I know this photo is blurry, but I had to give you a glimpse of this DEEP FRIED CANDY BAR that was the finale of night one in Santa Barbara. Night one pretty much set the tone for the whole trip. A bit indulgent, I must say, even if you are surrounded by scenery. Santa Barbara, which is a weird mix of wealth, homeless/squatter folk, and college kids, definitely caters to the latter with their happy hour specials. Happy hour is everywhere and I loved it. Enterprise Fish Co., which was vaguely reminiscent of a non-chain version of Red Lobster, decor wise, kicked off our vacation. It was the perfect place to meet up, drink cheap margaritas and have some delicious seafood appetizers (get the mussels!) at a low cost.
I'd consider The Hungry Cat a do not miss for happy hour. Half price specialty cocktails and amazing looking seafood. A dark and stormy plus and a greyhound for $12? Twist my arm. Throw in a cheese plate with heavenly honeycomb on the side and you are a happy camper whether the ocean is near or not! Plus, I am really digging that copper bar.
A night of drinks and seafood ended at Mac's, where we shared some well-executed fish and chips and mushy peas. But the real star of the show was that fried candy bar above. It must be ordered "with love," which means it is gently nestled atop a pile of clotted cream. Yes, you need the love.
Ah, the morning after a happy hour bender is so much more tolerable when you can see the ocean from your window. Fortunately, Santa Barbara Roasting Company was also only a short distance from our hotel. They provided a pretty close to perfect latte and a tasty chocolate banana muffin. I loved their open book approach to placing the roaster right next to the drink counter. It's pretty cool to see the beans being roasted, just don't look too hard at the walls and ceiling beyond. It will take away from the charm.
Cold Spring Tavern was a stop on the trip that could be considered both scenic and indulgent. Scenic thanks to the mountain drive and the unusual, Wisconsin-eque interior at this former stage-coach stop. Indulgent thanks to the feast of wild boar, antelope and other game. This stop is not for your vegetarian friends, but rather the adventurous eater. Wild boar is quite delicious and not too gamey, for the record.
But let's get real here, the indulgence was in part food, yes, but mostly wine. We kicked off a trip to Solvang with a lunch stop at Firestone Walker brewery on the way to Bridlewood Winery, where we tasted and then purchased a bottle to consume while overlooking their rolling landscape seen above. While in Solvang, we hit up a few tasting rooms, stayed at the somewhat affordable, windmill, pool, and hot tub equipped Kronborg Inn within walking distance of all the tasting rooms. Lion's Peak was the crowd favorite, as a bottle of their port made a nice dessert a few nights later.
Back in Santa Barbara proper, we did some more wine tasting, although we did space it out by a day or so from our Solvang excursion. The downtown "urban wine trail" was incredible! With the quantity of wine produced in Santa Barbara County, it makes perfect sense for these wineries to localize tasting rooms in the city. We hit up Santa Barbara Winery, which was a great value at only $5 for a tasting of 5 wines. Oreana Winery provided my favorite wines and had the best vibe coming from the patrons and the staff. (Ironically, I had unknowingly consumed a bottle of their Mission Point Pinot Noir on my porch at home with 2 friends only days before.) We bought a bottle of the Tilly Super Tuscan to have with dinner. 10% of all sales of Tilly go to Alzheimer's research in honor of the winemaker's grandmother. We felt all warm and fuzzy about our purchase until someone acknowledged out loud that it was a mere $1.80 donated by the four of us. We loved the wine and the warm-hearted spirit regardless.
The best-looking tasting room goes to Municipal Winemakers seen above. Decor aside, the wine was also enjoyable enough to bring home a bottle of Bright Red from their menu below. If I lived in SB, I would totally join Club Awesome.
In case you have a hangover after all that wine, some tacos might help. Look no further than Milpas street where we passed at least 3 taquerias in 3 blocks, and I am sure there were more beyond. We settled on Taqueria La Colmena, where I indulged in a barbacoa, tilapia, and al pastor taco. All were equally fresh and satisfying and easy on the pocketbook.
All in all, SB has plenty of options to indulge, whether it's food, wine, jalapeño flavored beer, or high-end shopping. At least I refrained from the shopping.