Santa Barbara has a wealth of great restaurants, but the focus here is on Asian food. Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Korean, the city has it all. If you're looking for tasty Occidental eats on the Central Coast, here are some of my favorites.
Chinese – several good choices here. I do not think Santa Barbara has any Chinese places that can match the best of San Francisco or Los Angeles, but what we've got is pretty good. China Pavilion, with locations downtown on Chapala St. and in Montecito on Coast Village Rd. certainly has the best Chinese food in town. It's a little more pricey than the average takeout place, but the quality of the food and the elegance of the decor make it worth the money. Madam Lu on Upper State St. is so pricey or quite so good, but it's solid Chinese food at a reasonable price. Also worth considering is Yen Ching on De La Vina. They've been around forever and the Chow Mein is top notch.
Japanese – If it's Sushi you're after, the city has some solid options. Arigato Sushi, on State St. across from the Granada theater serves the best Sushi in town. Some consider it a hang-out for poseurs, but even if you do not like the crowd, you'll like the Sushi. Sushi Terri with three locations in town has great grilled Teriyaki and very passable Suchi. For combination of food and value, it's tough to beat. If you're looking for something off the beaten path, consider Itsuki Restaurant. It's tucked away in a shambling strip mall just off of Upper State, but the inside is a little taste of Kyoto. Worth searching out.
Thai – Several options here, but none are really top class. The venerable Your Place on Milpas St. is the best Thai food I've had in town. Good stuff at reasonable prices. Pattaya Bar & Grill in Old Town Goleta is a new entrant on the scene that shows great promise. If you're out that way, give it a try. Your Choice on Upper State St. is another worth considering.
Vietnamese – The Santa Barbara area has a surprising number of good Vietnamese restaurants, although the best are actually out in Goleta. Saigon Noodle House in the K-Mart shopping center in Goleta is my current favorite. Excellent Bun Bo Nuong Xa and very passable Pho. The food at Noodle City in Old Town Goleta is every bit as good, but the seating is more cramped. Excellent service to boot. Saigon In-and-Out has three locations in town and is worth checking out too.