dough is naturally leavened and fermented for a minimum of 48 hours, resulting in a perfectly puffy crust. In addition to classic toppings like meat lovers and pepperoni, Bettina also specializes in other farm-fresh creations, including the flavorful snap pea pizza and the rich chanterelle pie. Pair your pizza with a classic Negroni or a bubbly glass of Lambrusco, before ending with the zesty olive oil cake for dessert. 

A close-up on an outdoor white table with silverware, wine, and a fancily plated dish complete with edible flowers on top of it, with bushes and flowers in the background.
Stonehouse San Ysidro.

Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch

900 San Ysidro Ln, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Between the wood-burning fireplace, ocean view terrace and ethereal string lights, Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch is one of, if not the, most romantic restaurant in Montecito. The majority of the produce comes from the on-site organic garden, taking farm-to-table to another level. Since seasonality dictates the menu, each bounty brings with it new innovation and creativity. The “Starters from the Garden” section of the menu is always worth exploring, and includes everything from gazpacho to flatbread. The grilled Spanish octopus and freshly shucked oysters are popular appetizers, but the famous tortilla soup is an unexpected staple. For your entree, order the Chilean sea bass with a side of the SYR signature Joel-Robuchon mashed potatoes.

Oliver’s.

Oliver’s Montecito

1198 Coast Village Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93108

Oliver’s Montecito is a modern and classy establishment that specializes in all things plant-based. The menu is entirely vegan, but the inventive execution and high-quality ingredients ensure that even the most committed carnivores will be satisfied. Though you can order your own entrees, it’s best to opt for an array of small plates for the table to share, so that you can get a true sense of what Oliver’s has to offer. The Roman-style artichoke hearts are a local favorite, as are the Brussels sprouts and jackfruit tacos. The pear and cashew Gorgonzola flatbread is another great pick, but if you want something hearty and filling, you can’t go wrong with Oliver’s pretzel bun burger. And don’t forget about the drinks—the botanical-forward Montecito Mint is a refreshing cocktail that you’ll definitely want to sip on the patio at sunset. 

A close-up, overhead shot of a fancily plated dish on a white plate that reads "Lucky's."
Lucky’s. Silas Fallstich

Lucky’s

1279 Coast Village Rd, Montecito, CA 93108

Since opening in 2000, Lucky’s has been a go-to spot for locals seeking a timeless steak dinner. Vintage photos line the dining room walls, setting the scene for a classic steakhouse experience. If you’d prefer to soak up some sun and enjoy the coastal weather, however, Lucky’s also has a charming patio right out front. In true steakhouse fashion, you should start your meal with a giant shrimp cocktail and fried calamari. The buttery escargot are also worth ordering, as is the warm goat cheese salad. Of course, steak is the star of the show at Lucky’s, and the 10-ounce filet mignon is unbeatable. Pair your steak with Hollandaise sauce, potato skins and a heavy red wine before ending with the Grand Marnier soufflé.

The Best Restaurants for a Special Dining Experience in Montecito