Santa Barbara Hotels
Santa Barbara Restaurants
Santa Barbara Real Estate
 Santa Barbara > Restaurants > Arts and Letters Cafe
 List your business

Arts and Letters Cafe
[closed, no longer in business]

7 E. Anapamu St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 730-1463

Reviews by the General Public

Arts and Letters Cafe
Reviewer: Sally Spork from Santa Barbara, CA
Atmosphere: There is nothing like eating in a place where you feel you are in a secret, hidden spot. A bit like the old children's book "The Secret Garden". There are a few places peppered throughout SB like that, and this spot fits that perfectly. Located behind a gallery, it is a beautiful large outdoor seating area. I've come here numerous times for lunch. Service: We were seated immediately and served our food promptly. The place was bustling and the waitress was present but not overtly. Food/Drink: Each of ordered a different lunch entree: burrata cheese with shrimp and heirloom tomatoes; curry chicken salad, and pastrami on rye with grilled onions. Delicious and yes I tried each entree. I also had the cup of curry soup which said it had chickpeas: this was a disappointment because unless they pureed the chickpeas none were to be found. Drat. Summary: ALC is a hidden gem in Santa Barbara, off State St. The menu is extensive, fresh and creative; the service adequate and the ambiance delightful.

Amazing lunch!
Reviewer: amanda from Santa Barbara, CA
Five of us went here for the first time and were blown away on how delicious everything was! We shared the Calamari and it was one of the best I have ever had perfectly cripsy with this amazing basil aioli. I got the burger which was one of the best burgers i ever had with brioche bun, homemade bacon and arugula, yum! Tried my friends homemade hotdog and lamb salad and loved them all! Can not wait to go back!

Loved "Opera Under the Stars!"
Reviewer: Arlene from Santa Barbara, CA
Only the second time I've been for dinner and wow; a very memorable evening! I'm just a 40 something regular person - I've never even been to the opera - but the Opera Under the Stars was delightful! The music was beautiful, performers were so professional- not too loud & perfectly timed so we could enjoy our meal, which was delish and the service was great! (Thanks Jessica!)

This One is Just Right
Reviewer: Tyler from Santa Barbara, CA
The appeal of the location should be evident right away. It is quite a nice experience at night as well when its warm enough for them to open up the ceiling. As far as the food goes it is excellent. You'll find a nice mix of items to suit the taste of adventurous tasters or just the best burger you've had in your life. (they're take on a hot dog is pretty tasty too) Service is great as well although there is a level of surliness I have heard from the staff. Generally though they are looking to make your evening wonderful. Great Date spot.

First Tmer
Reviewer: Rexford from Santa Barbara, CA
I will be back. This is a hidden gem. Where can you find a meal like this in Santa Barbara. The monk fish was superb. My wife thought the cheese burger was the best burger she had ever her life.

Unfortunate Wine List
Reviewer: Margaret from Goleta
Three recent visits to Arts and Letters, same wines on list unavailable. After going for fourth choice, which was considerably more expensive, overcharged on bill. Seems an easy fix to update available wines as the list is just an insert in the menu. Ten dollars minimum per glass is high for the type of restaurant it is, as is the general bottle prices. Santa Barbara has many wonderful wines at quite reasonable prices, even considering twice retail or three times wholesale. A new wine rep and definitely more care in servicing the list is needed. Wine and beer are good profit makers for restaurants if marketed properly. Wine glasses very nice. Food and service was good. Waiter was prompt to adjust bill, when the overcharge was pointed out.

Our new favorite lunch place
Reviewer: P&B from Santa Barbara, CA
Simply fantastic from a chef & rest. manager- Cosmo is extremely talented!!!

A bit pricey at lunch
Reviewer: Larry from Santa Barbara, CA
Nice setting. A pit pricey. Had a so so turkey sandwich for $16.00 served with a small salad. In fact all the lunch items with the exception of a hamburger ($15.00) were $16.00. At those price points I was looking for a bit of wow which was lacking.

Pretty great
Reviewer: Carrie from Santa Barbara, CA
Tonight was probably the 4th or 5th night we've been here and it's been great every time (especially with the 2 for 1 coupon)! They change up the menu frequently and everything tastes fresh (although my husband always goes for the burger because it's so good). The courtyard is lovely, the service is pretty good, it's never too crowded. Thank you ALC!

Wonderful atmosphere & food
Reviewer: Ashley from Santa Barbara, CA
My family and I had the pleasure of dining at the Arts & Letters Cafe this last Sunday. I have lived in Santa Barbara my whole life and never knew there was such a beautiful outdoor eating area hidden in this art gallery. My ALC Benedict was absolutely to die for! The service was also phenomenal, not only did our server make sure we were well taken care of, but at least two of the other servers came over & filled our beverages. The chocolate torte and a coffee were the prefect way to end our meal. We will be back this weekend!!

Lovely patio, food and service left much to be desired
Reviewer: Jenn from Santa Barbara, CA
We arrived at our reservation time and gave our name. They pointed to a table on the patio and said they just had to clear it. I thought great something on the patio opened up. Our reservation had been for indoors. They didn't come into the gallery to get us when the table was ready I had to keep checking on it. My disabled mother and my 90 year old grandmother and the rest of our party were finally seated on the patio. It took us several minutes to get settled. Someone (I believe the manager) then came up to us to ask our names. When we replied, she said, "Oh no you were supposed to be seated inside, you're going to have to move inside." I refused to move. I used to work in hospitallity, and when you make a mistake you hustle to fix it without anyone knowing. You don't inconvenience your guests. Our lunch took 50 minutes to be served, my omelet was cold and potatoes were undercooked.

Easter Delight
Reviewer: Tony Bliss from Santa Barbara, CA
Wow. We got there a little early, before 5 - can you believe it? The hostess checked with the kitchen, seated us, got some wayout drinks that she said were house specialties. Try the Blood Orange Gimlet. Then we launched into a 3 hour feast. The home-made charcuterie was the best we ever had - ever, ever, ever. Then we tried a Pork Pot thing that was one of the finest main courses I have ever had. My date had the home-made noodle. She was totally impressed. Then we waited awhile and had more to drink. Then we started on deserts. One at a time. We realized that nights like this don't come along very often. We were there for a little more than three hours. The waiter was terrific and

the art of food
Reviewer: Steve Cushman from Santa Barbara, CA
Our City has an abundance of lovely, small restaurants. Our local chefs have a vast choice of fresh products from our farms, ranches and the ocean. I am always delighted to dine at Frank and Trisha Goss's Arts and Letters Cafe because of their insistence on using the finest local ingredients in their food. Now that their son and daughter, Cosmo, the new chef, and Tyler, the night manager and mixologist, have joined the staff, we not only have the great ingredients but we get an artistic and experimental approach to the cuisine. Everything is made "in-house." I mean, where else can you get a drink with bourbon, cognac and bacon? This isn't a restaurant for the timid. Try the lamb, the shark and the sausage. And....the art is pretty good, too.

Favorite place in Santa Barbara
Reviewer: Calina Marie from Santa Barbara, CA
I lived in Santa Barbara for 8 years and every time I come back I always eat at Arts and Letters. I was so happy when I heard they were opening for dinner, it also seems to be getting better and better. The last time we went in was in February and they hired a new chef who is doing amazing things with the menu. The food is all fresh and seasonal which I just LOVE. I had the shark escabeche and the beet salad. They were to die for!!! To the reviewer below, the pumpkin soup is a staple and has been on the menu since they opened, I think there would be a riot if they took it off =) I will, of course, be back!

You Had One Chance to Impress
Reviewer: Tyler from Santa Barbara, CA
We decided to take advantage of a buy-one get-one coupon to try dinner at Arts & Letters. We have enjoyed lunch there in the past. No amount of savings makes up for sub-par food and service. Our server, Chelsea, was very sweet and she meant well but she is not qualified to be a server at a high end restaurant. Basic things like spacing out courses and removing finished plates were not attended to. We tried the cafe's famous pumpkin soup and figured it was a sure thing. No flavor whatsoever. Even with salt and pepper there was no point in eating it. This should not be on the menu when it's not in season. We also tasted the soup of the day, broccoli-leek, and that was flavorless as well. My wife's entree, the bouillabaise, was the high point of the meal and the only reason 3 stars are warranted. The halibut and shrimp were great. My local rock cod was quite good as well but it was served with a pile of machaca. First of all, the pairing of these flavors were not complementary in the least. More importantly, the machaca was really boring and unsavory. I came home and made a smoothie to cleanse my palate. The experience felt like a waste of time and money.

Creative and delicious
Reviewer: Kris from Denver CO
We ate here for a large group family reunion/memorial and the food was consistently creative, flavorful, and surprising. It was one of the treats of our visit to Santa Barbara.

Good to Great
Reviewer: Tricia from Santa Barbara, CA
I work two blocks away and lunch here once a week or so. Always good, always fresh, always reliable. However, something has changed. Big menu revision, lots of new dishes. But the good news is that the place went from good to great. Every dish I have tried is new and delicious. We went the other night for dinner. A first for us. Wow, even better. I will be back.

Normally Im sure its exceptional
Reviewer: Nate from Santa Barbara, CA
The food was excellent, which is to be expected for the price. They did seem to go overboard with the cracked pepper, but that may have been an anomaly. There was something wrong in the kitchen and for our table was very slow to get food, however ours was the only table and the waitstaff was very apologetic and kept us informed. Would try it again with the expectation that the problems the first time around were the exception to the rule.

Unexpectedly DIVINE!!!
Reviewer: Mrs.Lovett from Santa Barbara, CA
Having never been to Arts & Letters Cafe, I didn't quite know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did I feel like I was encompassed by a lovely atmosphere but I felt like I was transported to another era on their gorgeous outdoor patio with a lovely fountain in the center. A lovely light dinner and definitely a must if you need a place for lunch after going to the art museum. This is a hidden gem of Santa Barbara.

awesome experience...
Reviewer: prue from Santa Barbara, CA
we went for dinner and everything was perfect! the rock crab + cauliflower soup was super yummy, our entrees were delicious, the wine list is smallish but offers quality boutiquey choices, the setting was private and romantic, our server was professional and attentive, but didn't was a great experience and we will definitely return!

Reviewer: John Downs from Santa Barbara, CA
On Tuesday I brought my mother and father to The Arts and letters Cafe for my moms 70th birthday. I did not mention it was my mothers birthday to our waitress although she must have picked up on it. She surprised my mother with a birthday cake at the end of our fantastic meal. I did not get her name blonde gal 30ish. Thank you to our waitress, and thank you for a great experience. We will be returning soon.

great coffee
Reviewer: Jay from Santa Barbara, CA
A really nice environment and friendly staff. Fun to hang out inside or out

Usually love this place
Reviewer: Mattie from Santa Barbara, CA
Have been here on numerous occasions for lunch, this time, it took literally forever for the waitstaff to even notice us, then it took twice as long to get our food (mind you I had a salad...what were they doing, waiting for the lettuce to grow?) Many patrons who came after us, were already being served. Then getting the check was a chore, geez, I was 20 minutes late back from lunch!. The food however, has always been superb. I've never experienced such bad service though.

Wedding Reception
Reviewer: Sherry from Simi Valley, CA
I attended a Wedding Reception at the Arts & Letters Cafe yesterday. Although I have been going to Santa Barbara for years, this was the first time at ALC. It was a perfect setting for a summer evening. They had the reception in the outside patio around the fountain. The presentation of the food was both elegant and delicious. Service was fantastic. I would highly recommend it for any occasion. I look forward to sharing this with friends in the near future.

Nice hideaway for scrumptious lunch
Reviewer: Larry H. from Portland, OR
First time to SB over 6/8-6/11 and had lunch at the Arts & Letter Cafe. Food was great, nice big portions and fresh. The location is great and very private and just one block off the business of State Street.

Wonderful Place for Wedding Receptions
Reviewer: Holly from Santa Barbara, CA
My husband and I recently held our wedding reception luncheon in the dining room of Arts & Letters Cafe. We couldn't have asked for a better experience. We offered our guests three entree options (including a vegetarian and a customized dish), and everyone enjoyed their meals. The room was beautiful, the service was attentive yet unobstrusive, and our guests were highly impressed with the whole restaurant. The staff even helped us with the cake cutting! I want to single out Frank Goss (owner) and Lisa Neustadt (event manager) in particular for all their help and wonderful enthusiasm. I would highly recommend holding your next function at their restaurant.

i love this place
Reviewer: kaylie from Santa Barbara, CA
I love going here for a nice late lunch with girlfriends. I'm a regular here, and this cafe is consistenly good. They have innovative recipes with the freshest of ingredients, and the service is always good.

Excellent All The Way Around
Reviewer: George from San Diego, CA
Everytime I visit Santa Barbara from San Diego, I religiously enjoy lunch at A & L. The freshness of the food, the excellent service and wonderful atmosphere make it an integeral part of the trip. Best Creme Brulee in town! The Chef is outstanding. His food is always presented in a tasteful (sorry for the pun) manner, always fresh and as ordered. No surprises for the diner. What you order IS what you get!

I don't want to write about this place...
Reviewer: Erin from Santa Barbara, CA
The selfish side of me wants to keep Arts & Letters a Santa Barbara secret, but it's so good that I have to talk about it. This is my favorite place to go in Santa Barbara for lunch. Besides wonderful food that's fresh, well-prepared and delicious (you MUST try their pumpkin soup! It is out of this world!), the service gets top-notch marks for friendliness and attentiveness. I love the Arts & Letters cafe because it is a perfect haven to hide away in downtown Santa Barbara for a quaint, quiet lunch either on the patio or inside. Tucked back behind the art gallery, you can relax and contemplate art (or not!) before and after your meal. If you choose to sit inside where there is A/C, you are surrounded by art from locals in the SB area, or you can sit outside on the patio under the umbrellas. Either way, both are great options. As mentioned, the pumpkin soup is divine and their iced tea is the best I've ever had--and I'm not much for iced tea. The next time I steal a personal day from my busy schedule, I will definitely be treating myself to a long lunch at the Arts & Letters cafe!

Charming ambience, well prepared food
Reviewer: Rose E. from Springfield, New Jersey
A nice escape from the hustle of State Street is this lovely little lunch place in the back of an art gallery. Reasonably priced lunch items, well prepared made this one of the highlights of our Santa Barbara dining experience.The service was somewhat slow , but in comparison to understaffed places all over town, at least in this place, the waiter was present. Definitely recommend it.

Not close enough to the Valley
Reviewer: Carla from San Fernando Valley
My husband and I go to Santa Barbara as often as we can get away. We have been dining at this little restaurant for all of 10 years. We drive up, have lunch at the Art & Letters, go to the beach and find one of the seaside hotels for the night. My husband has the Cosmo Salad which has a tobasco dressing and I have the Tyler Salad which has a sweetend dressing. We go 3 or 4 times a year and we can hardly wait to get up there to have our "fix". Our only complaint is that they are not open for dinner.

Excellent Service!
Reviewer: Sandy O'Connell from Santa Barbara, CA
What a beautful dining spot! The Warm Mushroom salad with goat cheese was amazing, and the Cioppinio was the best we have ever tried. Our waitress was attentive and made sure we selected the correct wine with our meal, she even let us sample a few to make sure we were happy with our selection. For dessert we had the poached pear with ginger sauce and sorbet. Afterwards we strolled through their outstanding art gallery. I can't think of a better was to spend an afternoon.

great food and service
Reviewer: Amy from Santa Barbara
this place is wonderful. The seafood salad is the best in town. My waiter is always so friendly and attentive. Arts and Letters is a great place for a quiet lunch or a business get together.

coolest place ever!!!!
Reviewer: Dan from Santa Barbara,CA
I love the Arts and Letters Cafe, it has everything for parties, weddings and Celebrations on any day of the week. Go for it! The executive chef, Harley Hall is truely the best gourmet iron chef ever!!! please go and visit the best place in town.

Wish they served dinners as well as lunches
Reviewer: Kip from Los Angeles
I have been going here for years, mayby ten years, and have always found the food good, but the last few times have been terrific. I asked if there was a new chef. Yep his name is Chef Harley and he is doing some wonderful, and delightfully different dishes for his popular lunches. I just wish they would open for dinner. It is right downtown.

Its a Winner

I don´t understand the previous reviewers. It may not be a top gourmet, fine dining/prize-wine-list restaurant. But we love it. My husband and I enjoy dinner at A&L, and my friends and I have comfortable convivial lunches there. It is essential Santa Barbara. The food is terrific, the service is considerate and attentive, and the setting can´t be beat. Even when its chilly, they have effective heaters and indoor seating if you can bear to give up the lovely patio

Lot´s of Potential...
Reviewer: Mrs. Smith from Sunny Santa Barbara, CA USA 93109
This place has so much potential. The food is sometimes great but the service is without exception, lousy. You must be prepared to just enjoy the atmosphere with no time constraint. Due to the consistent lack of service, a simple lunch can take an hour and a half to two hours...I´m not exagerating! So if you have nothing but time [and money], go and enjoy the best patio in SB - then run across the street to La Salsa for their fish tacos...

not as good the second time

I first ate at the cafe about 2 years ago and was impressed with the atmosphere and quality of the food (I had blue corn tamales). The second time I went to the cafe the service was slow, my crab cakes were ice cold and the amount of food was minimal for the high price that I paid. I may be willing to try it again, but maybe in another year or two.

Nice Patio Dining

I love this place! The service is good and the food great. They even have Opera singers singing on the patio on occasion. One of my favorites in Santa Barbara

My Favorite Place in Town

I love this place. My favorite time to go is Saturday lunch on a sunny day. I get a seat on the patio by the fountain and have their pumpkin soup and crab cakes. It´s tough to know there´s a great restaurant tucked behind the bookstore, but go on in. The salads are great, too.

Have you eaten here? Write a review of this location!  Terms of Service