Local Must

Local MustSanta Barbara's best lunch spot is The Blue Owl for banh mi and salads. It was recommended by the teams at Warbler Records, Make Smith Leather, Breakfast Culture Club and tons of other local gems as part of the Dirt Road Travels city travel guide for Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara, California

The Blue Owl

"A special Santa Barbara secret."

Sama Sama
Topa Topa Brewing Company
Red Pepper Restaurant

The Blue Owl

"A special Santa Barbara secret."

Recommended by:

My Story

"I was a pastry chef at a hotel in town and I wasn't growing. I wasn't going to get a raise at that job, and there was nowhere for me to grow within the company.

So I just closed my eyes and thought, 'I think it would be OK if I just gave two weeks notice right now and I just see what happens and where life takes me.’

I did it. I gave notice, I moved out of my apartment and I moved in with my sister so I could figure out what to do next. It was so crazy.

One day, I was thinking about steam buns and then the idea just hit me! I started stuttering and I couldn't get it out until I screamed, 'I know! I should open up a pop-up shop!'

Immediately I was so excited. My sister gave me $500 and so did my mom and I bought all the food I needed at Costco on my AmEx card and I just opened the shop in a friend's restaurant. I didn't even know what my menu would be the night before we opened, but I just went for it.

And then nobody came.

Those first few nights were very depressing because nobody stopped by the shop. I think in Santa Barbara, people are sometimes a bit worried about trying new things, so my only customers were my friends who just happened to be walking by the shop.

But I kept going and I didn't quit. It took time, but that pop-up shop grew bit by bit.

When we finally did $300 in sales one night, it was so, so cool. It was such a big deal to me at the time! It felt like I was so busy, but looking back it was nothing compared to what Blue Owl has grown to become."

What I Love Most about Cooking

"I started baking with my grandma when I was 3 years old. She was this fun and crazy woman and we would just go into the cupboard and grab things and dump them together and make delicious foods. That really helped me to be creative.

Beginning in the 5th grade I started making dinner for my family every night.

I just love food! I love screwing around in the kitchen and making new things. I love when everyone leaves and the restaurant is quiet and no one is around because I can just make things and stay focused on the food. Cooking is a way for me to zone out and be happy, and that's how it's always been."

My Santa Barbara Musts

"I really like Sama Sama and definitely The Nook for burgers. I love Lama Dog and Topa Topa for beer. Also, there's a little Chinese restaurant in Goleta called Red Pepper Restaurant that's really great."

Pork Bahn Mi
‍Blue Owl Seasonal Salad

The Blue Owl


The Blue Owl
Cindy Black
The Blue Owl
Santa Barbara
Sama Sama
"The locals call them crack wings."
Topa Topa Brewing Company
"Topa Topa is amazing."
Red Pepper Restaurant
"It's a total hole in the wall, below an apartment complex."
The Blue Owl
"A special Santa Barbara secret."

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