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1305 State St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 966-5006

Reviews by the General Public

Santa Barbara's best, 9/18/2016
Reviewer: Tony from Santa Barbara, CA
I have been coming here for 30 years. When I was in college I would come for lunch where I could get an entree that I could afford. The lamb and the duck are what I consider the best and John used to cook soups that all had cream which I loved. John controls the size and he never wanted to own a bunch of restaurants. I feel very lucky to have eaten so many special meals here over so many years.

So disappointed!
Reviewer: Kelly from Santa Barbara, CA
I have heard nothing but fantastic reviews about this place, so we were expecting a great meal. Service was lovely and efficient, but the food lacked. The highlight of the meal was the small farmers' market green salad with stilton garlic dressing. After that it was all downhill. Our "medium rare" New York steak was closer to well; the accompaniments were delicious though. The halibut, done with a saffron-lobster sauce was one of the most bland things I've ever eaten. How can it be bland with the promise of saffron and lobster sauce? Well it was. I salted and peppered it but it was still very much sub par. I won't be back, even though this place is lauded as one of SB's best restaurants!

Love letter to Downey's - love your consistent 5 stars
Reviewer: Jinelle from Santa Barbara, CA
Enjoyed the Valentine'd Day prix fixe immensely. Sure it is very pricy for this holiday menu, but this is a celebration day so it is time to pull out all the stops. It is all about creating memories; and loving ones at that. Perfect smoked duck appetizer with papaya, arugula, and very thin pepper slices - all played off each other beautifully. Ginger-butternut squash soup was haunting. Ahi with a superb pepper hollandaise superb, blackened asparagus and a mild boiled potato hit all the right notes, separately and together. I didn't want this dish to end. DH lapped the last of his venison loin with green pepper corn sauce with grains and had to fight me for the last drop of this perfectly paired sauce. Strawberry short-cake and their sublime meringue chocolate chestnut stacked torte finished off a well-loved evening. Split of French champagne worked throughout the entire meal. Younger crowd filled the place proved Downey's has a long and happy future in this town. As well as classical, refined dining. A good time was enjoyed by all and all service staff from top to bottom are true hospitalit experts. Kudos to John Downey and his wife - we appreciate you working on our special day!

Wonderful evening
Reviewer: Jason from Santa Barbara, CA
A friend suggested Downey's when I was looking at a dinner spot for my 40th birthday dinner. It was excellent. We were greeted immediately, and the immediacy of contact was there throughout the meal. It's a collaborative system, where no one server is in charge of a given table, and it worked well when we were there. The food was excellent, and we both enjoyed our meals (lamb and duck). The only reason for the 4.5 rating on the food was because the white wine was consistently served fairly cold, which doesn't allow for the aroma and flavor to come forth, and because the sauces were, in our opinion, a little thin. Really, this should be a 4.92 rating, but that isn't available. This certainly wouldn't stop us from going back (in fact we've already discussed returning for the tasting menu), but is only offered as feedback.

Almost first class
Reviewer: Ted from North Vancouver, Canada
My wife and I enjoyed the fixed-price evening meal on a Tuesday. As expected, the fine-dining experience with a skilled and experienced chef was expensive but the main course (beautifully cooked duck breast in an intense and very tasty reduction) was outstanding and the dessert was decadent and delicious! The service was excellent: attentive but unobtrusive. Two things that shouldn't have been part of my experience was the appetizer (crab over mango slices) and the cheese plate. The mango in the appetizer should have been almost over-ripe and therefore soft and intensely flavored. But it was under-ripe, cut too close to the skin and therefore hard and lacking in taste. The cheese plate (not included in the fixed-price meal) was arbitrarily overpriced in the extreme. Too bad. Left us feeling that we came up a little short of expectations. Of course, the silly overpricing on the cheese plate simply became reflected in our tip. Nevertheless, overall, I'm sure that this restaurant usually deserves its 5-star rating.

Tasty in SB
Reviewer: terry from brooklyn, ny
Great eatery. Terrific food and service was attentive without becoming bothersome.

service letdown, pleasant food
Reviewer: CD from Santa Barbara, CA
This was a special occasion, and we chose this restaurant because of reviews that mentioned great service and attentive staff--sadly this wasn't the case when we were there. The food was very nice, service distressing, ie we were given the bill before being even asked if we were finished, as if we were being rushed out. Lots of tables were still ordering. Quite a disappointment.

One of the best dinners ever
Reviewer: Steve from Santa Barbara, CA
My wife and I dined at Downey's for the first time the day after Valentine's Day. We were fortunate it was a slow evening and we got a seat by the window. We had the smoked duck appetizer - yummy - and I had the mushroom soup - best I ever tasted. We asked our servier to sugggest a wine since my wife was having the veal loin and I was having the venison loin. He suggested a wonderful cabernet franc and the food was delicious and perfectly cooked. The service was great and we kept asking ourselves why we had not been there before. No dessert, but we did have the cheese course - a first for us. It was all great. We shall return. Thanks Downey's for a delightful dining experience.

Probably The Best In Town
Reviewer: OM from Santa Barbara, CA
A great dinner, & plan to come more often. Very fresh ingredients, good preparation, and nice plating. Lobster salad, soup, monk fish, puff pastry apple tart: Excellent. Fairly priced wine list. Service from front of house to service staff was friendly and informed. Think this surpases San Ysidro Ranch, 4 Seasons, Bacara or other spots in town. Not inexpensive, but good value for the meal, felt $210 pre tip was well worth it.

$50 Prix Fixe - 4 course is best dining deal in town
Reviewer: jinelle from Santa Barbara, CA

It is that time of the year again for our special night out. Though we were sorely tempted by the strength and price of the $50 prix fixe dinner at Downey's, we ended up ala carte anyway because it was a special occasion. But seeing how excellent this prix fixe value is - four courses: appetizer, soup, entree and dessert it is time to think Downey's is not just for special occasions because this competes with almost any restaurant in town where one gets a lot less quality than at Downey's and never comes close to the serene and welcoming atmosphere of Downey's.

Our own ala carte dinners were superb from beginning to end - my figs, toasted walnuts and proscuitto were again inspired and DH had the sumptuous artichoke heart appetizer which set us off and running to the pork chop and lamb loin entrees and finished with their sublime seasonal peach ice cream special and the always welcome chocolate tarte with expresso sauce.

Another lovely evening at Downey's only marred by the absence of their lovely owner hostess who has to earn at least a few days off from time to time. Her special glow and attention to the smallest details was missed, but little got overlooked in her absence. Just wanted to let her know she is so much part of the welcoming feeling at Downey's.

Best fine dining in SB
Reviewer: Bill from Santa Barbara, CA
As long time residents, we don't come here enough, probably because somehow we think it's too expensive. But for a few $ more than, maybe Ca Dario, you get wonderful food, great service.......and it's quiet. Liz is great and John keeps the menu fresh. Ambiance like no other restaurant in SB, like the Biltmore used to be. We'll be back soon.

This is a five star plus restaurant
Reviewer: jinelle from Santa Barbara, CA
Just had a 100% lovely special occasion dinner at Downey's in Santa Barbara. I always seem to qualify it when asked for the "best" restaurant in Santa Barbara. After last night's dinner, no more qualifications. It is and probably will remain my favorite choice. It is genteel and creative. They have now a $50 four course tasting menu which has slightly smaller main course portions which in fact were perfect when pacing one's appetite over all four courses.

We chose the crab costini with the curry papaya, apple grape, arugula garnish which was a haunting starter with a complex blend of flavors and textures. Then the chilled melon soup which had a touch of cayenne to make it a shade more interesting than simply fruity and sweet. I had the game hen and it was superb down to the last bit of swiped-up sauce with their delicate breads. Partner had the duck which also reached perfection with fresh peaches that belonged to a celestial hemisphere.

We sampled a wonderful 5 selection cheese plate as an extra charge off the prefixe menu and then made difficult choices from the dessert trolley as our final course.

Partner had the black and white ricotta cheese cake with fresh raspberry sauce and I had the fresh peach ice cream special with flaky crust and meringue. Just superb. I had the pre-fixe, and partner ordered ala carte. We split a split of Veuve Cliqout for a special occasion so it did add up, but it was worth every penny (dollar).

With the pre-fixe alternatives and a less expensive wine there will be a lot more next times and not wait for only special occasions. Santa Barbara dining has matured to grace and elegance and Downey's is the spot.

There were both young and old diners so don't be put off by stuffy stories about Downey's. That it is not. Refined, elegant, welcoming, approachable and creative, yes it is. However, if you are looking for noise, trendy short-lived hippness, and brittle glitter then this would not be the place to go.

It is a very lovely, very pleasant choice and the owner's wife understands the true meaning of hospitality . Consider yourself privileged to have the opportunity to dine at Downey's.

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