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A taste of Mexico in Santa Barbara

20 Sep 2012 8:17 AM
A taste of Mexico in Santa Barbara

California is steeped in Mexican culture, especially in terms of food. From the fish tacos of the southern portion of the state to the historic burrito joints in San Francisco's Mission District, Mexico's cuisine has become an important component in the state's culinary heritage.

In this regard, Santa Barbara is no different. Residents of the city who enjoy classic and modern Mexican cuisine count themselves lucky due to the many renowned restaurants that traffic in Mexican fare. This is especially true during Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days Fiesta, an annual celebration of the area's rich tradition. Both Mexican and Spanish foods are celebrated, and many of the local restaurants tailor their menus specially for the occasion.

But it doesn't have to be Old Spanish Days Fiesta for owners of Santa Barbara real estate to dig into tacos, seafood and margaritas. All across the region, there are fine-dining options that delve into the country's storied and varied culinary traditions.

Cielito Restaurant and Taqueria
A relative newcomer on the scene, Cielito features dishes from across Mexico.

"With recipes from Mexico City to Oaxaca to Veracruz, as well as regions of South America, our food reflects a range of culinary traditions," the restaurant's chef, Ramon Velasquez, told Santa Barbara Magazine recently. "I incorporate traditional Mexican flavors with other world cuisines."

Velasquez also features seafood prominently, relying largely on his decade of experience as a sushi chef to think up new and interesting ways of combining incredibly fresh California seafood with traditional Mexican seasonings and recipes.

Located in the historic La Arcada marketplace, Cielito has already made a name for itself in its brief tenure, and is one of Santa Barbara's best bets for modern Mexican food.

Los Arroyos
Unlike Cielito, Los Arroyos has been a part of the Santa Barbara dining scene for many years. Opened in 1999, this vibrant restaurant has been attracting denizens of the city's gourmet scene with its fun atmosphere and flavorful food. In 2011, it won a readers' poll as one of the best restaurants in the area.

Found at 14 West Figueroa Street, Los Arroyos features fresh salsas and expertly prepared dishes that are well-suited for a first date or a family outing.

In a state filled with Mexican-influenced dining, Santa Barbara is in rarefied air in terms of the number and quality of restaurants geared toward and influenced by classic cuisine. Although these two institutions are local favorites, there are plenty of other establishments that provide a taste of the food from our southern neighbor.