No matter your location in our fine seaside hamlet, you can rest assured you are never more than a short trip away from a taquería. From semi-secret holes-in-the-wall and jam-packed destination restaurants to wandering food trucks and deli counters snuggled in the back of convenience stores, Santa Barbara has a mind-boggling number of places to get your taco fix. We are, without a doubt, a taco town of the highest order.
The origins of the taco remain shrouded in mystery. Some say the tradition began in 18th-century Mexico with silver-mining operations and the practice of using little wrapped-up wads of dynamite in paper to plug holes; others point to evidence of indigenous folks in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico wrapping small fish in maize cakes long before the Europeans ever showed up. Either way, there is no debate about what they have become — one of the most popular, tasty, and reinterpreted cultural exports from our south-of-the-border neighbors.
And while the end result now comes in many flavors and foodie-inspired incarnations, the basics are the same for true authentic tacos: a warm, soft corn tortilla wrapped around a pile of meat that can (and should be) eaten with your hands. As Noe Vargas, whose family runs Taquería El Pastorcito on De la Vina Street, said, “Traditionally, tacos are what we call antojitos, a quick bite that is eaten on the go. It is something that you crave that will satisfy you but is not necessarily a meal. It is also important to pair it with a salsa or a topping like cilantro and onions and lime. The perfect taco must always be accompanied by the perfect salsa.”
With Fiesta beginning next week, we at The Santa Barbara Independent thought it appropriate to celebrate our city’s vast, varied, and ever-growing lineup of taco spots. Be they tried-and-true culinary institutions, new additions, or often-overlooked gems, our goal was to showcase the best authentic and/or noteworthy taquerías around while also dishing out some hard-earned intel on what exactly goes into making a taco sing such an alluring song. (In the name of expediency and devotion to Santa Barbara’s many proud taquerías, this guide focuses solely on taco spots located within Santa Barbara City proper.)
Get your taste buds ready, and enjoy this salsa-ready tour of Santa Barbara, California, a k a Taco Town, U.S.A.
Gustavo Uribe, The Indy's classical reviewer, brought his father, Gustavo Uribe, on staff to write in the Real Estate section as the Gardenator, an uninhibited dispenser of gardening wisdom for these parched times. Audience reaction to both have made them a hit, with one drawing on a music composition master's from CalArts and the other his longtime professional experience to lend their words flavor and authority. "He is a man of few words," said Gustavo the Younger of his father, "but full of Vicente Fernández lyrics."
Selected stories from our weekly newspaper.
Young Surf Stars Team with Surf Happens to Put on Surf Out at Jalama Beach
Young surf stars team with Surf Happens to put on Surf Out at Jalama Beach on August 8. Read story.
Rapper’s Hope Ranch Beach Record Speaks to Refuge and Positivity
The rapper’s Hope Ranch Beach speaks to refuge and positivity. Read story.
Poodle Sings “You Don’t Miss Your Water ’Til Your Reservoir Runs Dry”
Poodle sings “You Don’t Miss Your Water ’Til Your Reservoir Runs Dry.” Read story.
Curator of Santa Barbara Surfing Museum Inducted Into Simi Valley Hall as Icon
Curator of Santa Barbara Surfing Museum inducted into Simi Valley hall as icon. Read story.
Alt-Rockers Play Blue Skies in It’s Entirety; the Mutineers, Odessa Support Area Music Camp for Young Women
Alt-Rockers play Blue Skies in it’s entirety, and the Mutineers and Odessa support area music camp for young women. Read story.
New Book Sheds Light on the Man Who Built the First California Missions
A new book sheds light on the priest who built the first California missions. Read story.
No Barbarians at Gate in Wake of Prop. 47
There are no barbarians at the gate in the wake of Prop. 47. Read story.
Homegrown Herbal Beverage Company Celebrates Anniversary, Debuts New Dandelion Draft
Homegrown herbal beverage company celebrates anniversary, debuts new Dandelion Draft. Read story.
How Santa Barbara Firm of Landscape Architects Can Brighten Your Backyard
How this Santa Barbara firm of landscape architects can brighten your backyard. Read story.
Nine-Year-Old Singer/Guitarist Wows with Big Voice and Bright Spirit
Nine-year-old singer/guitarist wows with a big voice and a bright spirit. Read story.
Four Years of Extreme Drought Taking Big Tolls
Four years of extreme drought are taking big tolls on Santa Barbara's living things. Read story.
Former Wimbledon Quarterfinalist Excels at Santa Barbara Tennis Club Tourney
Former Wimbledon quarterfinalist excels at Santa Barbara Tennis Club tourney. Read story.
Both Santa Barbara Bands Releasing New Songs this Summer
Two Santa Barbara bands release new songs this summer. Read story.
How Congress Will Make Lemonade from Recent Oil Spill
How Congress will make lemonade from the recent oil spill Read story.
New Proposal Challenges Current Plan
A new proposal directly challenges the current EBID plan. Read story.