Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Augie’s, the distinctive Jeff Shelton–designed, blue-tile-arched, Margarita mecca on 700 State Street, has reopened with a new menu but the same fantastic drinks, warm service, and distinctive style.

Originally opened in October 2022, the restaurant closed in 2023 in order to refresh the concept from fine dining to a more affordable and simpler menu. I caught up with the current manager Hector Arellano to try his favorite dishes and get the full scoop on Augie’s 2.0.

“I changed the whole menu,” Arellano explained. “I lowered the prices, and thank God, it’s working pretty well.”

Andrea Astoquilca and Frankie Carachure show off a wealth of tequila and mezcal options at the bar. | Photo: Ingrid Bostrom

Sitting in a cozy booth, and looking out at the same fully stacked backlit bar, warm tiled floors, sunlit interiors, and bustling patio full of a happy mix of tourists and locals, I couldn’t help but agree — the menu’s working. 

Arellano originally moved to Santa Barbara from Miami in order to help open Flor de Maiz, of which Augie’s owner and famed tequila creator Augie Johnson is also a silent partner. Arellano’s passion for authentic Mexican cuisine paired with Augie’s premium tequila is a winning combination.

“Most of the recipes are my own, which means I cook them at home,” said Arellano, who originally hails from Mexico City.

The corner restaurant still maintains the high level of hospitality and quality food from the last iteration, especially when it comes to their meticulously made cocktails. However, there’s more of a relaxed and approachable air. 

“When you come to this restaurant, you really feel the Mexican vibe,” Arellano said. “We have real Mexican food, great service, and real Mexican music playing all day.”

The best way to get into the spirit is with a margarita, of course. For the traditionalist, you could not do better than Augie’s Margarita, a delicious combination of Augie’s reposado, Combier, agave, and lime. For those looking to spice things up, the Punta Mita is a crisp, tangy, and refreshing creation of blanco tequila, mango habanero syrup, and lime.

Pair a marg with their fresh, warm, and perfectly salty homemade tortilla chips and guacamole for a match made under the Santa Barbara sun. Add on the Puerto Vallarta–style ceviche tropical — a vibrant combination of fresh S.B. Fish Market halibut, tomato, cucumber, red onion, avocado, cilantro, and lime — and ordering a main entree may become an afterthought.

The attention to detail is impressive in these beautifully plated and poured offerings from Augie’s. | Photo: Ingrid Bostrom

However, with Augie’s new lowered prices and their enticing menu of both exotic items and the tried-and-true enchilada, rice, and beans fare, you’re going to want to refrain from filling up on appetizers.

“We make everything from scratch,” Arellano explains, from the tortillas to the ice cream that comes with their delectable churros.

For less than $20, you can get classic and satisfying items like Baja fish tacos or steak tacos, or more unusual dishes like the gorditas de chicharrón, two masa pockets filled with pork rinds and drizzled with crema.

“Even though the dishes are premium quality, they are affordable,” Arellano emphasized.

For our mains, we decided to try the two dishes that Arellano recommended and which are also their top sellers. My favorite was the camarones à la crema, large and succulent shrimp sauteed in a parmesan sauce and served with grilled vegetables and homemade rice.

“This is the dish I cook at home,” Arellano said with a smile, as we raved about the flavor and uniqueness of the turmeric-hued rice. 

Dessert selections at Augie’s include, clockwise from top, chocolate filled churros, plantanos machos, carmel flan, and a special chocolate cake. | Photo: Ingrid Bostrom

We also adored the pollo Cholula, chicken breast simmered in homemade mole Poblano. We learned from Arellano that there are more than 160 different moles in Oaxaca, each one a special blend of ingredients.

“Our mole Poblano is beyond delicious,” Arellano gushed. “You’re going to taste sweet and spicy.”

And taste we did — dipping everything we possibly could, from chicken to rice, homemade tortillas, and chips into that rich, chocolatey, and luscious mole. I could have just eaten it with a spoon; it was that tasty.

For dessert, tuck into your booth with an order of their churros — the warm, fried, tubular treat packed with decadent chocolate and dipped in cool, rich, homemade ice cream satisfies on all levels.

With happy hour offered 4-5:30 p.m., a packed house, and plans to increase hours soon to Tuesday through Sunday, rather than just Friday through Sunday, Augie’s proves it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

Augie’s of Santa Barbara, 700 State St. Currently open Friday and Saturday, 4-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-4p.m. See

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