Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine

Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine title=
Augie's of Santa Barbara (courtesy photo)
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By Rebecca Horrigan

Walking into Augie’s of Santa Barbara feels at once familiar and enticingly new. The long-abandoned spot on the corner of 700 State Street was remodeled with the help of Jeff Shelton, Santa Barbara’s adored architect known for his almost Gaudi-esque buildings.

This clean white Spanish style restaurant, complete with a sprawling indoor outdoor patio and crisp blue tile accents, clearly jibes with SB but it’s a playful design nonetheless. As you enter the inviting arches, the bottom lit bar boasting hundreds of craft liqueurs, spirits, and of course, a library of tequila, sings of adventures yet to come.

“The combination of quality in design, bar, ingredients and presentation is top notch,” Bar Manager Ryan Linden said.

This attention to detail is top of mind for owner Berkeley “Augie” Johnson whose drive to create a meticulously crafted reposado known as Augie’s Tequila propelled him into opening the restaurant as well.

Back in 2008, the prime spot was a restaurant called Left at Albuquerque. Still a youngin’ at UCSB, I remember walking down State Street on Cinco de Mayo with friends and fantasizing about when we’d be old enough to celebrate there in style.

I never made that dream a reality, but with Augie’s incredible food and mouth-watering drinks, I have a feeling my college self would be OK with this upgrade.

Photo: Rebecca Horrigan

Chef Eduardo Gonzalez who was born in Santa Barbara but raised in Guadalajara brings a menu of elevated Mexican cuisine. My meal there began with a beautiful bite of fresh ahi, a flavorful omen of delicacies to come. From there the tuna tiradito complete with bluefin, avocado, ginger tea, ponzu foam and jalapeno, creatively served with plantain chips on the side, continued to prepare my taste buds for a thrilling ride.

“Chef shops at the farmer’s market weekly for produce and we use local fish whenever possible,” Linden explained.

Of course each dish was enhanced with a sip of the perfectly balanced Augie’s Margarita consisting of Augie’s reposado tequila, combier, agave, and lime.

“The cocktail list is a mix of classics, and new variations on classics and some originals which too are twist on classic,” Linden said. “Cocktails are focused on quality spirits and craft liqueurs. Fresh squeezed juices of course mean simple delicious margaritas.”

As our meal progressed, we shared items from the primero, segundo, and mains options, wanting to get a taste of their diverse menu. Highlights included the mouth watering Gubenador tacos layered with Mexican shrimp, poblano pepper, onion, and oaxaca cheese as well as the mixote de barbacoa, banana leaf-wrapped barbacoa served with cilantro, onion, tomatillo salsa, and of course, a warm treasure trove of handcrafted tortillas.

Photo: Rebecca Horrigan

Their commitment to showcasing real Mexican cuisine extends to their lovely collection of Mexican wines, a rare find for Santa Barbara. I enjoyed a gorgeous tres raices rose from Guanajuato, Mexico.

“The wine has some really rad Mexican wines sprinkled in with some local and Old World wines,” Linden said. “We offer 3 oz and 6 oz glasses plus a rather affordable bottle selection.”

Though I was trying to embrace experimentation throughout the night, whenever I see churros on the menu, it’s impossible to stray, and I’m glad we didn’t. The cinnamon sugar dusted beacons of doughy warmth, served with two delectable dipping sauces, satisfied on all accounts. I also rarely stray from a cappuccino when it comes to dessert beverages, but Augie’s version of an espresso martini is absolutely worth the late night it could induce. Augie’s warm and friendly service from the moment we were greeted enthusiastically by our hostess, to waving goodbye to our fantastic server, Laila, was icing on the cake.

For a town that’s full of food we know and love, Augie’s of Santa Barbara offers a portal to exciting and innovative Mexican cuisine. Whether you’re there to share chips and guac and a marg with a friend for happy hour, or are there for a full dining exploration, Augie’s is a beautiful place to get lost.

Rebecca is a food & dining/culture writer and also molds young minds teaching middle school English in Santa Barbara.

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patrick Dec 30, 2022 09:20 AM
Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine

While I do appreciate the opening of new restaurants in previously unsuccessful locations (Augies, Rare Society, etc), I think many of these new restaurants are too optimistic about the amount of discretionary income floating around in SB.

love my bubble Dec 30, 2022 08:48 AM
Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine

SEANINSB has said it perfectly. My husband and I were so excited for the space finally being brought back to life and went for our weekly date night, only to be disappointed by the over pricing. A glass of wine (not an overly expensive or large over-poured glass) for $30. This same glass of wine was less than 1/2 the price at another nice well known restaurant the next week. $17 for one single taco. We went there once and don’t imagine returning unless the pricing changes. Sad. I hope the owners comes to their senses and makes some changes…. I would have loved to make it one of our regular date night spots.

seaninsb Dec 30, 2022 05:29 AM
Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine

Nice buildout, the hours are odd. They should be open past 9, or at least keep the bar open later, in my mind it’s a bar with expensive mexican food and everyone knows Mexican food is cheap. Prices are too much for what you get, everyone who has graced this establishment who I’ve asked about it locally grieves about the small portions and exorbitantly high prices. The ambiance of the bar is great though. They need to rebalance their prices and portions, then ground themselves with serving the local population and it will do well.

a-1672603781 Jan 01, 2023 12:09 PM
Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine

"... everyone knows Mexican food is cheap."
No, "everyone" doesn't know this. Many people think certain types of food *should* be cheap: Mexican and Chinese especially. There are many reasons for this, as you can imagine.
I agree it sounds incredibly expensive; I won't pay $17 for a taco. But not all Mexican or other ethnic food is cheap!

a-1672368121 Dec 29, 2022 06:42 PM
Augie's Shines with Homemade Tequila & Elevated Mexican Cuisine

Unfortunately, the reviews of the place so far indicate that it is vastly overpriced for average food and service...too bad, as it would be nice to have a good Mexican restaurant in town after some favorites have recently closed

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