Santa Barbara Hotels
Santa Barbara Restaurants
Santa Barbara Real Estate
 Santa Barbara > Restaurants > Downey's
  
 List your business

Downey's
No longer in business
Opened: ? Closed: 2017-08

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


Reviews by the General Public

Beloved for a reason
Reviewer: jill from kauai Hi.
Dear John and Liz, Thank you for all the incredible food and beverage served over the years. Not only have you created a restaurant that put Santa Barbara on the culinary map, but your service to the community is well known. Downey's will be missed but both of you even more. Enjoy your retirement, its well deserved! Best, Jill Petrarca (Formally of Fresco Cafe)


one last duck.....
Reviewer: Foodie Dan from Santa Barbara, CA
So fortunate to have gotten a table before they retire. Chatted with Liz about their plans. Had a wonderful meal. and...oh the duck!!


Santa Barbara's best
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.


Great on First Try
Reviewer: Tiffany from Santa Barbara, CA
My husband and I were looking for a new (new to us) place to try for a special occasion. When we arrived our table was ready promptly. The service was great and the food was even better. We both had the chefs choice menu which was 4 courses. Everything was great and very fresh. The chocolate dessert was to die for. Definitely not a place to go in a rush, but well worth your evening.


The best restaurant in Santa Barbara - bar none!
Reviewer: Frank from Santa Barbara, CA
This has been, for 25 years, the gold standard in Santa Barbara. It's small, and they don't turn the tables, so reservations are a must. The food is creative, consistently excellent, and totally fresh. The occasional "seasonal menus" are well worth going for - ask when the next one will be. The wine list is very good, and Liz (Mr. John Downey, who's also the artist of the oil paintings on the walls) is very knowledgeable about the wines, including many local offerings. The service is professional, without being overbearing. The wait staff is all knowledgeable about the food and its preparation. We have been there three times in the last four months, and enjoyed every minute of every visit. It's not fair to expect this to be a "quick-in, quick-out" type of restaurant, but if you are going to an event at the Arlington, let them know when you call for your reservation. If you have been there before, you'll know that this is the best fine dining in Santa Barbara. If you haven't been there before, do yourself a favor and give it a try. You won't be sorry!


delicious
Reviewer: jared antonson from Santa Barbara, CA
This place is one of a kind. Terrific duck, lovely deserts, and nice wine selection. Zagat rated, too. Yeah for Downeys. Service was almost perfect; only mistake was when I left they neglected to thank me because they were in the kitchen cleaning. In my eyes, that took their service down a notch but not taking anything away from their food.


Spectacular Experience
Reviewer: Michael & Jan from Santa Barbara, CA
My husband and I celebrated our Valentine's Day out the day after. We have enjoyed many great dinners out in S.B. and always wanted to go to Downey's for a special meal. We expected it to a fabulous experience and were not disappointed in the food selections, preparation, or service. Everything was impecable!


Simply outstanding
Reviewer: Robert & Susan Herrera from Westlake Village, CA
Wife and I dropped-in for the first time. Food was a symphony of flavors. Servers were friendly, insightful and very attentive. Dining room is very clean and comfortable. A great meal at a fair price.


excellent food, nice atmosphere
Reviewer: Elizabeth from Goleta, CA
I have to disagree with a previous couple's assessment that the host was snobby. My husband and I walked into Downey's on a Friday night with no reservation after being unable to get into Opal's down the street. We were somewhat under-dressed, but the host made us feel welcome and got us in almost immediately. The service was friendly, excellent, and unpretentious. We ate the mussels and a watercress salad to start, citrus salmon and ribeye steak, all of which were excellent. We were also impressed by the wine and dessert selections. We will definitely be back for our anniversary.


Amazing dining experience
Reviewer: Brian from Los Angeles
Me and my wife ate here for our anniversary and had an amazing experience. We both loved the proschuto with mellon just the right combination of sweet and saltieness. For our entrees we had a ribeye and the salmon with citrus sauce. Both were cooked to perfection and we were happy because their portion sizes are filling but not to the point that you dont want dessert. For dessert we ordered the Peach Melba and the choclate cake with hazelnuts. Both had amazing flavors that just ended the meal perfectly. Truely top ten dining experiences of our life we decided after we left. We thanked them and let them know how amazing our meal was we will definetly be back next time we are in beautiful Santa Barbara.


poor food quality
Reviewer: Carole Livingston from Los Angeles
what a disappointment the food was. My friend ordered the Ahi rare...... I ordered the ribeye rare. The Ahi wasn't even pink in the center. My steak was tough and overcooked. When we discussed this with the manager, he said thank you for the comments and considered it a "learning experience". The manager didn't offer new entres, complimentary desert, NOTHING! He just said he was sorry and that the chef was fairly new. We spent over $200 on dinner and that was the best he could offer. Don't waste your money on this place.


Over Rated
Reviewer: Gary from San Francisco, CA
Prosciutto Appetizer was as thick as Canadian bacon, infused with grilled pear. Basically what you would expect with a greasy omelet. ($13) The recommended salad with Tom Shepard’s organic Strawberries and bitter greens ($9) were over-saturated with oil, leaving a bitter taste, but must admit the strawberries eaten without the salad concoction were incredible. The Alaskan halibut with a citrus butter cream sauce was excellent. ($28) My assessment, two wrongs – one right makes an average at best rating. BTW: WE USED THE ZAGAT TOP FOOD 2008 RATING WHICH SCORED 28 POINTS, VERY HIGH RATING. BEWARE: ZAGAT RATING ARE USELESS.


GREAT experience...
Reviewer: Monica from Goleta CA
My boyfriend's mom gave us a $100 gift card to Downey's and we have lived here 2 years but never tried it. The food was really amazing (I had an artichoke salad and red lentil soup) the servers were all really attentive and we never felt rushed. I thought it was a really good time. It is expensive--but it's worth it for good quality food. They're NOT messing around! It's really impressive....and we are very into food! The soda bread is right out of the old country!


Worst restaurant in a week of dining in Santa Barbara
Reviewer: Angie Rubin from LA
Started with a cold shoulder from the host...and got even more chilly from there. Food was only ok. There were 5 of us. Only 1 had a "main course", others had double appetizers (plus there was 1 vegetarian) yet the bill, with wine, was almost $400. Even with complaints, the chef did not come out to address the issues of the night. As the sister of a food, wine and travel writer, I can safely say we will not return. There are many other fine restaurants in SB to choose from that make you feel like a welcome guest.


Flawless
Reviewer: Niall from San Diego CA
One of the best meals we've had for years. We sampled a variety of starters, entrees, cheeses and deserts. How refreshing to have an actual desert trolley, not seen all that often nowadays. And it's contents! Wow! And the care over the cheeses, again a luxury not presented that frequently. We found the service to be impeccable, not overly intrusive but available and helpful at the right moments. Prepared to engage if you encouraged, prepared to fade into the background if that was your preference. A delightful experience.


A bad night?
Reviewer: Raj DHAWAN from Marina del Rey, CA
Although I have driven 100 miles to dine at this fine restaurant with friends several times in the past, the last dinner on December 17 was a huge disappointment. The Ahi dish (highly recommended by the waiter) was so rubbery and chewy that it only took me an hour to manage just half the portion. As I was with a first time date, I did not want to be a complainer. I think that the Downeys are beginning to take the good reviews for granted and are becoming rather complacent. I am someone who dines at the finest restaurants worldwide and knows what qualifies for a good or great meal. Unfortunately, the last dinner at Downey's was the worst ever in Santa Barbara where I have dined at several restaurants. The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara is better and a lot more consistent restaurant! In the end, I hope that the Downeys will pay a much closer attention to the restaurant to regain/maintain their status as the finest restaurant in Santa Barbara.


Excellent food! SNOBBY host!
Reviewer: katherine from santa barbara, ca
My boyfriend and I are local Santa Barbarians and frequent the restaurant scene. I have heard many good things about Downey's so I had always wanted to try the restaurant. On a quiet tuesday evening my boyfriend and I walked into Downey's hoping that we could get in without a reservation. When we arrived we waited patiently while the host was conversing with the one couple that was dining in the restaurant. He made it seem a chore to come greet us. Hoping not to trouble him too much, we asked for a table. With a sigh he seated us and asked us what we would like to drink. He never returned with our drinks, in fact, he never returned. Rather he continued to converse happily with the other couple. I felt very uncomfortable and wanted to leave. But rather, we made light of the situation and waited for our server. Our server turned out to be very friendly and I felt at ease once again. The food at Downey's is amazing. John Downey is a excellent chef. Our evening was made up for with the wonderful food and friendly servers. Moral of the story: Overlook the snobby host at Downey's the food is great!


An Anniversary Tradition
Reviewer: Salim Alama from San Francisco, California
Again this year Monty and I came to Downey's to celebrate our anniversary - this year our 19th! The service and food were as exceptional as always. We were treated like royalty from the moment we arrived. Monty had the squab as the main course and it was excellent while I had salmon that was so prefectly prepared that just thinking about it has my taste buds excited! We told Liz that IF our Tuscany 20th anniversary plans change we will be back next year! A total enchanting experience.


excellent
Reviewer: Chad from Santa Barbara
My wife called ahead and mentioned that it was our 10th anniversary. We were given a great table that was perfect for the occasion and the wait staff acknowledged our milestone. The flavors here were excellent! We started with two appetizers...the crab dish and lobster dish. Both were fantastic and beautifully presented. The wine steward was helpful and helped us select a lovely bottle of wine. The veal entree that my wife had was very good. Diners should not expect traditional service here as the approach seems to be more of a group approach. Many different people are involved at your table as opposed to a single attentive waiter or waitress. I do have one major critique. I chose the "Silver Snapper" entree. I found the flavor (accentuated by a lobster stock reduction) delightful. However, the fish was difficult to cut (i.e., it didn't flake) and was dry and chewy. I assumed, and still believe, that it was simply over-cooked. I have never been one to send anything back to the kitchen, but I did ask the waiter about the fish texture. He promptly returned it to the kitchen agreeing that it was over-cooked. A separate attendant promptly returned to inform me that the waiter had been mistaken and that this is the expected texture of the fish. I was offered a different fish of my choosing, which was nice, but I in general feel uncomfortable doing such a thing. The original waiter then came to the table to apologize that he had miscommunicated..this was very kind but unnecessary since I think he was correct in describing Snapper as a "flaky fish". So, the over-cooked fish was a disappointment to an otherwise perfect meal and evening.


Downey's
Reviewer: Debbie Russo Damascus from Pound Ridge, New York
My husband and I have been to many fine restaurants abroad and in New York, New Orleans, DC. Downey's was wonderful - Mrs. Downey was charming and warm, the service was excellent and the food was great. We were sorry to only have had one evening there. If you don't believe me, the NYTimes just did an article on restaurants in Santa Barbara and Downey's was high on their list. I highly recommend the Lobster Angel Hair Pasta for an appetizer, the duck and their signature dessert, white choc. mouse with fresh raspberries.


Unimpressive
Reviewer: Jim Kobe from Evansville, IN
After hearing the rave reviews about Downey's, it was a great disappointment to visit. Service was slow in spite of a half-empty room. Our inquiry as to an entree recommendation was brushed off with an "everything is excellent" attitude, and when we were served, we were both unhappy with what could best be described as bland food. Of the many fine-dining restaurants we've visited in Santa Barbara, this one has the distinction of having the least friendly staff. Maybe we went on the wrong day, but it seemed that Downey's has become too conscious of its own good reviews.


Romance and Exceptional Food
Reviewer: Salim Alama from San Francisco, California
We recently celebrated our 18th anniversary at Downey's. The service was excellent from the moment we were seated to the final lingering over the handmade truffles. Our wait person guided us through the menu and our selections were exceptional The romantic atmosphere only added to the expeience. We would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Santa Barbara


Great Place!!!

We have had two great dinners. In both cases, we entertained family and friends, and everyone gave Downey´s "two tumbs up" (we have never had such agreement to the point Downey´s is now on our "must do" list).


off night?
Reviewer: McG from So.Cal, CA
A group of close friends and I were dining here for the first time based on a recommendation of the concierge at our five-star hotel. The food itself was esxcellent in freshness and presentation, but the service had a lingering bad after taste. We were seated without our menus, and after waiting at least five minutes before anyone would acknowledge us, we had to flag down the hostess for the menus and a waiter/waitress. We were not asked for beverage selections at any point, a couple of appetizers that were recommended were ommitted we later realized, and the service was spotty. We all felt a little uncomfortable and gave it the benefit of the doubt thinking that perhaps this was a new restaurant still working out the kinks. But in fact, they have a strong, reputable history. Did we catch it on a bad night? Maybe, but there are so many excellent restaurants, that we´d have a hard time recommending this one. Mr. Downey was very gracious to come introduce himself at meal´s end, we must say! ps, please leave music on!!


simply fabulous

this is santabarbara most well established resturants because of its consistancy. I eat here for my most important occassions and have never been disappointed. Every detail is perfected.


Unfortunately a hype!

My husband and I love vacationing in Santa Barbara, and always try a new place when we are in town for the weekend. Downey´s had been built up in my mind after reading many a positive review. We were both terribly dissapointed, however, and found the wine to be best part of our dinner. The quality of the food was not up to par and the prices were way too high. The waitors seemed aloof and we felt like they were doing us a favor serving us.


Over-rated
Reviewer: marty from SB, CA, USA
Service was great, though one of the servers was a bit over-attentive. The food was ordinary. Somewhere I´d read that this was the Chez Panisse of SB, not even close. I´d rather pay less and eat a far more interesting meal a few doors down at Brigitte´s. Don´t waste your money.


Delightful dining experience

My husband & I dined here the night after our engagement & it was a wonderful experience: the wait staff were very attentive without being overbearing & they also have a sommelier to advise you on wines to go with your meal from their extensive wine list. Everything we ordered was delicious & I would highly recommend it if you´re looking for somewhere more upscale. We will defintely go back when we return to Santa Barbara.


Over Rated, Needs update

We sat down and the waiter said "we are really excited about the swordfish tonight" Glad they were. Food was bland and the atmosphere too quiet. The desserts were tastless and overblown. Way too expesnive for what you get. Maybe they will see this review and work on improvements.


Over Rated, Needs update

We sat down and the waiter said "we are really excited about the swordfish tonight" Glad they were. Food was bland and the atmosphere too quiet. The desserts were tastless and overblown. Way too expensive for what you get. Maybe they will see this review and work on improvements.


elegant class, gormet food

talk about service! my girlfriend and I had 3 waiters! their menu changes frequently depending on the chef´s specialty for the evening, and this place´s dessert will have you craving more then you can possibly eat. this place isn´t for cheapskates though ... it is definitly one of the highest class restaurants in downtown santa barbara. expect to pay about $50/person.


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