WEATHER »

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. 


Muchos Gustavo

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."

In Print

Ride Vintage Train, Benefit Gaviota Coast

Cruise the shoreline in style while raising cash for conservation. Read story.

California Bands Fill Venues this Week

Hear Music from The Adolescents to Canned Heat to Internet

State Street will be humming with music from bands including The Adolescents, Canned Heat, and Internet. Read story.

Bob Cooley’s Gift of Flexibility

Explorations in Health with Santa Barbara’s Newest Bodywork Guru

Explorations in health with Santa Barbara’s newest bodywork guru. Read story.

The Divine Canine

Pope and Donald Trump to Duke It Out at Chumash Casino

The Pope and Donald Trump to duke it out at Chumash Casino. Read story.

Santa Barbara’s First Ever Argentine Festival

Yerba Mate, Empanadas, and Cumbia Down on Cabrillo Boulevard

Yerba mate, empanadas, and cumbia down on Cabrillo Boulevard at Plaza del Mar on July 11. Read story.

Great Grills of Fire

The Santa Barbara Independent’s 6th Annual Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest

The Santa Barbara Independent’s 6th Annual Sizzling Summer BBQ Contest. Read story.

Night of the Living Dog

SCOTUS Giveth, and SCOTUS Taketh Away; Poodle Riffs on Recent Death Penalty Ruling

SCOTUS Giveth, and SCOTUS Taketh Away; Poodle Riffs on Recent Death Penalty Ruling Read story.

How Will Strict New Vaccine Bill Affect S.B. Schools?

Supporters and Skeptics Weigh In

Supporters and Skeptics weigh in on the controversial legislation. Read story.

Native Landscaping with Botanic Garden’s Easy Eight

A List of Hard-to-Kill, Drought-Tolerant Plants to Put in Your Yard Today

A list of drought-tolerant plants to put in your yard; plus, who has the wisest garden in town? Read story.

Meet the Least Terns of Skinny Bear Lake

Summer Is a Great Time to Visit Oso Flaco Lake Near Guadalupe

Summer is a great time to visit Oso Flaco Lake near Guadalupe. Read story.

David Gray Plays Santa Barbara

Singer/Songwriter to Play the Bowl on Wednesday

The award-winning singer/songwriter will play the Bowl on Wednesday, July 8. Read story.

UCSB Arts & Lectures 2015-16 Season

Series Subscriptions On Sale Now

Series subscriptions are on sale now. Read story.

Black Sheep Finds Growing Sta. Rita Hills Roots

Peter Hunken and Amy Christine’s Lompoc Winery Plants for the Future

Lompoc winery behind Holus Bolus plants for the future; will pour at Saturday’s S.B. Wine Festival. Read story.

Music Galore in Santa Barbara This Week

Johnny Cash Tribute, Standing Sun Concerts, Martin Gore, and More

Check out the Johnny Cash Tribute, Standing Sun Concerts, Martin Gore, and more this week. Read story.

The Dude Works to Feed Santa Barbara’s Hungry Kids

Jeff Bridges Raises Awareness of Hunger in Santa Barbara This Summer

No Kid Hungry, Led by Jeff Bridges, Helps Bring Food to Children Throughout Santa Barbara this Summer. Read story.

event calendar sponsored by: