We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“fabulous experience”
Review of Downey's

Reserve with OpenTable
Downey's is not available for your requested time. Choose another time, or search restaurants with availability.
The time you selected has already passed.
Ranked #20 of 534 Restaurants in Santa Barbara
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $30 - $60
Cuisines: French, Seafood, Contemporary
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Special occasions, Local cuisine, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Late Night, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Cross street: Victoria
Description: Downey's restaurant is the cornerstone of fine casual dining on State Street in the heart of the downtown Santa Barbara theater district. Chef John Downey has been serving "Farm-to-Table" cuisine since 1982. The dining room is comfortably furnished with well-spaced tables allowing for pleasant dinner conversation. Original plein-aire landscapes of local scenes painted by co-owner Liz Downey adorn the walls. Liz also is most often overseeing the smooth running of her dining room where you may expect professional yet friendly service.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Level 6 Contributor
150 reviews
127 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 53 helpful votes
“fabulous experience”
Reviewed January 31, 2009

We had a wonderful meal and enjoyed chatting with Liz about the restaurant and family. Everything was fresh and delicious. The wine list included some that weren't out of the park... we definitely would go back there again if we have the chance! Top on the list!

Thank marytspecs
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

356 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Woodland Hills, CA
Level 5 Contributor
71 reviews
48 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
“Santa Barbara Gem is still great”
Reviewed January 5, 2009

The owners, John and Liz, have been serving excellent food in this location since 1982. On a recent visit, we were treated with outstanding food and service that was personal and attentive. The mussels were superb, plentiful and tasty. We also enjoyed our watercress and spinach salad. My order of duck was served "peking" style and the best I have ever tasted. My wife greatly enjoyed her ahi tuna that was seared to perfection.

Fortunately, we left room for dessert. We shared a white chocolate mousse layered with filo dough and infused with fresh raspberries and a pear tarte with an almond crust. Wow!

Thank Alswed44
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
“My favorite restaurant in SB. Quality food.”
Reviewed July 9, 2008

My favorite restaurant in SB. Quality food.

Thank A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
This review is the subjective opinion of an individual contributor and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco Bay Area
2 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Solid food, but needs updating”
Reviewed March 19, 2008

My husband and I made Downey's our last stop on our three-day food tour of Santa Barbara (having already eaten at Bouchon and Square One). We saved Downey's for last because we anticipated it would be the best. Overall, it offered a tasty but predictable experience. (For comparison sake, the food was comparable to our dishes at Bouchon and Square One.)

Bottom line: Great staff; the food was quite good but it did not live up to the expectation of "Santa Barbara's best restaurant" or the Zagat food rating of 28, but the food matched the price. Even though the menu is new every night, there is little that struck me as inventive or creative. The overall experience felt very traditional, maybe a little dated (the caveat here is that we're from San Francisco where all the restaurants are ultra modern in decor, service and food so we may have unrealistic expectations).

What I loved about this place: staff was genuine, well-educated and attentive (bordering on overly attentive). The staff uses a team approach (e.g. you don't have one waiter...everyone waits on you) and this sounded good in theory but we saw this approach break down a couple of times (it took a long time for someone to take our drink orders, we had to ask for bread and after telling one waiter we would skip the cheese course, the next waiter brought over the cheese cart to tell us all about their various cheeses).

I have to give kudos to the group for being very accommodating of my food restrictions (I'm pregnant...and a little particular about raw meats, uncooked eggs and soft cheeses). We mentioned it once and never had to again. Very impressive!

Appetizer: We started with appetizers of the Artichoke Heart Salad and the House Smoked Prosciutto with Pears. The artichoke was perfectly cooked and the vinaigrette was tangy without overpowering the delicate taste of the Artichoke. The Prosciutto was a highlight of the evening (dessert being the other). Delicate texture, excellent taste. The pears cooked perfectly to match.

Salad: Split the Mixed Green Salad. Nothing remarkable here. It was a salad.

Main Course: I had the Duck Breast and my husband had the Lobster and Snapper. The duck was well-prepared with excellently balanced flavors...but nothing about its taste, preparation or presentation was especially striking or distinctive. The lobster and snapper on the other hand were divine. Succulent, saucy and visually appealing.

Dessert: All of their desserts are made in house by a pastry chef and you can tell. My husband had the marbled cheesecake. I'm not a cheesecake fan but he is and he said it was very good but, again, nothing exceptional. I had the specialty of the house, the "Mille Feuille". White chocolate mousse is sandwiched between two layers of pastry shell with fresh raspberries for accent. This dessert will haunt me forever. Simply amazing. The mousse was dense, yet light in taste (not too sweet!), the pastry crust wasn't overly fatty or oily...perfectly crisp and each raspberry tasted as if it were hand-selected for its ripeness. Divine!

1 Thank Gypsyfeat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
Level 4 Contributor
40 reviews
8 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 245 helpful votes
“Excellent from start to finish”
Reviewed February 20, 2008

From the time you walk in to this lovely restaurant, the service is welcoming and friendly. We had a table in the back of the restaurant, so we could see everything. The food was divine. The salads and appetizers were excellent. The wine list is really extensive with a wonderful selection. Our entees were tres magnifique! And we had to order desert because they had this cart full of beautiful offerings sitting in the dining room during our whole visit. It just looked too good, and voila, it was! (I actually don't speak French, I just watch a lot of t.v..) A good marketing strategy having that desert cart out all night, by the way. Above all, the service was the best we've had in Santa Barbara. There is no doubt we'll return.

2 Thank lovegoodhotels
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers who viewed Downey's also viewed


Been to Downey's? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Owners: What's your side of the story?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing