Location: 202 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
If you are a lover of Spanish food and visiting Santa Barbara, Loquita is a hidden gem not to be missed! Over the long weekend my husband and I decided to take a road trip up to Santa Barbara for the first time. Santa Barbara is known for being a laid back beautiful coastal city that’s popular with celebrities and tourists.
At the end of our first day after some sight seeing along Stearns Wharf and soaking up the sun along the beach boardwalk it was time to enjoy the local grub. State Street is the main vein through the area and is full of hotels, bars, and restaurants so as we strolled along we came across this quaint Spanish restaurant called Loquita.
We both love Spanish food especially paella so upon seeing this on their menu we excitedly waltzed right in. As we entered we were greeted by the friendly staff and the modern Spanish inspired decor was bright and colorful especially the beautiful tiled floors, abstract flamenco dancer photographs, and antique mirrors hanging above the brass trimmed bar. You can also see right into their open air kitchen at the back where the chefs are cooking over wood charcoal grills, which is something you don’t see all the time! This place also offers a unique experience to sample various jamón (i.e. ham) and were even equipped with a private back room where you can enjoy the delicacies of ibérico ham at a counter bar much like at a sushi restaurant.
We opted to sit out back in their picturesque garden patio and enjoy some drinks before dinner. Our waiter suggested some signature mocktails that evening invented by their talented bartender so we tried the Gin and Tonic and Oat Milk Horchata. First off, the mock “Gin and Tonic” was actually quite interesting…I wasn’t sure if I quite liked it but it was very refreshing. The floral drink was made with tonic water infused with elder flower syrup, fresh black pepper, strawberries, and cucumber. The Oat Milk Horchata was very delicious and a favorite for both of us. It’s often made with rice milk but I really enjoyed the oat milk which gave it an extra creaminess…it’s spiced with cinnamon and really reminds me of a cold Chai Tea Latte but lighter. Two really nice drinks to start off the evening!
We ordered their grilled Pulpo (a.k.a. octopus) as a tapas starter and boy were we blown by the flavors! This Spanish style octopus dish was served on a bed of black garlic aioli and potato purée topped with pickled red onion sprinkled with pimenton and drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette. The potato was really a great neutral vehicle to sop up all the sauce and the black garlic was very interesting as I have never had this before. The taste was slightly sweet and sour, no pungent garlic flavor but more on the subtle side as it’s been fermented. The pickled onions gave the octopus a nice bright contrast in flavors and a nice added crunch to the dish. A real winner in our book!
Now onto the main and of course we had to order the paella! We had the Chorizo y Pollo paella a classic combination of spicy chorizo sausage and chicken. The dish came out piping hot and was served in a traditional paella pan. It was beautifully arranged with pieces of chorizo, rocky free range chicken, gigantic beans, hen of the woods mushrooms, salmorra (i.e. smokey tomato garlic sauce), roasted shishito peppers, and dollops of lemon aioli. The smokiness of the wood charcoal grill was evident in the dish. The chicken was tender and flavorful and the roasted peppers gave a really nice pop of spiciness while the lemon aioli was cooling and creamy. Rice was perfectly cooked and the toasty bits at the bottom of the pan were an added tasty treat!
Overall, Loquita is a great place to swing by for a great meal if you’re ever in Santa Barbara. Truly worth a visit for both the delicious food and wonderful ambiance!