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

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

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



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