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El Torito
[closed, no longer in business]

29 E. Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 963-1968

  • Category: Mexican
  • Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10pm, Sun 9:30am-9pm
  • Price: $10 - $20
  • Serving: Lunch & Dinner
  • Reservations: No
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Reviews by the General Public

Reviewer: Laura from Santa Barbara, CA
Unexpectedly, the restaurant closed down.

Excellent employees under outstanding leadership, 1/26/2015
Reviewer: Dr. Gary L. Smith from Chula Vista, CA
I give them an A+ rating. Under the very capable leadership of its General Manager (Taylor Ward), I found the staff at this particular El Torito to be sincerely dedicated to provide outstanding service to its customers (Gonzalo is a prime example). The food is great and the employees have their act together. Kudos to the General Manager.................he is an excellent role model. He has worked hard to maintain a team of employees who are striving to be the best. Congrats to all of them!

Visiting the girls at school
Reviewer: Walter from San Diego, CA
First time at this El Torito and what a mistake. Monday night, the place was slow, staff standing around, but the service was the slowest!!! Watch out for the bait and switch. The sign says $3 house Margaritas. However, you cannot get that in the dinner room. Only in the bar. As for the food, good and bad. Great fajita steak salad, but the wife hated the carnitas crunch street tacos. At least they took that off the bill.

I will never eat here again.
Reviewer: Katie C. from Santa Barbara, CA
I went there to eat today and both the food and service was less than adequate. Also, not only was there was no toilet paper in the bathroom, there was no soap. I'm not talking about it being 'empty' but that there was no soap dispenser for either sink, built in or bought in a store. This is the third time I've been there in the last six months and there was no soap. This upset me more than the food/service! I told the management and got a lackadaisical response. In my experience, if the entire experience is a direct reflection of the management. I will never eat here again.

Service on a Sunday and only half full.
Reviewer: enrique from Santa Barbara, CA
The food was typical Americanised Mex food which is fairly good, enough to satisy. It's a party of 10 and 2 of them waited for us. We are attended, 10 mins later, they give us the silverware along with the chips & salsa. 10 mins later, the waiter takes the order for drinks with a 'mentor.' 10 mins later, they give us more chips & salsa. 10 mins later, they bring the soft drinks. 10 mins later, the bring the margaritas. 10 mins later, they take the order for the food. 10 mins later, they give us more chips & salsa. 10 mins later, I call the manager on phone and complain. 10 mins later, he comes and apologises. 10 mins later, they bring 2 entrees for two ppl and offer refills. 10 mins later, more chips & salsa. 10 mins later, I tell my girl that we should go somewhere else. 10 mins later, the manager and the server bring food for 2/3 of us. 10 mins later, the newly employed waiter apologizes again. We get the rest of the food and we all eat after waiting for approx 2.5 hours of waiting. We get plenty of apologies and I appreciate them acknowledging that they are not wuite the best in response. We finally get some decent service after waiting for approx 150 mins. The humble newly hired waiter panicks about them being seperate checks and I don't blame him. We wait tennnnnnn more minutes and then decide to walk to the front counter, wait for a few minutes pay, wait for 10 more mins and leave. They only reason why we were able to tolerate this was because we were takling a lot. Overall, they were polite but unoroganized, extremely slow and just untrained. If you badly want to eat El Torito, literally order approx 2 hours in advance if you want to eat that day. You could also just politely ask to get a attendant that has been there for a while. Good Luck.

Reviewer: Volker from Germany
Restaurant was very busy in the evening with several birthday parties. However, the Margarita took 25 min from ordering to the table, fajitas came without sour cream, no salsa brought when asked for, limited amount of rice and fixings, vegetables were charred and burned to the pan and bill was inflated with a second entree not ordered. Waiter apologized several times and bill was corrected but I am sorry, I won't come back.

Taco Tuesdays
Reviewer: Lil from Santa Barbara, CA
I am a SB local and have been to this restaurant on several occasions at which times I have been satisfied with the food and service. On the afternoon of Tues Sep 27 I visited El Torito with two friends for drinks and their Tuesday taco bar. After we stood at the host stand for 5 minutes and were not acknowledged we seated ourselves outside on the small patio where other guests were being served. After playing Sudoku and reading the paper for 10-15 minutes our drink orders were taken by one of the two waiters there. Our drinks were brought out (a lengthy time later) by a different waiter who handed them to us willy nilly because he didn't know who they belonged to. Our order was taken and the waiter returned quickly with our tickets to the taco bar inside and again mixed up our tickets/orders. Inside the restaurant we found the taco bar unattended. There was one family dining at a table in side and three other tables on the patio beside us(they were not busy). The staff was no where to be seen. My friends and I stood at the taco bar admiring the salsa and feeling embarrassed for 5 or so minutes until I caught the attention of a cook in the kitchen who sent out a woman to make tacos. The woman was very sweet and kind while making us tacos and grilling us jalapeńos. Back at our seats with our tacos we waited for the guacamole and rice and beans we had ordered to accompany them. We were also in need of silverware, napkins and refills on our drinks. As it became apparent after 10 minutes of waiting that no further help was to arrive we grabbed a stack of cocktail napkins from the bar and ate our tacos hungrily. As we were finishing up our meal the rice beans and guacamole arrived with napkins and silverware. Approximately 30 minutes after this we were given our check when I waved down a server as he was walking past. Needless to say I was personally offended by the unfriendly staff who made absolutely no effort to accommodate us in their restaurant. Having worked in the service industry in the past I can understand that when things are busy service can slow down, yet they were not busy in the slightest bit and there is never an excuse to be rude and dismissive when it is your specific job to be a wait person. It is my recommendation that adjustments be made to the staff in order to not completely offend and repel their patrons.

Reviewer: Travis from Santa Barbara, CA
To make a long story really short, I was talking to the manager today and he was telling me that service is the number one priority in this store, Also that they have 3 new managers and a new chef, The other ones are not with the company anymore, thank god,, service was awsome and the food came out fast and hot, really nice managers and WHAT A VIEW, I recomend to everyone to try this place, oh yeah and sunday bruch what a deal....

Pretty Good Food, Amazing Service
Reviewer: Glenn from Buellton
I think this is a place you want to go for a nicely served fairly good Mexican meal. For more authentic Mexican you'll try something on Milpas but you are going here for the view of the ocean(only Mexican place with an ocean view I can think of) and for the exceptional service. The food was a little hit and miss, the Green sauce on the Mazatlan burrito was not well spiced and the tortillas fell apart a little but everything else was really good including their chips and at the table made guacamole. The service was amazing, everyone you met greeted you warmly(I'm sure they are told to do that!) and the waitress was really nice. The high point was when they discounted my meal seeing I had a credit card with a discount w/o me even telling them about it.

so good
Reviewer: Jessie from Santa Barbara, CA
This place was so good. It's to bad people only right a review when somthing goes wrong for them. The food although not the most authentic mex ive ever had was great. i loved the shrimp tacos and the chips and salsa are addictive! Everyone that worked there was extreamly nice and attentive even though they were clearly very busy. Even the manager made time to come see how our food was.

two thumbs down
Reviewer: elle from goleta, ca
We've been to a number of El Torito's between SoCal and NorCal and by far this location lands at the bottom of our list. The food never looks like the pictures in the menu. Also, the food was not flavorable and in some cases, overcooked. So unfortunate as the location is beautiful. I rather go to a location w/ good food and service.

We waited for a long time to b seated..
Reviewer: Rebecca from Santa Barbara, CA
i went here with my son, waited for a long time to be seated. the person that seat it us was the bartender, I think. I had to ask to be seated.. terrible service..

Good food & service, but slighted on coupon.
Reviewer: mike from Santa Barbara, CA
In the past, coupons were used to lure potential new customers in and it would have worked for me, if the management didn't treat me like a 2nd class citizen after I used one. I was very(!) pleased with the hostess and our waitress, and the food portion looked small at first (I ordered the carne asada burrito, my companion did say that his fajitas left him hungry), but was not only quite adequate, but was very tasty! However, when I tried to use the coupon, the waitress had to call over the manager (should I describe him? Tall, well-dressed, African American man wearing glasses), who looked at me sideways and in a very patronizing manner begrudgingly processed the coupon. If they don't want people using their coupons, then they shouldn't print them or act that way when people do use them. Final note: I'm not cheap, and tipped our great waitress 30%.

Sunday Champagne Brunch
Reviewer: Zana from Santa Barbara, CA
Should I even be announcing that they have the most amazing champagne (all you can drink/eat) brunch on Sundays for $15?!?? What a steal! The food was delicious (way better than I remembered) and our server kept the bubbly flowing. We were at a table in the back and stayed for quite a while and our server didn't seem to care. It wasn't especially busy, so maybe that's why. If I didn't work Sundays I would be here every week!!

who better than a mexican herself
Reviewer: Maria de la Concepcion from Santa Barbara, CA
I went to El Torito this weekend and I must say the service has gotten way better.I got there during rush hour,around 2:30,and the hostess extremely attentive took me and my husband to hour table.Immediately after our server came to greet us and around 3 minutes later he came back with hour sodas and chips.While we enjoyed our very crunchy and warmed chips, we waited for our chicken flautas and fajitas supremas. We hand just the right time to enjoy the view and a good coversation when our humurous and nice server came with hour delicious meal. Next time you go and visit El Torito in SB ask for a server name George,we moves really fast and gives a good costumer service.

Do NOT recommend! SLOW service
Reviewer: Alaina from Santa Barbara, CA
My friend and I tried eating here, we recommend it at work since they have ocean views, well that is a big mistake. The food was okay... although they did bring me the wrong order. The service is SLOW! We forgot my friends debt card and when we went back to pick it up it took 15 minutes to get it back! The service sucks at this place and the hostess is useless!

Good sour cram enchiladas...indecent servers
Reviewer: Carla Lopez from Santa Barbara, CA
It was around 4:30pm when we experienced the worst lunch ever. We were sat towards the middle/back section, and had a tall skinny weird server. The way he approached us was very spooky, he walks toward our table and stands there in front of us, just staring in a weird way, he was obviously ON something, and never spoke one word, I had to initiate everything, I said to him, "Are you taking our order?" He said nothing but took out his pen and checkbook. We ordered two margaritas and enchilada entrees. The drinks took 15 minutes and when we saw him approaching us again with our drinks I noticed there were 3 margaritas, he gives us ours and takes the third one towards the back section where there was a non-operating register and stands in his little visible corner and chugs down the margarita, on the clock!! Worst experience ever, we had to get up and get our own utensils, he never came back to check on us, we had asked for a second drink while he waltzed by, and never got it. And when he dropped the check, we asked him about our pending drink, and he said he had forgotten to put the order in. NEVER going back there again.

A mexican food restaurant that RUNS OUT OF BEANS?!
Reviewer: Chris from Santa Barbara, CA
We went to El Torito on News Years Day, around 6:00 PM, and had one of the worst/funniest experiences ever. Walked in, nobody was at the counter to show us to our seats. After standing there for a few minutes, a hostess eventually walks up and takes our name. She told us it would be 5 to 10 minutes even though there were TONS of open tables and booths. I'm guessing they were understaffed because of the holiday. Sat down at a table, waited almost 10 minutes before someone came to give us chips and salsa. The chips were TERRIBLE. They were extremely oily and some of them were not cooked very well at all and were not crunchy. It was like biting into a piece of dough. You could actually bend and flex these chips... Another 10 minutes pass before the waiter came over to take our order. I ordered the Carne Asada Burrito, which I order all the time at other El Torito's. It really is delicious. Anyway, the waiter tells me "Sir, we do not have any beans, would you like your burrito filled with just rice?" I literally started laughing. A mexican food restaurant with NO BEANS! I asked him what else they could use and he went to check with the cook. He came back and told me there was nothing else... just rice and meat. I told the waiter that I was going to look for something else on the menu and he walked away. I took that opportunity to get up and leave. I didn't bother paying for the watered down soda they brought me. One of the worst dining experiences I've ever had. I go to other El Torito's all the time but this was truly a miserable time. I will not go back, and I plan on writing a letter to the management of the restaurant.

Reviewer: lucey from sb
well my boyfriend works there and i love it the food is great and so is the service!(but i mostly go to see my boyfriend! SHHHH!)

Mediocre at Best
Reviewer: Mark from Santa Barbara, CA
After visiting this restaurant, I am honestly very surprised at all of the positive reviews. I went to El Torito last week and we were seated immediately, however, it took nearly 10 minutes before we saw our waiter, and before we received water and chips. I ordered the two cheese enchilada combo with a taco. It was horrible. The "enchiladas" were nothing more than two small, poorly-wrapped tortillas with a bit of melted cheese within and some questionable enchilada sauce on top. The taco tasted as if it had been sitting under a heat lamp for quite some time because the meat juices inside had begun to permeate the taco shell. In all, the food was highly mediocre, and I'm not even that picky. This place needs to really step up their service and food quality/presentation. I would NOT recommend this place to anyone. I'd rather eat take-out at Rudy's; at least the food would have been better.

A Favorite Stopping Point
Reviewer: Jan from Poway, CA
My daughter is a 3rd year student at UCSB and I frequently visit from our home in San Diego. We are no strangers to good Mexican food and El Toritos fits the bill. This weekend, I am bringing my sister and her teenage son to SB to visit. And we will definitely have a meal at this El Torito. The view is spectacular and the food was delicious. Our servers during our last visit offered to take a picture of my daughter and I and made our evening memorable. I anticipate the same this weekend.

i loved it
Reviewer: lindsey from phoenix
I recently went on vacation to SB and this was the first res I went to. I fell in love with the food and the service was wonderful.

Decent for a party!
Reviewer: Laura from Santa Barbara, CA
Although it took 3 people to understand what our reservation was and where we would be seated, the waitress was very patient with our party as we got a little crazy after a few margaritas. $4 for a large house margarita during happy hour is a pretty good deal and the food was good, although a little spicy for our pathetic little taste buds. I've been when it's very crowded and service can be awful, but this time we all had fun!

good as a last resource
Reviewer: Jose Lobato from Santa Barbara
my workplace constantly comes here due to a party or special occasion and due to the fact that its nearby (I'm not too happy). The food is delicious but is now served in really small portions, especially the chicken fajitas. the service isn't that good, because it seems that the waiters don't really want to be there. almost every time i go, the waiters are making fun of the other non Spanish speaking costumers. One thing that really fires me up about this place is that they add the tip to your check (even is the service completely sucks), don't get me wrong i always leave a tip in a restaurant depending on the service but tips are supposed to be complementary not mandatory.

The food is great, the service is superb!
Reviewer: Charles from Santa Barbara, CA
In Santa Barbara very few restaurants fill their seats during the slow season. This restaurant is always busy. We ordered a variety of appetizers and entrees. The food arrived within 20 minutes, very reasonable. Everything fresh and extremely tasty. The service was impeccable, service you expect only from a four-star upscale establishment. The management is what makes this place unforgettable. I've never met such energetic and intelligent restaurant managers in Santa Barbara. I highly recommend this restaurant. I'm sure you will agree!!!

not the best in res in SB, but a good brunch
Reviewer: Nicole from santa barbara
I'm local. SB has many other restaurants that are better than this, but we are limited to Sunday Brunch with a view of the water with decent food. When friends come to town they want to see the beach. El Torito is a no brainer. Lots of variety, easy access, not too pricey,plenty of seating (nothing worse than taking hungry out of towners to a restaurant and have to wait a 1/2 hour to be seated) plus you can walk down Cabrillo art show afterward. Done deal.

Best ever
Reviewer: Jennifer from San Francisco, CA
This was the best Mexican food I have EVER had and I'm from SF (we have lots of Mexican food up here)!! We ordered the Chef's special (I think it was called) Grande Platter, 1 taco, 1 enchilada, 1 mini burrito, with black beans and rice.... we also shared two quesadilla's with this delicious sauce! Though the food was quite expensive, I'd say it was worth it!

Reviewer: Jessica from San Francisco, CA
ok so i went there on the 4th of july from san francisco to stearns wharf ... it all started off when me n my family went out for dinner ... it was bout 4:30 so we went to fishouse but the waitress said there serving cocktail and we'd have to wait til 5 so we walked and found el torito and went in ... it was a mistake turned to heaven... i dont remember what i ordered but i remember my daughter had a special on the kids menu... it was only $4.99 !! she had quesidilla and a bowl of fruit side and french fries and icecream for dessert !!! i recommend it..

Always pay a visit!
Reviewer: Allyson from Salt Lake City, UT
I stumbled on El Torito's while living in Santa Barbara 3 years ago. After moving over from Salt Lake, my father stayed a few days extra to make sure I was settled in. After visiting, my father and I always talk about going again on our next trip. On a visit there last year, I ate there two days running! I'm hoping to pay a visit while there next week!

I went along with the crowd, they wanted Mexican food
Reviewer: Charlie Wolff from Atascadero, CA
We ate lunch here 7-17-06. I had my heart set on a BIG juicy hamburger, but I was out-numbered. We were a crowd of eleven, the waitress was very quick to get our drinks and bring-on the chips and salsa. Our orders were taken right away but it took a little longer than we expected for the kitchen to crank out our food. I ordered the Carnitas plate, a favorite of mine: it was great. The appearance of the other items that were ordered was great, the only complaint was some of the items were a little on the spicy side. This place is GOOD; GO FOR IT.

Reviewer: Brad Miller from Santa Barbara

Reviewer: Christina from Santa Barbara
This place is awesome! It is definitely my favorite mexican restaurant, ever. the food is delicious, the service is superb and the location is perfect. I absolutely recommend El Torito!! In fact, I cannot wait to eat there later this week!!

happy hour
Reviewer: Josh from Santa barbara
Ever since El Paseo got rid of their old happy hour I've been wanting a place I could go for good, inexpensive food and margaritas. El Torito has happy hour until 10:00 and their food is actually good! "Authentic" maybe not, but that's less important than the taste, and their appetizers are really good, especially the sopes.

Don't Listen to Lisa
Reviewer: Gary Workman from Mesquite, TX
Lisa must have eaten a prune before walking into the place, or maybe got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. Or maybe the restaurant just had an off day when she at there. My wife and I are 64 years old and have made it our quest through all our 45 years together to find the best Mexican restaurants everywhere we go in the country. And, believe me, we have been to a lot of places -- not to mention the fact that she grew up in El Paso, which can rightfully claim honors as the origins of Tex-Mex. We now live in the Dallas area where there are scads of Mexican restaurants to choose from. And the upshot of all this experience is this: we think El Torito is absolutely great! Whenever we are in California, we make it a point to drive up the coast from Thousand Oaks (bypassing their mediocre sister restaurant there) in order to eat at this place with the delightful view, great service, and outstanding food. Try it for yourself. We don't think you'll be disappointed. The guacamole made right at your table is worth the visit even if you ate nothing else!

Always tasty and pleased

I´ve dined here for years and years and have always been pleased with the food and service. Very friendly staff. The fresh guac dip is my favorite. This is prepared right at your table with the freshest ingredients and to your exact taste preference. I will always know this place as "Ahola Amigos"!

The "Denny´s" of Mexican Food

With the sheer amount of great authentic Mexican restaurants in Santa Barbara, there´s no reason for an El Torito. Ask a local where to get good and "real" Mexican food.

Best Mexican Food in Santa Barbara
Reviewer: Ray from Guadalupe, CA
The Michocan Carnitas are excellent! Service is wonderful and the ocean view is fantastic!!


Poor, at Best
Reviewer: Lisa from Ventura, CA
What were the previous reviewers thinking? I had luke warm "tortilla" soup. It tasted like Cambell´s Vegetable and there were NO TORTILLAS involved. The salad was swimming in dressing. I would definitely not go back, not even for the great location.

Yummy food and the service is perfect.
Reviewer: Irma from Was in Santa Barbara. Now in Colorado Springs
Its the best mexican food I´ve ever had. Service was great, they are very fast and nice. The Atmosphere is really nice, I love it because you can view the beach while enjoying your food. I use to go there alot when I lived there. I will miss it.

The excellent service and awesome food
Reviewer: Tamar from Arizona
This is real mexican food in town, everybody was frendly, and attentative, but the managers are who make the diferences that make us came back again. This restaurant is the best.

Reviewer: Dave from SB, CA
The food was amazing. We had the sizzling enchiladas and a pollo dish. All I can say was, "Awesome". The location across the street from the beach can´t be beat. Highly recommend it!

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