Santa Barbara > Restaurants > La Chapala Market
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La Chapala Market
5780 Hollister Ave, Goleta
Phone: (805) 681-0277

  • Category: Mexican
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-8pm, Sun 7:30am-7pm
  • Price: < $10
  • Serving: Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner
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Reviews by the General Public

Changing their Game
Reviewer: Mike from Santa Barbara, CA
La Chapala seems to be trying to change their game. They have a new menu and are advertising that they have homemade tortillas. They have made some obvious changes to the kitchen area and have a few new faces back there cooking. The first thing one notice when going in, is a new board with a new menu. Lacking from the menu are any prices, not good. They have recently added a printed menu to the front window that does have prices, which is a helpful addition. The prices have also gone up across the board. This used to be the bargain place in Old Town for a quick, filling meal. No more. Their prices are now more in line with the area sit down establishments. On a recent visit I tried the conchita pibil. This is a dish I don’t see too often and generally loved. The dish was served with the beans in fluted, fried masa cup with the homemade tortillas on the side (where’s the rice). The new chefs obviously have some training as good deal of effort was made in the plating. However, the pibil was a disappointment. While the shredded pork was tendered and had decent flavor. It lacked the notes of sour orange and achiote I associate with pibil. On a second visit I tried the torta ahogada. This is something I have not had in quite some time. For those unfamiliar with it, think of a pamboza on steroids. It is a craniates torta dunked (and I mean dunked) in a hot chili sauce. It makes for a wonderful, sloppy chili overdose. The sauce on theirs is toned down a bit, but still good. They also throw in a little of the hot red salsa that helps kick it back up to the proper heat level.

Old Town Bargain
Reviewer: Mike from Goleta, CA
I eat here at least twice a week and this is probably one of the better bargains in Old Town. The tacos at $1.39 each are a bargain. I usually go for either carnitas or lengua tacos. Also take a look at the specials that are posted daily. If you don’t know what it is, ask. They are glad to describe what is in it and how it’s prepared. Service has always been good and helpful (you order at the register). One just has to keep in mind this is a Market first. This brings us to the occasional odor. You are going to get that at any establishment that sells tripe.

Not quite the apple of my eye.
Reviewer: John Cabrera from Goleta, CA
Walked into the store and I get a strong smell of dead cow and rotten animal.. Kind of grossed out already, I decided to order 4 asada tacos. When I received them they were not very hot and the meat contained many nerves. I'd rather go to Freebirds 1000000 times more. Very pricy too $1.50 a taco! Service was horrible couldn't even find anyone to ask for the bathroom. I left with a grumbly stomach. I will not return.

Just Do It!
Reviewer: Fay from Santa Barbara, CA
I work in Old Town Goleta and I have always been curious, but not knowing any Spanish made this place a little intimidating to me. Today, I finally got up the nerve to order off their big board of menu items; man am I glad I did not wait any longer. I ordered the shrimp burrito which came with at least 15 medium to large, whole shrimp; good size burrito too; not overly stuffed with beans and rice, just proportionate. I tried the salsa verde and the roasted salsa; both were spot-on in flavor. I even grabbed a bit of the roasted jalapeño/green onion mix; but it was just a little too HOT for me. Next time you’re thinking about going in, just do it, you'll be glad you did!

Not just a restaurant - but one of the best stores around.
Reviewer: Bill Smiley from Goleta, CA
Maria G. had a bad experience! Could not find a manager! Poor lass. Everyone in the store is a manager. That's the secret!!! You have to shop there to know everyone working there is in charge. The best store in Goleta, at least old town, in this humble shoppers’ opinion. I would not vote it the best in wine and would like to try more local Burritos before I say they are the best, but the people working there are the best. Maria said: “Maria Gonzalez from Santa Barbara, CA I hope u never need to complain about anything at this store, because they will not help you. Good luck in getting a managers name...they act like it's a big secret! Very frustrating when you deal w/people who act like they have something to hide. Tried to find out who the owner was ….” Blah blah…. I say; if something you need is too hard to reach, maybe the shelves are too high, ask for help - anyone there in the morning, noon, or night will help solve your problem even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish, French or Russian. Bless the people who work hard there.

my favorite carnitas in town
Reviewer: lemonjelly from santa barbara, ca
After sampling every taqueria in the Old Town Goleta area, la Chapala came out to be my favorite, and I've returned many times since!

It is a combination market and carniceria, also selling prepared foods. There is a menu over the food area by the front door and this is where you pick up your prepared items, but you order and pay at the market's cashier counter alongside the regular shoppers. Tacos are just $1.39 each, with about 15 meat, fish and vegetable options including birria. My favorite is the carnitas, which are golden, chunky, tender and juicy. I can eat a satisfying lunch of two tacos and a fruit popsicle (try the papaya!) for under $5.

Another favorite item is the hurrache, again I like it with carnitas. The hurrache is served with a scant amount of beans, Mexican cheese, nopales and a great pile of the meat of your choice, and costs just $6. I got the carnitas hurrache again this week and noted that the bottom of the masa remained golden crisp down to the last bite, which took me at least 20 minutes to eat! I've had the chicken mole, too, it's not my favorite in town, but it's okay.

Knowing some Spanish is a plus, even if just some basic numbers, so you know when your order's called. Or just hover near the pick-up area, looking for something that represents what you ordered, and grab it when it appears.

There's ample seating, no-frills bright yellow fast-food style tables, a diverse salsa bar including pickled chiles and roasted chiles, all in a bustling market atmosphere. There's also a parking lot in the back that's a decent size for Old Town, although it does get tight during the lunch rush. This isn't the place for long lingering lunches and a doting staff, it's a simple place for a delicious meal that's prepared quickly, you clean up after yourself, and it's easy on the wallet.

I worked there a few years ago and I really like the food!!
Reviewer: Gabriela Navarro from Guadalajara, Mexico
I worked there for around 1 year, in 2006. I live in Mexico right now, but I really miss this place. I really like the tacos and tortas...also the burritos!! When I worked there, all the employees are very good people and friends, the manager and the last owner were very nice with me. Lot of customers like to eat there and I think the service was very good (at lease, to many people let me know that my job was good). If somebody go there very often, please give my best regards to Paty, the cashier and a very good friend....

Best Mexican Food In Town!!!
Reviewer: Brianna Smith from Santa Barbara, CA
The food here is great!! Very friendly employees but the only problem is that I don't speak Spanish that much. I would definitely recommend this place to my friends and family and I will also come back here to eat the Camarones a la Diabla(very spicy though).

Good food, limited selection and language barriers
Reviewer: Glenn from Buellton
Food was good and cheap, some negatives outweighed that though for me that I probably won't be back: 1) They don't tell you to order/pay at the store cash register kind of irked me and the server just knows Spanish(though nice). 2) They ran out of chicken apparently(with a meat market in the store next to them?) and they just had beef for the chicken burrito I wanted though the beef was good. 3) The wait was probably 15-20 minutes for the food. 4) Not the best part of town and limited parking. 5) They had no "to go" containers for the salsa so I went w/o. The store side of it is nice, I wonder why more people don't shop there than crowded Santa Cruz market across the street as it appeared they had the same stuff with faster lines.

my favorite mexican food in goleta
Reviewer: Jason from Santa Barbara, CA
when I was in highschool I went on a cultural exchange in Toluca, mexico, and after first time I ate here I called a friend that went with me and told her how I had found a place that reminded me of our favorite lunch spot. I've since been back many times, and never been let down. the food here is fantastic, the little tacos for $1.39 each are totally authentic and absolutely delicious. The fajitas are killer, as are the sopes and tortas. I highly recommend this place to anyone that wants a taste of real mexican food.

Bad Customer Service
Reviewer: Maria Gonzalez from Santa Barbara, CA
I hope u never need to complain about anything at this store, because they will not help you. Good luck in getting a managers name...they act like it's a big secret! Very frustrating when you deal w/people who act like they have something to hide. Tried to find out who the owner was so I could write to them...I'm sure they're not aware of how their store is being handled...but again..."no one knows". Surprise??? Customer Service not a should be!

Wonderful place
Reviewer: Reed from Santa Barbara, CA
I was always curious about this place as I drove through Old Town Goleta, but never managed to venture in until one day. It definitely is Latino-centric, but all of the staff seem to know, at the very least, conversational English, and more than a few are fluent. The menu is in Spanish, but with a little know how of Spanish or other European languages, it's not too hard to figure out what they have (I'm sure you could also just ask). Anyway, the food is great, and extremely cheap. You can get thee very large tacos for five bucks, or a very big burrito with cheese, beans, rice, onions, cilantro, and meat for $5.25 or so. They also have, yes, a variety of authentic fillings, including: chile verde, beef, chicken, goat (birria), cabeza (cow brains), lengua (cow tongue), carnitas, al pastor, adobado, etc. They also have a lot of other options, including some really, really good shrimp dishes (camarones). The Camarones with Ranchero sauce was very good, but watch out for the Camarones a la Diabla - EXTREMELY spicy! My girlfriend and I have pretty high tolerances for spicy food, too, and we were both pretty floored by that dish. That's the other thing - their salsas have a bit more kick to them than most, and their chile verde does also, so I think that's a trend here, too. They also have Mole, Menudo, and a variety of other authentic Mexican plates for reasonable prices. Great!

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