Santa Barbara & San Fernando trip report

Reporting back! I decided to start a new thread as we ended up doing more eating in Santa Barbara than we were able to squeeze in during the Sylmar/San Fernando leg of the trip, plus the earlier thread got a little, um, snarky. Regardless, we had such a great time doing all of our favorite outdoorsy things and visiting with friends that this hardcore New Englander is seriously considering- someday- or for some part of the year- trying out the West coast. Never thought I’d say that…

I’m going to brush past the lows, because our first few meals of eating with our friends were dire. Panda Express-type Chinese takeout, made all the worse for the amount of styrofoam (have to ask, guys, why are you so backward on the styrofoam everywhere around LA? We’ve banned it in Boston years ago. It’s not even good for eating off of, never mind the planet.). Several visits including a breakfast from Starbucks. A visit to YogurtLand. These were out of our control. Anyways.

Then, we get interesting with Carrillo’s- great recommendation! We sampled what I’ve come to think of as the poutine of the West coast, loaded carne asada fries. This is the kind of thing you can only eat if you’ve biked 70 miles up and down canyons all day, which luckily, one of us had. Also a hit were various tacos and burritos and the single, sole tamale they had left in the shop. Note they close at 5:30pm, so we just snuck out with our dinner. Tacos- carnitas and carne asada were fantastic. Flavorful, fresh tortillas. The burrito was enormous- easily the biggest burrito we’d ever seen. I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area.

We moved on to Santa Barbara, where the offerings, as expected, were more varied and to our taste. We were mostly based at the Earl Warren showgrounds, where we spent our days cavorting with ponies. The on-site taco truck which we had lunch at a few times was actually quite good, and better than the average fair food by far. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of it and can’t remember the name. I recommend the smaller street tacos- again, birria and carne asada were delicious, and after cycling up and down all the available canyons and finding himself in serious calorie deficit, my husband scarfed down a burrito and proclaimed it excellent.

Otherwise, we marvelled at the variety of meals that we just stumbled upon and which turned out fantastic. Literally, one night, jet lagged with kids who were way past their bedtime, we found ourselves calling around to restaurants near the touristy Stearn’s Wharf area and snagged a table at Flor de Maiz since it was the only place without a wait. Expectations where therefore low, but wow- what a great meal! The ceviche appetizer was the best thing I ate all week. We had a seat right next to a window onto a woman making tortillas and empanadas. We watched her combine shrimp with masa, work some magic, and moments later we had a delicious shrimp empanada. Enchiladas with mole and green sauce reminded me why people love Mexican food- the mole was that good.

Another evening, we ate at Kanaloa Seafood. Criteria were basically that it looked quick, easy, and there were tables available. Again, a really solid meal. I truly feel like we don’t just “luck into” great food like that around here, and I have no idea why they had tables available on a patio, on a Saturday night, when they also have a great wine and beer selection. Kids loved the pesto pasta with shrimp; grownups liked a poke bowl, fish tacos, and a kale salad and a generous pour of rose.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company provided a lunch on our one mid-day break. While touristy, the seafood was excellent, and had been recommended by my husband’s cycling buddy. We loved the mixed fried shellfish- oysters the size of a small child’s fist! Tender scallops, perfectly rare in the middle! Crabcakes were delicious; meaty with very little breading. Abalone was something we wanted to try, but was the one dish I would skip as it’s only available with a rice and tomato preparation that was not my favorite. The calamari steak sandwich was perfectly cooked, a tender large steak of calamari, nothing like what is available in New England.

We had coffee at Handlebar Cafe- loved this place, as well as their excellent almond croissant.

Other successful coffees were consumed at Hustle and Grind (where we also introduced the sprouts to Hawaiian Shave ice from ParadICE which is located in the same space- I hope this trend comes East!),

and Caje coffee roasters, where both a mocha and a hot chocolate were very good.

Tondi Gelato is on all the lists of best desserts, and with reason. Their chocolate gelato was everyone’s favorite and ranks right up there with best chocolate flavor of all time.

McConnell’s ice cream was consumed- you may not be allowed to visit Santa Barbara without doing so. Good stuff, not superior to our many artisan ice cream options in Boston (thank goodness we can keep up somewhere).

Finally, on the way back to the airport, we stopped for burritos at Birrieria Gomez, and savored our delicious burritos, served with a side of radishes, limes and super hot salsa, all the way back to Boston, While laughing at the poor fools eating JetBlue snack boxes.

And one of the ponies, for good measure. Because… Ponies!


Great trip report - thanks for taking us with you!


I don’t think we are for the most part but yes there are always outliers for a variety of reasons. I’m glad that folks like you care about this, it’s part of what’s helping things change for the better.

We’re proud of our city and state and welcome that. Glad you had such a great trip with your family and friends!

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That’s great! Thanks for sharing. But, much work to be done:

The bill requires that by Jan. 1, 2028, at least 30% of plastic items sold, distributed or imported into the state be recyclable.

This feels a little bit like kicking the can down the road, especially since there is absolutely no market for recycling plastic. China doesn’t want our used plastic anymore. So it’s one thing to call something “recyclable” but quite another to put it into practice. Stopping production in the first place is what needs to happen. I am thrilled to see LA County will ban polystyrene starting next spring. Good on ya!


indeed, everywhere


Thanks for the trip report and photos!

@chienrouge touched on this, but some cities in LA County banned polystyrene already:

We live in Pasadena and are still startled when we get takeout elsewhere in the county and it comes in styrofoam.


…yup, and even in areas where it’s not banned it’s becoming much less common thanks to folks like you @ElsieDee and @Parsnipity that value this.