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An Appetite for Fiesta

Nobody goes hungry at the
Fiesta mercados!

Photo credit: STEVE MALONE


Benjamin Franklin once said nothing is certain but death and taxes.

Old Ben never lived in Santa Barbara. He could have added a third certainty: Fiesta food.

Food dished up at various venues during Santa Barbara's annual summertime festival has a wonderful dependability about it.

Tortas? Check.

All you can eat pancakes? Check.

Burritos? Tacos? Tamales? Nachos? Churros? Tri-tip? Check, check, check, check, check.

Call it comfort food.

Many Santa Barbarans find their mouths automatically starting to water July 1, anticipating the annual rite of grazing among a wealth of culinary riches at the two major marketplaces, Mercado de la Guerra and Mercado del Norte. It's a time to enjoy all the forbidden fruits Ñ not to mention guacamole, barbecued ribs, quesadillas, bratwurst ... Bratwurst at Fiesta? Don't ask questions. Just enjoy.

Also if you want to push the envelope of Fiesta foods, the 1997 markets go beyond tacos. How about potato pancakes, strawberry shortcake, veggie tortas, pizza, mochas — or Balance Bars?

Need a teeny bit of rationalization to enjoy all this pleasure? Remember you're raising funds for schoolkids, disabled persons, Boy Scouts, nursing students, churches and dozens more do-good programs and organizations.

By tradition, booths at Mercado de la Guerra and Mercado del Norte are operated by non-profit and charitable organizations which raise much of their money to operate programs year-round by the sale of Fiesta goodies. Thus we see fajitas from the Downtown Boys Club, New Mexico burritos from Semana Nautica, taquitos from Bishop Diego High School, or chocolate bars from Endowment for Youth.

It's not so different, really, from the 1950 El Mercado (then there was just the original market in De la Guerra Plaza). A 1950 lineup revealed enchiladas sold by the Altrusa Club, bunuelos from the Zonta Club, and helados (ice cream) from the Opti-Mrs., all to benefit charities, refrescos (soft drinks) from the Santa Barbara Exchange Club, and tacos and tamales from the Mexican Mutual Benefit Society. You could also get chile rellenos, raspadillas (shaved ice and syrup), and asado (barbecued meat).

The 1950 El Mercado saw more booths devoted to sales of crafts interspersed among the food. Souvenir items included baskets by the Assistance League to benefit Hillside House, sombreros sold by the California State Nurses Association to aid the Tri-Counties Blood Bank, or mantillas and combs from the California State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to benefit the Society for Crippled Children and Adults.

Fiesta food in 1997 is not limited to the mercados, but can be found everywhere.

Fiesta-wise Santa Barbarans know to plan some time to turn their backs on the downtown street scene and head up to Montecito and Nopal streets on the Eastside. There, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church puts on its annual carnival Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visitors can get mouth-watering homemade tamales, tortas, tri-tips, enchiladas, and all the yummy trimmings.

Those wanting to cool their heels after all that walking may opt for a sit-down dinner Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening at First United Methodist Church at Garden and Anapamu streets. The menu here is also carved in stone: tri-tip, chicken, beans, salad, bread and churros. There's also take-out for folks who find there's so much food, so little time.

For a change of pace, thousands of Santa Barbarans will take their annual places in lines at the 45th annual Santa Barbara Kiwanis pancake breakfast at Alameda Park, Santa Barbara and Sola streets, Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The menu? Pancakes, of course (all you can eat) plus honey-baked ham, fruit, orange juice and drinks. All proceeds go to charity, said Sid Smith, in his 44th year among the flapjacks.

There are free breakfasts for people in costume Wednesday in La Arcada, sponsored by the Downtown Organization, and Thursday at La Cumbre Plaza. The Celebraciön de los Dignatarios (Dignitaries Party) offers food and beverages from local restaurants at the Santa Barbara Zoo Thursday from 5-8 p.m. (You may even find a public servant to complain to about that bad street light at your corner.) Add to that numerous private and semi-private parties throughout Fiesta.

If you're looking for a change of pace, a Farmers Market will offer local produce adjacent to De la Guerra marketplace.

Beer and wine are available at Mercado del Norte, located in MacKenzie Park, Las Positas Road and State Street, on the city's Northside. No alcoholic beverages are sold at the downtown market in De la Guerra Plaza on De la Guerra Street, one-half block off State Street — nor is beer on tap for 1997 at what's normally the beer garden across the street at Casa de la Guerra.

Here are 40 booths offering food at the two mercados, according to information supplied by Old Spanish Days. Plan ahead.

Mercado de la Guerra

Burritos, chile corn chip pie, lemonade: D.A.N.C.E.
Soft drinks: Knights of Columbus

Quesadillas, nachos, tostados, lemonade, Mexican candy: American Business Women's Association

Flautas, horchata, drinks: Adoption Center

Fajitas, burritos, tamales, rice, beans, lemonade: Downtown Boys Club

Corn dogs, French fries, chicken nuggets, lemonade: Vietnam Veterans

Tacos, lemonade: Special Olympics

Tortas (barbecued beef on a bun): La Casa de la Raza

Aguas frescas, raspados (snow cones): De Mano a Mano

Hot dogs, cotton candy: Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center

Barbecued beef ribs, shrimp cocktail on avocado, water, iced tea: Santa Barbara Masons
Corn on the cob, water: Santa Barbara Host Lions Club

New Mexican burritos: Semana Nautica

Mini tacos: Carpinteria Lions

Taquitos, guacamole, iced tea: Santa Barbara Jaycees

Taquitos, sopas, lemonade: Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Potato pancakes, lemonade: Jewish Federation

Tacos: Old Spanish Days Committee

Soft tacos, enchiladas, agua fresca: Dos Pueblos Little League

Churros: Sally Howell

Mercado del Norte

Soft tacos, carne asada tortas, bottled water: Calvary Chapel

Burritos, quesadillas, rice, beans: Boy Scout Troop 1

Tri-tip, chicken, veggie tortas, corn dogs, strawberry shortcake: Youth of Unity

Chicken fajitas, fries, bottled water: Santa Barbara Elks

Tamales, fruit salad: Apostolic Church

Burritos, chile corn chip pie, cotton candy: D.A.N.C.E.

Ice cream sundaes, root beer floats, pizza, licorice: SBCC Nursing

Tacos: Old Spanish Days

Taquitos, chicken nuggets, salsa, guacamole: Bishop Diego

Bratwurst, sauerkraut, pretzels: Edelweiss Choir

Tri-tip, soft tacos, salsa, barbecued corn: Boy Scout Troop 11

Tri-tip sandwich, pickles, baked potatoes: Santa Barbara Optimist Club

Balance Bars: Bio Foods

Sorbet on a stick, chocolate bars: Endowment for Youth

Hot dogs, chili dogs, burritos, tostados, wine: Santa Barbara Uptown Lions Club

Hot and cold cafe mochas, biscotti: Northside Rotary

Non-alcoholic beverages: Northside Business Association

Beer: Carriage Museum

Churros: Sally Howell

Hawaiian shaved ice: Santa Barbara Christian School

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