Author: Ted Tinker

Ted’s List of Places to Eat in Isla Vista

(Map Courtesy of Google Maps.)

In my first year at UCSB I gained thirty pounds, lurching from 130 to 160. Despite jogging twenty miles a week and sampling gym machines at UCSB’s Rec-Center, I couldn’t escape the ‘Freshman Fifteen.’ It caught me twice! Even when I ran marathons up the mountains to the north, I couldn’t shake the weight.

Why? Well, when you run, you’ve gotta eat, and Isla Vista’s got hungry people covered. Today let’s look at some dining options near campus.

First, I’m writing for Tropicana del Norte, so let’s discuss their cafeteria. Food is catered by College Fresh, and I can state without bias I’m looking forward to eating there again. When I moved into an apartment for the 2016-17 school year I missed the privilege of having teams of caterers make food for me. The menu changes daily, and if one day nothing appeals to you, you can walk to the back to order hamburgers and the like (or eggs made-to-order in the morning). Grab some toppings and condiments from the sandwich-making materials and you’ve got a meal. I wouldn’t eat here three meals a day seven days a week, but as a staple food-source for college students, Tropicana knows what they’re doing.

Second, let’s review UCSB’s dining halls for anyone who has a dining plan. The dining hall closest to Tropicana Del Norte is probably Carrillo, in Manzanita Village. Carrillo has the widest variety and best desserts, but only soft-serve ice-cream. Ortega and De La Guerra both have hard, scoopable ice-cream (DLG a wider selection). Ortega and DLG are quite close to one another near the Old Little Theater, and of the two I prefer DLG. Ortega offers sushi, but DLG has a build-a-burrito bar. However, Ortega occasionally has sundae bars, chili bars, or other special events I’d recommend over DLG. Check the schedule once school starts. Ortega is also the only dining hall which lets you take a box of food off the premises. (There’s another dining hall, Portola, but I’ve never been there. It’s built into off-campus student housing.)

On campus there are two Subways, a Panda Express, a Jamba Juice, and other assorted eateries, mostly in the University Center (U-Cen). I enjoy Santorini Island Grill, which serves gyros, spanakopita, shawarma, and baklava. I also enjoy the bulk candy bins at the U-Cen student store (not the book-store, but nearby), where you can satisfy your sweet-tooth and pay by the pound.

Anyone who’s been to UCSB before is waiting for me to mention FreeBirds (or, uh, FreeB!rds) World Burrito, which is near Tropicana del Norte on Pardall Road. Many campuses claim to have the first FreeB!rds, but only UCSB touts that title legitimately. FreeB!irds offers burritos, monster burritos, quesadillas, quesaritos (burritos made using quesadillas), tacos, and nachos. Opinion differs on whether it’s comparable to Chipotle, but the nearest Chipotle is miles away and FreeB!irds gives you more food per dollar, I think. Generally a monster burrito will feed a student for a day or two, and I’d recommend splitting the nachos with a friend.

Near FreeB!rds, just outside of school, there’s a third Subway, a Habit burger grill, and a Starbucks. Down Pardall there’s SilverGreens for healthy burgers and vegetarian-friendly fare, and Buddha Bowls for bread-bowls filled with soup or salad. When they scoop bread to make the bowl, they give you the scoop as garlic bread!

Quite a few restaurants serve boba, or bubble-tea. If you’ve never had them before, bobas (bobii?) are chewy little Taiwanese tapioca balls submerged in a drink. You slurp them up with a wide straw. Some people love ‘em, some people hate ‘em. Personally, I love ‘em. Maybe it’s a Californian thing, or a Millennial thing, like avocados.

Anyway, I first had boba at Hana Kitchen. Hana Kitchen sells meat-and-vegetable bowls with rice; I prefer the vegan option, which is soy-based, as the larger sizes are a bit too much meat for me to eat in one sitting. They also have interesting tacos, and taco sales on Tuesdays. Hana Kitchen sells boba and other drink-jellies in a variety of beverages like teas, milk teas, and ice-slushes. The Pho Bistro sells boba in more exotic flavors like taro root, alongside an extensive menu of vietnamese soups and noodles. My favorite restaurant name is Naan Stop, an Indian counter-service restaurant which also serves boba. True to their name, they’ve got great naan.

There’s no shortage of pizza in Isla Vista. The most famous pizza in IV would either be Woodstock’s (which also has a kiosk on campus) or Pizza-My-Heart. Pizza-My-Heart serves pizza by the slice, while Woodstock’s serves mostly whole pizzas and has event nights, like trivia night. Blaze Pizza on Pardall will build your pizza in front of you. If you’d like a more standard experience, there’s a Domino’s near IV Market next to a sushi place, Sushiya.

Finally, desserts. The well-named IV Drip sells coffee and sandwiches, but is most well-known for its ice-cream. The Equilibrium Cafe sells crepes of all kinds. Next to Domino’s, Sweet Alley sells frozen yogurt and candy by weight.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the restaurants in IV, but I hope it helps you find places to eat with your friends in your first year at Isla Vista. There’s enough variety here for everyone to find something they enjoy. If you see me stocking up on food after a long run in preparation for an exhausted hibernation, say hi, and tell me your favorite place to eat! Did I leave it off my list?

Ted’s List of Things to Bring to UCSB

I’ve got a history of packing light. As a toddler on a family trip I threw one of my shoes out of a moving bus, and I was quite proud of myself for it. When I studied in Japan for six months I brought only a backpack packed the night before, allowing nimble navigation of the subway systems while my equally jet lagged colleagues struggled to haul whole cabinets of clothes in over sized suitcases. I think the practice has served me as well at college as it has abroad. Let’s look at Ted’s List of Things to Bring to UCSB!

  • A sturdy laundry hamper with a lid. There are flimsy laundry hampers which fold down tiny, but unless I’m taking a plane I like to use the hamper instead of luggage. Pack it with:
    • Clothes. UCSB has pleasantly warm summers and cold, often rainy winters. Don’t forget a swimsuit! If you want to use the gym on campus or in Tropicana, be sure to bring some gym shorts or basketball shorts or something. You won’t NEED any fancy clothes, but bring some if you plan to go to job fairs.
    • Two towels for bathing, and one towel for the beach or pool.
    • Laundry supplies. Keep detergent and dryer sheets in the hamper so they’re always on hand when you carry dirty clothes to the washers.
    • Sunscreen. If you plan to go to the beach a lot, bring baby-oil as well. Sometimes flecks of tar wash up on the beach, and baby-oil is the only thing that gets them off your skin.
    • Shampoo/conditioner/shaving cream.
    • A decent water-bottle with a filter. Water in Santa Barbara doesn’t taste great, and it’s worse the closer you get to the shore.
    • Chargers for electric appliances and a power strip. If you have space, two power strips. Your roommates will thank you.
    • A desk-lamp. It’s good to have private light while your roommates are asleep.
    • An alarm clock (if you can’t put one on your phone).
    • A calendar. UCSB hosts a lot of events, and if you want to advantage of them you need to track them.
  • A backpack, I wouldn’t bother bringing school supplies like pencils or notebooks. You can buy those in the student store at the UCEN. Use the extra space to pack:
    • The rest of your clothes. Fold them neatly so they’re not wrinkly when you take them out. Pack flip-flops for the beach and any shared showers.
    • A laptop. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, try a Chromebook. It just connects to the internet, but UCSB has campus-wide wifi and you can use cloud services for anything a student might need to do. I recommend Google Drive for word processing, PowerPoint, etcetera, and ShareLaTeX for professional-looking scientific document drafting. You can code for free in a variety of languages at https://repl.it/languages!
    • Medications and toiletries. You can fill prescriptions at student health and buy toiletries at the student store (or 7-11, or the IV Market), but you really don’t want to spend any time without. Be sure to remember a toothbrush, toothpaste, and while you’re at it, a bag of those flossing picks. Hygiene is important.
  • A bike, scooter, or skateboard
    • On bikes: I recommend buying a cheap bike and a nice U-Lock. You’ll rarely meet a senior who hasn’t had a bike stolen. Always remember to lock up properly with your U-Lock threaded through the bike frame, one wheel, and the bike rack. (Bike racks are everywhere, so use them. Lock up somewhere else and you’ll get a ticket.) I wear a helmet, even though no one else seems to.
    • On scooters and skateboards: These aren’t as fast as bikes, and you can’t use the bike paths, but you don’t need to lock them up. Just bring them into class and stash them out of the way! This makes them convenient, especially for short trips. Helmets are great, but I’d also recommend wrist braces: there’s a dedicated skateboard lane on the main road, but people walk in a random, Brownian path through it without regard to your wrist bones.
    • Some people roller-skate or wave board or unicycle—go wild, just go safe!
    • To transport your transport, secure it to the roof of your car or stash it in the trunk. Or, buy something here! There’s a bike shop and a skate shop on Pardall.
  • A set of sheets and comforter, with a pillow.
  • And… that’s it.

If you have those things while rooming at Tropicana, you will survive. Anything else, you can buy either on-campus or at local stores. It’s important to remember you’re not moving to outer Mongolia; you’re moving into a college dorm, in a town, near a city. If you forget a water bottle, you can buy one. Last year I showed up without blankets and bought some at Target.

Ultimately, when packing for your first year at college, you should prioritize convenience over thoroughness. If your parents are helping you move in it’ll be all sappy and memorable, and you don’t want to ruin the moment by making six trips for suitcases. Bring clothes in a laundry hamper, a backpack, and maybe a bike, and it’ll take half an hour to move in. Then you can get a burrito with your folks, and make them buy you anything else you think you’ll need.

Some final thoughts:

  • When the quarter starts get a bus-sticker on your Student ID. Then you and your friends can ride the bus downtown. The #24x bus is the fastest way into Santa Barbara proper.
  • The #11 bus circuits in two directions, clockwise and counterclockwise. The #11 bus and the #6 bus are the same bus; as the #11 bus stops at the Camino Real Marketplace it becomes the #6, and as the #6 passes the other way it becomes the #11. (The #24x bus is also the #12x bus.)
  • All your school books are probably available in the student store of the UCEN. They’re on the lower floor, down the stairs are tucked all the way in the back.