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“It's not just a dinner, it's an experience.”
Review of The Lark

The Lark
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Ranked #6 of 553 Restaurants in Santa Barbara
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $20 - $30
Cuisines: American, Contemporary
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Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine
Dining options: Late Night, Breakfast, Outdoor Seating, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Transit: Enjoy a train ride to Santa Barbara from southern or northern California and meet us at The Lark. No driving required.
Description: The Lark pays homage to the history of California train travel and tributes the treasured and long gone Santa Barbara Fish Market, built in the 1920’s as a commercial fish processing plant, shipping their seafood products throughout the state by rail. With an imaginative yet approachable menu created by the gifted Jason Paluska, The Lark celebrates everything found around Santa Barbara County – wineries, farms, ocean and natural beauty. The stunning design strives to connect to the past and the future, using discovered objects from the past and blending them with modern, urban and industrial materials to spectacular effect.
Reviewed August 23, 2014

This place has it all. Great food, first of all, that is creative, gourmet, and healthy. It's interestingly prepared AND presented. The wait staff are professional, knowledgeable, and also kind of interesting. Their individuality comes out in the way they dress, interact, and carry themselves. In so many restaurants, the waiters/resses are either stiffed out by heavy-handed corporate culture, or else are indifferent, unhinged, or just plain callous. Somehow, these guys and gals seem liberated, but they conduct themselves with a caring freedom, seasoned by training, that offers their best to you the customer. They do not try to upsell you, rather they seem to truly be looking for your best interests. Such a fresh approach, it sort of leaves you curious. The ambience evokes similar feelings, with all the old wood beams, plates of blown (and broken!) glass, rustic chandeliers, with yet the modern bustling kitchen behind plated glass for customer viewing. The whole scene is a feast for the senses, more amazing considering there is no real view anywhere outside its confines. The dishes are all meant to be shared, and the platters are large enough to be split. The fish platter and flank steak were both excellent quality, cooked perfectly, and come with all kinds of veggies tossed to and fro about the cutting board on which the food arrives. As I said, it's a creative presentation and reminds me of eating dinner in France, where a you get a plate of food that looks like a mini tornado hit your dinner - with bits of yummy-this and wow-that scattered all over place, leaving you on a search and eat mission with all sorts of surprises along the way. My wife might have asked me, as she did in France, 'how do begin to make something like this?' To which I would have said 'don't even try this at home'. Ok, onto drinks. Excellent wine selection. Also, I ordered the cocktail special for my elderly mother. It was so complex that senses were too overwhelmed and unequipped to comment due to the small sip I took. My mom did give in a thumbs up in her own way. Any downsides? 1) It is a bit trendy, but in a Santa Barbara way, meaning non-intimidating as it would be in a large city. My octogenarian mom and 6 year old did not feel or look out of place, maybe because everyone seems to be having such a good time. The family next to us also had a 3rd grader with them so my daughter had someone to talk to. 2) The burger meat for my daughter was not grass fed and from 'somewhere in the midwest.' Not the answer we wanted to hear, but I appreciated the honesty. Sourcing is of interest and concern to me, so this was a disappointment. 3) The wine is somewhat expensive, clearly the profit driver of the place, but they do have quite a machine to keep going here so I personally don't mind paying for it because they are offering such an experience. Perhaps that is best way to sum up this place. It's not just dinner. It's an experience. For this reason, I can't help but give them 5 stars, despite a few minor negatives. I've been here 3 times, and will return many more.

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2  Thank Wonderer777
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 20, 2014

My local friends tell me this is one of the best restaurants in Santa Barbara, but it's hard to book! Tuesdays seem a little quieter. There are great plates for sharing, which is great for those of us who look at a menu and instantly love everything. I can particularly recommend their brussels sprouts, not something I ever thought I'd hear myself saying about anywhere. Also the whole roast chicken is quite spectacular - it's quite an achievement to make a memorable dish from such homely ingredients. Great service and desserts you won't want to share (well, my daughter didn't, anyway).

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Thank Arthurascii
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 19, 2014

Our evening started off by being sat at a lovely table outside, immediately upon arrival (had a reservation). Since it was a Saturday night this was a good beginning. However, we sat there for 10 minutes with servers buzzing all around us and it was like we were invisible-no one acknowleged our presence once the hostess sat us. Finally my husband got a server's attention and asked if he was our waiter. Although he was not, he immediately volunteered to bring water and find our server. She arrived shortly thereafter and from then on the service was "ok", not great by any means.

As mentioned before, this is primarily family style dining with lots of small plates on offer. We had the olives (not the best in town), Little Gems Wedge (fabulous), Hanger Steak and the Half Chicken (very good and a good portion). We were debating on the Hanger Steak between Medium Rare and Medium. The server suggested she would ask for it to be done between the two. It arrived charred on the outside and raw on the inside; there is no way it was medium rare and certainly not medium. I could not eat it but my husband said it was "fine". My advise is to be very specific how you would like your meat cooked. My other comment on the food is that most dishes have some sort of spiciness to them. After several dishes it gets very repetitive.

As for wine, it is a good wine list but the prices do seem high. With a $20 corkage fee, you might want to consider bringing your own special bottle.

Finally, this is a very popular restaurant right now and the interior space is VERY loud. If you are not with a group or want to carry on a conversation, take time to make a reservation outside. It is a lovely patio.

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1  Thank CAKath2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 18, 2014

We found this (via tripadvisor) on our second night in SB and ate there again on the third night as it was so good. We hadn't booked when we first arrived but were lucky that 4 spaces became free on the sharing table, so we sat there. We then booked a table for the next day. Service was very good, friendly and knowledgable. Great choice of wine and cocktails. Food was all delicious. Lots of unusual flavours and combinations. Special mention for the steak, crab, and the best broccoli I've ever tasted! It was full both nights we were there and had a great atmosphere, would love to go again sometime.

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Thank Walkercjg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 18, 2014

the Lark is anything but a lark, this is serious contemporary dining in a relaxed atmosphere. A noisy group of friends from across the USA gathered for a dinner and drinks on a Thursday evening August 2014. We were seated outside by our choice and the evening required the infrared heaters and the ladies also wore light sweaters. The wines were great and to our mind not over priced, dinner verged on family style with shared dishes being passed. Multiple wine bottles and entrees in the end closed out each couple at $120 which included tip. Highly recommended for small groups from 4-8 persons.

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Thank O2BnVA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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