Best Mexican Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Muy Delicioso: 10 Best Mexican Restaurants in Santa Barbara

Here is our take on the 10 best Mexican restaurants in Santa Barbara.

But first, a warning:

No matter how we organize this list, we are destined to make more than a few people mad. Everyone has a preferred Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara. Every local has a favorite dish. And we can't possibly hope to do justice to the huge array of amazing tacos, tortas and taquitos in town. 

So we start with the caveat that almost any Mexican restaurant you pop into during your stay will have something tasty for you to eat. Some may even offer a better chile relleno or more authentic shrimp cocktail than others on this list.

But every restaurant you see here is here for a reason: there is at least one thing that they do exceptionally well. One experience you won't find anywhere else.

Whether you're waiting in line at La Super-Rica for an ooey, gooey #6 (on homemade tortillas) or ducking into Lilly's for some cheek tacos, you are guaranteed a good meal. And, if and when you find something better, you be sure to let us know in the comments. It's our job to try new things, after all. 


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.

Read more about Super Cuca's →

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!

Read more about Cava Restaurant →

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.

Read more about Los Arroyos →


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.

Read more about Mony's Mexican Food →

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.

Read more about Cuernavaca Tacqueria →


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.

Read more about Lilly's Tacos →

Santa Barbara

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.

Read more about Los Agaves →

Santa Barbara

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.

Read more about Lito's →

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!

Read more about Rose Cafe →

Santa Barbara
La Super-Rica
Photo courtesy of Geneva Ives

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.

Read more about La Super-Rica →


Meet Geneva Ives

Geneva Ives moved to Santa Barbara in 2000 on a whim (ok, and to go to college) and never looked back. She loves Santa Barbara because it’s really one of America’s greatest small towns - it...  More About Geneva