The commercial blocks of Isla Vista are popping with options for your lunch time meal but few institutions have become so entwined in the fabric of IV, have been so critical in fueling the hopes, dreams and last-minute-midterm-study-sessions of college students, to reach the status of an IV staple. This list reveals the 5 restaurants so integral to Isla Vistian culture that you must try them before the end of your first year.
To make the list, restaurants must have operated in IV for at least four years and restaurants whose main sales include alcohol have been excluded to keep it relatable to our freshman. Oh, and big corporate chains that can be found on just about any street corner outside of IV have also been excluded- sorry Starbucks!
1. Bagel Cafe
The Brunch Spot
Bagel Cafe is the perfect way to start your weekend morning. You can’t say you’ve truly had the UCSB experience if you and your friends have never crawled out of bed past noon to start your day with bagels, beach, and sunshine. With fresh bagels made daily, and over 40 bagel sandwiches and melts to choose from, on the bagel of your choice, of course, Bagel Cafe never gets old and is guaranteed to hit the spot every time.
2. IV Deli Mart
The Heart of IV
If Bagel Cafe is where you’re starting your weekend morning, IV Deli is where you’re ending it. When it’s late at night and options of places still open are dropping like ping pong balls at a party, and you just really really need a plate of fries, IV Deli has got you covered. Open from 7 to 3 AM, IV Deli is there for UCSB students time and time again, guaranteed to meet all your grease food needs, especially with their LEGENDARY buffalo chicken cheese fries. Or try something new, they’re always coming up with new menu items that will leave you drooling and with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, IV Deli has something for everyone. Its quick-mart style gives you the chance up to stock up on your favorite gas station treats, like Arizona teas, sugary cereals, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Takis for all your late night needs.
Tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, oh my!
Another late night option and local favorite when it comes to Mexican cuisine. Offering generous portion sizes, Freebirds is the perfect place when you and your three equally drunk friends (21+ of course) don’t mind dropping a couple of extra dollars to split a platter of rice, beans, grilled chicken or steak, topped with guacamole and sour cream on top of a bed of fried tortilla chips. Allowing you to customize your order with your choice of beans, meat, and toppings, Freebirds is the perfect build your own burrito place for any meal of the day.
The best coffee in IV. Hands down.
Whether you’re looking for a no-fuss cup of strong black coffee or a speciality blended caramel latte that tastes the way a chorus of angels sounds, look no further than IV’s favorite coffee corner. Hard to miss with its eye catching mural painted on the front of the building, it’s the first place to head when you need a pick-me-up or reward for completing your finals. Caje’s source of caffeine and chill beats make it a great place to study place, but get their early, tables fill up fast. Not a coffee drinker? Caje has got you covered with house special smoothies, bagels acai bowls, and avocado toast. On the other hand, avid coffee drinkers interested in a new experience for your palette should check out their newly opened location in downtown Santa Barbara, where they serve “specialty coffee cocktails”.
5. Hana Kitchen
Bowls and Boba
When you’re tired of fried fast food, Hanna Kitchen’s calrose rice bowls, loaded with stir fried veggies and your choice of chicken, beef or tofu, which tastes just as good as the former two options, (no, seriously, I’m not kidding), Hana Kitchen is your place to go. Of course, no order from Hana is complete without a boba drink. During her four years here, this writer has seen plenty of boba places open in IV only to close their doors again at the end of the fiscal year. But year after year, Hana Kitchen remains steadfast with quality boba drinks you can taste. Their most popular item, black milk tea, never fails to quench and refresh a parched throat. But don’t be afraid to switch it up by trying their iced tea, slush or snow drinks, each available in a variety of fruity flavors.