As Winter Quarter got underway, I found myself getting distracted on my daily bike ride down Pardall to class. Upon passing by the Study Hall, my mouth would spontaneously start to water, I’d get a strange craving for meat, and a woody, smoky aroma seemed to fill the morning air. This week, I found the culprit in the shape of Michael Gould, aka ‘Kaptain’: a thick set, grinning man grilling tri tip at 9 a.m. out the back of I.V.’s newest enterprise: Kaptain’s Firehouse BBQ.

Kaptain is the new kid on the block, and he’s arrived armed with a wicked attitude and a stellar menu, ready to take on Isla Vista.

Kaptain grew up working in his parent’s restaurant on the East Coast before hitting the Santa Barbara scene as a multitalented foodie maverick. He’s done it all: bar-tended frat parties, organized screening parties in Hollywood, held pole dancing competitions at Burning Man, BBQed during football season at O’Malleys, started a catering business and even put on a Bob Marley Day Festival in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park, complete with 45 kegs and 600 pounds of jerk chicken. This guy has some serious stories. I’m not going to ruin them for you (and they might push the boundaries of Nexus appropriate), but this place merits a visit if only to hear Kaptain’s tales, even if you don’t dig the food! (Spoiler alert: this is highly unlikely.)

Oh, the food. The menu features five takes on the classic BBQ tritip sandwich. The meat is marinated overnight in a blend of garlic, paprika and onion before being BBQ’d to medium-rare perfection. It’s served up on a hot roll from a local Goleta bakery, then topped with combos like pico de gallo and avocado or homemade chilli. It was the “The Anacapa” that won me over: horseradish mayo, pepper jack cheese and sweet caramelized onions that were a perfect compliment to the smokey char of the steak. This is comfort food at it’s best: Deep pans of chilli and pulled pork simmer away on the stovetop, and employees serve up homemade cornbread and golden fries with every entree. Believe it or not, vegetarians are also welcome, and can choose veggie burgers or a fat BBQ portabella mushroom sandwich.

There’s a hidden, high-class gem to be discovered at Kaptain’s: the Black Angus Beef Sliders. They pull out all the stops for this decadent combo; grass fed beef from a local cattle ranch is paired with farmer’s market arugula, blue cheese, caramelized onions, bacon and, as if it couldn’t get any better, black truffle aioli. “Truffle oil on an I.V. menu?!” I hear your cry! Yep, Kaptain has done it, and all for under $8. Perhaps Subway will soon follow suit; watch this space.

Kaptain’s is a venerable addition to the Pardall strip. Despite recent grumblings about the increasing number of chains in I.V., passionate, local-run places like Kaptain’s should make us proud of our little town’s eclectic food scene. And if we can support it by filling our bellies and wiping BBQ sauce from ’round our mouths, then that we should. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it, right?

 A version of this article appeared on page 8 of the February 6th 2013’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.