Ah, the sweet air of yet another approaching school year is descending upon I.V. That familiar scent of roasted coffee brings us back to late-night cram sessions fueled solely by caffeine and a let’s-just-get-this-over-with attitude. For some of you, this is your first year experiencing this ritual; for others, it’s a familiar and comforting friend. But as most of you know, not all coffee is the same, and certainly not all coffee shops are equal. It’s important to find the right match to suit your studying needs, so here is a compilation of the pros and cons of each coffee shop in Isla Vista.
I.V. Drip: Minimal Seating, Friendly Service, COOKIEWICHES
The Drip is a quintessential part of I.V. The Green Star brand coffee is typically good, usually offering around four different brews on any given day, and the ever-friendly staff is great to boot. Best of all, coffee is “a buck a cup” during dead and finals weeks, no matter the size. I.V. Drip offers build-your-own bagel- and croissant-wiches, but, of course, the crowning glory of I.V. Drip is the handmade cookiewich: your choice of two delectable cookies encasing a fresh scoop of glorious McConnell’s ice cream. These treats are absolutely to die for, and you can pick up this killer combo anytime because I.V. Drip is open until 1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday and until midnight for the rest of the week. Good luck finding a place to sit, though, because aside from a few small patio tables, there isn’t much space to spread out and get your study on. Nevertheless, it’s a good place to grab a quick pick-me-up and head back to the library.
Starbucks: Familiar Setting, Always Busy, Great Location
Sometimes you need something so tried and true and familiar that it takes you back to your very first Frappucino. Starbucks can always be counted on for consistency; no matter where you are, a Java Chip is a Java Chip. Sometimes that sense of familiarity is what you need when you’re miles away from your family and knee-deep in term papers, and that is something I can appreciate. But good luck finding a place to sit at this Starbucks as it’s always busy; the tables are usually full and the blenders are whirring all day long. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but that isn’t conducive to studying for me. However, its prime location places it directly next to Subway and The Habit and across the street from Freebirds, so it’s easy to stress-eat while caffeine-bingeing.
Cajé: Cool Atmosphere, Killer Coffee, Chilly Weather
Cajé is one of the trendiest coffee shops in Isla Vista equipped with its own chic mugs, cool aesthetic and fun latté art. This place is awesome! The caramel latté is to die for, and the atmosphere always seems so Zen. If you’re fortunate enough to get a table indoors, then kudos to you, because those are coveted seats come midterms and finals seasons. We less dedicated people end up sitting outside on the cement, picnic-style tables where the ocean breeze finds its way up and casts a chill over the patrons. Additionally, most of the outlets outside no longer work, so if you plan on sitting there for the long haul, I recommend a light jacket and a full battery.
Cafe Equilibrium: Sweet Treats, Bursts of Energy, Study Room
This place is the hidden treasure of Pardall. Modest in its appearance and tucked in between buildings on I.V.’s busiest street, Cafe Equilibrium boasts a charming and energetic staff who serve some specialties that cannot be found elsewhere in Isla Vista including crêpes, gelato, gourmet waffles and coffee, coffee, coffee. It’s often rather empty in the store, so it makes it the perfect place to post up and study, especially in the out-of-sight back room where plenty of seating is available. The assorted coffee drinks are excellent and boast a wide range of options and flavors including red velvet. If it’s a sweet treat you crave, I recommend gelato affogato style (with a shot of espresso on top).
Coffee Collab: Entertainment, Large Mugs, Artsy Feel
Located at the corner of Embarcadero del Mar and Pardall, this hip little collaborative has a lot going on. From spoken word to open mic night, the collab always seems to be teeming with creative people looking to share a nice cup o’ joe together and collaborate (excuse the pun) to create exceptional work. Coffee Collab is also known for their dirty chai latté, so head over and try a cup.
Kol’s Café: Repeat Revival, Offbeat Location, Interesting Layout
The second time is hopefully the charm for the risen-from-the-grave Kol’s Café. Though it had a short run last school year, the owners soon changed interests, putting a dividing wall through the property and turning it into Le Café and Blend Me Tender, both of which were underwhelming. However, Kol’s is back for a second run at Isla Vista’s saturated coffee market, and the tenacity is definitely admirable. Unfortunately, because of it’s short-notice revival, there isn’t much buzz about it as of late. To be frank, I hadn’t realized Kol’s was back until I began writing this article. For a cup of Peet’s brand coffee and maybe a bit more information, head over to Kol’s Café.
Bagel Café: Best Breakfast, Local Coffee, Good Vibes
As the name suggests, this place isn‘t known for their coffee so much as they are for their bagels, but that doesn’t mean a cup of piping hot Santa Barbara Roasting Company joe wouldn’t go great with your Eggle Plus. The place has a fun, surfer-chill vibe, and the outdoor seating or next-door park are good places to relax and munch a bagel before the big test. Though Bagel Cafe’s hours may seem odd, they truly cater to their target audience, open 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m Sunday-Wednesday and opening up an additional 10 p.m.-3 a.m. shift Thursday-Saturday to satisfy your carb-craving drunchies.
Spudnuts: Late Hours, Doughnuts and Friendly Next-door Neighbors
Coffee and doughnuts, is there any combination more perfect? Probably not! This is the only doughnut shop in town (unless you count 7-Eleven) and this place packs a punch. The donuts are divine and their coffee is the perfect pick-me-up with its simple flare. With fair prices and food, Spudnuts is I.V.’s haven for any doughnut fanatic.
Sweet Alley: Fro-Yo, Candy Galore, Alumnus Owner
Although coffee isn’t usually what makes me crave a trip to Sweet Alley, it is still a hotspot you should check out. Like a mad scientist, Nick Mason, a UCSB alumnus reinvented the former glory of Sweet Alley and brought in some hip and exciting items for his patrons. They produce craft nitrogen-infused coffee and teas that pour like stout beer, and their cold brew is something you should definitely try! For a more inventive take on your caffeine, I would definitely take the trip over to Sweet Alley.