Cielito has opened at 1114 State St, in the former home of Stateside and Acapulco. Restaurant hours: Tue-Thu 5:30pm-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm, closed Mon. Taqueria hours: Mon 11am-8pm, Tue-Sat 11am-6pm, closed Sun.

Here is a press-release I received about it:

Cielito Restaurant Writes a New Story For Mexican Cuisine in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, CA. January 2102  – Ready for a “little bit of heaven”? Cielito Restaurant has opened its doors to Santa Barbara unveiling a breathtaking renovation.  Cielito’s location within the historic La Arcada complex has been a longtime favorite gathering place for dining and relaxation around the famous turtle fountain.  With Chef Ramon Velazquez, Cielito introduces Santa Barbara to authentic regional Mexican cuisine and South American flavors at their finest. Emphasizing fresh seafood and seasonal offerings, Cielito is the latest culinary venture by Gordon Hardey, from the renowned local family-owned restaurants Jeannine’s, and business partner Karen Phillips, a long-time friend of the Hardey family.  They were inspired to open a restaurant that celebrates the richness and diversity of Mexican cuisine. Together with Velazquez, they bring their passion for extraordinary food to life, writing a new story for Mexican food in Santa Barbara.

Centrally located in La Arcada, Cielito is ideally situated for those looking for an inviting new setting to take in the sights and sounds of downtown, and experience the rich, varied flavors of Mexico and South America. Cielito offers two distinct venues to enjoy – Cielito Taqueria for fresh, hand made, on-the-go items, or the casual sophistication of Cielito Restaurant, where guests can taste their way through a culinary tour of Mexico and beyond.

The History
The location of Cielito in La Arcada has a long local history. Originally the site of both a hospital and a church, when La Arcada was rebuilt after the 1925 earthquake the space became a restaurant, first as Café de La Arcada, and then in 1949 became El Cielito, a popular restaurant owned by Harry Davis, who also owned Harry’s and Joe’s Café. Davis sold El Cielito in 1973 to Josephine Wandell, who called the restaurant Josie’s El Cielito. The restaurant remained a popular gathering spot for locals, and a favorite lunch location for judges and attorneys from the Courthouse. In 1980 Josie’s El Cielito closed and Acapulco took over the space until 2006. The opening of Cielito is the rebirth of a Santa Barbara tradition, and a return to the classic pleasures of a bygone era. The new Cielito brings back nostalgic memories while at the same time introduces a new take on the Mexican dining experience.

The Food
Over the centuries, indigenous Mexican cuisine has been influenced by its history, region by region. African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean flavors make up part of Mexico’s rich culinary evolution. Cielito’s food reflects this range of culinary influence with recipes from Mexico City to Oaxaca and from Veracruz  to Guadalajara. At Cielito, Chef Velazquez reveals the true flavors of traditional dishes prepared with simplicity and elegance. Each dish celebrates the essence of the ingredients and is presented to delight the eye and the palate. Cielito’s menu has a strong focus on fresh seafood, and benefits from Velazquez’s extensive experience in this area. The Raw Bar will feature several daily ceviches, sashimi grade fish, oysters and sustainable shellfish. At Cielito, all ingredients are carefully sourced, providing grass fed premium meats and the freshest seasonal, and local produce whenever possible. Cielito is the realization of Chef Velazquez’s dream to share with others the food that fed his body and soul growing up.

The Chef
Cielito’s Executive Chef Ramon Velazquez grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico. As the eldest of seven siblings, he spent his youth cooking alongside his mother and grandmother at home and in the family’s “fonda”, a small neighborhood food stand outside their home. Some of Velazquez’s favorite foods growing up were “Antojitos” which translates to “small cravings”. Antojitos are traditionally served in small bites and reflect the fresh local produce from the region and change with the seasons. These form the basis for Cielito’s small plates, ideal for sharing among friends. Velazquez moved to Santa Barbara in 1990 and after finishing his education, he pursued his passion for the culinary world and worked in many notable local restaurants, honing his skills and defining his style. Most recently, Velazquez spent the past 12 years at Arigato, ultimately serving as head sushi chef. The beautiful presentation and extraordinary skill and care with fresh fish dishes are hallmarks of the style that is distinctively his.

Cielito’s Main Restaurant
The inviting dining room at Cielito has been grandly restored, respecting the elegance of the historic La Arcada, drawing guests in to an inviting and exhilarating experience. Befitting its name, Cielito’s high ceilings are illuminated by twinkling lights that give the space a celestial “little bit of heaven” feel. Several private dining and meeting spaces, complete with fireplaces and views overlooking the main dining room and courtyard below, make the mezzanine level the most requested seats in the house. Open late for dinner, drinks, and desserts.

Cielito Taqueria
The Taqueria’s walk-up taco bar offers a separate quick-bite menu for lunch and dinner. Featuring mouth-watering made-to-order tacos, tamales, soups, salads and more, the Taqueria offers a fresh and convenient way to eat on the go or to enjoy sitting around the fountain. The same premium ingredients make all the offerings truly stand out.

The Tequila Bar
The majestic antique bar, brought to Santa Barbara from Chicago by Hugh Peterson, provides a grand backdrop for the Cielito Tequila bar. Presenting a premium selection of world-class Tequilas and spirits from Mexico and South America, the bar offers an inventive line-up of hand crafted cocktails to please all palates, including house-made Tequila infusions and fresh pressed juices from seasonal Farmer’s Market fruit. The bar is a perfect spot to explore the tastes of Tequila while enjoying surprise treats, or “botanas”, prepared by the Cielito kitchen. Cielito’s Botana Hour is the perfect place to meet after work to relax while sampling some of Cielito’s savory offerings.

About Cielito Restaurant & Taqueria
Cielito Restaurant celebrates the true flavors of Mexico. Indulge your senses at every turn.  Sample the famous antojitos, or “small cravings”, perfect for sharing among friends. Experience the Raw Bar’s piquant ceviches and fresh shellfish. Take a break at the Taqueria for savory treats in handmade tortillas. Treat yourself with desserts made just for Cielito.  Cielito is located in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, in the historic La Arcada. Visit for a truly unique experience. 1114 State Street, Santa Barbara CA, 93101. For reservations call (805) 225-4488.

Chef Ramon Velazquez (left) with his team.

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  1. David says:

    I don’t know about anyone else but I am extremely pleased with the opening of this business. Finally, something unique to challenge the status quo of our city’s culinary landscape – a Mexican restaurant.

    • Spank says:

      Isn’t it great that the internet gives you a forum for your wit? I mean how empty would this site be without it…

      But seriously. It will be interesting to see if this is a new take on the scene or yet another vanilla restaurant. I look forward to trying it out instead of being a troll…

      • David says:

        How did you enjoy the restaurant, Spanky? Did their rift on tortillas, lettuce, cheese, and meat change the way you perceive Mexican food? Please tell us.

        • Bob says:

          Give me a break David. You could apply that line of questioning to freaking salad. Why complain when a new restaurant opens, on a restaurant blog, no less? El Cielito is making some pretty damn good tacos (amongst other items) and you know what? They’re way different than Lily’s which are different from La Colmena which are different than Palapa…I could go on.

  2. Casper the friendly dude says:

    Overpriced! $3 for a taco, what a joke. There’s no shortage of people in SB willing to pay those prices, no doubt..

  3. Jess says:

    We ate lunch here today, and it’s wonderful. Lovely tacos, friendly staff, and a welcome addition to the one-note Mexican fare on state street.

  4. Casper the friendly dude says:

    You just proved my point. Lilly has the best tacos period.

  5. pjt says:

    We ate lunch there the other day. Gorgeous day to sit on the patio by the fountain. At our table, we had three different types of tacos, two different types of tamals, chips & guac & salad. The food was outstanding. There are a few kinks that need to get worked out. Only one POS register…not enough at a busy lunch hour (the line was very long to order and the person ringing up the order also had to get the beverages). The chips & guac didn’t come with any salsa (in fact, nothing came with salsa; no salsa bar…some salsa by request) and for $5 was a bit chinzy. The chicken mole tamal was significantly larger than the vegetable tamal (and only .50 more). The shrimp taco was small (very tasty). The chicken taco in a fried shell looked pretty substantial. If you want a drink refill, you have to wait back in the order line. Small issues…but delicious food and I will go back!

  6. eatsoutguy says:

    Great food, cool space. But the service is horrible. Had to ask three times for our drinks and wait twenty minutes to order food. Saw what we thought were managers just standing there heads down, playing with an I-pad, while the staff ran around looking dazed and confused. Much improvement needed.

  7. Mike says:

    $6.00 for a Corona? I think average price is more like $5.00 and even that is outrageous. 2 Tacos and 2 Coronas will cost $24.00 minimum plus tip etc so about $30.00. Ridiculous. Tourists will pay that I guess.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Go to the tacqueria stand. Tacos are delicious!

  9. Scott says:

    Haven’t heard a ton of good things. Hope the kinks are worked out.

  10. Jaquar says:

    I went to Cielito with my GF. and she loved the decor and so did I, but the entire experience was not what was expected. The service was not very good the food was OK, but not great. If you want really good Mexican food there is this great little place on Milpas St. “Los Agaves” that is a restaurant that puts out great quality food at a fair price. Good luck to Cielito I hope they are still here a year from now!

  11. Sue says:

    Just had dinner with 2 friends at Cielito. Loved it. Excellent food and service. Maybe a bit pricy, but the quality was so good, we didn’t mind. Ordered 5 different things and every one was amazingly good. No ordinary rice and beans here. And the place was completely packed on a week night, so they must be doing something right.