Lilly’s Taqueria

Lilly’s Taqueria, Santa Barbara

Sharing the name of your favorite taqueria in Santa Barbara is just as likely to stir up a heated debate with any locals within earshot as discussing the two most observed party conversation stay-out zones of religion or politics. But I’ll put my stake in the ground and gladly exclaim that when it comes to tacos in Santa Barbara, nobody comes close to Lilly’s Taqueria. How a food so basic can be so good is one of life’s imponderable mysteries – tortillas, meat, white onion, cilantro, and hot sauce. Anything more and it’s not a taco in my book. But the best tacquerias have that magic formula, and it’s present in spades at Lilly’s.

Taco Perfection at Lilly’s Taqueria, Santa Barbara

Two sure-fire signs of a great taqueria were immediately present upon approaching Lilly’s – a line out the door, and one thing on the menu: tacos. That menu is not without its surprises, however. If you’re an adventurous eater, there’s plenty to explore at Lilly’s in your choice of meat, with lips and eyes the most extravagant. But if you’re not the adventurous type, don’t let the anatomy lesson menu scare you away – the adobada (marinated pork) is easily some of the best I’ve had, and the asada is quite spectacular as well. And if you’re ready to tiptoe into some new taco territory, try a cachete (cheek) taco – one taste of this impossibly tender but flavorful delight will have you coming back for more. The savory and flavorful meats and sauce, perfectly tender yet firm tortillas, balanced with crisp, fresh onions and cilantro – this is traditional taco greatness defined.

Taco Magic in Work at Lilly’s Taqueria, Santa Barbara

Happily, Lilly’s is located within easy walking distance of some of the best hot spots along the Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, so if you’re looking for a late lunch spot to balance out a couple of wine flights, this is one place not to be missed.

 

Lilly’s Taqueria

310 Chapala St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

805-966-9180
Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 11-9
Friday and Saturday 11-10
Sunday 11-9:30
Closed Tuesdays

SBC Wine Map

Your guide to every SBC Wine recommended winery, tasting room, restaurant, hotel and place of interest.


View SBC Wine Map Guide in a larger map

Los Olivos

The Ballard Inn & Restaurant

During our first few visits to Solvang and Los Olivos, and with several dining experiences in the “good, not great” category, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that finding food that rivaled our favorite restaurants in Los Angeles was beyond reasonable expectation. So when we heard in 2005 that a new chef at the Ballard Inn was putting out some amazing dishes, we thought we’d at least give it a try. Pleasant surprise is an understatement for what we experienced that night, as we were blown away by the beautifully prepared and flavored food that came out of the kitchen at the well appointed and professionally staffed Ballard Inn.

Returning every chance we get, chef Budi Kazali continues to amaze and satisfy our desires for great cuisine in a way that is truly sublime. His asian influenced take on California food is an adventure in flavor and texture combinations that is a pleasure at every mouthful. Kazali cut his culinary teeth with stints at prominent restaurants on both coasts, including La Folie and Gary Danko in San Francisco, and Blue Ginger in Boston. The setting at the Ballard Inn, a charming fifteen room bed and breakfast located equidistant between Solvang and Los Olivos, is the perfect relaxed and intimate accompaniment to a great meal. Topped off by an attentive and professional wait staff, and the best wine list of any we’ve seen in the area, featuring a full complement of excellent SBC wines, The Ballard Inn is a memorable experience at every turn.

For fine dining in SBC Wine country, Budi Kazali and the Ballard Inn is a dining treasure.

The Ballard Inn & Restaurant

2436 Baseline Ave., Ballard CA 93463

map

805-688-7770

ballardinn.com

Open Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 to 9pm – Reservations highly recommended

Tasting Rooms

Tasting rooms abound in Santa Barbara County, and generally come in two flavors – rooms that are dedicated to one or two specific wineries or labels; and independent rooms that carry a wider selection of labels.The tasting rooms dedicated to one or two labels are generally either outcrops of a winery who has just made a conscious decision that they may be more effective at reaching a larger number of people by being positioned in town, or exist in the absence of having the facilities in place at all to offer a tasting room anywhere else. In any case, they’re often a great way to find some of the best wines from up and coming winemakers.

When tasting at independent rooms, they can often provide wide ranging views (and tastes) of many different wines and wine makers from the area. The ability to taste similar wines, say three Sauvignon Blancs from three different wineries, gives you the opportunity to really notice the difference in styles and flavors, which can be very beneficial in terms of both understanding wine, and also discerning and defining what you like best in a wine.

Los Olivos is a tasting room bonanza, with over a dozen tasting rooms within a few blocks of each other. (WARNING – DON”T try to visit them all in one day). Listed below our some of our favorites, sorted by town, with more in-depth descriptions for many of them a click away.

 

Tastes of the Valleys

Tastes of the Valleys has got to be our favorite tasting room in Solvang. But more than just a tasting room, TOTV is also a full service wine bar, and provides a great atmosphere for taking a break and enjoying a great glass of wine with a light snack. We’ve been here on several occasions, and consistently found the staff to be friendly and very knowledgeable. Unlike other independent tasting rooms where we’ve found a questionable lineup on their flight menus, TOTV carries a deep selection of wines from many of our favorite winemakers – some of  whom do not have a tasting room presence in the area, meaning this is really the place to experience their wines! They generally offer two different flights, but are also flexible with substitutions or additions.

On our latest trip we were pleasantly surprised by the pourings of two wines from 3CV, one of the labels Doug Margerum is making wines under. The ’09 Grassini Family Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc had a powerful pear and melon nose that carried into the tasting as well, fruit forward, but not in an overpowering way. A very nice Sauv Blanc for $18. The ’09 Happy Canyon Volgelzang Vineyard Viognier was also an excellent wine at $18; floral on the nose, crisp minerality in the mouth – a very balanced wine. While we’re on Doug Margerum, another wine on the flight was the ’07 Margerum M5, his flagship Rhone style blend. This wine was a favorite of my wife. with rich dark color, earthy undertones, anise and sage on the nose, with a soft mouthfeel that was nicely balanced with tight tannins.


Tastes of the Valleys
1672 Mission Dr., Solvang

map

(805) 688-7111

tastesofthevalleys.com

Sun – Thurs: Noon to 8:00PM
Fri, Sat: Noon to 10:00PM

Winemakers and labels represented include

  • Jim Clendenen, Au Bon Climat
  • Joe Davis, Arcadian
  • Doug Margerum, Margerum Wine Company,
    Happy Canyon Vineyards, and Cimarone
  • Lane Tanner, Lane Tanner Vineyards
  • Ariki Hill, Labyrinth Cellars
  • Dave Corey, Core Wine Company and Kuyam Wines
  • Felipe Hernandez, Felize Noche
  • Ariel La Vie, La Vie Vineyards
  • Bob Lindquist, Qupe
  • Matt Kowalczyk, Buscador Wines
  • Doug Timewell, Toucan Wines
  • Andrew Murray for Calzada Ridge Viognier and Oak Savanna