I live in Santa Barbara. I do not personally recommend Mary's Secret Garden. With the caveat that I haven't been there in some time, when I was there I found the food bland, the portion sizes small and overpriced. I don't spend a lot of time in Solvang, but I definitely have some restaurant recommendations for Santa Barbara itself, not necessarily in order of preference: Pizza Guru
omni and vegan pizza options with an amazing crust and Daiya cheese. Don't forget to order a side of vegan ranch to dip your crust in.Saigon In and Out
Vietnamese with an omni menu and a vegetarian menu. Several locations. I do not recommend the faux shrimp or fish, I found them nasty and rubbery. I do recommend anything with the soy chicken, soy beef or tofu. The Pho is great, I love the charbroiled lemongrass soy chicken and the golden rolls (fried spring rolls, wrapper is eggless to my knowledge) which are served with cilantro, mint and lettuce leaves that you wrap them up in and then dip in a vinegary sauce. Empress Palace
nice Chinese place. Any beef dish or chicken dish can be done with soy counterparts. I love the soy generals chicken and the dry sauteed string beans. Also, not on the menu but can be made if you ask: spicy salt tofu. DELICIOUS if you like spicy food. A word of warning though, they have a live lobster tank which sometimes has lobster in it and sometimes does not. If this is too disturbing too you you may want to avoid the restaurant. You can request to be seated away from it, but I would understand if this would still be too upsetting. Your Place Thai
: http://www.yelp.com/biz/your-place-rest ... ta-barbara
Thai restaurant with Tofu options. Ask for no fish sauce. We eat here a lot and the food ranges from not bad to really good, depending on the night. Kind of greasy, but still generally delicious. I love the spicy eggplant tofu with basil, any of the curries, and the spicy mint noodles.
When you do a search for vegetarian Santa Barbara restaurants you will likely come up with Spiritland Bistro, the Sojurner and the Natural Cafe. Natural Cafe is standard hippie food, and really not bad. However, it is simple food that I could easily make at home with options like hummus and pita, a couple of veggie burgers, daily soups, a variety of salads, etc. Meat and veggie options. I do not recommend Spiritland Bistro because I feel it is vastly overpriced and the food when I have eaten there has been bland versions of ethnic dishes like Thai curries with tofu, etc. that would be far better and cheaper if you just go to a Thai restaurant. Sojurner is another classic California hippie place whose popularity escapes me because I find the food to be exceptionally bland and boring.
As far as Places on the way to Santa Barbara from San Diego, Mister and I loved Vinh Loi Tofu
in Reseda, and it's very convenient to the freeway, right near where the 405 and the 101 meet. We stopped there for lunch on our way from LA back to Santa Barbara. It's all vegan, and the menu is amazing. The owner makes all of his own tofu and mock meats. http://www.vinhloitofu.com/index.htm