In this sandal-wearing town, Sevilla’s orange- and gold-hued interior counts as opulent. Despite a boxy stucco exterior, the Spanish restaurant’s urban attitude comes through in its inventive tapas (the tuna seviche with passion fruit and avocado is especially good) and its darkly intimate, and very busy, bar.
You can’t make a reservation at the popular Arigato Sushi (1225 State St.; 805-965-6074), but the unexpected—and surprisingly delicious—combinations make it worth the wait. Don’t expect leisurely service; this place likes to turn tables fast.
Ask for a table on the patio at Elements, so you can gaze on Santa Barbara’s lovely 1929 Spanish-Moorish courthouse, right across the street. The panko-crusted halibut is perfect for a diet-conscious spa weekend, and the list of Sideways-caliber local wines is long.
The vegetarian-friendly SpiritLand Bistro specializes in organic global fare, with a tangy Thai coconut yellow curry sharing the bill with Italian vegetable risotto.
New on the scene is the crowd-drawing Fresco at the Beach, which replaced a much pricier restaurant in the Santa Barbara Inn. The grilled prawns with Tuscan beans served over warm arugula is spa-healthy dining at its finest. Prices are good, the view even better: It’s one of the only restaurants in town directly overlooking the ocean.