Happy Hour in Santa Barbara

Happy Hour Santa Barbara

Getty Images

Now that Fiesta 2010 is behind us and the local nightclubs and bars have finished gouging tourists for drinks and cover charges, Santa Barbarans can get back to their normal happy hour. In Santa Barbara, a town with so many great places to eat and drink, there has always been a fierce competition for the happy hour crowd. But not all specials are created equal, and the happiest happy hours are a bit of a local secret. Here is a list of some of the local residents' favorites.

Wildcat Lounge
15 West Ortega Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Happy Hour: 4PM-8PM daily
Best Deal: Free appetizers and free pool

I have to start with the retro-trendy Wildcat nightclub just off State Street in East Ortega. I admit I am prejudiced, having worked there for nearly a decade as a live video artist, but I have always been mesmerized by the transformation that takes place during the course of the night. What begins as a relaxed, retro happy hour typical of a blue-collar neighborhood bar becomes a trendy, disco dance club by 10PM, voted Santa Barbara's favorite place to dance the last five years in a row by an independent poll. Less well known is the daily happy hour from 4PM-8PM. With drink specials, free food, including pizza and hot appetizers, a big-screen TV over the bar, and a pool table, there is always a relaxing vibe with a few friendly regulars during this quiet time. For the full experience, hang out for the disco transformation, with a different musical theme each night.

514 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Happy Hour: 4PM-8PM daily
Best Deal: Half-off appetizers and daily specials

The SandBar at 514 State Street has one of the most diverse happy hours in Santa Barbara. From an early 4PM-8PM drink and appetizer special to a special themed, late-night happy hour each night, the SandBar is always a lively place to eat, drink and dance. The most popular night is the long-running Reggae Tuesday, with bands from across the globe playing the world's best Roots music, and a 9PM-11PM, 2-for-1 drink special.

Madison's Sports Grill & Tavern
525 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Happy Hour: 4PM-7PM daily
Best Deal: Daily double-size drink special and 2-for-1 steaks

Just across the street, Madison's is a popular drinking and eating destination, especially with the college crowd. The daily double-size drink special from 4PM-7PM is one of the best happy hour specials in Santa Barbara and it's extended to 11pm on Fridays. There are also some great food specials, including 2-for-1 steaks from 7pm-9pm daily and all-you-can-eat beef ribs from 6PM-10PM on Tuesdays. With a functional dance floor and lots of eye candy sitting on the front patio, Madison's is a great singles hang out.

Joe's Café
536 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Best Deal: Stiffest cocktails in town

Also on lower State Street is Joe's Cafe, Santa Barbara's oldest restaurant and bar, popular for generations with local patrons. The bar has long been known for its strong drinks and long, open bar, conducive to conversation with friends and strangers alike. It is likely a first stop for party goers engaged in a night out on the town. Joe's doesn't really need an advertised happy hour since it always serves the strongest drinks in town. Joe's website even features a real-time countdown to last call each night, so you can check and see if you still have time to catch a drink.

The Brewhouse
229 W. Montecito Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Happy Hour: 4PM-6PM daily
Best Deal: Half-priced pints and $6 menu items

On the West side of town, two popular restaurants are the backbone of the local happy hour scene. The Brewhouse does indeed brew its own beer and offers an extensive menu in a fun, lively atmosphere. The happy hour takes place every day from 4PM-6PM and features half-priced pints of fresh-brewed beer, wine and well mixed drink specials, and early bird food specials. From Wednesday through Saturday nights, the house rocks with live music.

Neighborhood Bar & Grill
235 W. Montecito Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Happy Hour: Tues-Sat 2PM-8PM; Sun-Mon All Day
Best Deal: $4 drinks, $3.50 appetizers and $5 pizzas

Just next door is the lively Neighborhood Bar and Grill. The Neighborhood is similar in atmosphere to the Brewhouse, and many local patrons find themselves bouncing back and forth between the two lively spots. Happy hour specials at The Neighborhood Bar include $4 drinks, $3.50 appetizers and $5 medium pizzas. This local bar in Santa Barbara also offers happy hour deals for special events.

Mesa Café & Bar
1972 Cliff Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Best Deal: Top-shelf margarita specials

Up on the Mesa, families have gravitated to The Mesa Cafe since 1984 for the great food, an extensive fare reminiscent of grandma's home cooking. But the establishment has also served as the area's primary neighborhood bar for just as long. The bar is known for outstanding drinks including high-end daily specials. Top-shelf tequila margaritas are always on special, making any hour a happy hour at the Mesa Cafe. The restaurant and bar are open daily from 6AM until 10PM.

Shoreline Beach Café
801 Shoreline Drive
Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Happy Hour: 4PM-6PM daily
Best Deal: Buckets of Coronitas for $14.95

For an uncommon happy hour experience, the Shoreline Beach Cafe, just across from Santa Barbara City College, is one of the only local restaurants where you can literally lounge on the beach. On windy days, a Plexiglass dining deck protects patrons from a sandy food experience. A beautiful spot to catch the sunset or watch surfers and sailboats off Ledbedder Point, Shoreline sweetens the deal with generous happy hour specials. Among the 4pm – 6pm sunset special offerings are buckets of baby Corona beers called Corinitas for $14.95 as well as other drink and appetizer specials.

Santa Barbara Museum Café
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Happy Hour: Tue-Sun 3PM-5PM
Best Deal: Chagall Champagne Brunch 11AM-5PM Saturday and Sunday

Uptown State Street offers some great happy hour surprises as well. The recently re-opened Santa Barbara Museum Cafe may not be well-known yet, but I predict that will change quickly. Chefs Brenda Simon and Emily Stuart, who have nearly twenty years experience as gourmet chefs between them, have designed an affordable menu that changes in accordance with exhibits at the museum. Although the 3PM-5PM happy hour is a bit early, you won't want to miss the tapas special – three items from the tapas menu and a glass of wine for $15. On the weekends, the Chagall Champagne brunch menu is served all day. You can create your own mimosa, choosing from an array of flavors to add to your sparkling wine. If you go on Sunday you can even stroll through the beautiful Santa Barbara Museum of Art for free before or after your Bacchanalian experience.

Soho Restaurant & Music Club
1221 State Street, Suite 205
Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Best Deal: Nightly drink specials

Just up the street from the Museum Cafe, Soho Restaurant and Music Club offers gourmet dining and a steady calendar of world-class, live music. While the spacious Soho, with its large open-air patio, is well known for great food and music, it is not quite as famous for its happy hour. Daily specials make it a great place to hang out before a show or to just chat with friends. They also offer late-night drink specials and a late-night bar menu serving hot food on Friday and Saturdays until midnight.

More Santa Barbara Articles From Our Partners
Read Full Story

From Our Partners