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Carlitos Cafe Y Cantina

4.5
4.5
214 Reviews
$30 and under
Mexican

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!

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  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Cuisines

    Mexican, Latin / Spanish

  • Hours of operation

    Lunch: Monday - Friday: 11:00am - 4:00pm Brunch: Saturday - Sunday: 11:00am - 4:00pm Dinner: Daily: 4:00pm – 10:00pm

  • Phone number

    (805) 962-7117

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

Menu

Botanas / Starters

  • Guacamole In a Molcajete

    Prepared fresh daily, served with homemade blue & yellow corn tortilla chips

    • Shrimp Empanadas

      Crispy corn turnovers with shrimp, asadero cheese, chipotle cream & papaya salsa

      • Halibut Ceviche

        Fresh Alaskan halibut on a crisp corn tortilla with lime, avocado & salsa fresca

        • Grilled Chicken Quesadilla

          Manchego cheese, caramelized onions, poblano chiles, guacamole & chipotle cream

          • Roasted Eggplant, Tomato & Basil Quesadilla

            Asadero cheese, cilantro pesto, guacamole & sour cream

            • Calamari Frito

              Calamari rings served with roasted red pepper aioli

              Brunch

              • Pozole

                Hearty Mexican soup with Pork or Chicken, onions, cilantro, radishes, cabbage, avocado & oregano

                • Huevos Rancheros

                  Cage-free eggs, crispy corn tortilla, queso fresco, beans, guacamole & salsa quemada

                  • Chilaquiles & Scrambled Eggs

                    Crisp tortilla strips, roasted tomato salsa & queso fresco

                    • Fresh Raspberry Pancakes

                      Honey-maple syrup & grilled sausages or ham

                      • Santa Barbara Omelette

                        Fresh spinach, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, queso fresco & cilantro pesto

                        • Carlitos Breakfast Burrito

                          Scrambled eggs, grilled chorizo, black beans, cheese, avocado, & salsa fresca

                          • Eggs Benedict Ole

                            Poached free-range eggs, grilled ham, manchego cheese & chile hollandaise

                            Espcialidades de Carlitos

                            • Caesar Salad

                              Homemade garlic croutons, grated parmesan, romaine & our signature Caesar dressing. Grilled Chicken, Shrimp or Wild Salmon

                              • Carlitos Tostada

                                Grilled Chicken or Steak, Grilled Shrimp, Grilled Vegetables

                                • Shrimp & Scallop Salad

                                  Mango, jicama, red pepper, mezclun greens chipotle cream and lime vinaigrette

                                  • Carlitos Combo

                                    Choice of two items with black beans & rice OR Caesar salad. Cheese, Beef, Chicken or Portobello enchilada, Pasilla chile relleno, Beef or Chicken taco, tamale

                                    • Rock Shrimp Soft Tacos

                                      Papaya salsa, purple cabbage & sour cream on handmade corn tortillas

                                      • Burrito Asado

                                        Grilled chicken, Steak or Grilled vegetables, ranchera salsa, sour cream, guacamole & salsa fresca

                                        • Tacos al Carbon

                                          Soft tacos served with black beans, guacamole & salsa fresca on homemade corn tortillas. Grilled Chicken, Steak, Carnitas (pork), Pacific Halibut & papaya salsa, Portobello Mushroom

                                          • Grilled Chicken Breast Torta

                                            Manchego cheese, caramelized onions, chimichurri sauce on a bolillo rolls

                                            • Grilled Wild Salmon Sandwich

                                              Topped with bacon & avocado on a bolillo roll

                                              • Sizzling Fajitas Platter

                                                Grilled Steak, Chicken or Combo, Shrimp or Pacific Halibut

                                                • Carne Asado a la Tampiqueña

                                                  Skirt steak with cheese enchilada Mexicana, frijoles charros, rice, salsa quemada & guacamole

                                                  For menu edits, please contact SinglePlatform at (866) 237-4564.

                                                  What 214 people are saying

                                                  Overall ratings and reviews

                                                  4.5
                                                  4.5 based on all time ratings
                                                  • 4.4Food
                                                  • 4.4Service
                                                  • 4.4Ambience
                                                  • 4.2Value

                                                  NoiseModerate

                                                  Sort by

                                                  Filters

                                                  1. R

                                                    Reynaldo

                                                    Philadelphia

                                                    109 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    2.0

                                                    109 reviews

                                                    Dined on March 12, 2020

                                                    overall2food1service3ambience2

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

                                                  2. SS

                                                    SusanS

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    1 review

                                                    3.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on March 8, 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.

                                                  3. JR

                                                    JohnR

                                                    Orange County

                                                    15 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    15 reviews

                                                    Dined on March 1, 2020

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience4

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

                                                  4. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 28, 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.

                                                  5. SP

                                                    SP33

                                                    Chicago

                                                    2 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    2 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 28, 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.

                                                  6. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Orange County

                                                    31 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    31 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 23, 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!!!

                                                  7. SG

                                                    SawnaG

                                                    1 review

                                                    1.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on February 17, 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.

                                                  8. DF

                                                    DavidF

                                                    San Francisco

                                                    11 reviews

                                                    3.0

                                                    11 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 17, 2020

                                                    overall3food3service3ambience3

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

                                                  9. M

                                                    Marsha

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    182 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    4.0

                                                    182 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 15, 2020

                                                    overall4food4service4ambience4

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

                                                  10. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Hawaii

                                                    3 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    3 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 14, 2020

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

                                                    Very good food!!

                                                  11. B

                                                    Brett

                                                    San Francisco

                                                    40 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    4.0

                                                    40 reviews

                                                    Dined on February 1, 2020

                                                    overall4food4service5ambience4

                                                    Great margaritas and casual patio dining with our dogs.

                                                  12. AC

                                                    AmyC

                                                    1 review

                                                    4.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on February 1, 2020

                                                    overall4food4service4ambience4

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

                                                  13. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    82 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    3.0

                                                    82 reviews

                                                    Dined on January 29, 2020

                                                    overall3food3service2ambience3

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

                                                  14. S

                                                    Stephen

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    12 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    12 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.

                                                  15. E

                                                    Edie

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    84 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    84 reviews

                                                    Dined on January 23, 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.

                                                  16. DC

                                                    DanC

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    4.0

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    Dined on January 12, 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.

                                                  17. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    82 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    3.0

                                                    82 reviews

                                                    Dined on January 9, 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!

                                                  18. M

                                                    Maureen

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    12 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    12 reviews

                                                    Dined on January 3, 2020

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

                                                    Great food, great service, always a great experience

                                                  19. S

                                                    Sand

                                                    Orange County

                                                    8 reviews

                                                    3.0

                                                    8 reviews

                                                    Dined on January 1, 2020

                                                    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.

                                                  20. P

                                                    Patsy

                                                    San Francisco

                                                    48 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    48 reviews

                                                    Dined on December 27, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

                                                    Great food and an amazing blood orange margarita!!

                                                  21. VV

                                                    VictoriaV

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    1 review

                                                    5.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on December 25, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  22. GH

                                                    GaryH

                                                    Washington DC

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    3.0

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    Dined on December 24, 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.

                                                  23. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    1 review

                                                    5.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on December 20, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  24. T

                                                    Tigger

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    3 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    3 reviews

                                                    Dined on December 1, 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.

                                                  25. OR

                                                    OkR8r

                                                    San Francisco

                                                    49 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    49 reviews

                                                    Dined on November 30, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  26. D

                                                    Dini

                                                    San Francisco

                                                    61 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    3.0

                                                    61 reviews

                                                    Dined on November 10, 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.

                                                  27. u

                                                    up4maui

                                                    Sacramento

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    4 reviews

                                                    Dined on October 25, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

                                                    One of our favorite places to eat in Santa Barbara!

                                                  28. C

                                                    Char

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    8 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    8 reviews

                                                    Dined on October 16, 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!

                                                  29. TR

                                                    TraciR

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    9 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    9 reviews

                                                    Dined on October 12, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  30. r

                                                    rthbaum

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    12 reviews

                                                    3.0

                                                    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.

                                                  31. OT

                                                    OpenTable Diner

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    5 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    5 reviews

                                                    Dined on September 26, 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!

                                                  32. MM

                                                    MMae

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    13 reviews

                                                    4.0

                                                    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.

                                                  33. CO

                                                    CynthiaO

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    24 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    24 reviews

                                                    Dined on September 21, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  34. NH

                                                    NancyH

                                                    1 review

                                                    5.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on September 9, 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 !

                                                  35. D

                                                    Designer

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    51 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    51 reviews

                                                    Dined on September 8, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  36. h

                                                    hungry

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    23 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    4.0

                                                    23 reviews

                                                    Dined on September 8, 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.

                                                  37. C

                                                    Cshepp

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    37 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    37 reviews

                                                    Dined on September 8, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  38. R

                                                    Rali

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    3 reviews

                                                    5.0

                                                    3 reviews

                                                    Dined on September 3, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service5ambience5

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

                                                  39. DD

                                                    DenaD

                                                    Central Coast

                                                    1 review

                                                    5.0

                                                    1 review

                                                    Dined on September 3, 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.

                                                  40. C

                                                    Chris

                                                    Los Angeles

                                                    85 reviews

                                                    vip
                                                    5.0

                                                    85 reviews

                                                    Dined on August 31, 2019

                                                    overall5food5service4ambience5

                                                    Agave margarita and steak tostada delicious

                                                  FAQs

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

                                                  Not available on OpenTable

                                                  Unfortunately, this restaurant is not on the OpenTable reservation network.

                                                  If you like, we'll notify you by email if this restaurant joins.


                                                  Is this your restaurant?
                                                  Claim this listing
                                                  • Neighborhood

                                                    Santa Barbara

                                                  • Hours of operation

                                                    Lunch: Monday - Friday: 11:00am - 4:00pm Brunch: Saturday - Sunday: 11:00am - 4:00pm Dinner: Daily: 4:00pm – 10:00pm

                                                  • Cuisines

                                                    Mexican, Latin / Spanish

                                                  • Dining style

                                                    Casual Dining

                                                  • Dress code

                                                    Casual Dress

                                                  • Payment options

                                                    AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

                                                  • Additional

                                                    Beer, Cocktails, Full Bar, Non-Smoking, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine

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