Carlitos Cafe Y Cantina

4.5
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185 Reviews
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$30 and under
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Mexican

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Casual
Fun
Carlitos is a Santa Barbara restaurant with a vibrant mix of contemporary Mexican cuisine, and award-winning margaritas, rooted in Mexican flavors and traditions that celebrate local ingredients. Inspired by the bounty of the sea and farms nearby, signature dishes include our Fresh Halibut Ceviche, Bohemia Fish Tacos, Garlic Shrimp and our infused Chile oil, refreshing Scallop and Shrimp Salad with Mango vinaigrette, traditional Mole with Chicken, Spicy Back Ribs, and Portobello Mushroom Enchiladas. Colorful umbrellas, and a bubbling fountain at Carlitos accent the sun-filled outdoor patio overlooking State Street, while the dining room features original Fiesta artwork by Channing Peake, and a Cantina stocked with a fantastic collection of 100% Blue Agave Tequilas and Mezcals. Carlitos is a festive gathering place for family and friends, and add some lively Mexican and South American guitars, you have the makings of a fun filled evening!
What 185 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.5based on recent ratings
4.5
food
4.5
service
4.4
ambience
4.3
value
Noise · Moderate
94% of people would recommend it to a friend
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C
Central Coast
2 reviews
Dined 2 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

The staff was extremely friendly. We were seated quickly, served drinks and food in an appropriate amount of time and was on our way to our event with plenty of time to spare!

r
Los Angeles
12 reviews
Dined on October 5, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 2

Food was average nothing spectacular.
Too many tables on the patio, crowded. Waiters kept bumping into ba I of chair as they worked their way through the area.

OT
Central Coast
2 reviews
Dined on September 25, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

First time at Carlitos with my boyfriend and they did not disappoint! We both got mango margs with a spicy mix on the rim and I had the best chicken fajitas I think I’ve ever had. Can’t wait to go back!

MM
Central Coast
12 reviews
Dined on September 25, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 5

Ordered a margarita and wasn't disappointed, it was as good as I was lead to believe. The chips came with a very good red salsa as well as a corn salsa both were very flavorful. My entree was a very tasteful chili relleno and the corn and chili tamale..which tasted delicious. We will be back.

OT
Central Coast
8 reviews
Dined on September 20, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Fabulous place to get together with long time friends.
The ambiance on the patio in Santa Barbara is like none other.

NH
1 review
Dined on September 8, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Enjoyed a quick drink and lite dinner recently on the patio, before going to a show at the Arlington. Every one of the staff was friendly and helpful, seating was prompt. Service, food and beverage were all first rate. We will be back, thanks for a lovely evening !

D
Central Coast
38 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We are local and always love to enjoy everything that they have to offer! The food is always consistent and great!

h
Central Coast
18 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 4

I love Carlitos! I actually ate at Carlitos twice this week, and at Dos Carlitos once. I have to say that the food is always better at Dos Carlitos, but it's hard to beat the ambiance of being downtown Santa Barbara, nestled between the mountains and the Arlington Theater.

C
Charleston
35 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Excellent food and service! We appreciated the help from our server, Cindy. Thank you!

R
Los Angeles
2 reviews
Dined on September 2, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Best Mexican food !!! Every time we visit Santa Barbara , Carlitos is a must!!!

DD
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on September 2, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Price of kids' meal surprisingly didn't include a drink. Those were extra. The food and atmosphere were fantastic. We would definitely recommend! Family friendly and appreciated the vegetarian option.

C
Los Angeles
53 reviews
Dined on August 30, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Agave margarita and steak tostada delicious

BK
Orange County
4 reviews
Dined on August 27, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 3ambience 5

Great location if you are going to a show at the Arlington!! It's literally across the street and close to public parking garage. The beer battered fish in the fish tacos was so good!!! Fresh with a light batter and not greasy at all! The service was a little slow due to it being a very busy night with ZZ Top playing at the Arlington. I expected the prices to be better than they were given the fact it had two $ signs on Yelp. $18 for 2 tacos (and no sides) - in my mind qualifies for $$$. Great outdoor patio seating. Would definitely go back and recommend. Also the steak on the steak nachos was pretty awesome too!

SJ
1 review
Dined on August 25, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Really tasty Mexican food. If sitting outside bring a jumper as it got a little chilly the night we went

GS
Los Angeles
3 reviews
Dined on August 22, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

My wife and I have made Carlitos a tradition whenever we come to Santa Barbara. Service is friendly and fast and the food is outstanding. We try to come later in the evening to hear local artists. All in all a great experience

RH
San Francisco
1 review
Dined on August 17, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Fabulous! But they told Opentable we didn’t show up for our RSVP, but we did n we were 5 minutes early.

C
Central Coast
3 reviews
Dined on August 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Delicious! Shrimp empanadas were so great. Chicken mole is outstanding, rice superb.

OT
1 review
Dined on August 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Thank you lunch

RD
Chicago
28 reviews
Dined on July 24, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

I just happened to choose this place because my sister and I had a taste for margaritas and the reviews were good and turned out to be well-deserved. We started with delicious and refreshing classic margaritas and guacamole. We were never rushed as we sat on the patio on a perfect summer evening. We shared a platter of fajitas made with a chicken and halibut combo. So good. Since we shared a dinner, we had room for a fabulous dessert - I can't remember the name but it was delicious and creamy. Then we sat a bit longer for another margarita. We would've gone back but there wasn't enough time.

P
Phoenix
72 reviews
Dined on July 13, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Visiting friends in Santa Barbara always something special! Started with the guacamole and ceviche (which was so good we ordered a second one). Margaritas all around. The mango margarita dessert like it it’s delicious ness. Cadillac margarita evidently good (husband had two). The coconut shrimp with chipotle mashed potatoes wonderful. Salmon with papaya salsa also excellent. Chile rellano reported good (different as surrounded by broth a new one to me). All with excellent tortillas. Finished by sharing the tarta de limon. The chef inventive with tasty sauces. Will return

OT
San Francisco
7 reviews
Dined on July 12, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 4

Buenoa comida, sabrosa y en abundancia. El único problema es que llegamos 21.30 y en viernes de verano cierran 21.45 la cocina.

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OT
Central Coast
41 reviews
Dined on July 8, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

Miss the live music! Otherwise great...

LG
Central Coast
14 reviews
Dined on July 7, 2019
Overall 4food 3service 4ambience 5

We have eaten at Carlito’s many times and love it - and we will definitely go back. I try to pick something new on the menu, so this time picked the coconut shrimp served with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables. I found the shrimp over cooked and the potatoes tasteless. So I wouldn’t recommend that. I do think that Carlito’s makes the best ceviche in town. Next time back to some of mytried and true choices.

RF
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on July 5, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Love everything about Carlitos! Always great service (Edwin is great!) and great food!

R
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on July 5, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We had a wonderful time especially with our waitress, Cynthia. She could not have be nicer, and always checking in on us to make sure everything was to our liking. It was a great dining experience.

W
Los Angeles
15 reviews
Dined on July 5, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Great place for a special meal with friends or family.

S
Wilmington
26 reviews
Dined on July 2, 2019
Overall 3food 2service 4ambience 3

It was nice to sit outside on a beautiful July day. The restaurant is in a strip mall though and presents as a chain - not sure if it is or not. The salad with grilled chicken I had was not good. The chicken was so tough, clearly left over from last night. My husbands fish tacos tho were great. Overall, not worth the time or money.

KW
Los Angeles
1 review
Dined on June 23, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

The food was outstanding as usual but the mango margarita was horrible. The waiter quickly replaced it with a regular margarita and everything worked out after that. I would highly recommend them but be careful on how much you order as they serve very large sizes. We had to bring half the food home.

CC
Little Rock
45 reviews
Dined on June 23, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Excellent good, and service!

f
Los Angeles
9 reviews
Dined on June 20, 2019
Overall 2food 2service 4ambience 3

The only good thins I can say about this restaurant is that the service was good and it has nice patio seating. The parking is difficult and the food was very bland, unappetizing and overpriced. The restaurant is very appealing from the outside, however, it is not what I expect from an authentic Mexican restaurant. I believe it caters to the tourist crowd without a palate for authentic Mexican food. I have lived and traveled in south-west my entire life and have eaten at hundreds of Mexican restaurants in the southwest and Mexico. I often eat in Santa Barbara and I would never return to dine here.

HX
San Diego
10 reviews
Dined on June 14, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Delicious food, great live music. Decent size portions. My first time, will definitely be back.

R
San Francisco
48 reviews
Dined on June 12, 2019
Overall 4food 4service 4ambience 3

One of our favorite spots, but only if outside tables available and weather permitting. Try the pork pozole for a mouthful of flavors customized to your individual taste via accompaniments served on the side. Very nice vegetarian options for those so inclined and a go-to chicken quesadilla if that’s your style.

DS
Los Angeles
4 reviews
Dined on June 11, 2019
Overall 1food 1service 1ambience 4

the only good thing about this restaurant is outdoor seating, the food was the worst Mexican food ever. we had party of three with different dishes and all of us could hardly go through 1/3 of the dish.

TD
Central Coast
12 reviews
Dined on June 8, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Food, atmosphere wait staff are always great! Edwin was our server and he was excellent! Great time!!!

OT
Central Coast
41 reviews
Dined on May 30, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 5

Love the chicken flautas!

OT
Orange County
10 reviews
Dined on May 24, 2019
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 4

Dog friendly. Great food and drinks

OT
Los Angeles
1 review
Dined on May 20, 2019
Overall 3food 3service 5ambience 5

Food good but bland

OT
Central Coast
41 reviews
Dined on May 17, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Chicken flautas are the best! Love the ambiance here...outdoor with heaters (and they know how to use heaters!)...live music, across from historic Arlington.. .like a vacation for dinner!

MT
1 review
Dined on May 16, 2019
Overall 3food 5service 2ambience 5

Good food, live music is a nice touch. Drinks were strong, which I liked. Service was slow and we had to ask for things multiple times. Ordered guacamole as a botana and they didn’t bring chips. We had to keep asking for chips. We had a group of 4 and they only serve you a side with about a size of a coffee filter. So with 4 people, that it’s not much. Took a while to get drinks and my husband ordered a Modelo and when they finally brought it, it was a XX. Prices are a bit high for me, especially with Mexican restaurants everywhere in Santa Barbara. Overall, the food was good and it’s a nice place with a good atmosphere.

m
Chicago
28 reviews
Dined on May 12, 2019
Overall 5food 4service 5ambience 5

What a terrific restaurant! We had the table side guacamole, served with warm chips. We were there on a beautiful day and chose to dine al fresco. The chicken quesadilla was the best I ever had. The Reposado Margarita was the only part that wasn’t quite as tasty as one would like. But other than that the service was great and the ambiance most enjoyable. We arrived early for our reservation and they were able to accommodate us cheerfully. Definitely will return!

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