Ten years ago, Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone was mostly a collection of vacant lots and run-down warehouses. But recently, chefs, hipster brewers and some of the region’s best wine producers have opened up shop, transforming the ’hood into a walkable, beachside playground for those who live for great food and wine.
Party-minded Oreana Winery was the first to put the “fun” in Funk back in 2004, and still throws costume-ready concerts while serving an eclectic array of wines. Be sure to get a glass of its Verdelho (ideally during the Beaver Moon Harvest Festival in November).
Santa Barbara Winery opened in the 1960s, when founder Pierre Lafond admits to calling the area “a slum.”
While the original outpost has solid well-priced selections, just down the block its sister spot, Lafond Winery, pours premium Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay.
On East Yanonali Street, Pali Wine Co. sells solid local Pinots (some less than $25) and AVA Santa Barbara offers varietals from each of Santa Barbara’s appellations, which you can sip while reading a wall mural that colorfully explains the region’s diverse grape-growing climates.
Municipal Winemakers is stylish, with steampunk tones that suit the cult bottlings of “Bright White” Riesling, “The Fizz” Sparkling Syrah and more.
Santa Barbara Wine Collective serves the producers that make sommeliers scintillate: Tyler, Lieu Dit, Vallin, and Notary Public, from South African winemaker Ernst Storm.
Pictured: Les Marchands
Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant—run by super-somms Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic, MS—sells and pours both obscure offerings and classics for the cellar, hosts frequent winemaker legends and Chef Weston Richards’s eclectic California cuisine.
The Lark is refined but raucous, serving haute but hearty family-style dishes amidst retro-rustic design.
Gourmet comfort grub is available next door at The Lucky Penny, which boasts knockout wood-fired pizzas, wine on tap and a wall covered by, you guessed it, thousands of shiny pennies.
Though technically a few feet outside of the Funk Zone, celebrated chef Ricardo Zarate’s Blue Tavern is worth the reservation. Wash down his urchin, scallops and shrimp toast with a cinnamon-topped Pisco Sour before diving into the to-die-for pumpkin-and-quinoa stew.
For simpler eats, the longtime craft brew-minded hotspot Union Ale is now becoming Tri-Tip Company, serving Santa Maria-style barbecue.
Mony’s makes some of the town’s best tacos, adding grilled pineapple to your adobada and offering adventurous cuts like beef cheeks and pork stomach (not belly).
Pictured: Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
Fight the crowds at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company for locally-themed suds, be it a Hurricane Deck DIPA (named after a backpacking destination), Davy Brown Ale (after a campground) or Lizard’s Mouth Imperial IPA (after a bouldering spot).
Go next door to Cutler’s Artisan Spirits, where chemist-turned-distiller Ian Cutler crafts Bourbon, vodka, gin and a sneakily strong sipper called Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur.
For last call, mosey to one of two speakeasy-style cocktail lounges: Reds Bin 211, which now offers tapas and plenty of live music, or Seven Bar & Kitchen, for those craving a substantial late-night meal. Head to the back patio, order up chicken and waffles and wind down after your day of Funk.
- 2The Wine
- 3The Food
- 4The Rest