Where to Eat This Week in Santa Barbara: Mesa Verde, Big Eye Raw Bar

Let’s go out to eat tonight. We’ve missed talking about food on the blog! It’s really been a while. Summer’s simply such an active season, full of events and sports and tourism. Here are two restaurants that we locals love…but which we haven’t yet shown any love for here: Mesa Verde and the Big Eye Raw Bar.

First stop: Mesa Verde.

Did someone say “empanadas”?

Maybe you said “avocado toast.”

Mesa Verde presents a menu absolutely bursting with fresh, in-season produce. The secret here is that the whole menu’s vegetarian or vegan, but that’s almost a bonus. You don’t see creativity like this coming from such relatively affordable restaurants if they don’t have a good reason to turn to more unique plant foods. Those empanadas? They’re jackfruit empanadas. Are you ready to eat yet?

We’ve got to go back to try their Summer Vegetable Pasta before it disappears from their menu. Unless you want to bring us some. Zucchini noodles, heirloom tomato, crimini mushroom, black kale, macadamia ricotta, and cashew parmesan? That sounds healthy, but also crazy delicious. We like when those worlds collide.

Next stop: Big Eye Raw Bar.

Understandably, the poke bowl shops are in the big leagues now.

Now we definitely heard you say “umami,” right?

Whether you’re looking for that classic ahi tuna, something a little spicier like wasabi teriyaki-dressed salmon, or you’re living the meat-free life: they’ve got you covered. Their veggie bowl looks particularly impressive for a vegetarian or vegan eater, with a pesto flair: it’s loaded up with pine nuts, basil, and a miso vinaigrette on top of the traditional base of sushi rice. You can even opt for a cauliflower-rice base, if that’s your prerogative.

Like Mesa Verde, they’re primarily pouring beer and wine. But the Big Eye Raw Bar is true to their roots, featuring several fun sake options delivered in mason jars. We like their pared-down menu, bold flavors, and food styling as beautiful as Mesa Verde’s. But this is really a place to hang out for a minute — they’ve got the free Wifi if you need it, and plenty of space to just relax.

We hope you get into some of these summer eats while you’re in town. But really: there’s no bad time for an empanada. Or a big pile of sushi rice.

See you soon!