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Cielito
No longer in business
Opened: 2012-01 Closed: 2016-07

1114 State St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 965-4770

  • Category: Mexican
  • Hours: Open Tue-Sun, Lunch 11:30-2:30, Dinner Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun 5-9, Fri-Sat 5-10
  • Price: $10 - $20
  • Serving: Lunch & Dinner
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Reviews by the General Public

Disappointing Sunday visit
Reviewer: Jeff from Santa Barbara, CA
We have been to Cielito quite a few times, including the newer inventive Sunday brunch. However, Sunday night proved disappointing and amateurish. A friend was visiting from the Bay Area and wanted to treat us to dinner. So, we picked Cielito. We were told the only times available for a reservation of 3 were 6:45 and 8:15. The place was less than 25% full. We picked the earlier time, ordered cocktails and the wonderful ceviche trio appetizer. We all also ordered entrees for each. Unfortunately, the entrees came out less than 10 minutes after the ceviche arrived. We asked to hold off until the appetizer was done. The waiter did not know what to do so he took the food back. We commented they'd probably just put it under the heating lamp. Still not quite done with the appetizer, a different waiter just brought out the entrees again and placed them on the table without asking if we were ready. The food was just as we thought, put under the heating lamp. The enchiladas sauce was dry and unpleasant, my salmon and sauce tastec like leftovers and the halibut was dry also. You expect, when you pay $90 for 3 entrees to have fresh food, but not all reheated entrees work. As I said, poor service and disappointing service overall. The restaurant was empty when we left so it was not a matter of the kitchen being too busy but of a kitchen not understanding the pacing of a meal or basic food facts - you can't just keep food warm and charge for it. It is not just the kitchen staff that was at issue but the waitress did not get involved to oversee the process. We felt rushed even though the restaurant was nearly empty. What was the rush?


Great if you like Foo Foo
Reviewer: Frank from Santa Barbara, CA
Overall, Cielito wants to impress. I myself was not impressed by the food in taste or portion size (very small). The service was friendly enough, but a little slow. At these high prices charged I expect much more from eating out these days.


Good food, but tipping was annoying
Reviewer: Todd from Santa Barbara, CA
My wife and I went there on a Thurs night ~8:30pm. The drinks were good. The duck special was very tasty. The pork quesadilla was a little oily but good. The three tacos were also tasty. The service was good (they brought a blanket out for my wife because she was cold) but the bill was really annoying. First on the bill, they listed the calculated tip for you, but the options were 18%, 20%, 25%, and 30%...really. No 15%, but you do have a 30%! Second, they calculated the tip on the cost of the meal + the tax. You can argue the merit of tipping on the meal or the meal + tax, but I think restaurants should do the former. Especially if they are listing options up to 30%.


Wow, please make Pork Nacho's Permanent
Reviewer: Rose from Santa Barbara, CA
We had this during Fiesta here. Wow, best Nacho's of our whole lives. Went back later for more, and told they almost never do Pork Nacho's. Whaaaa? Please show this to the managers, and make sure THEY for sure taste this! Then just try it on the menu for a while and see what people say. Then it will be available to us weekly, forever, also! Heavenly, memorable, will make loads of new customers for you! Please put this on the menu permanent, it was so heavenly to everyone in our party. Balanced with the wonderful margaritas!!-But realize,once people have this,and return for it, there may be riots if it is not available! Love what you are doing. Just input from the faithful. A local.


Ceviche, Not!
Reviewer: Steven from Santa Barbara, CA
We went back to Cielito yesterday just for the ceviche. They were serving only one of their trio of signature ceviches, and we ordered this, along with tacos al pastor and guacamole. While the tacos were excellent, if a little overpriced for 2 small tacoitos, I must report that the guac was salty, and the ceviche was an almost inedible slurry of - in descending order - salt, lime, macerated avocados, and little chucks of white seafood. What a disappointment. Indeed, we both comments that THIS is not ceviche! Until further notice, the shift manager should taste this concoction every day before the restaurant opens to ensure a proper blend of citrus and spice enhancements to large chunks of fresh seafood.


Cielito
Reviewer: Sally Spork from Santa Barbara, CA
Atmosphere: I'm from here and remember wayyyy back when this restaurant was a Mexican one. Boy have they did an AMAZING job transforming it to what it is now. It is a gorgeous in architecture complete with areas that are both comfortable and elegant.5 stars for atmosphere. Service: Servers were present and accommodating, we were a large group from meetup but we did call and make a RSVP. We sat outside, and it did get chilly. There are heaters near the smaller tables. Food/drink: Our group ordered a mix of appetizers and dinner. Everyone seemed satisfied. I had the pastor pork tacos. Tasty. As of this writing they do not accept the AXXESS card... BOO. Summary: Cielito is a GORGEOUS restaurant and yes I'd go back. There are different entrees I want to try as well as their unique desserts.


Chaotic Service Ruins Good Food
Reviewer: Steven from Santa Barbara, CA
On several lunchtime visits, we have enjoyed fresh salads, warm chips and a chicken torta. On each trip, however, we have found the service to be lacking in a number of ways. The "waiter" who takes the order rarely makes another appearance at the table. Instead, they send food out with an "expeditor" who must ask each person what they are having before serving the plates. On the last visit, the requested appetizer did not come out before the main course, and when it did, it came with aioli, which we had asked to be held. Getting the check, and getting the checked paid, can add another 20 minutes or so to your visit, so plan accordingly.


Amazing evening
Reviewer: Meridith from Santa Barbara, CA
Went to Cielito with 2 new friends and had one of the best meals I've had in Santa Barbara. We shared 3 courses and dessert, each one visually beautiful and delicious. The raw bar offering was as good as it gets. I highly recommend having dinner there!


Fabulous!
Reviewer: Michel from Santa Barbara, CA
We just attended a 6-course Foxen wine-maker dinner at Cielito. It was fabulous: perhaps the best dinner we have ever eaten in Santa Barbara in any category, perfect down to the last detail! Every course was delicate, delicious and surprising, cuisine and service of the highest order. What a jewel! We plan to return soon to sample the standard menu.


Wonderful space, very good food
Reviewer: Bob from Santa Barbara, CA
Eaten here three times now, wanted to get some meals in before I wrote a review. Cielito is certainly a fabulous looking place, no doubt. Having spent so much money on the décor I was concerned that they’re all show and no substance. They’re definitely very top-heavy on the “show”. Examples: the signature margarita is advertised on the menu as being made with the tequila “made famous on the show Entourage”. Are you kidding me? What kind of a wanking comment is that? Management: show a little class and delete that from the menu, it's embarrassing. Plus, they’ve trained the waitstaff to administer the ‘full court press’, which is fairly annoying. But the food is consistently quite good, nicely presented, and while a tad on the expensive side, I’d say worth it. The Tacos de Pescado Pibil, made with local seabass is really outstanding. I could've eaten plate after plate. Kobe beef skewers were excellent as well. We also had the crab/shrimp enchiladas, which was ok, unfortunately the crab got lost through the strength of the cheese, but the rice (creamy and delicious almost like a risotto) and salad that accompanied it were delicious. Really makes me want to try one of the salads next time. I wouldn’t call Cielito a ‘rare gem’ by any stretch. Los Agaves is better, has generally a more interesting specials menu, and is a lot cheaper, but at Cielito you’re getting a lot more ambiance. It is really a very pleasant space to sit and dine.


A rare gem
Reviewer: Heather from Santa Barbara, CA
This restaurant is absolutely amazing! The food is reminiscent of Rick Bayless style Mexican, with thoughfully sourced ingredients. The farms where they source their meat are listed on the menu...all free-range organic. They incorporate delicious and creative vegetarian options, as well as layers of flavor in their meat sauces (i.e. tinga-style, adobo, etc.). The waiter was also very attentive. We will be back again soon!


Nice outside seating/kind of pricey
Reviewer: Leana from Santa Barbara, CA
Been to Cielito a few times to order from their taqueria area during lunch or enjoy their happy hour in the early evening. The outdoor seating is the best part of the restaurant. It's beautiful to sit around the fountain and the atmosphere is nice. The food is also good, but it is pricey. For example, three very small tacos for happy hour is going to run you about $10. Chips and a small thing of guacamole is $6.


Excellent
Reviewer: Eryn from Santa Barbara, CA
The food was superb, the ambience wonderful. Very attentive waitstaff. All in all, an excellent restaurant which I highly recommend. Know that this is upscale South American-Mexican food, and it doesn't come cheap. All things considered, it is absolutely worth it.


Wonderful food/service
Reviewer: Marna from Toluca Lake
What a beautiful restaurant ... love the small plates & the service was always attentive. Great night out.


Confusing Seating Arrangements
Reviewer: Liz from Santa Barbara, CA
A group of us ended up here for the sole purpose of happy hour at 5:30 in the evening and 1) they had no "happy hour" and 2) their seating requirements were confusing. The staff said that we would not receive any "waitstaff service where we were sitting." Wha? We were sitting in the best seats in the house: alfresco next to the tres-expensive-looking heat lamps and iconic La Arcada fountain.

So let me stop right here: the "fancy" seating where you could get "wait staff" service was in a claustrophobic tent -- huh? It's Santa Barbara -- you can sit outside all day long and all night long with the proper heat lamp. This tent thing looked like something out of the Revolutionary War. I was expecting Florence Nightingale to emerge any minute.

Okay, so we were an easy-going bunch, and continued to hand-carry our own drinks out to the BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE that wasn't in a claustrophobic tent, and for TWO HOURS, yes, I do not exaggerate -- TWO HOURS -- the waitstaff refused to clear our empty drink glasses as we continued to purchase drink after drink. (I know what you're thinking, we were a group of drunk banshees that the waitstaff was trying to avoid -- yes, drunkards, but no, not banshees, and not uncivil in any way. In fact we were all local career-ladies willing to pay out the $$$ for drinks.)

At hour three we couldn't take it anymore. (Note: We stayed because it was a glorious S.B. night and loved the fact that we had a great outdoor table.) We asked a passing wait staff member if we could get service at our table. She replied, "Oh, we thought you were wrapping it up."

Wrapping it up for two hours as we continued to order our own drinks at the bar and bring them back to a table amidst a bunch of refuse that the wait staff refused to clear? Tee hee -- um, no.

At that point we became *very special* and everything was cleared and taken care of. Too little, too late. (Side note: All wait staff were very accommodating and friendly within their context of the bar and hostess area. No offense to them BUT...)

C'mon Cielito -- you claim to be bringing back an S.B. tradition, but the only S.B. tradition I want to come back is friendly service, uncomplicated seating under the stars, and a good time. Oh, and maybe let someone ride in on a horse during Fiesta.

That is all.


Loved, Loved, Loved IT!!!!!
Reviewer: dave from Santa Barbara, CA
Great to have a cool spot with great food and atmosphere in SB. Four of us went and had a great time, a great meal and service. The atmosphere was very cool but not over done. We can't wait to go back....


Enough with the plastic boxes!
Reviewer: Sophia from Santa Barbara, CA
Love the Taqueria here, but do they need to serve salads in plastic boxes, with plastic flatware? This is Santa Barbara in 2012, and the attention to reduce/reuse/recycle should be simple. However, the food is great,service is great, can't beat the tacos.


amazing! and surprising!
Reviewer: Kerry from Santa Barbara, CA
LOVED IT! Food was awesome.. service was perfect.. renovations are beautiful.. place was packed! It fit the bill for upscale and modern.. We had an amazing experience..I am hard to impress.. and this worked!


kinda liking it. a lot.
Reviewer: lemonjelly from santa barbara, ca
I've been twice, once to the restaurant side and once to the taqueria side. Both times I was impressed with the quality and creativity of the food, and with the friendliness and knowledge of the folks working there.
The tapas are great to experiment and share with others, the dishes like empanadas or mini sopes come in twos or fours, so you don't have to cut items in half. The ceviche has interesting combinations that remind me of ceviche from Peruvian style restaurants.
Food is sourced locally where possible, and seasonally. Everything seemed really fresh and I'm happy to pay for premium ingredients. Even so, my dinner companion and I were surprised that the bill seemed smaller than we were expecting for how much we ordered, including two margaritas and an opera cake for dessert.
I had the tamales from the taqueria side, and they stay open later on First Thursdays so it was great for a bite while flitting between the Museum of Art and the nearby art galleries. While I enjoyed the shredded poached chicken with mole tamale a lot, I liked the vegetable one with tomato broth and crema fresca even more. Light, fresh, a little citrusy - a nice variation to the usual tamales available in town.
Finally, the ambiance is stunning. An excuse to get out of our flip-flops and frayed jeans for an evening.


I was wrong. This is a welcomed addition
Reviewer: David from Santa Barbara, CA
I admit it - I didn't want to give Cielito a chance. I love Mexican food but am tired of the lack of variety in SB. We already have great Mexican food, so why another one? After hearing a friend rave about their food/drinks, a different friend and I came here last night. We had no problems finding a seat at the raw bar and I highly recommend it because the place was packed, even on a Wednesday night. We started with the house margarita and a specialty drink lots of spice and smoke and a piece of beef jerky as garnish! We ordered the tuna tartar, short rib sopes, chicken tamale, oyster shooters and an amazing dessert with goat cheese caramel served over crepes. Service was extremely polite and attentive (enough). We didn't sit too long without refills of water and always had people checking on us (it helps that the raw bar has chefs right in front of you and is right by where the captains stand). I also don't want to let too much on but there are also perks to sitting in front of chefs preparing food. Sometimes they need help with taste testing :) I love this place. The parking is easy (La Arcada), the decor is great, service and management know what they are doing, and the food is not your run of the mill Mexican. My only concern is how busy it gets.


good food, nice staff, beautiful remodel
Reviewer: Lisita from Santa Barbara, CA
Three of us went for tacos...& tamales...excellent experience for all. Affordable prices for really good food (average $3 for a tamale or taco :), nice staff (a smile with hello is all I need for counter service:)...and the restaurant remodel is gorgeous. We will definitely be back.


Tasty but pricey
Reviewer: Sylvia from Santa Barbara, CA
This restaurant looks elegantly decorated and has the potential to be a great spot to experience Santa Barbara dining. I was surprised at the limited taco bar menu, but ventured to try the Tamale Oaxaqueno (Chicken mole). The tamale was very tasty but micro size. (Smaller than a tapas plate at Alcazar). A little pricey for a taco bar.


Nice staff, but bland food and many errors
Reviewer: Daryl from Santa Barbara, CA
My wife and I were eager to try Cielito. We like the location and were happy to see a restaurant there again. Unfortunately, it wasn't what we had hoped. The food was bland and the staff, although friendly and gracious, made many errors on our order and service. We went for lunch and tried the horchata, a plain chicken taco, the Torta al Pastor, Taco al Pastor, Taco Dorado de Pollo, and the Tamal Oaxaqueno. The horchata was watery, gritty and tasteless. The best items, the al Pastor torta and taco, and the tamal, were still bland. (How do you make bland mole'?) The rest were forgettable. Everything needed salt, at the least, but none was provided. On the plus side, the torta's bread was tasty and was obviously freshly made. The plain chicken taco order confused the staff, even though they had originally suggested it. (It is not on the lunch menu.) Our Torta was forgotten completely, although they did bring it right out to us after I pointed out the error. It took four attempts just to get a glass of water, and two of those involved me going back inside to the counter to ask. Again, the staff were very gracious and clearly wanted to make us happy, but they just couldn't seem to get it right. They seemed disjointed, disorganized. I felt sorry for them, but I won't be back. The food just wasn't worth it.


Taqueria Review Only
Reviewer: Elizabeth from Santa Barbara, CA
I went to the taqueria for some take-out last Thurs night. Yes, they have some things to work out (mix up on my order but it was swiftly corrected). I thought the counter service was nice and customer oriented. Oh, and the tacos were out of this world! Plus an excellent torta and a fab tamal to boot. All the ingredients are top notch and the corn tortillas are fresh and handmade by their own masa. Order extra tortillas since the taco fillings are overabundant. Mexican Wedding Cookies are house baked and delish too. I don't know if I'd care to go their hipster sit down restaurant (the music is loud & irritating) but I'm sure going to return to their taco stand.


Almost there...
Reviewer: Tracy from Santa Barbara, CA
I visited the taco stand during the day on a Saturday. I ordered 3 tacos: chicken, braised beef ribs and shrimp. I agree with the reviewer below; the tacos are small for the price and the chicken taco was tasteless. Its supposed to be shredded chicken with potatoes but was more like potato mush with chicken broth flavor. Chips & salsa and beans & rice are ordered on the side. The refried beans might be the best I've had in a long time. They were not heavy, and light in color. Overall it was pricey (about $30) for 3 tacos, beans & rice, chips/salsa and a beer. I will go back to try the dinner next time.


Delicious Tacos!
Reviewer: PJ from Santa Barbara, CA
Had lunch on the patio and ordered tacos/tamals from the taqueria. The food was outstanding with delicious flavors. Some tacos/tamals were more substantial than others. Wish they had a salsa bar or that the food (tacos/tamals/chips & guac) came with salsa without having to ask. The line was very long and it would be nice if they had more than one register or a better system for taking orders, getting drinks and paying for the food (and getting refills). A bit pricey if you're hungry and order the tacos/tamals that are on the small side. Looking forward to going back to try the restaurant/bar.


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