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“Milpas Street Santa Barbara- Ground Zero for Mexican Restaurants”
Review of Taqueria El Bajio

Taqueria El Bajio
Ranked #159 of 549 Restaurants in Santa Barbara
Cuisines: Mexican
Restaurant details
Reviewed 30 July 2016

There are lots of great Mexican restaurants on Milpas Street... I'm going to review my personal favorites, where I have eaten many times over the years. Here they are, not in any particular order. El Bajio, Super Rica, Cesar's Place, and Los Agaves . Each has a different cuisine, and I have favorite menu selections for each, which I'll provide.

Central California Mexican cuisine typically offers soft tacos...Northern California cuisine typically emphasizes crispy, or deep fried taco shells, sometimes called tacos dorados [golden tacos]. The all-time favorite for regulars at El Bajio is their triple tacos dorados combination. You can choose carnitas, chicken, or potato, or any combination of the three. I usually have two carnitas and one chicken...a friend I often eat there with really likes the potato tacos, but I have never tried them. Each taco is topped with some guacamole, lettuce and tomato, and a jalapeno pepper. The combo comes with rice and beans, but that's too much food for me, so I tell them no rice and beans.. they always give me a salad instead..I also don't care for sour cream on Mexican food so I ask them to leave it off. This is A LOT OF FOOD, and you'll need lots of napkins! I eat there whenever my son comes to visit, and we always have the same thing. The restaurant is small, and there is often a short line...there are four tables outside and perhaps 6 inside. On Sundays the parking lot next door is empty so they set up extra tables outside. On weekends they have menudo...I like it, but it is an acquired taste. The salsas are off to the right on a table...one is labeled "HOT"... if it needs a label in a Mexican restaurant, it is really hot...I love hot food, but I tried it once and it was too hot for me...you have been warned! Everything on their menu is great, but if you are only going once, have the triple tacos! For a traditional drink, try the watermelon, or sandia...refreshing with a lot less sugar than soft drinks...for something with a little more kick, try a michelada, a local favorite made with light beer, lime, clamato and salt. BTW, as far as that reviewer Gumby111 who gave El Bajio a low rating because he couldn't get larger cups for salsa, gimme a break! Stick to Taco Bell!!!

Now, on to Super Rica Taqueria... this place is legendary, and Julia Child is reputed to have said it is the best Mexican restaurant in California... there is always a line, and you'll often see tourists with guide books in hand...I always tell them, order numbers 14,16, and 18...more about that later... order by the number, no credit cards, paper plates and plastic utensils...a true no-frills authentic Central California Mexican restaurant. This means soft tacos, where there are three smallish corn tortillas on the plate topped with your selection...you can roll your own individual tacos, or just eat with a fork. Everything is cooked in full view, and the tortillas are made fresh non-stop. Here also, I always order the same thing...numbers 14,16 and 18... they have daily specials, but I never order anything different...number 16 is the Super Rica Especial, and number 18 is guacamole, so that can be optional....one order is plenty, but I can never resist number 14, which is Mexican cheese melted together with chorizo, which is Mexican sausage...yes, I know, it's not exactly a health food meal, but I only eat it twice a year or so...put some salsa on top...TIP: parking is often difficult...go around the block and park across the street.

Cesar's Place is a little farther down Milpas past Super Rica...this restaurant is still somewhat undiscovered, so there is almost never a line...Cesar's has a few Mexican cuisine specialties not available at the other three, so it depends on what you're in the mood for. For a rare low-calorie specialty, try the Vuelva a la Vida ["brings you back to life"]...this is a cold sea food cocktail served in a large goblet. It usually has shrimp, octopus, and oysters along with slices of avocado, cilantro, and limes, in a spicy broth. Traditionally, the seafood cocktails are always served with saltine crackers...Sometimes the oysters are substituted with smoked mussels...this might be seasonal, but I much prefer the oysters...this could be a light snack, but I order it along with the green enchiladas [enchiladas verdes] without the rice and beans...once again, too much food! My real favorites at Cesar's are the Mexican breakfast specialties, machaca and chilaquiles. Machaca is shredded beef cooked together with scrambled eggs, served with rice and beans... add some hot salsa, and you have a real feast! Chilaquiles is a very traditional Mexican breakfast specialty... tortilla chips sauteed in [usually] green sauce with cheese and shredded chicken on top...choosing between these two is a difficult task...go with a friend and share!

Last, but certainly not least, is Los Agaves... this restaurant is relatively new, and has become extremely popular. There is almost always a line...order at the counter, take a number, and find a table...TIP! tables can be at a premium, so once you stake out a table, don't just leave your number while getting drinks or salsa...a member of your group should sit at the table to hold it...one time I put my number on a table, left to get some salsa, and returned to find that another group had removed my number and was smugly sitting at my table! Incredible!!! Los Agaves is pretty fancy for a genuinely traditional Mexican restaurant...it's a great place to take friends who want something a little more elegant than the locals favorites...they offer some more "creative" menu options such as shrimp or halibut tacos... steaks are described as "New York" or "Angus"...definitely not traditional... I take my in-laws there.... The food is excellent, lots of options, service quick and pleasant...lots of local color while still having comfortable seating... I like the enchiladas suizas [without sour cream]...I really like tomatillo sauce, and I also like their chicken mole [pronounced molay], which none of the other restaurants offer...mole is a rich dark chocolate-based sauce with wonderful spices, another real treat.

While Milpas Street is really ground zero for Mexican food, there are lots of other good Mexican restaurants in Santa Barbara...try El Sitio [three locations... I like the one on de la Vina best], also order by the numbers but they do take credit cards...and Super Cuca's, also several locations but I like the one on Micheltorena Street...huge servings!

I can't resist one more recommendation: Rincon Alteno on Haley, between Anacapa and Garden Streets...this is a real off-the-beaten-track locals only restaurant...you won't see any guide books here, and you probably won't see any tourists either. Anything you try will be great...all soft tacos, as well as nachos...carne asada, chicken, tongue, carnitas, al pastor {marinated pork...yum!]...Mexican food heaven!

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Thank docdickcalifornia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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8 - 12 of 41 reviews

Reviewed 22 July 2016 via mobile

Love this place, truly. Got the spicy polo combo plate and was depressed when the last bite came. Tried to go to a place a couple blocks up because it was rated as the 4th best place in SB, but it was insanely crowded with a long wait. Hungry, I ran into this place, and I couldn't be happier how it all turned out!

Thank Chris T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 July 2016

While the tacos were pretty good, I was very not very pleased with the overall experience. I requested a slightly larger cup for the salsa because what was offered was a thimble. The employee tried to avoid the question until she explained I need the owners permission!!!! The owner both ignored my request and would not really even acknowledge me. I tried to explain that we were 6 people. I also was told a few years back that the he was not sharing the tips in with his employees by one of his employees.

I have decided after 12 years, I will not be going there in the future.

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Thank Gumby111
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 July 2016

If you want to eat authentic Mexican food come here. The menu has a very wide range of options including vegetarian dishes. They also serve fresh fruit drinks. It's by no means a fancy restaurant, but the food is delicious.

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Thank murat9700
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 November 2015

We accidentally found this place while driving through Santa Barbara. Our first choice was jammed and forced us to look for alternates. As we were driving back to 101, we found this place.

The place is a hole in the wall, but it is clean. The food came pretty fast and it was delicious. The fish tacos were very good as well as chicken burrito and quesadillas.

Thank RamKunda
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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