Chino’s Rock & Tacos

6530 Pardall Rd.
Isla Vista
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 a.m.-midnight
Phone: (805) 968-5118
Price: $5 to $10

From nightly menu specials to a light, social atmosphere, Chino’s Rock & Tacos is I.V.’s newest hot spot for food and fun.

Among the multitude of establishments in Isla Vista, Chino’s unique restaurant philosophy is just what Isla Vista needs: a place where Freebirds World Burrito meets Sam’s To Go. Here you’ll find excellent food quality and a laid back atmosphere fused together to create a truly excellent dining experience. Located on the corner of Pardall Road and Embarcadero del Norte — arguably the busiest street in this small college town — this alternative Mexican food joint is able to attract customers from all walks of life. Shelby Greaves, a second-year UCSB student employed at Chino’s, finds the establishment to be a hub for an eclectic mix of students and visitors alike.

“I like working here because we get a big variety of people and it gets really interesting,” Greaves said.

If you find yourself looking around your apartment wondering where everyone went, chances are you’ll find them at Chino’s.

Students applaud the new eatery’s combination of relatively cheap prices and great music, making for a fabulous hangout spot whether you find yourself there for a quick bite before class or a great kick off to a debauchery-filled weekend. Chino’s fits into the UCSB lifestyle, meshing perfectly with Isla Vista culture and rooting itself into the core of the community.

According to restaurant representatives, the name “Chino’s” is a shortened version of the word “Chicanos.” It attempts to incorporate a rich Mexican heritage with American pop culture. Chino’s intends to provide patrons with a “third place” where people can meet outside their homes and work to enjoy lively social interaction. Lisa Cate, corporate manager of Chino’s, views her restaurant as a haven from the banalities of everyday life.

“[We hope] that customers can come in to escape from the outside world. When you come in here, you feel the restaurant is alive,” Cate said. According to Cate, this is a liveliness that its customers can lose themselves in and just focus on good food, good drink and good fun.

Chino’s signature music and eclectic collection of Mexican rock décor emit an energy which flows straight into Isla Vista’s busy streets, giving it its own distinct identity. Electric guitars line the ceiling and bottle caps frame the mirrors while pictures of skulls, music posters and skateboards garnish the walls. The television located high above the archway exhibits clips of snowboarding, uniting both rock ‘n’ roll and extreme sports communities with authentic Mexican cuisine. Playlists incorporate both contemporary hits and old favorites. Picks range from Muse’s “Uprising” to Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Luckily for regular patrons, the music is chosen and updated each month, so frequent customers and staff alike can breathe easier knowing that the songs will be changed often.

Aside from the stress-free environment, Chino’s boasts a wide variety of authentic Mexican cuisine. All meals are made with fresh, local ingredients showing the restaurant’s dedication to supporting the neighboring community and caring for its customers. Cate proudly claims that Chino’s “food quality is very high,” never using frozen ingredients. Every item on the plate is made from scratch in the kitchen. Without the use of lard or trans-fats, it’s a healthier version of traditional Mexican meals, creating an altogether regret-free dish, though it may be difficult to stop after the first order.

After ordering at the counter, servers bring a generous amount of homemade chips and salsa to the table, never failing to offer customers refills, a service that has regrettably been quickly disappearing from other Mexican restaurants. After enjoying this welcome treat, the main courses are quick to reach your table, hot and delicious. After sampling the Asada Burrito, it is clear why it is a Chino’s favorite. Stuffed with strips of sirloin, Spanish rice, pinto beans and cheese, andgarnished with guacamole, the description alone is enough to make anyone’s mouth water. “My favorite is the Avocado and Chicken Salad,” Cate said, but other public favorites include the Cerveza Shrimp Tacos and the Sizzling Fajita Platter.

According to Cate, Chino’s takes enormous pride in its customer service. The staff is genuinely friendly and eager to please. Chino’s “Any Way You Like It” guarantee allows customers to order food exactly the way they want it (even if it isn’t on the menu), appeasing even the pickiest of eaters.

Between the tacos, burritos and salads, customers spend an average of $9 per visit. For those wishing to spend less, Chino’s offers a value menu and excellent nightly specials, satisfying a wide range of customer needs. Specials include: Monday Fundraiser Nights, with 10 percent of sales going toward humanitarian causes; Taco Tuesday, boasting $1 crispy tacos and $2 bottled beers; BRC Wednesdays with $2 bean, rice and cheese burritos and $1 beers; and “40oz to Freedom” on Thursday nights with $4 40oz pitchers. All deals are valid from 4:00 p.m. to midnight.

Chino’s alcohol license does indeed suggest that UCSB students can now begin to incorporate this new retreat into the legendary drinking gauntlet popularly known as the Loop, assuming of course you’d even want to leave at all once you’ve arrived. The restaurant offers four beers on tap, including Budweiser and Coors Light, along with other bottled beers. So next time you decide to make the rounds, call up your friends and be sure to stop at Chino’s between 11:00 a.m. and midnight to fulfill your cravings, whatever they might be.

Locations include San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara on State Street, and Isla Vista. Chino’s plans to open a fourth location in Paso Robles next month.