Santa Barbara is riding a wave of Mexican restaurant openings, with concepts ranging from tried-and-true taco spots to comfort- and street-food eateries. The upscale Augie’s stands out for its unique, modern take on regional Mexican specialties, with Guadalajara-raised chef Eduardo Gonzalez combining cuisine from Yucatán, Oaxaca, and Campeche with his own family recipes.
It’s fun to explore here, and a good strategy is to share a few appetizers and entrées. Duck tacos on house-made tortillas show off layers of flavor and texture, with rich duck carnitas, a crunch of radish, and a side of habanero sauce for extra kick. For something light and refreshing, try the king salmon and bluefin tartare, topped with slightly spicy, nutty salsa macha.
Of the main courses, 3 moles is a sampler of those traditional sauces on a trio of small pork loin medallions. One is a mild yet flavorful mole poblano, one a nuttier pipian verde, and the third is a mole rosa, which gets its distinctive pink hue from cranberries and chiles.
Pulpo a la diabla, made with tender Mayan octopus and served with carrot, sweet potato, romanesco, and chipotle aioli, is a stunner. Cap it all off with hot, crunchy churros with pasilla chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.
The bar spotlights a vast library of tequilas and mescals, a passion project of owner Berkeley “Augie” Johnson. There are also draft Mexican and domestic beers, along with an intriguing selection of wines from California, Mexico, and Europe.
The kitchen’s artful presentation and attention to detail find echoes in the creative decor. The restaurant space, transformed by Santa Barbara–based architect Jeff Shelton, combines his signature handcrafted elements such as decorative wrought-iron work and custom-made glass pendulum lights with warm woods and agave paintings on the walls.
The spacious outdoor patio fronting State Street has become a favorite spot for locals and visiting foodies to kick back and enjoy weekend brunch, happy hour, and dinner.
Best dishes at Augie’s
Duck carnitas tacos, pulpo a la diabla, 3 moles, churros
Starters, $15–$25; entrées, $31–$53; desserts, $12–$14
700 State Street. Closed Wednesdays.