Updated: Jun 5
When first entering college, four years can seem like forever. Opportunities to try new things present themselves everyday and as a result it is easy to push them aside until the next week, month, quarter, or year. As seniors at UCSB, my friends and I know better than anyone that time spent in college is limited and that these opportunities are not around forever. Before our years at UCSB came to an end we decided to visit all the local Santa Barbara restaurants that we needed to try before graduating. This became a weekly tradition known as “Sunday Dinner”, a treasured event that each of us looked forward to every week. Sunday dinner celebrates our time at UCSB, but also allows us to take advantage of the opportunities to try new things that we otherwise would have missed.
The first stop on our list and the foundation for the Sunday dinner tradition was Shalhoobs, a patio restaurant located in Downtown Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. On the day we visited, it was cold and drizzling, but strangely this made our experience even better. The cold rain paired with the heaters and hot food created the perfect contrast. Shalhoobs is a family owned patio barbecue that has been operating since 1973. Their barbecue dishes and long list of sides are recognized as an iconic part of the Santa Barbara food scene. Between the juicy pulled pork sandwiches, the creamy mac & cheese, the coleslaw, and the tacos, Shalhoobs fully demonstrated why the restaurant has been a local landmark for over 50 years.
2.) Super Rica
For the second Sunday dinner stop, we relied on the recommendation of world famous celebrity chef Julia Childs. La Super Rica in Santa Barbara is another local food landmark that has been around for over 40 years. The French cuisine visionary and one of America's most beloved cooking figures, Julia Childs, selected La Super Rica as her favorite place for Mexican food. The
small and charming shack is a casual, cheap, and authentic place to get some delicious and simple dishes. The chalk menu board hangs over the counter with prices ranging from $4 to $7. The low prices allow you to explore the menu and purchase a feast for only $15. No matter what you order, you can’t go wrong. The homemade tortillas, fresh ingredients, and years of mastery make every dish served at La Super Rica worth the hype. The two specialty dishes that you must try are the Tacos de Bistec and La Super Rica Especial. The Tacos de Bistec are grilled steak tacos with a marinade, onions, cilantro, and cheese. La Super Rica Especial was my personal favorite. The dish is served over two tortillas with al pastor, chile pasilla, and mozzarella all tossed together. After the first bite of this flavorful dish, I immediately understood why this small shack has been so successful for so many years. I’ve never read a Julia Childs cooking book, but after eating at La Super Rica I just might have to.
3.) Cold Spring Tavern
In 1868, what is now known as the Cold Spring Tavern was operating as a stagecoach stop. For $10 the Doulton family purchased the Tavern and the surrounding 160 acres. Over the years ownership of the property changed hands, but no real development occurred. Today the Cold Spring Tavern remains a mostly untouched historical landmark. The restaurant, Ojai jail, Roadgang house, and other building landmarks have become key parts of the charm and experience of eating at the Cold Spring Tavern. Located in the mountains on the San Marcos Pass, the tavern lies between Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley. Everyday they serve traditional American barbecue made with local ingredients and freshly baked bread. Their entrees include steaks, sandwiches, ribs, salads, chili, and other rich dishes. Although the charm and history of the Cold Spring Tavern are the initial appeal, the food and drinks are what keep customers coming back.
4.) Old Town Coffee
Although not technically a Sunday Dinner location, Old Town Coffee in Goleta had to be mentioned on the list. During the coronavirus pandemic, UCSB was forced to shift to the online classroom format and as a result students needed new locations to study. Old Town Coffee in Old Town Goleta became the premiere location for UCSB students to work. The spacious indoor and outdoor seating areas, ping pong table, couches, espresso drinks, and Buena Onda empanadas created a perfect environment for students to spend long hours on coursework. During midterms and final exams, Old Town Coffee even accommodated students further by extending their hours and allowing students to study late. During the day, Old Town Coffee solely functions as a cafe, but during weekend nights it transforms into a beer garden with games, entertainment, and beers on tap. Truthfully, I wished I’d discovered Old Town Coffee long before my final quarter at UCSB and highly recommend future generations to take advantage of this great space.
5.) The Lark
When I first moved into UCSB with my family in 2017 it was a nerve wrecking, stressful, and awkward experience that I will never forget. However, the night before I moved into the dormitories, my family and I ate dinner at the Lark in the Santa Barbara Funk Zone. It was a fantastic experience and truly made that weekend more bearable. I felt it was fitting for the final Sunday dinner to be at the Lark one last time before departing UCSB forever. The Lark is a small plate, family-style restaurant that has somewhat become one of the designated restaurants to bring your parents. They are known for their balsamic roasted brussel sprouts, specialty cocktails, seafood, and tender short ribs. The Lark is a perfect embodiment of Southern California cuisine and is an essential stop for UCSB students at some point during their undergraduate career. Going to the Lark with my closest friends to close out my time at UCSB
was a remarkable and memorable moment. Similar to my visit four years ago during move in weekend, I was sad, nervous, but ultimately excited for what is to come.
College moves fast and the personal, professional, and academic opportunities seem endless, but they aren’t. Something as trivial as trying new restaurants may seem insignificant, but with our time in Santa Barbara coming to an end, it was extremely meaningful to my friends and I. As we look back at our four years, we are so appreciative of all the things we were able to accomplish, the opportunities we took advantage of, and the people we met, but we also recognize that there will always be more to try. College is a stream of opportunities to learn, grow, and make memories so for all future generations of gauchos we encourage you to never stop seeking them out.