Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine Takes Over Prime Downtown Santa Barbara Spot

Release Date: August 11,2016

Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine opened in La Arcada last month, at 1114 State St., and is owned by Brendan Searles, pictured, Karen Phillips and Sean Hecht.
Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine opened in La Arcada last month, at 1114 State St., and is owned by Brendan Searles, pictured, Karen Phillips and Sean Hecht.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

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Viva Santa Barbara Modern Mexican Cuisine opened last month in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara’s La Arcada dining and shopping plaza, at 1114 State St.

The restaurant, which boasts ample outdoor seating, two floors of indoor seating, a bar and an event room, is the latest establishment in the location’s 70 years of restaurants, which most recently was Cielito.

In its entirety, the restaurant boasts a 400-person capacity.

“The key is, this is really a place for locals,” said Brendan Searles, who owns Viva along with partners Karen Phillips and Sean Hecht. “There are very few patios in Santa Barbara where you can sit without being able to see traffic.”

All of La Arcada’s other merchants, he added, are locals, too.

Searles, who has been in the Santa Barbara restaurant and bar business since 1990, has started numerous other establishments in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, including Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, which he co-founded, and Pizza Mizza, which he still owns.

Viva serves a wide variety of Mexican dishes, along with salads, soups, flatbreads and a “gringo cheeseburger,” and has a comprehensive bar.

“We really gave the menu back to the kitchen, where we have two fantastic chefs,” Searles said. “They are magicians, where I allow them to express themselves through the food.”

“We make our own chips, we make our own salsas, we make our own guac, we make our own sauces,” he added. “And so it’s a really from-scratch kitchen.”

Viva has two Monday-through-Friday taco happy hours, as well: from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to midnight.

And with its event room and ample space, it has already hosted a number of live music events, and can host weddings, class reunions and quinceañeras, Searles said.

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