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Playa Azul Cafe
914 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 966-2860

  • Category: Mexican
  • Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm, Closed Mondays
  • Price: $10 - $20
  • Serving: Lunch & Dinner
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Reviews by the General Public

Good Margaritas
Reviewer: Geri from Santa Barbara, CA
This restaurant has a special location. Very pleasant, low key and romantic it has a vintage vibe that is rare with all the big corporate, fully maxed out bank loan remodels on State St. I adore this restaurant although it has been 15 years since I was last here because there are just too many other choices. I still have affection for it EXCEPT after today's experience, nothing about the food or service deserves it. Our party of 5 was seated in the middle of the restaurant. Waiters walked past our table many times while we waited for ours to arrive. After 20 minutes, I finally made eye contact with someone who made a face at me and gestured in a direction behind him indicating our waiter was not him but someone else. I'll tell ya, that gets the job done like nothing else. Make a face and gesture towards no one I can see. Hmmm. Eventually our waiter shows up and we order. Sad to say he was not able to answer menu questions because A. He could not understand our questions or B. He just didn't know the answers. The menu is well written and we were able to guess our way through. On to the food. First, there are 3 salads on the menu: Caesar, Avocado and Taquito. I wanted to try the Avocado Salad with Grilled Chicken but was shocked when I was offered bottled dressing with the salad. Really? Ranch, Italian or Poppy Seed. Yikes! A basic lime juice olive oil vinagrette would have been great but that wasn't going to happen with this waiter. I went with the Taquito Salad and was disappointed. Bag iceberg lettuce and skimpy tomatillo sauce, the whole thing was rather bland and terribly disappointing. The taquitos needed something 'cuz the only flavor was old fryer oil. Fajitas came out impressively on a hot sizzling platter but the beef was bland, dry and probably overcooked. Flautas stuffed with chicken had a strange flavor like cheese sauce inside. Guacamole lacked flavor but was extremely salty. Albondigas was good. Tacos Rancheros with steak were okay with great presentation on a long narrow plate. The one memorable item was the Margarita which had a generous amount of tequila in it. With SO MANY other choices within a half a block of this place, I'm very sad to say, none of us will be returning to this restaurant.


What happened?
Reviewer: Charlotte from Goleta
We used to love this place...not so much now. My Marguerita was too sweet and lacked Tequila, chips were cold and the salsa was sweet (tasted like canned). My crab enchilada was smothered with cheddar cheese (I specifically ordered it with no cheese). I'm sorry but cheese and seafood does not work for me. So I took it back ....big eye roll from the rude waiter. I asked if they had any other salsa, spicier, waiter said no...then he gave me some Tabasco! A Louisiana sauce in a Mexican restaurant? I asked if he had Cholula or Tapatio.... Nope. WTH! What happened to this place?


Great Food, Great Service-CLOSED MONDAY
Reviewer: Dina from Santa Barbara, CA
Went there on Monday afternoon, closed. Hours/Days of operation need to be updated on this website. THANKS


Favorite Mexican Place in SB
Reviewer: Jenn from Santa Barbara, CA
This is hands down my favorite Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara. Everything is authentic Mexican style and their drinks are so yummy! I am a huge fan of their chips and salsa and you can always tell a good Mexican place by how great their salsa is. It has a welcoming home-like feel and the staff is great. They are working on more happy hour specials which is always nice to see since cash flow is low with some people. My favorite plate is the Cheese Enchiladas, the crispy beef taco and the Avocado salad. They have so much flavor. The albondiga soup also packs a lot of flavor and spice. Playa is a really great spot for lunch if you work downtown and it's a nice sunny day to eat out on the patio. A definite 10 in my book!


Will dine here again.
Reviewer: Sandie from San Diego, CA
Dinner after dark sitting outside with cool air was comfortable with their patio heaters. My fajitas meal was huge...Enough for two.


Even Our Irish Grandsons love it!!
Reviewer: Bob from Santa Barbara, CA
Playa is outstanding. We have gone there for years. Even our Grandsons from Ireland love the food. Service is very prompt, very friendly and we call it the BEST!! The menu is varied and food is fresh. It is a fine restaurant!!


Good Food - Poor Service
Reviewer: Tom from Santa Barbara, CA
Times are tough... I bought a $20 Playa Azul certificate from SB Money Savers and looked forward to either their fantastic Crab Tostada or their unique and tasty Halibut Fajitas. Fortunately, before sitting down, I asked if the certificate would be honored. The response was a stern "NO! The owner is not accepting those any more!" (as a note, there is no expiration date on the certificate). SB Money Savors promptly sent a replacement certificate (to an alternate restaurant) when asked, but it still didn't reflect well on Playa Azul. There are many options for delectable Mexican fare in Santa Barbara with friendly service. It really is unfortunate that owner puts the wait staff in such a no-win situation.


Best Mex in all of Green Bay
Reviewer: Greg from Santa Barbara, CA
This is a nice patio location, offering good deals on happy hour items. I enjoyed the grilled veggie quesadilla. But it seems to be catering to tourists with children from Wisconsin. The margarita was so sweet it gave me a headache. The only thing sweeter was the salsa. If you ask enough times they will bring you the "spicy" salsa. It isn't spicy, but it is much less sweet. I recommend bringing some habaneros sauce, or at least some Trader Joe's salsa. G&Y


Outstanding happy hour experience
Reviewer: steve from Santa Barbara, CA
Saw their happy hour advertisement in the Independent. $3.25 for a margarita?-But that's no good if it isn't a GOOD margarita.-But my wife and I remember they always used to have nice TASTY(good fruit flavor) strong ones. They still do! Was suprised, -the manager came over and said they like to make them a bit stronger because they taste better,-nicely presented too in a charming curved Mexican hand-blown type blue glass. My wife looked at me and said...the chips and salsa are really good....yep, they were. Then came a Really Tasty platter of 4 doubled-tortilla(you can make 8 small tacos)Rajas mini tacos=$4. First Rate Tasting...as good as La Superica's. Chicken quesadilla had a wonderful Grilled aroma with a BIG dollop of Guac. and sour cream =$6. We ordered another round of Margs...and yes they were as pure and strong as the first. We told the waiter "We'll be Back"..which we don't find ourselves saying that much lately. We liked it inside by the window, a bit away from the music boxes, they are just a little bit too loud, please turn them down a bit. We later strolled out, looking at each other, saying "Wow, yummy food,I'm full, and 4 great drinks, -it was only $25 including tax? Crazy. Don't tell anybody.


Always Perfect!
Reviewer: Richard from Santa Barbara, CA
Lived in Santa Barbara for 42 years and I know my food, we have a special relationship. Playa Azul is far and away the best Mexican food I've even eaten. Start with the atmosphere, it's great. Very nice people and great service, lots of staff there to help you. As for the food, starting with the chips and salsa, they are completely addicting. If I could hook up a salsa IV drip I would, trust me it's good! Their food is always excellent and I have never left Playa Azul disappointed. Simply the best secret spot in SB.


WORST LUNCH IVE EVER HAD IN SB IN 20 YRS
Reviewer: Lynn from Santa Barbara, CA
I havent been there in a while. Last time I remember going I dont know what I had but I enjoyed it. Weekend before last BF and I went for lunch. I had the tostada salad with shredded chicken. At least that was what it was supposed to be. The chicken was awful, with veins and too much dark meat, thrown on top of lettuce that was too lightly tossed with some kind of not so good tasting vinaigrette that had no place on a mexican style salad. The meat and lettuce were laid upon runny, watery beans with a corn tortilla somewhere underneath. Just awful, I really wanted to ask if I had to pay for it because it was pretty much inedible. My BF had the Seafood enchiladas, they looked OK but the fishy smell coming over the table sorta ruined my appetite (which is good I guess given I couldnt eat my salad). He seemed to think it was "OK" "but would have been better off getting enchiladas at a real mexican food place". The albondigas soup (meatball soup) that came with his meal (which he handed over to me after eating the 2 meatballs) was also very mediocre. You can tell they didnt peel the "horse" carrots and left them in huge pieces and the broth was clear and very bland. What a waste of our hard earned money, Ill never go back.


It was good 20 years ago and it still is
Reviewer: UCSB87 from Pleasant Hill, CA
I remember eating here as a UCSB student and we recently came back after 20 years and the place was as good or better than before. I had the tacos de camarones and they were excellent. Veggie soup was a bit salty but it just made my margarita that much better. Service was bueno as well.


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