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Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican

4.2
437 reviews
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$30 and under
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Mexican
Top Tags:
  • Fit for Foodies
  • Great for Outdoor Dining
  • Special Occasion

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About

Modern Mexican cuisine in the heart of Santa Barbara.
Large patio around the famous turtle fountain.
Dining Style
Casual Elegant
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Cuisines
Mexican, Seafood, Tapas / Small Plates
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Hours of operation
Brunch:
Saturday & Sunday 11:30am - 4:00pm

Happy Hour:
Tuesday - Friday 3:14pm-6:14pm

Dinner:
Tuesday - Thursday & Sunday 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Friday & Saturday 5:00pm - 10:00pm
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Phone number
(805) 965-4770
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Payment options
AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
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Dress code
Casual Dress
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Executive chef
David Raigoza
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Private party facilities
From intimate to expansive, Cielito has the perfect space - and menu - for all your Corporate and Private Dining Events. Please see http://cielitorestaurant.com/private_dining/
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Private party contact
Angie Marks: (888) 982-5066
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Neighborhood
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Cross street
W. Anapamu St.
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Parking details
Public Parking Lot behind the restaurant on Anacapa Street and Figueroa Street
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Entertainment
Join us for live music every Friday evening and Sunday afternoon!
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Special events & promotions
From an outdoor lunch on a beautiful private patio, to intimate dining areas on the mezzanine level of the restaurant, Cielito offers many ways to create a beautiful and memorable private party or event. Please see http://cielitorestaurant.com/private_dining/ for more information!
Additional
Banquet, Bar/Lounge, Beer, BYO Wine, Chef's Table, Corkage Fee, Farm to Table, Fireplace, Full Bar, Happy Hour, Late Night, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Private Room, Takeout, View, Wheelchair Access, Wine
What 437 People Are SayingWrite a review
Overall ratings and reviews
4.2based on all time ratings
4.3
food
4.0
service
4.2
ambience
3.5
value
Noise · Moderate
87% of people would recommend it to a friend
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5.0Dined on May 18, 2017

Service was prompt and friendly. Pleasant decor inside, and the outside patio was great for people watching. Tasty food!!

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5.0Dined on May 14, 2017

Fantastic food & service. I took my mom there for Mother's Day and everything was wonderful!

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5.0Dined on May 14, 2017

Mother's Day!

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1.0Dined on May 6, 2017

Sadly they ruined our last night in Santa Barbara. Brought the wrong drink then took 15 minutes to replace. Forgot our apps all together. Then to fix the mishaps, the manager offered a special unique desert. 20 minutes later we were presented with greasy churos.

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5.0Dined on April 29, 2017

Greated by floor manager Ryan. Great server Andrew. All of the staff was very friendly and quick to accommodate

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5.0Dined on April 28, 2017

This is easily the best Mexican food in town, especially for vegetarians. This is fine dining, so more expensive than people are used to paying for Mexican food, but you get what you pay for. We love the fact that our meals had generous amounts of seasonal vegetables, perfectly cooked, and skillfully seasoned. The chef at this place is definitely talented - creative and imaginative - and understands how to assemble a top notch meal.

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2.0Dined on April 11, 2017

They have a new ordering system and when it was all too apparent that our food was not coming the waiter told us that the order was in and would be coming soon. Roughly 20 minutes later it still hadn't come. The manager was very generous in comping us for the mixup so I may try this place again. What bothered me was that I knew something was going wrong, yet we were told everything was set.

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4.0Dined on April 2, 2017

Good restaurant, food is very good, stay away from the guacamole.

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1.0Dined on March 31, 2017

Food was good, but service was slow to the point that we almost walked out twice. A full 1/2 hour elapsed before any food of any kind showed up on the table (an appetizer), then after the appetizer was cleared off the table, another full 1/2 hour elapsed before our entrée arrived. Seemed weird to have a restaurant with lots of people with no food of any kind on the table. Folks just twiddling their thumbs, checking their watch, texting to kill time. We will not be back.

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4.0Dined on March 24, 2017

We sat outside in the well protected patio area. The only problem was that I was sitting and sweating right next to the heater. Our server was super friendly but constantly forgot things. I was super excited to try the cauliflower tortillas but there was something in them that really upset my stomach. Ask what's in them before ordering.

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1.0Dined on March 11, 2017

The dining experience with the waiter was very poor. It took 15 minutes to get a drink order, we ordered tea and requested sweetener. He said he would return with the sweetener momentarily. He didn't bring sweetener for another 30 minutes after ice had completely melted.

The waiter was more interested in hitting on girls then actually taking care of his tables. We sat on the patio, with a few other people he was waiting on all dissatisfied with the service.

I would not recommend this place to anyone nor will be back to this restaurant. The price was absurd, the portions were overly small, and the food was not all that great.

I hope that you can take this as fair warning do not expect to receive a warm welcome and prompt service and a low customer demand timeframe.

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2.0Dined on March 4, 2017

This was not our first trip to Viva Modern Mexican, but was a bit of a disappointment. We ordered the homemade guacamole with chips as a starter. The first batch of chips was bottom of the bowl crumbs mostly and the second batch when we ask for a replenishment was burnt tasting. One of the entrees ordered, the chicken fajitas was also overdone. The noise level was much louder than I remembered, almost impossible for a quiet conversation. It was not an enjoyable night out and I'm not sure I would return.

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4.0Dined on March 4, 2017

It was our second time here. The service is good and the location and interior is great, but the food is a C+/B- at best. You won't be disappointed by it but you won't be knocked out of your seat by it.

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5.0Dined on March 3, 2017

Our new first choice in a Santa Barbara for Mexican food!

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3.0Dined on March 3, 2017

I love the location and the outdoor seating but the food was a disappointment. I liked the restaurant that was there before , Cielito, so I hoped Viva would be the same or better. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be going back because of the food. Service was good.

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1.0Dined on February 18, 2017

We ordered an appetizer which the waiter forgot. we received our meals, they were cold. sent them back, received new meals which were also cold. waiters waste time running up and down the stairs....terrible lay out for dining.

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5.0Dined on January 28, 2017

Good food, well prepared and everything ordered arrived together nothing forgotten. Thank you

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2.0Dined on January 27, 2017

This used to be Cielito, which had wonderful, subtle, inventive tapas-like fusion food. This new place is nothing like that, and verz disappointing. Apart from the ceviche, which is good, and a few good (but not execptional) small tacos, It is standard Californian Mexican.

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1.0Dined on January 26, 2017

The location is really great. Our reserved table was already waiting for us and just had to be cleaned. The indoor as well as the outdoor areas are really nice and authentic. Despite the cold outside temperatures the installed heating devices allowed for comfortable sitting and dining.
However the tables and also the arrangement of the seating was poor. There was no decoration on the tables not even a simple candle light. At least the table clothes were clean and are exchanged frequently.
It took us a while to get the attention of the waiter. Although we did not want to get water served, we were provided with water. Despite the last rain we still want to follow the water wise rules which are still valid.
The selection of food from the menu is great and real modern Mexican. We decided for Tacos and Fajitas. After 45 min the food was served, although the restaurant was not really busy.
We were not asked for the cooking degree of the beef. Luckily the beef was almost at the degree, which we liked. A little bit on the raw side. The beef was good quality, the spices and the sizzling pan great. The accompanying salsas: ridiculous. There seem to be a drought on Guacamole. But we were given an additional serving upon request.
The Baja Tacos were also good and fresh. However served already cold. The beans were tasteless. The rice however great.
The overall experience was really disappointing. A great location, but the restaurant is not really to recommend. More effort in the kitchen, at serving and some nicely set up tables would be really beneficial.

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2.0Dined on January 26, 2017

I hate to lv critical reviews but we went here on. A Thursday nite and tho there were a couple large parties, the service was completely disjointed and poor. After ordering we waited more than 10 minutes for our drinks and actually had to ask a second time. Then we ordered fajitas and servers brought the fixings after a long wait but not the fajitas.
Too bad. Good food and a good location but what's the problem with the service??

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5.0Dined on January 20, 2017

Great dinner, authentic food which has a modern flair. Would definitely go back. It will not disappoint!

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5.0Dined on January 18, 2017

I was pleasantly surprised by the delicious dinner and attentive staff.

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3.0Dined on January 15, 2017

We had been to this restaurant when it was Cielito's and wanted to try the new menu, new owners, etc. Sadly, they got our drink order wrong, our side order wrong and one of our entrees wrong. The waiter seemed to indicate is was 'the other guy's fault' (the bartender, the chef, etc. didn't follow orders). The bartender did remake our drinks and our meals were finally done as we ordered. That said, the food was quite good. Generous portion of chicken on the chicken fajitas, the chips/salsa are very good, the beans are great (whole pinto beans vs. refried) and the homemade tortillas were yummy. Would definitely come back for the food but just hope their correct their service issues, which have been noted in several other reviews.

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4.0Dined on January 14, 2017

Our group of four all enjoyed it overall though my husband did not care for his salmon fajitas. Beautiful building - different decor and menu than previous owner - Cielito, which we loved.

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2.0Dined on January 6, 2017

Food was basic, no real spice or flavor. Serivce pretty bad- started out ok, but then disappeared. Had to ask twice for salsa. Bus boy/water filler was attentive. We are locals and would love to support the business, location and atmosphere are good, but not worth our tine or money.

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3.0Dined on January 2, 2017

If you've made it to these comments, you will shortly understand why rating the above questions makes no sense. This was going to our first try under new owners. Sorry for all the bad reviews but we thought new restaurant deserves some chances.
Anyway, we arrived 5 minutes early for our 645 reservation Mon 1/2. BUMMER--restaurant was closed. Cadario provided a great meal as always...

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3.0Dined on December 28, 2016

We have been to this restaurant before and it was an enjoyable experience in all respects. However this last time, the service was terrible. Although we were 7 people, and everyone enjoyed their food, the poor service left a very bad impression, especially for our out-of-town visitors. I hope it just was a matter of an "off night" or a shortage of staff.

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1.0Dined on December 27, 2016

We were very excited to try Viva. We arrived for our 7:15pm reservation. We were told we has to sit outside near a heater and our table was not ready. We asked to be seated inside because we did not come dressed for outdoor seating. We were told they did not have indoor tables and we should have specified indoor seating when we made our reservation. There is no where to specify any type of seating when using Open Table to make a reservation.
Needless to say, we wound up eating at another restaurant. Because of the way we were treated, we will not be going back!

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1.0Dined on December 27, 2016

Service was extremely poor. After being seated, we waited a long time for someone to show up to take our order. After they took our order, we waited another 45 mins for it to finally arrive. In all, we were there about an hour before we even got to see our food. They were then missing one of our entrees, but at that point we just didn't want it anymore and cancelled (but they didn't take it off the bill until I pointed it out). No one really came to keep us updated or to continue refilling our drinks while we waited. The restaurant was pretty empty, so it wasn't a packed night. The person that identified themselves as the office manager didn't seem to have what it takes to run a proper meal service. The food itself was mediocre. We dine out A LOT and have never had this poor of an experience before. I rarely blacklist restaurants, but this one almost ruined a special night for us with the service so we won't be visiting again.

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5.0Dined on December 24, 2016

Our Christmas Eve dinner accommodated Vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The food was astoundingly good, the wait staff so kind and attentive. This will become a regular dining spot for us.

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2.0Dined on December 17, 2016

Crappy food, crappy service. Too bad, this was our favorite spot under previous ownership. Hope they work out the kinks

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5.0Dined on December 12, 2016

Food was great modern Mexican with classics included in the menu. Cauliflower tortillas are to die for great margaritas

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5.0Dined on December 12, 2016

Tasty food and portions were ample. Service very good and attentive.

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5.0Dined on December 4, 2016

Excellent flavorful meals, good vegetarian selection, great atmosphere and service, reasonable prices. Definitely will be back again!!

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2.0Dined on November 22, 2016

While the food was actually quite creative and good, there were so many problems with the service, that it put a damper on the evening. The staff were friendly, but we had to ask three separate times for glasses of water--finally flagging down a totally different staff member about 45 minutes into our meal. We finally received water LONG after our bottle of wine and food had arrived. The delivery of additional beverages later in the evening proved equally challenging--made all the more frustrating because we were sitting at a table not 3 feet from the bar and we could have gotten up and served our own drinks more efficiently!

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5.0Dined on November 21, 2016

This place was delicious and friendly! They were consistent on checking with our needs (sun in the face, more beverage or servings, etc.) They brought conversation, good vibe, and energy to the environment. Again, the food was spot on and delicious! I would recommend others to go and even invite myself to go again!

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4.0Dined on November 12, 2016

$15 corkage for those you fresh from wine tasting. Food was flavorful; not authentic Mexican, but a good almost-fusion (like the ahi tuna ceviche). My only criticism really was the copper table in the bar where we ate, which because of frequent wipe downs left a definite metallic smell in the air which carried over into the food.

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5.0Dined on November 5, 2016

Lovely setting, great service, delicious food and tasty drinks! Live music put it over the top for a great evening!

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3.0Dined on October 14, 2016

Where's my waiter?

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1.0Dined on October 8, 2016

I plan to call the manager and owner, because I would love for this restaurant to succeed. The location is fantastic, a gorgeous outdoor patio and indoor space is lovely too. Food, service, and hosting were abysmal. Wait staff did not offer replacements when both my drink order and my food order were not what I ordered. One star overall because the venue was beautiful. Deeply disappointed.

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