Old Spanish Days Fiesta only takes place once a year, but you can get your “Viva La” on here all year round. Tacos, Spanish-style accents and agave-spirited cocktails are everyday staples of the Santa Barbara lifestyle. Our bars and restaurants have honed their margarita-making craft to a refined science so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to go to satisfy your cravings for the best margarita in Santa Barbara. Whether you’re pairing your margs with tacos, quenching your thirst after a long hike or lifting a glass to celebrate a special occasion, these watering holes have got you covered—on the rocks, with salt … or however you take your margarita!
Let’s start with the tried-and-true classic establishments. These restaurants get high points for ambiance and have been serving margaritas to Santa Barbarans and our visitors for decades. Built in 1922, the El Paseo Restaurant space is one of the main anchors of the historic El Paseo shopping center, which became the model for Southern California’s Spanish-Colonial architectural style. Set in a cozy house with an inviting patio near El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, La Playa Azul Café is a locals’ favorite that’s been in business since 1976.
Carlitos Café y Cantina opened two years later in 1978 and also boasts a stellar patio. Here, you can people watch as you enjoy the view of the landmark Arlington Theatre across State Street. La Paloma Café, easily recognizable for its neon sign facing Anacapa Street, offers up a number of tasty margaritas, including the Bird of Paradise, a tangy treat to sip on with lime, agave, passionfruit and orange bitters.
State Street Staples
All roads lead to State Street when you’re in Santa Barbara, and there are countless spots shaking up refreshing adult beverages from the waterfront end all the way to upper State. Benchmark Eatery prides itself on being a purveyor of generous cocktails, so if you want a stiff drink, belly up to the bar here and order the very best kind of “basic” margarita. Also known for their ample pours, Sandbar Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar is a full-service restaurant by day and the life of the party by night. Its margarita menu spans a diverse range of flavors and styles, from skinnies for the calorie counters to a rotating line-up of seasonal farmers’ market flavors.
Augie’s, the whimsical-looking building on the corner of State and Ortega Streets, serves up an entire list of smooth and easy-on-the-eyes margaritas. Augie, the establishment’s namesake, has his own agave spirit (also called Augie’s!) that embellishes many of the craft cocktails on the menu. Opt for the Tommy margarita for an ultra-refreshing, classic margarita to wash your meal down with. The team behind the popular Los Agaves eateries opened Santo Mezcal near the Funk Zone and it’s no surprise it was an instant hit. Get this: You can supersize your margaritas, as they offer a choice of “regular” or “extra large.”
Two If By Sea
Head towards the ocean and you’ll reach Flor de Maíz, a beachside Mexican hotspot offering up myriad margaritas and epic views. Try the Margarita Vallarta, featuring house green apple cucumber basil juice, fresh squeezed lime juice, organic agave syrup, a cucumber wheel, and black lava and a salt rim. Make your way slightly north along the Mesa, and you’ll arrive to Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. The beachside restaurant also serves a blood orange margarita that will have you at “hello.” You can opt to add fresh jalapeno for a kick of heat. ¡Olé!