International Flavors

International foods find a home in the coastal town of Santa Barbara, California.

Alexandra Siegel

There are weekly farmers markets, fresh seafood from the Pacific Ocean, nearby ranch land, and diverse restaurants. 

A unique part about Santa Barbara’s landscape and attraction is that by using local ingredients and livestock, chefs can create diverse dishes using native ingredients. 

Throughout California, there’s diversity shown through food and culinary arts. 

With international chefs and diverse populations coming to the area, it is easy to find a variety of flavor profiles. Santa Barbara offers many ways to experience the world’s flavors, like international markets and food festivals. Sushi Bar in Montecito serves up a traditional omakase experience, Loquita in downtown Santa Barbara offers an interpretive twist on Spanish tapas, and Bibi Ji presents playful spins on Indian classics and street food. 

Whether you want a quick bite or a 17-course meal, Santa Barbara has plenty to offer when it comes to international flavors. Buena Onda, a local empanada restaurant offers authentic, handmade Argentinian empanadas. Matteas Requina, owner and founder of Buena Onda, shares his incredible story of coming to Santa Barbara in hopes of introducing his country and its food.

Interview with Matteas Requina

Q: What inspired you to bring empanadas to the Santa Barbara area? 

A: Since moving to Santa Barbara in 2002, [empanadas] were one of the things we missed the most from Argentina, and we couldn’t find any good places in the area. 

After going down to Patagonia, in the southern end of South America, and traveling around with my mom’s Pollo empanadas in a cooler, that is when I realized we had to start making them because it was not only so good, but such an easy food for any occasion. 


Q: How is American dining culture different from Argentinian? 

A: Argentinian dining culture is very similar to Italian culture—lots of family gatherings, parties, and of course the must-have Sunday lunch with the whole family. In Argentina, breakfast is light and lots of sweet pastries, lunch, tea time at 5 p.m. and then dinner at 9 or 10 p.m., so very late! Also, BBQ (Asados) in Argentina are a big thing…you literally hang out around the BBQ eating. 


Q: What are some ways you bring Argentinian culture to the community? 

A: Through our food and our Tango events and asados (BBQ)…we are trying to bring a little bit of Buenos Aires to Santa Barbara. I think it’s important to have diversity, and I love it. 


Q: What challenges did you face coming to America and opening a restaurant? 

A: It’s definitely a challenge to understand how things work, especially since we had never done anything like this, but I must say if you have a good idea and you are passionate about it with hard work, anything is possible. We made our business from our kitchen at home and not a lot of money. 

Q: What is your personal favorite empanada from Buena Onda?

A: The Carne empanada is by far my favorite. I can have it any time, and it never gets boring. Same with my mom’s Pollo empanada.