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Secret Bao, Santa Barbara, CA

Secret Bao

4.8
4.8
183 Reviews
$31 to $50
Asian
Modern Asian American Restaurant from Chefs Peter Lee & Felicia Medina.

"Consider the bao. Chinese in origin, it’s most easily described as a steamed bun filled with something savory. Yet, like the American concept of a sandwich, the bao exploded into a flexible format of untold bounds — served at any meal, filled with you-name-it, completely closed or wide open, with endless regional variants from across Asia and far beyond." - Matt Kettmann (SB Independent)








1 Block From State Street, Easy Parking, Public Lot Nearby, Free 75 Minute Parking, Walking Distance, El Pueblo Viejo Landmark District, Superior Court, Spanish Colonial Revival Courthouse, Santa Barbara Museum Of Art, Courthouse Gardens, Bell Tower, Bao, Food, Restaurant, Asian, American, New, Modern, Fried, Chicken, Octopus, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paelo, Friendly, Dog Friendly, Outdoor Patio, Heaters, Warm, Inviting, Hospitable, Modern Design

Make a reservation

2 people

9:30 PM


Booked 16 times today

Order delivery or takeout

Other options

  • Order online

Dining areas

Additional information

  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Cuisines

    Asian, Tapas / Small Plates

  • Hours of operation

    Lunch Wed–Sun 11:30 am–2:30 pm Dinner Wed, Thu, Sun 5:00 pm–8:00 pm Fri, Sat 5:00 pm–9:00 pm

  • Phone number

    (805) 259-3226

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Contactless Payment, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

  • Owned/operated by

    Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx or Hispanic, Women

  • Executive chef

    Peter Lee & Felicia Medina

  • Neighborhood

    Santa Barbara

  • Cross street

    Anapamu

  • Parking details

    Free 90 Minute Lot Next Door

  • Additional

    Beer, Gender Neutral Restroom, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Takeout, Wheelchair Access, Wine

Popular dishes

What 183 people are saying

Overall ratings and reviews

Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant

4.8
4.8 based on recent ratings
  • 4.8Food
  • 4.6Service
  • 4.5Ambience
  • 4.5Value

NoiseModerate

Loved For

  • California Central Coast

    Best Food

  • California Central Coast

    Best Value

  • California Central Coast

    Fit for Foodies

  • Santa Barbara

    Best Overall

  • Santa Barbara

    Best Food

  • Santa Barbara

    Best Service

  • Santa Barbara

    Best Value

  • Santa Barbara

    Fit for Foodies

Sort by

Filters

  1. t

    tomandtol

    Central Coast

    6 reviews

    5.0

    6 reviews

    Dined 3 days ago

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    This is one of our very very favorite restaurants in SB. We love the casual atmosphere and the creativity of the food. We have been there many times and it never disappoints.
  2. LM

    LaurieM

    Louisville

    18 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    18 reviews

    Dined 5 days ago

    overall5food5service4ambience5
    Food was fabulous. Waitress was a little off but not in a way that we wouldn’t come back. Just not super helpful in ordering.
  3. WF

    WestsideFoodie

    Los Angeles

    24 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    24 reviews

    Dined 6 days ago

    overall3food5service3ambience4
    While I wasn’t happy that I had to wait 30 minutes for our reservation, it wasn’t tragic. The hostess did her best to communicate with us, and offered us some Champagne which we declined. We eventually sat down after they literally put the entire staff onto turning the table like a pit stop. I actually appreciated that. After we ordered our food, they showed up with an appetizer on the house. It was a nice gesture but I didn’t love the fact that they waited until after we ordered and they secured the check size. I get the business angle on that but the goodwill gesture loses most of its meaning and kind of goes the other way. The food was fantastic and served at a nice pace. But somewhere along the way my wife points out that the last dish we ordered was never going to arrive. I thought she was a little premature. When they started clearing our dishes the person clearing was sharper than the average bear (our server had not been by in quite some time) and asked if we were waiting on more food. I told her “I’m not sure.” She was clearly clever and read that signal and must have found the server and raised the concern. Soon the server came over to tell us “sorry, we are working on your noodles now.” I asked her point blank, “did they forget?” Her answer was a half truth - “they’re working on it.” Really, don’t lie. Just tell the truth: “The kitchen failed to do their job and lost the order- would you still like it?” At that point after the long wait for the table and the long wait to not get the last dish, I was done and just told them to kill it. This is a good restaurant with generally good and well intentioned people. But I hope the feedback helps them learn how to really recover from a service failure. It was still a nice Birthday dinner but I probably wont trust them for future celebrations or time compressed meals.
  4. V

    Victorianchick

    Central Coast

    5 reviews

    5.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on June 19, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Secret Bao lives up to the height. Burrata peach tomato appetizer OFF the hook. Minty savory Indian sauce with papadum incredible. The potato dumplings are transcendent. Just incredible. But TERRIBLE Cab (thankful they let me try): Tooth and Nail horrible. Also that syrah. Get the STORM Sauvignon. My new favorite Sauv.
  5. A

    Annie

    Baltimore

    38 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    38 reviews

    Dined on June 18, 2022

    overall5food4service5ambience5
    Great selection of food with excellent advice from our server.
  6. RF

    RebeccaF

    San Francisco

    4 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    4 reviews

    Dined on June 16, 2022

    overall5food5service4ambience5
    Secret Bao is my new favorite spot in Santa Barbara. Pricing is fairly reasonable and the taste is amazing. Have loved everything I’ve ordered here. Servers are super friendly and polite. I’ve been three times and it’s been consistently great, can’t recommend enough. One thing: not a ton of vegan options.
  7. CS

    CarolSB

    Los Angeles

    14 reviews

    4.0

    14 reviews

    Dined on June 13, 2022

    overall4food5service4ambience3
    The food was excellent. Service was decent.
  8. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Central Coast

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on June 12, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    We had a wonderful experience. The food was great, fresh and quality ingredients. Our server was wonderful and attentive. The parking garage is right next door which makes such a difference downtown. The place was packed at 6:00, so reservations were a must! We are already looking forward to our next visit!
  9. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Central Coast

    1 review

    vip
    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on June 9, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Excellent food. Great flavors. Highly recommend. Staff was great.
  10. K

    Keegan

    Central Coast

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on June 5, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Date night
  11. ES

    EdwardS

    New Orleans

    2 reviews

    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on June 4, 2022

    overall5food5service4ambience4
    This place is awesome and doesn't suffer in comparison to more famous places in LA and New York working in the modern Asian idiom. Really delicious inventive food, especially the buns, udon, bolognese, galbi, and crudos. The dessert were also awesome, especially the bing soo and butter mochi. Highly recommend.
  12. C

    Chloe

    San Diego

    5 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on May 30, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    The food was amazing and our waitress was sooo accommodating and kind!
  13. s

    sygyzy

    Central Coast

    7 reviews

    4.0

    7 reviews

    Dined on May 30, 2022

    overall4food4service4ambience3
    Food and service was excellent as always but we found hairs in two of our dishes. This is not a big deal but quite unsanitary. I understand mistakes happen but maybe it's time for better inspection at the pass or hairnets?
  14. FP

    FlowerPower

    Central Coast

    2 reviews

    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on May 27, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    We ate at Secret Bao on recommendation from friends. It was delicious! Our server was very attentive, enthusiastic, and compassionate about answering all our questions on ingredients and preparation. We will be happy to go again.
  15. K

    K7539

    Denver

    8 reviews

    5.0

    8 reviews

    Dined on May 22, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Everything was wonderful. Drinks were excellent. Food delish!
  16. EM

    EMMAW

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on May 12, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Such a great experience. The space is beautiful and the food was incredible. The waiters were extremely nice and attentive. Would highly recommend.
  17. SB

    SantaBarbaraNative

    Central Coast

    11 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    11 reviews

    Dined on May 9, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Great casual dining spot. Fun atmosphere and the food is delicious, with many dishes that are great for sharing. Highly recommended.
  18. L

    Lola

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on May 7, 2022

    overall4food5service4ambience5
    The food is amazing and comes out quickly. The only negative is that they are always out of something we want to order, but the food and service is so great we keep coming back!
  19. BF

    BudFood

    Los Angeles

    22 reviews

    5.0

    22 reviews

    Dined on May 7, 2022

    overall5food5service4ambience3
    Nice vibe. Excellent food. Ok service. Beer and wine only.
  20. o

    ojaicutie

    Los Angeles

    29 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    29 reviews

    Dined on April 30, 2022

    overall5food4service5ambience4
    Tasty, eclectic food, with lovely welcoming service. A bargain for downtown Santa Barbara
  21. J

    Jean

    Central Coast

    13 reviews

    3.0

    13 reviews

    Dined on April 29, 2022

    overall3food4service4ambience4
    18% as the lowest suggested tip on the bill? Get real! Food tasty, interesting, unusual. Good for a couple of times a year. Reasonably nice ambiance.
  22. SJ

    StJames

    Central Coast

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 28, 2022

    overall4food5service4ambience4
    Food was amazing, aside from Califlower dish, the we ended up canceling after waiting over 20 minutes. Cocktails are expensive, and not as good as the food. Servers were all very nice, and well trained.
  23. P

    Pewter

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 28, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Bright, friendly, fast, delicious. Udon Carbonara was such a comfort dish, I'd eat it every other day. The passion fruit cheesecake goes to a whole nother level.
  24. M

    Meme

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 28, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Food was fantastic , dining area was great.Service amazing.
  25. DH

    DanaH

    San Francisco

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 24, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    We loved the chili noodles and kung pao cauliflower!
  26. FA

    FroggyAuggie

    Central Coast

    3 reviews

    5.0

    3 reviews

    Dined on April 17, 2022

    overall5food5service4ambience4
    I am always wary of restaurants looking to “revolutionize dining in Santa Barbara” . . . In this case, pedigreed chefs really did open a place serving the food that everyone (or at least me) wants to eat. Salty, sweet, spicy, bright, crispy, soft. Crispy rice cakes with bolegnese was a standout. Yes, get the KFC and octopus bao buns. Service was very friendly and we had everything we needed. Wine list is concise and correct. Order a bottle or two of white. Take some agency on the pacing of your multiple menu items. Drink more water than you think you need.
  27. D

    Daedal29

    Palm Springs

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 16, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    SB best for sure! KFC and Pork Belly Bao is a must each time. I like to try their new items. Can’t go wrong with Udon Carbonara!
  28. EB

    EricB

    Central Coast

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 16, 2022

    overall5food5service4ambience5
    This is one of those restaurants where you can return multiple times and have a different but equally as satisfying experience. In fact you wan to return to try more food. Bring your friends, portions are all a little on the too big for one person size - or sometimes even a little bit much for two people. And since variety should, be your guide, I would say groups of three are a perfect baseline and plan to share.
  29. MF

    MikeF

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 10, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    This place is unbelievable! I am 100% coming back here! Pork belly bao is a must!
  30. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Denver

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 10, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Best baos, and food in general, that I’ve had in a long time. We had some sort of mochi pudding cake thing for dessert and it was life changing. So simple and so delicious. It was a fantastic meal and I’m already looking forward to our next one there.
  31. L

    Luv2dine

    Central Coast

    6 reviews

    5.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on April 9, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    Secret Bao was absolutely incredible! We’re so lucky to have this gem of a restaurant in our beautiful community, can’t wait to go back!
  32. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Portland

    6 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on April 9, 2022

    overall3food3service3ambience3
    Food was a bit on the salty side. Staff seems friendly but inexperienced. It was okay.
  33. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Seattle

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 9, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Amazing as always!!
  34. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Central Coast

    4 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    4 reviews

    Dined on April 8, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Always outstanding- love this place!
  35. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Los Angeles

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 4, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Overall great experience. It was delicious and the service was great!
  36. N

    Nancy

    Los Angeles

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 4, 2022

    overall4food5service3ambience4
    Food is great. One thing: they bring it all at once and they need to stage the food delivery when lots of plates are ordered to share.
  37. S

    Snowbird

    New England

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on April 3, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    Baos are great, particularly the KFC one. We also had some excellent dumplings and a tasty short rib dish. Service was attentive and very pleasant. We ate outside and it was lovely.
  38. s

    sandymv

    San Francisco

    5 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on April 1, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    Really great!
  39. ML

    MarcL

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on March 31, 2022

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner experience last night. I joined with a friend and we dined outside, where there were plenty of heaters to keep us toasty. Our server made some suggestions on what to try but I'd been browsing the menu online and already had a good idea of what I'd be getting. The octopus bao was out of this world, perfectly cooked and served on a delightfully pillowy bun. The steak katsu sando featured filet, which offered the perfect bite as you made your way through buttery fresh baked bread. A wine to pair was enjoyed throughout the meal. And, here's a PSA: get the basque cheesecake for dessert. Beautiful texture, hands down the best cheesecake I've ever had. Each dish was clearly designed with intention. And the hospitality makes you feel like you're part of the family. Run, don't walk, to secret bao.
  40. PF

    ProFatKid

    Las Vegas

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on March 28, 2022

    overall4food4service3ambience3
    Not bad for Santa Barbara. A mish mash of different Asian dishes. The die hards might balk, but an open mind will enjoy the udon carbonara, Spanish octopus bao and other fusion dishes.

Safety precautions

  • Cleaning & sanitizing

    • Surfaces sanitized between seatings
    • Digital, disposable or sanitized menu provided
    • Common areas deep-cleaned daily
  • Screening

    • Sick staff prohibited in the workplace

FAQs

You can order delivery directly from Secret Bao using the Order Online button. Secret Bao also offers takeout which you can order by calling the restaurant at (805) 259-3226.

Secret Bao is rated 4.8 stars by 183 OpenTable diners.

Yes, you can generally book this restaurant by choosing the date, time and party size on OpenTable.

Make a reservation

2 people

9:30 PM


Booked 16 times today

Order delivery or takeout

Other options

  • Order online
Google Map for Secret Bao

1201 Anacapa St Santa Barbara, CA 93101-2009

Dining areas

Additional information

  • Cross street

    Anapamu

  • Neighborhood

    Santa Barbara

  • Hours of operation

    Lunch Wed–Sun 11:30 am–2:30 pm Dinner Wed, Thu, Sun 5:00 pm–8:00 pm Fri, Sat 5:00 pm–9:00 pm

  • Cuisines

    Asian, Tapas / Small Plates

  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

  • Parking details

    Free 90 Minute Lot Next Door

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Contactless Payment, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Owned/operated by

    Asian and Pacific Islander, Latinx or Hispanic, Women

  • Executive chef

    Peter Lee & Felicia Medina

  • Additional

    Beer, Gender Neutral Restroom, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Takeout, Wheelchair Access, Wine

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