Carlitos Cafe Y Cantina

4.5
214 Reviews
$30 and under
Mexican

About

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 214 people are sayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.5based on all time ratings
4.4
food
4.4
service
4.4
ambience
4.2
value
Noise · Moderate
90% of people would recommend it to a friend
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R
vipReynaldo
Charleston
106 reviews
Dined on March 11, 2020
Overall2food1service3ambience2

Worst Mexican(?) food I ever had...anywhere!!! And I spent over a year in Mexico.

SS
SusanS
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on March 7, 2020
Overall3food4service1ambience4

We were disappointed with the service. Our server kept bringing another table's order to us. We had to ask for water refill several times. He was not personable and the only time he made eye contact and smiled, was then he presented the check. This is unfortunate because we loved the location and environment and food.

JR
vipJohnR
Orange County
13 reviews
Dined on February 29, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience4

our server Ariel (sic) was phenomenal. And the steak at the bottom of the menu was wonderful; tender and tasy.

OT
OpenTable Diner
Central Coast
4 reviews
Dined on February 27, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Just as good as I remember! Haven’t been to Carlitos in a while and it was just as good, if not better than the last time.

SP
SP33
Chicago
2 reviews
Dined on February 27, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Had a wonderful dinner with friends. Food was great. I had the enchiladas verde. Just the right amount of flavor and heat. Guacamole was great. Server was super-attentive. Outdoor space had a great ambiance. Will definitely go back next time we are in Santa Barbara.

OT
OpenTable Diner
Orange County
29 reviews
Dined on February 22, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience4

Loved the restaurant. First time there and definitely not the last.
The food was great, service good, and really liked having live music!!!

SG
SawnaG
1 review
Dined on February 16, 2020
Overall1food1service3ambience2

I thought Carlitos was extremely overpriced for what you received. The customer service was basic, the food had no flavor and the portions were tiny for the price and the margaritas tasted as thought it was just sweet and sour mix with ice. Unfortunately it’s not a place I’d ever recommend not ever return to.

DF
DavidF
San Francisco
11 reviews
Dined on February 16, 2020
Overall3food3service3ambience3

The food was just average. Nothing special. With so many good Mexican restaurants in town, I think you can do better.

M
vipMarsha
Central Coast
164 reviews
Dined on February 14, 2020
Overall4food4service4ambience4

The food and service were fine, just not exceptional. Not much atmosphere.

OT
OpenTable Diner
Hawaii
3 reviews
Dined on February 13, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Very good food!!

B
vipBrett
San Francisco
40 reviews
Dined on January 31, 2020
Overall4food4service5ambience4

Great margaritas and casual patio dining with our dogs.

AC
AmyC
1 review
Dined on January 31, 2020
Overall4food4service4ambience4

best chips and salsa in town. We have been coming here almost every Friday night for 27 years!

OT
vipOpenTable Diner
Central Coast
66 reviews
Dined on January 28, 2020
Overall3food3service2ambience3

Waiter was arrogant...not the usual there. Food was okay but not up to usual standard. There was no music.

S
vipStephen
Los Angeles
11 reviews
Dined on January 25, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Great place. Always crowded prior to Covid...so the wait for a table in the evenings can be long (prior to Covid). Definitely a place you want to go to for dinner from time to time.

E
vipEdie
Central Coast
82 reviews
Dined on January 22, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We had friends visiting during the film festival and I thought they would enjoy watching the commotion in front of the Arlington theater one evening. So I suggested we dine at Carlitos. Everything was perfect. Thank you to Carlitos for reserving parking for their reserved guests. Thank you for seating us with a reservation relatively on time even though the restaurant was packed. Food and drink was brought to us in a timely fashion. And ALL yummy. Our friends had a wonderful evening and so did we. Not our first time there and the food and service is excellent as always. We ordered the salmon, beef fajitas and a burrito, guacamole and calamari. All excellent.

DC
DanC
Los Angeles
3 reviews
Dined on January 11, 2020
Overall4food5service4ambience3

Excellent food and margaritas. Very energetic atmosphere, but a big drawback is that if eating indoors it is extremely loud. This makes conversation at the table very difficult even with the person seated in the seat next to you.

The bathrooms are very small and if you are a tall person (say 5’10 or more) it makes sitting on the toilet (if needed) a bit uncomfortable.

Great location on State St across from the Arlington Theater which was our ultimate destination.

OT
vipOpenTable Diner
Central Coast
66 reviews
Dined on January 8, 2020
Overall3food5service2ambience5

Great experience until they slopped all our meals into one box!!! We wanted to take this home to eat individually...I've never experienced this...we got a half hearted apology. I feel like they owe us a meal after that...
I'd much rather put my own food in a box anyway...I don't want somebody else's food dumped on top of mine! I've never had this happen before!

M
Maureen
Los Angeles
10 reviews
Dined on January 3, 2020
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Great food, great service, always a great experience

S
Sand
Orange County
7 reviews
Dined on December 31, 2019
Overall3food2service5ambience4

Pretty average food, but great service. The spicy baby back ribs were really good, but the rest of the food we ordered was fairly mediocre.

P
vipPatsy
San Francisco
44 reviews
Dined on December 26, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Great food and an amazing blood orange margarita!!

VV
VictoriaV
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on December 24, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Had a lovely meal with the family for Christmas Eve! It’s was delicious & service was A+!

GH
GaryH
Washington DC
4 reviews
Dined on December 23, 2019
Overall3food2service4ambience3

I have been to Carlitos several times while visiting Santa Barbara.The last few times I've been there, the menu was not Tex-Mex as I like it and the drinks were a bit expensive. There are many great restaurants in Santa Barbara, so I probably not be back.

OT
OpenTable Diner
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on December 19, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Waiters were quick and really helpful&nice. Blood Orange margarita is really delicious and fajitas are delicious. See you guys soon :)

T
Tigger
Los Angeles
3 reviews
Dined on November 30, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Had a lovely dinner with drinks out on the patio. It was raining when we were there, however there were tables under an awning with heaters.

OR
vipOkR8r
San Francisco
49 reviews
Dined on November 29, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Always a must when we travel to SB. Food is authentic, plentiful, and very delicious!

D
vipDini
San Francisco
57 reviews
Dined on November 9, 2019
Overall3food2service5ambience4

Carlitos has been opened for 40 years so I expected it would be great Mexican food. I found the food to be very bland. I did like their chips and salsa but the taco’s were very average. The other thing I didn’t like was how fast they brought all our food. We ordered a salad to start and they bought the entree’s out with the salad’s. I hate to feel rushed when I am out to dinner. I must say all the staff were friendly and helpful.

u
up4maui
Sacramento
4 reviews
Dined on October 24, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

One of our favorite places to eat in Santa Barbara!

C
vipChar
Central Coast
8 reviews
Dined on October 15, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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!

TR
vipTraciR
Central Coast
8 reviews
Dined on October 11, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Attentive staff. Great chips & salsa/guacamole & the drinks are tasty too. Food is always more than enough & great flavors.

r
rthbaum
Los Angeles
12 reviews
Dined on October 5, 2019
Overall3food3service3ambience2

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
OpenTable Diner
Central Coast
5 reviews
Dined on September 25, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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
MMae
Central Coast
13 reviews
Dined on September 25, 2019
Overall4food5service5ambience5

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.

CO
vipCynthiaO
Central Coast
19 reviews
Dined on September 20, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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

NH
NancyH
1 review
Dined on September 8, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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
vipDesigner
Central Coast
49 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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

h
viphungry
Central Coast
22 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall4food4service4ambience4

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
vipCshepp
Charleston
36 reviews
Dined on September 7, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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

R
Rali
Los Angeles
2 reviews
Dined on September 2, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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

DD
DenaD
Central Coast
1 review
Dined on September 2, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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
vipChris
Los Angeles
61 reviews
Dined on August 30, 2019
Overall5food5service4ambience5

Agave margarita and steak tostada delicious

FAQs

Carlitos Cafe Y Cantina is rated 4.5 stars by 214 OpenTable diners.