Pass the salsa and gorge on guacamole to begin this weekend’s Cinco de Mayo festivities early at Santa Barbara’s authentic Mexican restaurants. You can either spice up the night or wake up for another Tequila sunrise, just as long as you’re thinking outside the bun.

Mastering the Art of Mexican Cooking

La Super Rica Taqueria
622 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara
(805) 963-4940
Price: Under $10

Located along the quieter downtown street of North Milpas, La Super Rica Taqueria looks more like a rustic bungalow than a Santa Barbara restaurant. This hole-in-the-wall eatery, once praised by famed chef Julia Child, is more than meets the eye and an even better surprise for the stomach.

La Super Rica holds true to its name – “super rica” means super tasty – and keeps locals coming back for more of their charbroiled meats, gooey melted cheeses and handmade tortillas and salsa.

One local favorite among the wide variety of dishes is the Super Rica Special. This flavor sensation consists of a hearty roasted chile pasilla stuffed with cheese, marinated pork and fresh tortillas. A single bite will prompt you to get out of your seat and say “ÁAye Carumba!”

With dŽcor composed of white plastic chairs and wooden picnic tables, the simplistic interior is quaint, and no match for the intricacies of the authentic Mexican flavors in its dishes.

The eatery is well known around Santa Barbara for its quick service and the consistent line of loyal patrons leading out the door. The taquer’a has also found notoriety in the culinary world.

“Bless her heart, [Julia Child] put us on the map and has kept us on the map,” owner Isidoro Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez distinctly remembers the first day Child came into the taquer’a in 1982. Her party ordered everything on the menu and when they were done, Child came up to the window to praise the outstanding food.

“She said something to the effect of, ‘Up to this moment, I’ve thought of Mexican food as for others – not for myself’… from that day, she promoted us a lot,” Gonzalez said.

Head down to La Super Rica this week to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and to commemorate the taquer’a’s 27th year of business. Open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day except Wednesday, you can delight in a fiesta in your mouth at almost any time.

Village People

Del Pueblo Cafe
5134 Hollister Ave.
Phone: (805) 692-8800
Price: Under $10

Forget the long car ride down to Mexico and venture within your own zip code to enjoy traditional Mexican food. Del Pueblo CafŽ, located in Goleta on Hollister Avenue, specializes in food from El Bajio, a region in central Mexico.

With so many favorites to choose from, you might have a hard time settling on just one meal.

“We have very good quality food, great atmosphere and are locally owned,” owner Enrique Arreola said.

Arreola recommends Del Pueblo’s mole items and chiles rellenos, which are stuffed with chicken or chasse on two corn tortillas, and topped with lettuce and a dollop of sour cream.

On the weekends, the restaurant is always bustling with customers who wake up yearning for huevos rancheros and other breakfast favorites, like the popular chilaquiles.

“A lot of people that come here for lunch don’t realize we’re open for breakfast,” Arreola said.

With an exciting atmosphere – complete with a fiesta of fresh colors – Del Pueblo CafŽ is the ideal setting for a party or date. The restaurant’s vibrant walls are painted various shades of pink and yellow, reminiscent of a south-of-the-border sunset. Local artists’ Chicano-themed paintings adorn the walls, adding to the authentic flair.

This local treasure is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. From morning to night, you will surely enjoy the authentic food and festive dŽcor of this outstanding eatery.

Una Mas Cerveza
The Cantina
966 Embarcadero del Mar
Phone: (805) 968-2862
Prices: Under $10

Nestled in the center of Isla Vista is The Cantina, the Mexican eatery that gives new meaning to “buenos d’as,” as it is renown for its unique breakfast burritos and tasty tostadas.

The famous breakfast burritos, made with a top-secret recipe, are a main draw for guests.

“That’s one thing that I’m never going to change on the menu – the breakfast burritos,” co-owner Caesar Patino said.

If you’re not in the mood for a morning pick me up, there is an array of other satisfying items that Cantina employees can whip up – fajitas, nachos and tacos – before you can say “adios, amigo.”

The Cantina’s eclectic dŽcor is complete with Budweiser posters, surfboards and signed photographs of UCSB sports teams with comments like “Fueled by the Cantina.” The walls also include decorations of chili peppers, parrots, Mexican fans and a painting of Flamenco dancers.

Located in the back of The Cantina is a large television where customers can enjoy some nachos and beer and watch their favorite sporting events.

Open every day from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., he sporty vibe of The Cantina is sure to fire up the competitive spirit in all its patrons – after all, fœtbol is the national sport of Mexico and in the heart of every Gaucho.

South of the Border

422 N. Milpas St.
Phone: (805) 882-1390
Price: $10-15

When you dance your way into Altamirano’s on North Milpas Street, you’ll immediately feel welcomed by the distinctly homey environment. The intimate front room’s wood paneling and tablecloths adorned with smiling, cheerful sunglasses are enough to put a smile on your own face. The family-owned restaurant, named after the owners’ hometown in Mexico, is the perfect place to celebrate the upcoming holiday.

With handmade tortillas and a menu that boasts fresh, homemade traditional dishes and the flavor of Old Mexico, you can’t go wrong dining at this authentic restaurant.

Altramirano’s popular mole sauce is a draw for many of the regular guests. The sauce, which cascades over the restaurant’s enchiladas and chicken, is made with raisins, nuts, chocolate and a variety of other fresh ingredients.

The menu also includes a plethora of dishes for those yearning for the seashores of old Mexico. Customers who want to add some spice to their life can order the camarones a la diabla – it’s so good it must be a sin. This meal includes 12 fresh black tiger prawns in a spicy sauce served with rice, beans, lettuce and guacamole.

Open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day, Altamirano’s authentic meals are a testament to the fact that not everything that happens in Mexico should stay in Mexico.

So whether you’re studying for midterms or wasting away again in Margaritaville this Cinco de Mayo weekend, be sure to hit up these local pi-atas of flavor – these restaurants’ food can’t be beat.