Vicenta’s Chef Jonathan Ruiz (left) and owner Carlos Luna are now serving modern spins on traditional Mexican food in Goleta, under a name that honors the strong women in their lives.
Paul Wellman

Located in Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace, Vicenta’s is a new, chic, upscale Mexican restaurant, another addition to the blossoming Goodland foodie scene. It is the latest ideation from Santa Barbara restaurateur Carlos Luna, the talent behind the Los Agaves and Santo Mezcal restaurants.

“We’re looking to hit the sweet spot right in between Los Agaves and Santo Mezcal,” explained Luna, who designed a menu of shareable items that put a modern spin on traditional Mexican dishes, both in presentation and ingredients. “Our location is ideal for bigger groups, and the full-service model is a nice change for guests looking for a slightly more elevated experience.”

Paul Wellman

The 3,500–square-foot restaurant — which sports a clean and stylish vibe along with fine furnishings, colorful artwork, and a large central open dining area with intimate booths on its edges — is already buzzing with customers. While Santo Mezcal focuses on tourists, and Los Agaves is a little quicker and simpler, Vicenta’s is focusing on the locals. Said general manager Daniel Sanchez, “We’re trying to have a menu with good presentation, with every little detail, and we think you can have quality without being too expensive.”

Along with the usual suspects, burritos, salads, tacos, and burgers, Vicenta’s menu fuses traditional Mexican cuisine with freshness and sophistication all while staying modern and easygoing. For starters, try the esquites, which is Mexican street corn elevated with mayo, lime, queso fresco, and chile piquin. Or opt for the queso fundido — think Mexican fondue with chorizo, shrimp, or mushrooms, paired with chips, salsa, and their decadent guacamole.

Their specialty margaritas are all made with Patron Blanco, including the Margarita Moro, which mixes tequila with blood-orange/sage/thyme syrup, lime juice, and dashes of Angostura. Garnished with a cayenne/black-sea-salt rim, a blood orange wheel, and a sprig of mint, it quickly makes you crave an entrée.

Paul Wellman

I went for the Burrito Marinero: Shrimp, salmon, and all the burrito fixings, with a healthy drizzle of chipotle aioli and a side of fries presented in a mini deep-fry basket. Or stay on dry land with the highly recommended Hamburguesa Ciudad de México: Wagyu beef, grilled onion aioli, swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onions served with fries.

Take your glass and head to the roaring fireplace outside, which is the perfect place to retire for dessert. Go for the flaky and light churros with chocolate and caramel dipping sauce, a necessary order.

Vicenta's restaurant
Paul Wellman

You may not want to leave, and that’s okay. “We’re trying to take a little bit more care of you and not press or push you out,” said Sanchez. “You can come here for lunch or dinner or a drink and take your time.”

As to the name, Luna picked it to shine light on the powerful women who’ve led him through life. “In Mexico, ‘Vicenta’ is a name that is often associated with strong women,” said Luna. “The name pays tribute to the strong women in our own families that have helped shape who we are. The Vicentas are all those women who live, fight, and transcend with the conviction of always staying authentic and true to their origin.”

Those women would certainly be happy with his latest creation.

6920 Marketplace Dr., Goleta; 837-8430;


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