Santa Barbara is a town rich in Spanish history and culture, and we have the food to prove it. Tour the town one taco at a time and wash your meal down with a zesty margarita or cold Mexican beer. Viva!
Did you know October 4th is National Taco Day? A trip down Santa Barbara’s taco trail is a great way to savor the flavors of what is arguably Californians’ favorite food – the taco. Whether it’s national taco day or Cinco de Mayo or just plain ol’ Taco Tuesday, there’s a taco waiting to be discovered by you.
Best spots for Mexican food and taco lovers
For truly authentic tacos from some of the oldest and most well-loved taco spots in Santa Barbara, head over to Milpas and Haley streets. There you’ll find Taqueria El Bajio. This traditional taco joint serves home-made Mexican food and is where you’ll find the best pinto beans in town. Classic taco favorites are the carnitas tacos, or for the more adventurous, the lengua (flavorful cow tongue with onions and cilantro).
Next up for most authentic taco shack would be La Super-Rica Taqueria. This place owes a bit of its fame to the late Julia Child who tapped it as her favorite local taco shop. This quintessential taco house with bright blue and white exterior is famous with other taco loving celebrities, too, and even appeared in a Katy Perry video. Prepare to wait in line, as both locals and visitors know these tacos are worth the wait.
Head over to Haley Street to visit “one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in Santa Barbara offering traditional food with family recipes dating back 40 years.” Lito’s Mexican Food is the best way to start your day. Come here for the breakfast burritos or famous pork posole that was featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” TV show. You can view a video clip of the show with a peek into their kitchen as posted on their website: https://www.litossb.com/
Continue on Haley Street, following the scent of fresh pan dulce (Mexican sweet bread) to Los Tarascos Bakery and Deli. Humble on the outside but rich and sweet on the inside, this simple Mexican bakery and deli is well-known for its tortas (Mexican sandwiches), as well as mouth-watering fresh-baked Mexican pastries. If you want to take a break from tacos and try tortas, this is the place. Wash it down with a fresh juice.
Fish tacos by the beach
No trip to a beach town like Santa Barbara would be complete without fish tacos. Stop by East Beach Tacos, a small taco stand near the batting cages and just a few blocks from the beach. Fish tacos here are inventive, with fresh poke or Bahn-mi inspired tacos, in addition to traditional fish and shrimp tacos. Where else can you get specialty tacos for less than $10 bucks that would satisfy even the most finicky Mexican food connoisseur?
If you’re near the Santa Barbara Harbor, it’s worth popping into On the Alley, a casual stand that serves the type of food you want to eat after a day at the beach – fish & chips, clam chowder, and especially, Baja fish or shrimp tacos. Take your food to go and walk a few steps down to the sand for a beach picnic, just watch out for hungry seagulls.
It’s Cinco de Mayo or Taco Tuesday any day of the week here
Corazón Cocina inside of Santa Barbara Public Market offers a modern and innovative twist on Guadalajaran street food. Tacos here are colorful works of art. It’s a must-visit while you’re in town and a regular go-to for locals. Tacos on the menu include the Al Pastor (spit-roasted pork marinated in adobo, cilantro, salsa cruda and pickled habanero-pineapple salsa, wrapped in a corn tortilla); a traditional Birria taco (braised short rib, salsa macha, onions, cilantro, homemade corn tortilla) or Mole con Pollo (natural chicken, black almond mole, rice, onion, lime mayo crema, queso fresco, roasted almonds, homemade corn tortilla) or vegetarian favorites like the tempura cauliflower or roasted butternut squash tacos. If these don’t make your mouth water, you might want to check your pulse.
There are a couple of newcomers to State Street and these new taco spots are making a big splash in the taco scene. Crazy Jim’s Tacos Y Mas is located in the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara. “Taco Tuesday” is the best day of the week to visit this tacos and more spot with ‘three for $8’ crispy or soft tacos every Tuesday. Wash ‘em down with an ice cold Modelo, Corona or Pacifico beer…or perhaps a wine slushie.
The queso taco comes to Santa Barbara thanks to Yona Redz. The red birria tacos have been a hot trend in places like Los Angeles and the Bay area. Now, Santa Barbara has its own claim on the birria queso taco – a crispy, cheesy taco filled with slow-simmered, chili-soaked beef and a side of hot consommé. Order the birria queso taco combo, which includes three tacos, consommé dipping sauce and a soda. Dip the chili red taco into the consommé, a spicy chili broth that drenches the taco when you dip it. A soft crunch gives way to juicy, soft birria that has been simmered for hours before making its way to your plate. One bite and you’ll be hooked.
Ready, set, eat!
This is by no means and exhaustive list of all the taco spots in Santa Barbara. We invite you to go on your own taco excursion throughout Santa Barbara’s streets. Whether it’s your first trip to Santa Barbara or you’re a frequent guest, one thing we can say, is that you’ll never run out of new places to try. There’s a taco for every day of the week and every season.
Where to stay in Santa Barbara near the taco trail
Santa Barbara culture is rich in food and history. With an abundance of taco eateries and Mexican restaurants, an authentic and savory meal is just a block or two away from your beautiful vacation rental home. Enjoy rich tacos and sip on icy margaritas or cold beer under the Santa Barbara sunshine. Design your own taco tour in Santa Barbara and discover new hideouts and revisit old favorites.
Stay in one of our exquisite vacation rental homes near the taco trail and Santa Barbara beaches or popular Downtown destinations. Live like a local in one of our coastal rental homes where tacos and drinks are within steps of your front door. Search Santa Barbara condo and home rentals and check your dates at https://hallercoastalhomes.com/