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Zia Cafe
[closed, no longer in business]

532 State St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 962-5391


Reviews by the General Public

Looks closed!
Reviewer: Rick from Santa Barbara, CA
Went by today, looks closed to me. Same stack of papers inside, tables etc still there. Anyone have any info?


local fav
Reviewer: Charles S. from Santa Barbara, CA
This is one of the few restaurants that has been here for over 10+years. I remember it when it was back on milpas. Only Mexican restaurant i can tell that they dont use bottled anything for the salsa. (try the orange salsa, u have to ask for this)The plate sizes are REALLY good for your money. Best margs in town and get a pitcher. awesome price! The balcony never seems to be open unless you get a reservation ahead of time which is a down point. The chile rellenos are a must. Havnt found a chile rellno like that anywhere else. i think its the number 11. Wouldnt still be around if it wasnt a local favorite.


A NEGATIVE DINING EXPERIENCE
Reviewer: Norm from Santa Clarita, CA
I lived in New Mexico many years and found this food to be the poorest excuse for New Mexican Cuisine ever. The salsa was horrible, the chips weren't fresh. The sopapillas were tasty but not like in New Mexico and the honey was granulated from sitting and not being used. Only 2 tables were occupied at the height of the dinner hour on Sunday Evening. The beans and posole were tasteless and very plain. My wife and I each ordered the chicken enchiladas and they were no more than chicken rolled up in tortillas with a very plain green chile sauce over it. The guacamole was nothing more than mashed avocado; lacking the dynamic spiciness of Mexican Guacamole. When I requested the guacamole and sour cream be served on the side the waitress appeared to be bothered. Then when the dinner was served it was all mixed up. They forgot the sour cream and avocado the first time on my meal and my wife's and they brought only me the guacamole later on the side completely forgetting my wife's. Speaking of service, they were so slow.We were eating out with another couple and we were all very frustrated that we had been waiting for our food for so long. When I commented to the older waitress my feelings in a very polite manner she stated that I was the rudest person she had ever met. She stated that she has been in business for 27 years in this location on State Street and owns the building. My personal feeling is that anybody who has food and service of this quality couldn't possibly remain in business for this long; especially with the high rent they must pay on State St. In short, avoid wasting your money on this restaurant. There are so many great dining locations to frequent.


Down right awful!
Reviewer: Ann from Santa Barbara, CA
I have lived in Santa Barbara for about 10 years now. I've visited State Street many a times but never thought to go into Zia Cafe. However, I had never seen or eaten at a New Mexican restaurant so I thought I'd give it a try. After one visit I'm not sure I'd return any time soon. There is very limited service with one waitress manning the whole restaurant. And I heard such great things about the owner, but when my dish came out completely wrong she nearly scolded me and told me I must have been mistaken. Although the Sopapillas were absolutely delicious, I couldn't look past the lack of service, and dirty place setting. Overall, the atmosphere has serious potential but something needs to be done about the management. I hope the owner makes some changes so I can return and really enjoy the potential of this staple on main State Street. Unfortunately though until then I have to say I do not recommend Zia Cafe.


Average All Around
Reviewer: Nicole from Santa Barbara, CA
If there was a rating for decor I'd give Zia a 5. They have a cute little location and wonder setup. The service is just above average while their food is just below. Their prices are fair but the food is bland, there's nothing outstanding about it. With all the wonderful Mexican food places Zia needs to step it up a notch. The chips and salsa are delicious though!


great food
Reviewer: Sarah from Solvang CA
This place is a locals favorite, try the chips and salsa.


hidden gem without the heavyness of regular mexican food
Reviewer: Henry M. from Santa Barbara, CA
All the sauces are cooked with no lard or meats and still have the awesome hatch chili taste. chili rellenos are amazing but they are completly different from regular mexican style rellenos (even mild rellenos have a bit of heat)...if u can handle the heat try the green chili stew. You get alot of food for the price and you dont feel heavy and overly food as you usually do with mexican food.


So-So food in a cute building
Reviewer: Lew Marklin from Santa Barbara, CA
Zia has the coolest little building, it looks cute, enticing if you will. The name is kind of cool, the color, the sign, the little upstairs seating, it just says "Oh come here, you gotta try this trendy little spot," but when you walk in, the vibe is kind of weird. It's more, look but don't touch, than come on in and love it. The food is ok, and nothing is really very memorable about the place other than the store front, that I can enjoy as I walk by for free. I would suggest music and a more energetic service environment.


Really Bad
Reviewer: Matt from Solvang
Came here with my mom when she came up to visit and it was bad! The only good thing was the bottled imported beer. Everything else was nasty. The chips were stale, food was bland and extremely overpriced for the quality. We each had an entree and I had a beer and the bill came to over $40 before tip at lunch. Seriously not worth it! The service was non-existant, they never refilled water though we asked three times. No one checked on us, and the bathroom was filthy. I am easy to please and even this place left me with a bad taste in my mouth- literally. Do yourself a favor- Try somewhere else on State Street!


bland
Reviewer: Greg from goleta
The food was bland. There were no interesting flavors anywhere to stand out, I could have been chewing soy pebblets for all it mattered. The rice was stale and old. My dish was supposed to come with guacamole... well, there was a layer of guacamole about one molecule thick smeared on the side of one tortilla. The service was slow despite there being only three tables occupied at the time. A bland experience all around. We used to like the Zia, but that was 10 years ago, I can't recommend it anymore.


Low quality!
Reviewer: AF from Hayward, CA
I had eaten there on 7-14-08. My girl had informed me that this place has great food. We live in the bay area and were there for the weekend due to a wedding. I ordered a plate of 1 enchilada, 1 chili relleno, rice, and beans. She had two chicken enchiladas. All I can say is that this is not New Mexican food! I guess the owners think that by using blue corn tortillas, red chili from "northern" New Mexico, and pesole you have an authentic dish. WRONG! This was basically Mexican food! The only difference was the ingredients mentioned. The red chili sauce wasn't even made properly. In fact it tasted like there was chocolate in it which is commonly used in Mexican food. The red chili sauce had no body to it. It was as thin as water. Trust me, don't go here if you are expecting authentic New Mexican food. You need to go to New Mexico and try their food to really understand what I'm mentioning. The food there is unforgettable. Especially in the north were Cafe "claims" to get their red chili. The food in the north will blow your mind. Cafe Zia should be ashamed to be serving the crap that they are serving. I think they're making their business on unknowing tourists. I also ordered a margarita that was on the weak side. More weak than not. Also, the portions of the rice, beans, and pesole was approximately 1/2 cup. Yes, I am serious. The plating was horrible! They used an undressed salad place in the middle of a hot plate as a garnish but seemingly as a filler to make it look like the plate was full. Anyways, you'll be more satisfied trying one of the many other restaurants on State St. This place should really RETHINK their claimed authenticity and focus on producing what we the public are expecting. Other than that, false advertising!


Honest and Accurate. A Locals Opinion
Reviewer: Joe from Santa Barbara
My Lady and I are long time locals. We have eaten almost everywhere and have fair and reasonable standards. Zia is among the very worst dining experiences in Santa Barbara. A great location does not compensate for lackluster service and inferior food. The waitress didn't know what the specials were when asked, and with out a word she walked out of the restaurant to read their sign on the front of the building. The drink order never arrived. The food was brought out one meal at a time with several minutes in between. The food was of the lowest quality(think "Taco Bell"). Actually it was not edible. The "carne asada" was nearly absent from the carne asada burrito, however upon locating and biting a piece, I'd wished I hadn't. Thirty dollars later, we had two plates that were nearly untouched. The overiding sensation was "GROSS." We are nice and thoughtful people and we have never previously discouraged people from patronizing any specific business. ZIA cafe was the worst dining experience in memory; bad enough to evoke our first ever review. Santa Barbara is a treasure trove of Mexican food and Zia should be avoided at all costs.


just ok
Reviewer: Kristin from Isla Vista
First, I'd like to give this place an A+ for service. The waitress was friendly and kept the complimentary chips+salsa coming until our food came. I ordered the Indian bread with sour cream, guacamole, my choice of sauce, and beef. What came was Indian bread the size of a donut topped with ground beef in a red sauce with a dollop of guacamole and sour cream, with sides of corn, rice, beans, and a small salad. I'm not sure what I was expecting but this wasn't it. However, it was yummy! My complaint is with roomie's food-- essential the same as my dish, but with a "tostada bowl" (a soft taco sized chip) that was stale and no sauce, making the chicken she ordered dry and unseasoned. She was basically stuck with a pile of cooked chicken on top of a stale tortilla chip. I felt so bad for her. I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not sure if I got the fluke dish or if she did. The ambiance is great, the menu looks delicious, but what you get is something entirely different (also, $12 for two tamales? you gotta be kidding me...).


Very good on Fiesta weekend!
Reviewer: Niki from Santa Barbara, CA
I really enjoyed Zia Cafe! I went with friends for a perfect night of mexican food to get into the spirit of Fiesta! The food was great and the service was great as well, especially considering the crazy-busy weekend! Overall, I would definitely reccomend!


Meet at Zia Cafe
Reviewer: Rebecca Sider from Santa Barbara, California
I haven't been to Zia yet, but I definately will. Alan M. Schwab who used to live in Santa Barbara.... if you haven't been to Zia Cafe yet, let's meet there for lunch sometime when you're in town. It's Rebecca, (Becky). I just moved back to town, and haven't been to Zia yet, but the scenery looks great and I hear the food is wonderful.


Horrible food
Reviewer: Bob from Santa Barbara
The margaritas were good and pretty strong. The food was horrible though! My friend got the chicken chalupa and I got the green chile chicken enchilada, both had no taste and were down right horrible. The only thing with flavor was the rice. It has a great location, but I find it hard to see this place turn a profit based on rent compared to its sales.


perfect place for loungin on state
Reviewer: Patrick from Santa Barbara/CA
my friends and I were at Madisons but the service was lacking so we headed across the street. AWESOME DECISION. if you go there, be sure and get the picture of margaritas. you get a big pitcher with the small plus they start your glass off, however, i learned a trick with this restaurnt...5 college guys and myself wanted to start off the weekend with the pitcher so we got a large...when you get a large...they usually give you a plate of nachos ON TOP of the chips and salsa you get. They are good people and unlike other places...don't want a bunch of the drunks on the street i guess so they try and put some food in your stomach too. These nachos are bigger than the ones you buy from other places. A+++ appetizer and good drinks. Plus we need more local places that care about their customers...not just their money


dreaming of Albuquerque
Reviewer: Alan M Schwab from Las Vegas
Never been to the Zia but will as soon as I can. Spent three years in Albuquerque and fell in love with zia food. I know this will be a treat


Excellent service time after time after time.
Reviewer: Scott from Santa Barbara, CA
I have eaten here again and again. I live in SB and can eat anywhere I want. The owner is there all day, every day. I have taken several people that own Restaurants to Zia (not to compare, just cause I know a damn good place when I see one) and they agree; this place "RULES": the food, the service, the price. I see some folks have written reviews that not only insults this place, but locals as well saying, "[we] deserve each other". I like this review because it could leave a table for my party! This statement is unfair and incorrect and I hope these people never come back to town because they are obviously from a nasty place. Order a Margarita while your're there--but give someone else the keys 'cause Zia knows how to mix one better than anyone I know! Enjoy.


Love the green chili
Reviewer: Claudia from Long Beach, CA
i grew up in Santa Fe and recently moved to LA...I heard Zia had the hatched chilis and had to try it...EXCELLENT. sauces arent drowned with spices so you can taste the chii. Every restaurant has their own take on the food they are selling...that is what makes them different...and I am for sure coming back for this version! Had no problem with the staff.


after two bad restaurants on state Zia was the charm!
Reviewer: Michael from Northridge/CA
My wife and I often go to Santa Barbara to get away for the weekend and after waiting for a hour plus at the palace we decided to just give into our hunger and try somewhere new..the waiters at Pierre La Fond's completly ignored us and when we go to the counter for service (instead of waiting at the table)...the man says that the girl at the other register will help and NOTHING! finally we make out way to the Zia...the staff was always attentive and the tequila selection was outstanding. We accidently left our credit card there and a month and a couple weeks later we came back to SB and they kept it safe and unused. Excellent people and good portions.


Never, never, never!!!
Reviewer: Hannah from San Francisco, CA
This was my first time dining in Cafe Zia and it was a really bad experience. We went there for a late lunch on a Sunday and the restaurant wasn't very full. We ordered and waited, and waited, and WAITED for our food to come. It took over an hour for it to come and when it did, the order was WRONG. We were traveling and I told the manager that we did not have time to wait another hour for the cooks to prepare the meal. She then responded by saying, "This isn't Taco Bell, honey." How rude and inappropriate to say to a customer! So, we paid for our chips and left. And we will NEVER go back. Ps. We did end up going to Palace Grill and had a LOVELY time. :)


Not that great
Reviewer: Matt from Goleta, Ca
I came here one afternoon with my mom before we went shopping, and it was slightly worse than just "ok". The food is supposed to be Southwestern influence, and my best friend lives in New Mexico, so I know what they are trying to pass is low-quality Mexican food. The service lacked - a little kid that didn't even know what beer they had available, I had to go ask a person that didn't speak english at the bar. I would avoid this place and spend your money somewhere else- it was quite expensive for nasty rice, boring enchilada, and all of it was bland. Sorry Zia Cafe, maybe next time.


Fantasamic
Reviewer: Bridgette from Santa Barbara, CA
the food was excellent, i absolutly am in love with the beef enchilada with egg. MMMmmmmmmm. The service was out of this world. If anyone is looking for a charming place to kick back and have an exceptional meal, you must come here!


LOVE IT!
Reviewer: Debbie from Hollywood, CA
I come here every time I visit SB. Who cares if the staff is not 5 star? It's a fun relaxing place... and GREAT FOOD!


new mexico food in santa barbara
Reviewer: john from Santa Barbara, CA
great food -great location to watch traffic downtown


Other alternatives
Reviewer: Jacob from Santa Barbara
With all the Mexican restaurants in Santa Barbara, there are better alternatives to eat at. The food at Zia is average at best, and the menu is too expensive for the quality.


random
Reviewer: Shaun from Santa Barbara, CA
Could be excellent, could suck, depends on the chef. Worth the gamble now and then. The vege sopapilla can rock. Also, Great place to drink a pitcher of margurita and wach the chickies walk by


One could not desire anything more.
Reviewer: NewMi from New Mexico. I already put that.
I have lived in New Mexico all of my life, and all of my family is from New Mexico. Generations upon generations of my people are from NewM (that´s what we call it), so I know good southwest(west)ern food and can´t be fooled. There was food, service, atmosphere, clean flatware, and tormaillios (rare). What more could one desire? Nothing.


Hmmmm...

I grew up in New Mexico (lived there 25 years) and was really happy to see that there was a New Mexican restaurant in Santa Barbara when I moved here. I immediately went there and was sorely disappointed. They claim to have real Hatch chile, but the flavor of the red was burnt tasting and just not like the chile I was used to. Yes, they do have sopapillas which is a nice treat, but I think they leave a lot to be desired.


Bona fide

I have lived most of my life in New Mexico and can verify the authenticity of this restaurant. The trademark of NM is chile and Zia´s has bona fide Hatch chile plus sopapillas! It is a quiant little place with an upstairs with a fireplace. For the price, it is a nice escape from your generic "Left at ALB" and the like southwestern restaurants.


Is New Mexican, not too bad.

My father´s family is from New Mexico -- Santa Cruz, Chimayo, etc. -- and we have family ship us fresh green chile for roasting every September, so I know from New Mexican. Zia´s results were about average, but the fact is that it is indeed New Mexcian cooking. They have the foundations in place (using authentic New Mexican chiles and recipes; serving enchiladas flat, etc), and the ambience of the joint is fine, but they could use some work on preparation and freshness, if you ask me.


Tha absolute gold standard of Mexican Food
Reviewer: jane and grey from Los Angeles, CA
We live in Los Angeles and consistantly search for a Mexican restaurant that is as good as Zia Cafe. I´m convinced that their chile rellanos and pasole are the best in the world. My husband and I love watching traffic go by on state street drinking Zia´s incredible margaritas. Please open a Zia in Los Angeles!


GREAT PLACE!!!!!!!!!

I ate at the Zia Cafe just last week, and the service is nice and all the waiters and waitresses were outgoing and very nice to talk to. The food was fast and very good. I highly recommend the Zia Cafe on state street.


Zia cafe was GREAT
Reviewer: Gary and Mercedes from Los Anageles
my wife and i have eaten at Zia several times over the past year - the food was wonderful - full of flavor and life - the service was prompt and courteous - we now eat at Zia every time we travel to Santa Barbara


New Mexico cuisine

There are many mexican food restaurants in Santa Barbara. Zia, however, specializes in "New Mexico" cuisine. I think it is the only restaurant in town that does. They have a great location on State Street in the most popular part of town.


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