On The Side
6521 Pardall Road
Isla Vista, CA 93117
Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. to midnight
Phone: (805) 685-2600
New restaurants have been popping up along Pardall Road this year, with Dogtown and Chino’s first to offer a new flavor to Isla Vista’s gourmets. The transformation of 6521 Pardall from the dilapidated ashes of the Isla Vista Spot into a flashy new sit-down sports bar and diner dubbed On The Side might have escaped a few students in the flurry of essays and finals at the close of Winter Quarter, but there are plenty of reasons to pay attention to Pardall’s newest arrival.
On The Side boasts an impressive setup for sports fans, with six high-definition televisions around the bar and four more 40-inch flat screens for those seated outside. With a capacity of 70 people on the patio, On The Side promises to be an ideal hangout for sports fans on the night of the big game. John Shields, general manager of On The Side, promised to tune in to every one of the televised UCSB games.
“We’ll run any of the local Gaucho games on all of the TVs,” Shields said. “We’re very involved with the athletic department at UCSB, and we’re playing up that we’re one of the only sports bars in I.V.”
On The Side also distinguishes itself as one of the only sit-down restaurant in Isla Vista. Upon entering the front door, a sign written in chalk invites customers to seat themselves and wait for service. It feels almost counterintuitive to resist approaching the register to order, but Shields said his regular customers have come to enjoy the experience of a full-service establishment.
Some choice menu items include The Double A Burger, named for its avocado slices on top of the beef patty and its fried artichoke hearts underneath, for $6.99. Upon tasting the burger, I was actually impressed by the amount of avocado I received, as most places will stiff you on the good stuff. The artichoke hearts were crisp and flavorful and went perfectly with the Swiss cheese melted on top. The buns are potato bread, which have a soft, enjoyable texture but also tend to fall apart.
Those fried artichoke hearts make for a perfect dish on their own, coupled with chipotle aioli for $5.99. Shields himself adapted an artichoke tempura recipe from another restaurant and formulated a quick service plan that would suit an Isla Vista business model. The light fried shell around the hearts is crispy and enhances the flavor of the artichoke, and the chipotle aioli is perfect for dipping, although I would prefer it with a little more spice.
On The Side’s wings, a dish Shields said sets his establishment apart from the competition, are made from scratch for each order at the restaurant. Shields said he experimented with store-bought wings and decided that only freshly made wings would meet his standards. These tasty, fried offerings come bone-in or boneless, tossed with traditional, Zesty Asian or barbecue sauce, and served fresh for $5.99 for six and $10.99 for 12, though Shields said he is considering having 50 cent wing Wednesdays as a promotional deal.
Beer is almost as important as food for any respectable sports bar. On The Side offers cheap Pabst Blue Ribbon pints for $2.99 and pitchers for $8.99 to help students in financial distress, or their two exclusives, OTS Honey Blonde and OTS IPA, brewed specially by Firestone, $3.99 for a pint and $11.99 for a pitcher with unique tastes.
The name “On The Side” originated from a concept to serve ribs with something extra on the side; however, the idea for a rib joint was scrapped when the calculated prices for items exceeded the budget of an average UCSB student — well over $20 for a full rack. In an effort to ease the strain on students’ wallets, nearly all menu items are under $10. One of the ways Shields manages to cut costs is to purchase locally.
“We’re trying to buy local and buy fresh,” Shields said. “It keeps the shipping prices down and keeps our items in a lower ballpark.”
The purchase of the space formerly home to The Spot, Isla Vista’s last hookah hangout, was part of a broader move by the management to enter the restaurant and bar industry. According to Shields, the same company owns downtown hangouts like Tonic, Indochine, Marquee and Q’s, and On The Side is its newest development. Shields attributed his new managing position to internal promoting, as he formerly served as a security guard at Tonic and security manager at Indochine. With his dedication at those establishments, coupled with his 15 years as a professional chef, Shields was an ideal pick for the management of a new enterprise. In addition to supervising his employees, Shields also personally tweaks menu items, adapting them to Isla Vista patrons. His philosophy is to keep business simple and honest.
“I’m a traditionalist,” Shields said. “I have a hard time with restaurants that try to do too many things.”
The turnover rate for restaurants in Isla Vista is undoubtedly high. Locations like CaliRoll Express, Jerusalem Garden Café, the Isla Vista Spot, and others have vanished and been replaced by new ones. While other eateries at 6521 Pardall Road were unable to keep their businesses afloat, Shields is confident that On The Side will become an Isla Vista favorite.
“Everyone is enjoying themselves here,” Shields said. “We’re not just training our staff on how to serve people, we’re helping our patrons rethink how to be served. I think we’ll be here for a long time.”