Of the many and varied high-end California cuisine restaurants that crowd Santa Barbara , Bouchon (9 W. Victoria St., 805/730-1160, www.bouchonsantabarbara.com , daily 5:30 p.m.–close, $30) might be the best. Though it’s no relation to the bistro of the same name in Yountville, Bouchon prides itself on both creative cuisine and top-notch service every night.
You’ll pay a premium to dine here, but it’s worth it for a special night out. Your server will be your guide, helping you make selections from the menu, recommending wine pairings with each course, and answering any questions you might have about the restaurant or the food. California-style dishes are prepared with local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and the menu changes often based on what’s available.
The wine list is a special treat. It consists almost entirely of local wines—really local—from the Santa Barbara  and Paso Robles  regions. Servers have favorites and they’re generally great. The presentation of the food matches its quality.
The dining room features romantic low lighting, smallish tables, interesting artwork, and an outdoor patio that’s perfect for balmy summer nights.