If there’s one thing people imagine when they think of Santa Barbara, it’s the beach. From surfing at UCSB’s Campus Point to a leisurely afternoon at Summerland Beach, you’ll find yourself pleasantly exhausted from all of the daytime activities to squeeze in. Afterwards, you’ll want to find the perfect spot to grab a drink and maybe some food to refuel for the evening.
While you’ll find no shortage of bars to keep you entertained, here’s our list of the absolute best bars in SB:
Nectar, located right off State Street, is a great spot for a cocktail and some people watching. Typically packed with a crowd of international students and young professionals, here is where you come to mingle and make new friends. The vibe is elevated yet low-key, so it is the perfect place to chill if you’re looking to have fun but feel relaxed. There is a small, almost entirely gluten-free menu as well as an extensive cocktail list; we highly recommend the guava margarita.
Nectar Eatery & Lounge. 20 E Cota Street. 805 899 4694.
The Imperial is the essence of a cool bar; completely hidden and mostly unknown to visitors, this Goleta hot-spot is ideal if you’re looking for somewhere off the beaten path and a strong pour. Featuring an outdoor patio with an eclectic collection of couches and a lounge area that evokes the spirit of old-time establishments, Imperial never fails to impress first-timers with its style and service. Come here to celebrate a special occasion or anytime you feel like being transported to the past.
The Imperial. 320 S Kellogg Avenue. 805 967 3001.
The Good Lion is the trendiest bar on State Street, serving up hand-crafted cocktails made with an extremely high attention to detail. Bartenders here take their time as they prepare locally-sourced drinks which are constantly changing and rotating. Examples include the Tequila and Beet Manhattan, made with roasted golden beets and bitter artichoke, or the Apricot and Peppercorn Sour which combines vodka with rainbow peppercorn, apricot, honey and citrus. Stop by for a night cap and you can even order small plates from next door Indonesian restaurant Sama Sama!
The Good Lion. 1212 State Street. 805 845 8754.
One of the newer additions to the State Street bar scene is The Red Piano, and it seems to be just what Santa Barbara was missing. With live music every night, daily happy hour from 5-7 and an extremely warm and inviting atmosphere, it’s certainly hard not to love. Performers have been known to get on tables, while everyone who goes raves about the great, classic cocktails and feel-good tunes, so we suggest heading downtown on your next visit and discovering for yourself what makes this spot so popular.
The Red Piano. 519 State Street. 805 358 1439.
Milk & Honey is a local favorite for tapas and cocktails. If you’re looking to refuel after a day at the beach with some delicious, Spanish-style small plates this is your spot. With everything from patatas bravas and bacon-wrapped dates to a pulled pork shoulder entree, it’s amazing they can serve cocktails that are equally as delicious as their food. If you like vodka, try the Holy Crop!, made with organic cucumber vodka, elderflower liqueur, muddled mint and lime juice. For something with tequila, order the Heat of Passion, made with habanero infused tequila, orange liqueur and passion fruit puree.
Milk & Honey Tapas. 30 W Anapamu. 805 275 4232.