The financial struggles of college are so real – we feel you. However, there’s a good chance that those ramen noodles don’t taste very good the 3rd time in one week. Yes, your wallet may be feeling thin at times, but no, you don’t have to succumb to routine T.V. dinners or fast food meals. Dining out in Santa Barbara is possible without breaking the bank. If you feel like splurging just a bit for a scrumptious bite, we’ve got you covered.
1. Hana Kitchen
Everyone in the Santa Barbara college sphere knows about Hana Kitchen, and for good reason. This unassuming spot located in the heart of Isla Vista successfully delivers on simplicity. They only offer a few menu items but have perfected each one to earn a line out the door at nearly all times. Hana Kitchen is most famous for their teriyaki bowls with your choice of freshly grilled chicken or beef served on a bed of rice and packed with veggies. Top it off with an unlimited amount of pickled jalepeños, green onions, or spicy mayo.
This local’s favorite is every foodie’s ideal hole-in-the-wall restaurant. With little decor or fuss, Lilly’s Taqueria more than compensates with over ten different kinds of delicious street tacos. We’re talking anything from pork adobo to beef cheek. Hell yes. Load up any taco you desire with a variety of salsas, onions, cilantro, and lime, all for under $2. You’ll be eating like a king with a plateful of authentic Mexican and money to spare. #SpoonTip: Ask for a side of grilled onions and jalepeños for extra style points.
Get this: scrumptious burgers, salads, and soups all for under $5. But I’m not even just talking about your standard patty and buns. For a few bucks, you can get seared ahi, avocado, crispy onions, bacon, and more. Plus, all of the proceeds go towards different special needs organizations in the community. Consider this a win-win situation for everyone.
4. The Blue Owl
This little spot in downtown Santa Barbara had its humble beginnings as a pop up restaurant. Eventually, as word spread about the tasty Asian-inspired cuisine, The Blue Owl took over its own location. The menu boasts an array of creatively funky dishes, from the green curry infused cheeseburger to their kimchee grilled cheese. Those with curious taste buds may grab a bite to eat during the day or indulge late at night. Lucky for you night owls, The Blue Owl opens until 2:30 AM during the weekend. Did someone say drunchies?
Not only is this brunch haven the perfect spot for a hangover cure, their prices are totally reasonable. Here you can order classic dishes featuring eggs, bacon, and sausage along with kick-ass Cajun specialties like jambalaya, po’ boy sandwiches, and beignets. Everything comes in gigantic proportions giving you the ultimate value. Order a heaping platter of fresh, pillowy beignets for under $4 if you don’t believe me.
Another taco place? That’s right. Only this taqueria has the blessing of one of the most famous French chefs in history, Julia Child. If the goddess of the kitchen claimed that La Super Rica was her favorite place to dine in SB, us foodies, AKA her loyal subjects, should listen. This iconic blue and white building has no frills or fluff because it honestly it doesn’t need to. The authentic Mexican cuisine is fresh and notably served with homemade corn tortillas, cooked on the spot. In case you don’t believe me or Julia Child on this one, Katy Perry sang about this very restaurant in her hit song, “This is How We Do”. Not kidding.
Usually when restaurants boast that they are “natural” or “locally sourced”, we tend to assume that these places are on the pricier side. Turns out you can have your vegetarian tempeh patty and eat it too. While being very vegetarian and vegan-friendly, there are plenty of meat options as well. Everything is made with fresh and regional ingredients to deliver both good health and good taste.
8. Blaze Pizza
There’s a special slice in my heart for this popular pizza joint. It’s quite the steal considering that you can get an entire personal pie made fresh to order for under $10. If you’re a fan of classic cheese, cop a pizza for only $5. If you’re feelin’ fancy, throw in a few more bucks and the world is basically yours. Yes, a pizza with an unlimited amount of toppings, so load up on multiple kinds of cheeses, sauces, meats, and veggies.
Hot sammies, cold sammies, salad sammies, and paninis – this spot has got you covered. South Coast Deli even features a few different three-ways for those bold eaters out there. That means three different kinds of meat and other yummies in between some bread. If you’re not feeling carbs, there is a whole slew of salads to satisfy those tastebuds.
#SpoonTip: While there are two locations in Santa Barbara, stop by the shop in Isla Vista on a Thursday for their special. Select sandwiches are only $4.20 between 4:20 and 5 PM. I know you’re amused too.
If you’re craving Indian, you’re in luck. All of their entrees all range for just about under $10. Not bad for right smack in the middle of downtown. However, this place makes the list for their lunch buffet. Yes, buffet. Yes, as in all-you-can-eat. This means as much curry and naan and rice as your heart desires or that your stomach can handle.