Getting Funky in Santa Barbara

Mural I saw in the Funk Zone, circa 2012

Santa Barbara is known for being the American Riviera, with glamorous homes nestled into the Santa Ynez mountainside that serves as a stunning backdrop to a city filled with palm tree-lined streets and Spanish style architecture. Relatively new to the city is the Funk Zone, a hip downtown arts district where converted warhouses slathered in colorful graffiti murals are now home to shops, food and drink. There is an ever-growing list of breweries, urban wineries and restaurants within walking distance of each other. Gather some friends and spend a Saturday hopping around these spots, or visit only a couple if you’re hesitant about potentially spending Sunday hungover and binging on Netflix. Either way, here are some venues that you don’t want to miss.

The Lucky Penny pizza, via their Facebook

Fuel up for your afternoon of eating and drinking by starting out in the center of the Funk Zone at The Lucky Penny. The exterior of this farm-to-table restaurant is completely covered in pennies-thousands of them-and makes great casual eats. Their artisisal style pizzas from the wood-fired oven are the stars of the show, but they also offer sandwiches and salads you can eat on their outdoor patio.

When you’re filled up on pizza, walk around the corner to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. Inspired by the scenic Santa Ynez Valley, this brewery makes craft beer with dedications to local history. For a West Coast taste, try the Hoppy Poppy IPA, made in mind with the poppies that grow on the Figueroa Mountain hillside in the spring. Get a flight of tasters and enjoy the dog-friendly patio.

For a change of pace (or palate), head on over to Municipal Winemakers. The most funky tasting room in the area, the interior decor is vintage chic, with stacked filing cabinets and paintings of people and dogs lining the walls. All of their wines are very drinkable, and the Syrah tends to be a favorite.

Santa Barbara Wine Collective interior, via their website

The Funk Zone is filled with over 20 tasting rooms to choose from, so head on over to the Santa Barbara Wine Collective to keep your wine train rolling. This communal tasting room is a newer addition and offers a wide range of local wines from Santa Barbara. Taste wines from different parts of the county side-by-side, and learn about their winemaking practices. Swing by the in-house Helena Avenue Bakery and grab some artisan bread and pastries to soak up all of the (delicious) alcohol in your stomach — and maybe sober up a little.

As the day moves into night, more taprooms and food await. The Funk Zone is located far enough away from the nightclubs on State Street that you won’t run into many stumbling college kids at night (coming from personal experience), and is situated closer to Highway 101 and a short walk away from the wharf. Catch the sunset if you can. You won’t want to pass up dining at The Lark for dinner, a highly rated restaurant that serves family style cuisine of the Central Coast. Located in the old Santa Barbara Fish Market building, the interior has moody lighting, wood panels and industrial-rustic design that gives it a modern and intimate feel. Make a reservation, because grabbing a seat at the communal table isn’t always easy. The menu is seasonal New American, and it is best to test out the wide variety of dishes as appetizers. If you’re still powering through, end your night by checking out the taproom Lama Dog and the conjoined Topa Topa brewery. Both offer an eclectic mix of local brews with good jams and friendly staff.

Mini cupcakes at Corks n’ Crowns, via their Facebook

If you’re up for it, start your lazy Sunday morning back in the Funk Zone at Corks n’ Crowns. This tap room has something perfect if you drank too much Saturday and need a little “hair of the dog,” or just like starting your morning off with something sweet. Get a flight of three sparkling wines paired with three mini cupcakes for a unique tasting experience. Enjoy the sunshine and do a Funk Zone Art Walk, or check out one of the local galleries to finish off your time in this little area of beautiful Santa Barbara.

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