This week, we have a special addition to our On the Menu section. A group of international students from Professor Briana Westmacott’s Linguistics 12 course has shared their local restaurant reviews. Linguistics 12 is a writing course for multilingual students. These international students have highlighted their favorite restaurants spanning from Isla Vista all the way to downtown Santa Barbara. We hope the reviews send you to new eating spots and give you great tips on what to order.


Blackbird by Alex Su

Over the past year studying at UCSB, I’ve visited many well-known restaurants in the Santa Barbara area. While there are some fast and cheap restaurants in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara also has many more expensive and luxurious restaurants that offer premium experiences, with my favorite being Blackbird located right across the street from the pier in downtown Santa Barbara.

Blackbird is a restaurant in the Hotel Californian, which is an expensive place to stay. With that type of luxury, its restaurants are, of course, a little costly. However, I’d say that Blackbird offers the best food and service even among others at a higher price level in Santa Barbara.

The design of the restaurant is stylish and provides for a luxurious feel. When you walk in, a host will greet you at the front door, take you to your seat and leave you with brand-new menus. Blackbird has seasonal plates that vary by a little every day. The best food I’ve had there is duck breast and grilled pork chop. The duck breast comes in a big white bowl, and the pinkish duck is soaked in a good amount of rare sauce that fills the center of the bowl. It was the best thing I’ve ever had. The grilled pork chop also hit me like a bomb. To be honest, I am not a big fan of pork chops, but I only ordered it because I did not want cinnamon chicken — I hate cinnamon. The porkchop really surprised me; I never thought that pork would taste better than chicken or beef.

I’ve also tried grilled salmon, wagyu beef, octopus, lamb and many other delicious dishes at Blackbird; they all surprised me. Like many other restaurants, it has steak that is well-prepared and tastes delicious, but it is not as mind-blowing as the other dishes. If I were to give one tip for eating at Blackbird, it would be to try something you’ve never had before; this restaurant will surely surprise you.

For more information, you can visit their website here:

Lao Ma Tou Hot Pot by Yitong Zhou

I am not picky about the food I eat. My parents know this very well. Thus, they haven’t been worried about the food I am eating in America. They believed I would become accustomed to the food here quickly, and I did. Many of my friends do not like to eat the food in our dining commons, and they even grew tired of the restaurants in Santa Barbara. However, I have found a good spot that I love. After I came to UCSB, I tried nearly every restaurant close to the school. I have also tried some restaurants in the market place and downtown. The one I like the most is called Lao Ma Tou, which is located in downtown.

Lao Ma Tou is a restaurant that is famous for its hot pot, which is one of my favorite foods from China. One of the reasons that I like it is because it can give me a sense of home. Usually, when my family and I are having hot pot, we sit around a table with the pot in the center. This restaurant has the same layout. Therefore, it is very homey and gives me a warm feeling. In addition, the hot pot is very similar to what we have in traditional Chinese restaurants. Thus, the taste is very good. Moreover, it has good service. All the waiters and waitresses are very kind and devoted to serving every customer. As a result, due to the wonderful taste and service and the familiar feeling of home, Lao Ma Tou is the best restaurant in Santa Barbara.

Winnie Lam / Daily Nexus

Boba Anyone? by Tiffany Langarde

People who know me well know that I love all kinds of food. I always bring snacks with me that I eat between each of my classes or during my training sessions. I am passionate about cooking; I often search the internet for new recipes or snack ideas. Since I eat every day in my dorm cafeteria, I rarely go out to eat. I do not see the point of eating elsewhere since I love the variety of choices the dorm offers buffet-style. When I first arrived at UCSB, my friends introduced me to bubble tea. I had never tasted it before, and even though I found the bubbles at the bottom of the drink rather strange, I gave it a try. From the first sip, I knew it would become my new favorite drink. Since that day, I always order a slushy one with the bubbles on the bottom. I vary the flavors: honeydew, passionfruit, mango, strawberry, lychee or peach.

I have tried several places in Isla Vista looking for the best bubble tea , and I realized that they are all very good. Bubble tea is now my tradition to celebrate the end of a quarter, a Gaucho victory or a birthday or as a reward after a long day of training. It is refreshing and unlike a soft drink; the bubbles at the bottom of the cup make me feel like I am eating and drinking at the same time. It’s a revolutionary concept!

Pei Chiao Lin / Daily Nexus

Sushiya Express by Aurora Liu

Personally speaking, Sushiya Express is the best restaurant in Isla Vista. There are several other good restaurants in Isla Vista, but not all of the food in these restaurants is delicious. Every dish in Sushiya is perfect. I have tried the sashimi, sushi, tofu soup, troop pots, kalbi, chicken soup, army stew and ramen in Sushiya, and all of it was fresh and good. The kalbi and army stew are even better than what I’ve eaten in China. Although the restaurant name includes “Express,” the food is not fast-food quality. In addition, this restaurant not only provides Japanese food but also some Korean food, too. The owner of Sushiya is Korean, and the chef is Japanese.

What I like the most about Sushiya is the service. The woman who owns the restaurant is nice, and she knows me very well because I have been there many times. We always chat, and she asks me if there are any new good restaurants in Isla Vista. We are friends now, and she often gives me extra cheese, extra noodles or drinks for free. All in all, Sushiya Express is fantastic! It has perfect food quality and service. I would recommend starting a conversation with the restaurant owner and telling her that the food is delicious, and then you will get a new friend.