For a delicious burrito the size of your thigh (or thereabouts), head to Super Cuca's. The undisputed winner of many, many local "best burrito" contests, Cucas (as the in-crowd calls it) is your destination for tasty Mexican food in massive proportions at super reasonable prices. Should you decide you're not in a burrito mood - weird, but we'll play along - their nachos, enchiladas and tortas are also epic. There are several locations, but this is the best one... complete with a butcher counter, shelves stocked with groceries and a varied selection of amazing Mexican popsicles. Try the coconut or cucumber mango. Eat on their covered patio or take your food to go.
Recommended for Mexican because: Good, cheap Mexican food, served in giant portions, made to order, with a basic selection of groceries onsite.
Geneva's expert tip: If you're in the mood for something muy caliente, ask for their secret extra spicy salsa when you pick up your order.
Cava restaurant opened in Montecito in 1997 and has been a favorite with locals and visitors ever since. Their menu features south-of-the-border favorites with a Santa Barbara twist - like locally caught seafood. Every table receives a basket of bottomless chips with house salsas (the black bean salsa is extremely popular). Regulars rave about Cava's inventive, handcrafted cocktails, like elderflower margaritas and spicy, chili-infused martinis. The cheery dining room features close-set tables, a fireplace, a bar and live music on most nights. If you're looking for a more intimate experience or have a large party, a private room can be reserved. Valet parking available.
Recommended for Mexican because: This is the fanciest Mexican restaurant in town. It's the place to go when you just want to be served a cocktail and fabulous fare.
Geneva's expert tip: Try the rock shrimp soft tacos or the guacamole. And don't forget a margarita!
Los Arroyos is a locally owned chain of Mexican restaurants that focuses on fresh ingredients and made-to-order food at reasonable prices. This downtown location is located just off bustling State Street and is the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner any day of the week. Place your order at the counter, pick your salsas and fixings from the self-serve salsa bar, then take a seat and relax; your meal will be brought to you. Los Arroyos serves great burritos and traditional dishes, as well as entrees that are inspired by Santa Barbara's seaside location. Their ceviche is great! To drink, los Arroyos offers Mexican sodas, fountain drinks, beer and wine.
Recommended for Mexican because: Los Arroyos has great service and something for everyone on their menu.
Geneva's expert tip: Sure you could eat at Los Arroyos, but a better idea is to order your food to go and take it to the Sportsman, the epic dive bar right next door. Just tell the bartenders that Geneva sent you.
Best food in the Funk Zone? Maybe. Best tacos in the Funk Zone? DEFINITELY. Head to Mony's for tasty, reasonably-priced tacos and a killer salsa bar, just a few blocks from the beach. If you're in the Funk Zone doing a little wine tasting (and let's just say you're a few tastings in), Mony's is the answer to your prayers. Get asada, pollo and fish tacos and more at this casual dining establishment. Enjoy free chips while you wait. They're really just a vehicle for Mony's amazing salsa bar anyway. Try pistachio salsa, mango salsa and many others, made fresh in house. Like the rest of the Funk Zone, this restaurant fills up quickly on weekends. Good luck finding parking!
Recommended for Mexican because: The tacos are good here, like really good, but the salsa bar - now that's to die for.
Geneva's expert tip: Get some fish tacos and pile on the pistachio salsa. Then get another fish taco, heap it with peanut salsa and let us know which you liked best.
This location of Cuernavaca Taqueria is a recent addition to popular branches in Oxnard and Ventura. Just two blocks off busy State Street, it's a real find for hungry travelers and a place that locals are likely to keep to themselves. The tacos here are amazing and the torta cubano is incredible. For a really delightful surprise, order one of their gorditas - they sound heavy but are actually delightfully light masa cakes stuffed with your choice of fillings. The veggies tacos here are tasty too, as are the potato taquitos when they have them. Limited free parking right out front with a great dive bar next door.
Recommended for Mexican because: The Mexican restaurant has dishes you can't find elsewhere in town, the prices are reasonable, and there's plenty of seating. Basically a triple threat.
Geneva's expert tip: Try the torta Cubana, veggie taco #1 and pretty much any gordita. And then hop next door for a drink, you know, to soak up all that food.
For the most authentic tacos in Santa Barbara, head to Lilly's tacos. Unobtrusively tucked in an out-of-the-way shopping center at the oceany end of downtown, Lilly's tacos has been serving up sizzling meats on soft corn tortillas to lines of customers for years. There are no chips, no rice and nary a bean in sight... just tacos. For around $2 a pop you can choose from a variety of meats, including asada, adobado and even ojos. Yep, you read that right! Lilly's proudly offers a variety of less-common taco fillings like eyes, tongue and cheek. Order a few, dress them up with salsa and lime, and scarf them down.
Recommended for Mexican because: The one true taqueria in town, Lilly's only serves (really affordable) tacos. If you're looking for something else, you're out of luck.
Geneva's expert tip: With such reasonable prices, Lilly's is a great place to try a taco that you wouldn't normally consider - like the cabeza or tripas.
Loa Agaves is a casual Mexican food restaurant in Santa Barbara. They serve tacos, burritos, nachos and other customary fare, but the highlight of their menu is their wide assortment of specialty dishes. Try an order of pulpo ceviche, rack of lamb mole or crab empanadas. Their specials change every day with an emphasis on what's in season. Place your order at the counter, make your choices at the fresh salsa bar and then take a seat while you wait for your food. The bright flavors and fair prices are both remarkable and well known, as indicated by the line of hungry patrons at dinnertime. This entry is for the original location on Santa Barbara's East Side. There are now several other locations throughout town.
Recommended for Mexican because: Los Agaves serves fresh, innovative Mexican dishes at reasonable prices and ALL of their seafood menu items are amazing. Salmon tacos for the win!
Geneva's expert tip: If you have time for a leisurely meal, order the molcajetes. A tomato-based concoction served with your choice of meat in a lava rock bowl, this dish comes to you still boiling and bubbling, garnished with chiles, cactus and more.
At first glance, this maybe isn't the kind of restaurant you expect to be sent to as a traveler. But trust us, it's delicious. Open everyday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., this family-run eatery serves up amazing breakfast burritos, delicious enchiladas, savory chile colorado and much, much more. Order at the counter, take a seat and enjoy some chips and homemade salsa while you wait. Or take your order to go. Lito's was even visited by Guy Fieri and featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" in 2011 (but don't hold that against them). Great prices and plenty of free parking on the street right out front.
Recommended for Mexican because: GIANT BURRITOS. MELTY ENCHILADAS. INSANE CHILE COLORADO. Are you hungry yet?
Geneva's expert tip: Go for breakfast. Open at 6:30 a.m., this place serves some of the tastiest breakfast burritos in town.
Repeatedly voted the best Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara, Rose Cafe is a family run, full-service establishment. Prices are reasonable and portions are generous. There is ample room for loud families and large parties. House specialties include enchiladas with green sauce, Mexican style breakfast dishes (many served all day) and less common delicacies like tongue. Delicious frozen margaritas are available by the glass or pitcher. Don't forget to grab a lollipop from the bowl by the door on your way out! One important note: the entire family takes a month of vacation after Christmas, and the restaurant is closed, so you should plan your chilaquile cravings accordingly. Free parking out front and out back. Worth admiring: there's some pretty killer art on the walls.
Recommended for Mexican because: Every town needs a classic Mexican restaurant for a large, fun, family-style meal. This is ours.
Geneva's expert tip: Go for breakfast. In addition to Mexican favorites, like chilaquiles, they have great pancakes and other morning classics!
For an authentic taste of Santa Barbara, drive up Milpas until, on the right, you see a little white shack with aqua trim. There is no obvious sign, but a line extending from the doorway will let you know that you're at the right place. This is La Super-Rica, famously lauded by the legendary Julia Child as one of her favorite places to eat. Most famous for their tacos, the other specialties on their menu are equally as enticing, from tamales to gorditas and pozole. Portions are small and prices are fair, so be sure to order a little more than you usually might. And while you're standing in line, peek through the windows to admire the view: each and every tortilla served at this establishment is made by hand, directly in plain sight.
Recommended for Mexican because: The #6, the #16, the chilaquiles special on Mondays, Isodoro... these things keep us coming back, in spite of the perpetual long lines.
Geneva's expert tip: Worth noting: it's cash only, you order by saying the number of each dish, and beans and rice are not served on the side here.