Editor’s List: Favorite restaurants in Santa Barbara with outdoor dining

The+Channels+editors%27+picks+for+best+food+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+starting+from+top+left%3A+Third+Window+Kitchen%2C+Super+Cucas%2C+La+Super-Rica+Taqueria

Ryan P. Cruz

The Channels editors’ picks for best food in Santa Barbara, starting from top left: Third Window Kitchen, Super Cucas, La Super-Rica Taqueria, Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen (center), Taqueria Rincon Alteño, Judge For Yourself Cafe and Arnoldi’s Cafe

Rodrigo Hernandez, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Santa Barbara is renowned for its vast array of restaurants and available cuisine. While being hit with stay-at-home orders and regulations, the service industry has taken heavy hits to its infrastructure and operation, forcing restaurants to set up shop outdoors. The recent State Street Promenade features some of the most iconic establishments that Santa Barbara has to offer, with many local gems tucked away throughout the city as well. This week, The Channels editors share their favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara that offers outdoor dining.

 

The Parker Ranch Smashed Burger from Third Window Kitchen.
The Parker Ranch Smashed Burger from Third Window Kitchen. (Rodrigo Hernandez)

Ryan P. Cruz, Editor-in-Chief 

Third Window Kitchen

During the pandemic—mostly due to the wealth of mouth-watering videos on social media—I acquired an insatiable urge to make or find the best smashburger I could. I always loved a good burger, but the growing popularity of the basic-but-beautiful thinly smashed patties, melty cheese and caramelized onions cemented my new obsession. I tried making my own version—good, but labor-intensive. I went to Los Angeles to try a couple of the “best-in-the city” smashburgers, which were all delicious but inconveniently located over 100 miles away. Then I happened upon a post of a beautiful burger on my timeline, from the tiny kitchen at Third Window Brewing on Haley Street. The kitchen is only open from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday to Sunday each week, but once I was able to try it, I was hooked. The two wagyu beef patties are smashed and cooked with beer mustard and thinly sliced onions until the edges form a crispy crust, then it’s finished with melted cheese and a couple of housemade pickles. It’s simple, perfect, exactly what you need from a smashburger. This burger has become my go-to comfort meal, and when I need something that really hits the spot, Third Window Kitchen’s Parker Ranch Smashed Burger is the only thing that will do.

 

The Veggie Burrito from Taqueria Rincon Alteño.
The Veggie Burrito from Taqueria Rincon Alteño. (Rodrigo Hernandez)

Jacob Frank, News Editor 

Taqueria Rincon Alteño 

If you’ve ever been driving down Haley Street and saw a sign that read, “Best Burritos in Town,” it was no hype. Taqueria Rincon Alteño has the best burrito I’ve ever had anywhere. My first experience was at their Carpinteria location with a friend who raved about it. They have the best food regardless, but the experience is magnified with an enthusiastic Alteño veteran. The aesthetic is nothing spectacular as you order at the counter, but the magic is in the simplicity. I always get the veggie burrito. For $9, it’s a perfectly sized masterpiece fit with the essentials and more. The tortilla is a warm orangey color that complements the burrito and doesn’t engulf it. Orders come with a plate of chips and I get the green salsa, which is killer in taste and heat. They also have a robust salsa bar fit with escabeche, pico de gallo and peppers. Unfortunately, a lot of the add-ons aren’t as available because of the pandemic. The location in Santa Barbara has tables in the back parking lot and the key is to dine there, laying every salsa, topper and pepper on the table to decorate the burrito and chips. It’s a feast.

 

 

From left, the #16 Super-Rica Especial, the #6 Rajas and the #9 Quesadilla from La Super-Rica Taqueria.
From left, the #16 Super-Rica Especial, the #6 Rajas and the #9 Quesadilla from La Super-Rica Taqueria. (Rodrigo Hernandez)

August Lawrence, Opinion Editor 

La Super-Rica Taqueria

When Julia Child deems a taco shack her favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, you know its exceptional food. La Super-Rica, the turquoise hut on the corner of Alphonse and Milpas, is probably my favorite tasty treat in all of Santa Barbara. Super-Rica has been a local mainstay and hangout since opening in 1996. It’s common to see lines of eager customers queued down the block. The food is inexpensive and the atmosphere is lively and friendly. Plates are mostly on the greasy, cheesy side of the food spectrum – but that’s the magic of it. Dishes are simple, most only utilizing two or three ingredients, but everything prepared in Super-Rica’s kitchen is delicious. I get the #6 Rajas and #9 Quesadilla, but my favorite is the #16 La Super-Rica Especial. The way their signature cheese is masterfully cooked into the sauteed green peppers is something of a wonder, which is laid upon a bed of homemade tortillas. It’s art. My mother first took me here for a small, intimate birthday when I was young. After my first bite of the Especial, I decided that I would come back again soon, and I have it for every birthday. Some restaurants are inconsistent and others only make a select few dishes that are actually good. I’ve tried and love all of Super-Rica’s dishes. After all these years I’ve never been disappointed. It’s become something of a mini-tradition to go back and treat myself every birthday. Take it from Mrs. Child, for good eats in Santa Barbara, La Super-Rica is the place to know.

 

The King Salmon sandwich with homemade potato chips and a pickle slice, one of many health-conscious options available at Finney's Crafthouse & Kitchen.
The King Salmon sandwich with homemade potato chips and a pickle slice, one of many health-conscious options available at Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen.

Cassandra Wilkins, Opinion Editor 

Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen

Sometimes being vegetarian means I have to compromise tastes and flavor when going out to eat.

Just about every time I sit down at a restaurant and I ask about the vegetarian options, I am either offered a basic veggie burger or salad.

Finney’s Crafthouse & Kitchen’s Santa Barbara location never disappoints. They have a multitude of vegetarian options packed with bold flavors. With there being a meatless option in just about every category of the menu.

My go-to appetizers are the Buffalo Cauliflower and the Bavarian Pretzel. They offer a wide selection of flatbread pizzas with my favorite being the Mushroom Truffle Flatbread. The menu also offers a variety of Impossible meat dishes. These include crispy tacos, taco salad and Impossible Burger. I recommend ordering the hickory BBQ burger which includes onion rings, American cheese, bacon and house-made BBQ sauce. Substitute the meat patty for the Impossible patty and the bacon for fresh sliced avocado.

With so many vegetarian options on the menu, I’m always excited to try something new.

Finney’s currently has four locations along the coast of California.

The Santa Barbara restaurant is located on a busy corner on the lower end of State Street. They currently offer a large outside dining area with heaters throughout the space. Finney’s is a great place to come with the family or a group of friends looking for a COVID-19 friendly outside activity. You’ll definitely catch me there about every other week with my roommates. 

If you’re also vegetarian or looking to try some meat-free options this is definitely your spot. You’ll never have to compromise taste and flavor again.

 

The Vegan Burrito from Super Cucas.
The Vegan Burrito from Super Cucas. (Desiree Erdmann)

Alloy Zarate, Features Editor 

Super Cucas

One of my last pre-pandemic memories is of carpooling to Super Cucas on Micheltorena Street with some friends after hanging out at the park. It was my first time eating there. Everyone was so excited to pick up the best vegan burrito from the vegan menu. I still remember my first bite. I don’t eat out very much and I am very picky when it comes to flavors. The Super Cucas vegan burrito was a perfect blend of flavors for me. It really is comfort food. The burrito is also big enough to become a bonus meal for later. My friend and I ate outside the restaurant that day which has a very cozy atmosphere. The eight of us successfully squeezed into a booth to enjoy our meal. I’m not even vegan but during the beginning of the lockdown, I was dreaming about the vegan burrito from Super Cucas until I was able to get takeout again. 

 

 

The Lasagne Alla Bolognese at Arnoldi's Cafe.
The Lasagne Alla Bolognese at Arnoldi’s Cafe. (Rodrigo Hernandez)

Rodrigo Hernandez, Arts & Entertainment Editor 

Arnoldi’s Cafe 

If you’re searching for homestyle Italian cooking, then look no further than Arnoldi’s Cafe on the corner of Olive and Cota Street. This local favorite has been serving the community and visitors since 1937, with its iconic 7UP and “Good Food” signs attracting customers for decades. One of the oldest restaurants in Santa Barbara and a city landmark, the stone walls and cozy outdoor patio makes the guest feel like they are back at an old family friend’s home. Adorned with hanging string lights, plenty of heaters and a blazing fire pit, the warm and welcoming atmosphere is unlike any other restaurant in the city. The old-school aesthetic only adds to the charm of this Eastside-neighborhood staple, which has been preserved to maintain the vision from Giuseppe (Joe) and Ilda Arnold when Joe constructed the restaurant in 1937, with stone that he quarried locally. I have been enjoying Arnoldi’s Cafe since I was a child, and it has remained my favorite ever since. The first time I had their Lasagne Alla Bolognese, I was stunned. Besides being the most delicious piping-hot lasagna, with plenty of gooey cheese to accompany the savory and sweet yet tangy bolognese sauce, they never skimp out on the portions at the cafe, often making for a delicious lunch the next day. Pre-pandemic, the outdoor area also served as a space to play Bocce, with various locals forming their own teams and spending countless evenings playing the night away. Photos of the teams, leagues and tournament champions decorate the inside of the cafe, giving a glimpse of the storied history in its 84 years of service. The cafe also holds a sentimental place in my heart, as it has been a location for celebrations and special events, such as when my father and I spent his birthday there during his first year of sobriety. I have held my past three consecutive birthdays at the restaurant, and I only hope that I’m able to continue celebrating there to share the experience of good cooking and an inviting ambiance with friends and family. Whether you’re looking for a special spot for a romantic evening for two, a place where you can bring the whole family or even renting out space for a private event, Arnoldi’s Cafe and their exemplary staff will be more than happy to accommodate. 

 

Exhibit A from Judge For Yourself Cafe.
Exhibit A from Judge For Yourself Cafe.
(Desiree Erdmann)

Desiree Erdmann, Photo Editor 

Judge For Yourself Cafe

I have eaten at a lot of diners over the years, growing up they were easy locations that everyone in the family could find something to eat at. Being a semi-picky eater as a child who wanted breakfast food for every meal, one of my favorite things about diners is that they generally sell breakfast all day. Judge For Yourself Cafe is no different. They have that open airy atmosphere with cozy seats, a large menu with reasonable prices and an all-day breakfast menu that I love about any diner. The menu has 21 different burgers to choose from, a variety of sandwiches, five specials at any time and a full page of breakfast options, along with some dessert selections. Any time I go I always get the ‘Exhibit A’ which includes two slices of bacon or sausage with two large pancakes and two eggs cooked your way, the meal doesn’t come with toast but I also get some sourdough toast with a cup of coffee on the side. The food is always perfectly cooked and the servers are constantly some of the nicest people I have ever met. If you are looking for breakfast or lunch between 6:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., I will recommend Judge For Yourself Cafe every time.