5 Questions with Erin O'Rourke of Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours

Erin O'Rourke of Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours tells us about the local food scene in Santa Barbara, California.

Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours
Erin O'Rourke

Erin O'Rourke had been searching for "something else" in life for the past several years, and, after chatting with her cousin for a bit, realized that starting a food tour in the gorgeous city where they lived was the "it" she had been searching for. Enter Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours. We asked Erin about the Santa Barbara food scene...

1. If I am a foodie coming to Santa Barbara for the first time, what do I need to know about the city?

Cheers to Santa Barbara

With Santa Barbara having one of the highest per capita restaurants in the country, we have oh, so many options! However, given that we are a relatively small city, many out-of-town guests sometimes assume that reservations aren't needed. I would definitely recommend reservations where you can make them. We've had quite a few guests on our tours be surprised that they couldn't just walk in and get seated at popular places. Also, not only is farm-to-table food becoming quite the big deal, but so are farm-to-table cocktails!

2. Are there any Santa Barbara chefs we should be keeping an eye on?

  • Chef Ron True at Arlington Tavern - local Santa Barbarian who traveled the literal and culinary world, and came home to create some serious "comfort food gone fancy", highlighting local produce and meats.
  • Chef Brandon Hughes is the newest Executive Chef at the landmark Wine Cask restaurant, and is doing some incredible seasonal menus.
  • Chef Jason Paluska at the Lark and Lucky Penny for the fantastic dining experiences and collaboration between restaurants and wine bars in the Funk Zone.

3. What can people expect on your Santa Barbara food tours?

Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours

We aim to showcase those places that guests may not have read about, or heard about, but are really the off-the-beaten path favorites of those of us that live here. Along the way we also highlight some of the history, architecture and culture of the city.

Some of our tastings include truly authentic Mexican food (the kind that made one guest tear up because the salsa was just like mom used to make), lobster bisque that has people literally licking the bowl, arugula flatbread made from locally sourced ingredients, refreshing acai berry bowls, locally-made ice cream that has been nationally recognized as some of the creamiest in the country, beer tastings while watching the brewmasters at work, and, of course, some of the incredible Santa Barbara County wines.

4. If we want to enjoy a meal with a great view, is there a restaurant that you recommend?

Have a drink

With so many restaurant options, and our generally incredible weather (last time it snowed in the city was in 1948), it's really hard to choose just one.

Here are a few options. . . Shoreline Cafe - very laid back, literally on the beach (you can sit with your toes in the sand, really) Brophy Bros. - casual but often busy restaurant with amazing views overlooking the harbor. The Boathouse Restaurant - casual/business casual literally 3 steps to the beach Dining Room at El Encanto Hotel - fine dining with unmatched views overlooking Santa Barbara City and the Pacific Ocean Bella Vista at the Biltmore Resort - fine dining with waterfront views of exclusive Butterfly Beach.

5. The area is known for wine. What local wines should be on our must-try list?


That's actually a tough one. We have over 100 wineries now in Santa Barbara county, and so it really depends on your particular palette.

I personally like big, complex reds and my favorites are: Lafond, Margerum, Au Bon Climat, Consilience, AVA Santa Barbara, and Byron However, when I asked a group of 5 wine-loving local friends, I literally got 20 different answers. So, here is the short list for whites, based on taste preferences: Crisp, clean whites (generally stainless steel fermentation) - Municipal, Brander, Grassini, and Santa Barbara Winery Oaky (is that a word?), buttery Chardonnay (new and neutral oak fermentation) - Gainey and Fess Parker Orange Muscat (muscato, dessert-style) - Kalyra

Published June 22nd, 2014