BEST OF '23 visual

Every year the Daily Nexus compiles a list of categories that make Isla Vista, Isla Vista. We then share those places and things with the UC Santa Barbara community so we can elect a winner for each category. The winners were chosen by the community and the content is written by the editorial staff. Our aim is to celebrate the places on and off-campus that make this place our home, and hard to say goodbye to as we graduate and leave for the summer.

Best First Date: Bluffs

Mari Villalpando-Ortega

Picture this: You finally got out of her DMs, finally arranged a time and now all that’s left is a place. First impressions ​​matter — you can’t just take her to Cajé and call it a date. So what to do? The clock is ticking; it’s been three minutes! Fret not my darling reader, for I know a spot. Hear me out … the bluffs. I know, I know, but the fact of the matter is that the bluffs are ranked No. 1 by the UC Santa Barbara campus! Best hours are sunset, of course, and hopefully the sky is clear so that you can really appreciate the multiple colors of the gorgeous sky. You can always start off with a little hot girl walk, maybe even get a little drink so your hands are not empty. The walk there should be enough to spark riveting conversation (you got this). Once you arrive at the bluffs, (my preferred is Devs entrance), park by a bench or, if you come prepared, on a blanket on the ground so you can really be one with nature. The views never get old and the waves will bring you all the luck you need. One of the best reasons to hit the bluffs (in my opinion) is because if ever you get a little awkward, you can just stare off into the ocean as if in deep thought! Either way, the gorgeous scenery, the peaceful sounds and the great company is sure to get you a second date.

Best Boba: Kaiju Ramen and Curry

Sindhu Ananthavel

Located at 901 Embarcadero Del Mar, Kaiju Ramen & Curry is often frequented for its boba, with a variety of flavors for I.V. goers to quench their thirst. Highlights include their hokkaido milk tea and dirty latte, as well as non-dairy alternatives for vegans and the lactose intolerant. An array of non-milk based teas are available as well, including the tart citrus lemon tea and gently sweet wintermelon green tea. There’s truly something for everyone — including the boba averse, who can choose toppings such as egg pudding and grass jelly — and after one sip, you’re sure to return for more.

Best Drunchies: I.V. Deli Mart

Kathleen Santacruz

Im sooooooooo fucked up right now hahahahahhahahhaaaaaaa oh, where are we??? What is this, heaven?? WHAT??? You took me to I.V. Deli Mart just like I asked two blocks ago, but I dont remembrerrer because im so fucked up right now??? MY FAVORITE. THE BEST DRUNCHIES. I.V. DELI MART. YES.

The blinding fluorescent lights of I.V. Deli Mart on a typical weekend night attract the drunk wanderers of Isla Vista streets like moths to a flame. A beacon of hope in the darkness of the early hours of the morning, the tireless cooks and cashiers do the work of angels feeding the swarms their every hope and dream in the form of delicious drunchies. From the wide array of chips, snacks and drinks to the scrumptious hot food menu, I.V. Deli Mart is a safe haven for the inebriated living their best life in pursuit of the perfect wings to top off their (un)memorable night. From the sandwiches to the fries, every part of I.V. Deli Mart screams a melody of drunk, greasy, mouthwatering scrumptiousness. No store layout has ever been so navegable while the world is blurry and twirling in every direction. No, I.V. Deli Mart pulls you along until the current gets you to your final destination — the cold hard tables outside, enjoying a good grilled cheese and chatting aimlessly as you take it all in. Thank you I.V. Deli Mart!

Best Library Floor: 4th Floor

Siddharth Chattoraj

Lined with rows of historical and political knowledge, the fourth floor is the place for avid learners to dive into the intricacies of our world’s story. The first time I walked past the low ceilings at the entrance, I was filled with a sense of anticipation at the treasure trove of collective knowledge that awaits beyond. Upon reaching the center — a majestic grand hall — I felt the dark atmosphere come alive with vibrant energy. Students gather, exchange ideas and work on the latest homework problem or study for their upcoming test. The modern orange and blue yet rustic aesthetic provides an ideal place to hang out, chat, study and collaborate, and the windows provide breathtaking, expansive views of the campus. As the day turned to night, I felt the space become enveloped in a soothing chatter weaved in with occasional laughter, which fostered collaborative intellectual exploration within my study group. We zoned in on our studying, and we finally figured out how to solve the last vector calculus problem that we had been stuck on for a while. In this captivating ambiance, the fourth floor becomes a home for ideas to flourish and for those seeking knowledge and connection.

P.S. this is being written on this on the fourth floor.

Best Hangover Food: I.V. Bagel Cafe

Kathleen Santacruz

I have never been in a more deranged, intolerable state than when I have indulged in the fine dining that is I.V. Bagel Cafe on a sunny Saturday morning. The warm, wafting smell of bagels greets me with a kind embrace as I step inside of the EDM sauna to order God’s gift to frat guys, sexy ladies and party people: the Super Emma. Sitting down on a bright yellow chair to be told tales of the atrocities I committed the night before, I have never felt more accepted for wearing my hoodie and sweatpants of choice, a full face of last nights mascara and death in my eyes as my hangover beats my head like a banging drum. After a short two million years, my order number is screamed out like bloody murder and my rebirth has come. Emma is ready, and she sure is super. With two bites, my hangover is honorably cured by sweet bagel juices and a healthy amount of sprouts to balance out the perfectly overloaded amounts of cheese, and I am whole again. I can feel my toes, the wind in my hair and my ears still ringing from the night before. Thank you I.V. Bagel Cafe, my heart will always be deliciously slathered in your pesto cream cheese.

Best Pizza: I.V. Pizza Pub

Abigail Monti

Despite officially opening at the start of Winter Quarter 2023, I.V. Pizza Pub has already amassed a dedicated student fan base. Loyal customers of the shop’s predecessor, Pizza My Heart, were relieved to find that new owner Doron Friedman kept the menu, ambiance and staff consistent. Friedman, who also founded and owns local business I.V. Bagel Cafe, wished to prevent another New York-inspired I.V. business from permanently leaving town by purchasing Pizza My Heart’s equipment and recipes, hiring the Pizza My Heart management staff and even keeping the same location. With Pizza My Heart’s award-winning creative recipes, Friedman clearly understood that you shouldn’t mess with perfection. From the massive slices of thin-crust pizza piled high with fresh toppings, to the laid-back atmosphere, I.V. Pizza Pub continues Pizza My Heart’s tradition of good food and good energy. However, students have undeniably come to embrace I.V. Pizza Pub’s augmented menu, which now serves I.V. Bagel Cafe favorites, NYC Breakfast Pizzas and mimosas on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Whether you drop by for hangover-curing brunch or late-night pitchers, you’re sure to leave I.V. Pizza Pub satisfied.

Best Smoke Spot: Bluffs

Faith Talamantez

The best smoke spot is a tough competition when we are lucky enough to go to school on such a beautiful campus. There’s plenty of places for people to gather and enjoy a good view, whether it be on campus or off. However, it is undeniable that a late night walk along the bluffs is the most beautiful spot to smoke at UCSB. When the night sky is clear and you can sit and look up at the stars, blasting music, there is nothing quite like it. Not only are the bluffs absolutely beautiful, they are also nicely secluded and have plenty of spots for all the stoners to sit at without bothering anyone else. It’s peaceful, quiet and, if you’re lucky like me, you might even be able to catch some snorkeler’s flashlights bobbing through the water late at night. If you are incredibly high like me when you see them, you might assume it’s an underwater monster that has finally come to get you. Fun times! Overall, of all the smoke spots, the bluffs will always be the best. There’s no place quite like the beach to get high, and it’s even better with a nice view. See you tonight, stoners!

Best Weeknight Activity Hosted by a Restaurant: Rockfire Karaoke

Pricila Flores

As an introvert, karaoke in a public setting is my worst nightmare. After avoiding public humiliation for three years, I finally committed to going outside of my comfort zone and attending Wednesday-night karaoke. And, I can say, while I was briefly embarrassed, it immediately went away as more and more people got up on the stage and sang their renditions of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. I went into the night swearing that I would not get on stage. But after seeing how supportive the crowd was, singing along so loud that I could not even hear the singer on stage, I decided to go up with my housemates. As the opening notes of “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood played, I began to think, “Oh god, what did I get myself into?” But the crowd went wild, cheering us on and jumping around to the music. After a couple lines into the song, people in the crowd stopped paying attention to us, turning to their friend circles to dance and sing. After we finished screaming Carrie Underwood into the microphone, my housemates and I were all eager to sing another song. Karaoke, specifically Rockfire Grill karaoke, is an experience for everyone. Whether you’re an observer or a performer, it is bound to get you up and singing with people you’ve never met before — yet it feels like you’ve known them forever.

Best Burrito: Super Cuca’s

Amitha Bhat

Picture this: It’s 10 p.m. and your meeting (that started at 7 p.m.) just ended. You thought you’d catch Carrillo for a late dinner, clamoring through the glass doors at 8:29 — a minute before the cutoff — all sweaty and victorious and excited to eat some stir-fry.

Time to consider some other options. What’s open this late, anyway? You stumble across I.V., eyeing familiar restaurants, envisioning yourself chewing a slice of pizza or munching on some Mac and Cheese, yet none of them seem appealing tonight. Then, you see it.

The bright red “CUCAS RESTAURANT” sign, the tantalizing neon letters spelling, “OPEN,” urging you to venture inside.

You’re feeling like breakfast-for-dinner, and fortunately, their breakfast burritos are available all day. Step inside, place your order, the man taking your order asks you what the highlight of your day was and you say lunch — though you know it’s about to be dinner.

The order in question: the Cuca’s Breakfast Burrito and the Passion Fruit Agua Fresca to pair.

Within minutes, it’s on the table for you. You unwrap the foil and dip it in some salsa. At once, the eggs, cheese and potatoes meld together in your mouth, the optimal combination of flavors to cure you from the Monday Blues. Your hungry mind concocts the image of fireworks before you, electric hues of cobalt and algae, a thrill you never anticipated feeling while eating a burrito. Now that the tunnel vision of your hunger is widened, a realization dawns upon you.

You never wanted stir-fry.

Best Electric Scooter: Lime

Isaiah Ochoa

Avoid the walk of shame and join the invasion! Zippy green machines have taken over the streets. Lime scooters have arrived, and they’re here to add a whole new level of glee to our chaotic beachside town.

Imagine walking along the streets, minding your own business, when suddenly you spot someone zooming by on a Lime scooter. They’re zipping past you at  lightning-fast speed, the wind blowing in their hair and a look with some parts of terror and excitement on their face.

But let’s not forget the people who have yet to master the art of Lime scootering. They wobble, swerve, and occasionally crash into parked bicycles like they’re playing a real-life game of scooter pinball. It’s a never-ending source of entertainment for the drivers and the bystanders, who cheer them on with laughter.

Oh, and have you ever seen a Lime scooter parked in the most outrageous places? They’re like urban sculptures, perched on top of mailboxes, nestled in trees and even precariously balanced on top of each other. Isla Vista has become a modern art installation, where even scooters are trying to find their place in this whimsical world.

So, my dear Isla Vista residents, embrace the lime invasion! Let these zippy contraptions bring joy, laughter and a healthy dose of chaos to our streets. After all, life is more exciting when you’re dodging Lime scooters left and right!

Best Pop Up: Roger’s Tacos

Preston Espar

Everybody loves tacos and everybody loves pop-up shops that sell various things in our quaint town of Isla Vista. The geniuses at Roger’s Tacos combined the two things everybody loves and made a masterpiece. Intoxicated individuals in the area can always rely on Roger’s Tacos to help with their greasy food cravings. Tacos so good, campus organizations know that if they get Roger’s Tacos to help them fundraise, there will be a line down the street.The prices are fair and their payment methods are easy. If you do not have any physical forms of payment, they conveniently take Venmo. The number of drunk and sober students alike who have been able to pay for their food because of this is unmeasurable. Mexican food in Santa Barbara is at its best, which is exactly why Roger’s Tacos is so good. They understand who they are competing with, and they make sure their food gives other locations a run for their money. Their menu is simple, but their flavor is most definitely not. All the meats they offer have a unique taste that has every customer asking for seconds. Without Roger’s Tacos, Isla Vista would be a less delicious place.

Best Convenience Store: 7-Eleven

Meenakshi Manoj

Whether it’s for a grab-and-go midnight snack or some Tylenol to relieve your midterm season headaches, 7-Eleven has you covered 24/7. This year, 7-Eleven won the title of “Best Convenience Store” in Isla Vista. Their wide selection of drinks, snacks, toiletries and other basic necessities makes this a great stop for busy UC Santa Barbara students. The store is easily accessible, as a 5-minute walk from campus as well as convenient for those heading from campus to their apartments in Isla Vista. In addition, 7-Eleven caters to those wanting a cheap and convenient meal, whether it be some warm pepperoni pizza or a chilled chicken caesar salad.

In addition to its great selection and quick service 7-Eleven, the convenience store has a 7Rewards loyalty program where individuals can earn and redeem points after purchasing items. 7Rewards can be used to get discounts or even free products. Overall, 7-Eleven ticks many boxes to become a popular site for UCSB students and be proclaimed as the “Best Convenience Store” amongst UCSB students.

Best Pitcher: Woodstock’s Pizza

Stephanie Gerson

Is there any other experience that can match the bliss of sharing a reasonably priced, refreshing pitcher of Cali Squeeze with your besties — perhaps paired with Cinnabread — while spilling your deepest, darkest secrets with each other in a cozy booth at Woodstock’s? You simply can’t beat Woodstock’s $9.99 pitchers after 9 p.m. deal — I mean, unless Woodstock’s decides to extend this deal to seven nights a week instead of just from Monday to Friday. Plus, it’s not like you’re spending time in Woodstock’s before 9 p.m. on a weekday anyways unless you’re underage (sorry underclassmen!). Let’s make things clear, the pitchers actually come out to be around $11 instead of $9, but Woodstock’s “Nine$ After 9” is still the best price for a pitcher in Isla Vista and is half the price of standard pitchers served on weekends. Woodstock’s beer menu has something for everyone: Bud Light for those with less refined tastes, Captain Fatty’s IPA for the UC Santa Barbara alumni in their 30s paying their respects to alma mater with a nostalgic night at Woodstock’s, and Boochcraft for the girlies who hate the taste of alcohol. Not only is this deal helpful for large groups looking to have a wild night without hurting their wallets, but it’s also a great deal to take advantage of on a first date. It’s common knowledge that Isla Vista residents aren’t known for planning the most romantic dates, but if your date isn’t even willing to pay for a $9.99 pitcher of Bud Light, which they most definitely will drink more of than you, they are not second date material. Thank you Woodstock’s for unknowingly providing us with the ultimate test to weed out potential partners and serving the most affordable pitchers in town!

Best Coffee: Starbucks

Emma Holm-Olsen

It’s no wonder that Starbucks has become virtually synonymous with the word “coffee.” Since its creation in 1971, it’s risen to become the world’s largest coffeehouse chain — and a staple in millions of people’s morning routines. From flavored lattes and “frappuccinos,”  to teas and lemonades, they have almost anything you could possibly want in terms of beverages — and at very reasonable prices. If that weren’t enough, they also have a wide selection of bakery and snack items, including my personal favorite, the mouth-watering Bacon, Gouda & Egg Sandwich. But, if you’d prefer to keep it simple, you can always get a cup of delicious roast or ground coffee, including their house Pike Place Roast. There are no wrong choices at Starbucks, and I can guarantee there is something for everyone. In my opinion, Starbucks also stands apart from competition with their app, through which you can order ahead, pay in store, earn rewards and more. The I.V. Starbucks, particularly, is also a great place to go and study because of the store’s proximity to campus, its cozy atmosphere and the friendliness of the staff. Plus, there’s nothing like a hot beverage and a sweet treat to motivate you to write that essay!

Best Coffee: Cajé

Olivia Gil de Bernabe

You’d be lucky to secure a seat at Cajé on any given day. This I.V. favorite boasts an inviting interior, complete with outlets, free Wi-Fi and comfy booths. Their outdoor seating, which offers a great view of I.V. street life, is ideal on a sunny Southern California day. Whether you’re looking for a place to study or catch up with a friend over specialty coffee, Cajé’s the place to be! But if coffee isn’t your thing, don’t worry; their assortment of quick bites, from bagels and avocado toast to acai bowls and smoothies, are all fan favorites of the coffeshop’s frequenters. There may be debate over how it’s pronounced, but one thing’s for sure: Cajé is an I.V. staple.

Best Sandwich: Sam’s To Go

Stephanie Gerson

A well-loved establishment in Isla Vista, Sam’s To Go has been dishing out classic sandwiches since 1981. The locally-owned sandwich shop’s four locations in Santa Barbara County are a further testament to its popularity. While it’s fun to experiment with food, sometimes you might want to keep things classic and simple with a ham and cheese sandwich or a BLT, both of which Sam’s To Go has down to a science. Crafted with all the fixings and made on your choice of bread, you can’t go wrong with choosing from any of the sandwich shop’s 17 options. If you’re just looking for a quick bite after an afternoon at the beach, look no further than Sam’s To Go’s appetizer menu that includes chicken tenders, onion rings, fries and more. Their outdoor patio is the perfect place to share some subs, fries and a pitcher with friends while soaking up the Isla Vista sunshine.

Best Delivery Service: Duffl

Audrey Kenyon

With a vast assortment of treats and speedy means of delivery, Duffl is the best snack-delivery service in Isla Vista. No matter the time or place, Duffl will provide you with cravings when you need them most, arriving at your door in 10 minutes or less.

Duffl partners with local businesses such as I.V. Drip, encouraging students to search locally for their snacking needs. They are also sure to entertain students with their sexual innuendos and puns written with Sharpie on their iconic orange bags. If Duffl does anything besides deliver delicious goods, it’s making their clients laugh. Rain or shine, you are sure to see one of their employees in a bright orange helmet and vest scootering down Pardall Road.

Easily recognizable with their vibrant colors, Duffl serves as a lifesaver for desperate college students requiring a pick-me-up. Duffl competes with Snag in I.V., but Duffl’s expedient service leads the UC Santa Barbara community to place them ontop. Duffl also encourages fun purchases from the comfort of your home, providing alternative goods such as ping pong balls and pink wigs.

Duffl exists as an odd liaison between college life and corporate structure. Regardless, they succeed in their niche and encourage late-night shopping within I.V. The next time you get the munchies, you know who to call.

Best Secret Fashion Photographer: I.V. Streets

Asumi Shuda

Stepping into University Road, students may encounter a man with a large lens camera squatting nearby The Arbor and the UC Santa Barbara Library. Manning the public @ivstreets Instagram account, Santa Barbara City College fifth-year student Callahan Morgan is a local photographer who takes free photos of campus community members taking a stride across various walkways at the university. From capturing students’s outfits to highlighting on-campus protests, Morgan has made a name for himself in the UCSB campus community through his high-quality photography. He has also expanded his coverage to the local Isla Vista grounds, taking clear shots of students at house parties, local bars and more. Culminating over 6,000 followers on Instagram, Morgan posts daily with moments of people smiling, laughing and posing for the lone student with a camera. The portfolio he’s curated is undeniably UCSB and Isla Vista.

Best I.V. Band: Spoontime

Lauren Chiou

What time is it?

Consisting of second-year psychology & brain sciences and sociology double major Avital Schwarz (vocals), second-year economics major Gaurav Chakravarty (guitar), third-year environmental science major Michael Aguirre (bass), IV resident Luke Hand (drums), and fifth-year applied-math major and music minor Tim Guan (keyboard), Spoontime, a pop rock band, made their Isla Vista debut in January 2023.

Spoontime was formed when Schwarz, who wanted to continue performing after her old band ended, reached out to Chakravarty and Aguirre about potentially playing together. The three of them then met Hand and Guan and subsequently recruited them to the band.

The quirky name was the product of late night brainstorming. Spunky and unique, the name perfectly encapsulates the fresh spirit Spoontime brings to I.V.

“It was 3 a.m. and I was writing down random things that came into mind trying to think of a band name, and that one kinda just stuck,” Schwarz said.

Despite being relatively new, the band has built up their presence as one of Isla Vista’s standout groups from the past year, flooding the streets with rock, indie and pop covers. Some Spoontime favorites include “Seventeen” by Peach Pit, “Just A Girl” by No Doubt, and “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood.

Spoontime shows are always packed. The band’s audience consists of fans or people just wandering the streets of I.V., drawn to the sound of music. Frequently playing in front of the iconic bright green wall of the Dolores Huerta Co-Op, the crowd is always full of positive vibes and infectious energy.

Schwarz commented on the “Spoontime Effect,” saying “When we are performing, it feels like we’re all contributing to this ball of energy that we send out to the crowd and they send it back even bigger. It’s this cycle of growing energy and joy and awesomeness.”

Follow @spoontime_band on Instagram for upcoming shows. For it’s always time for Spoontime.

Best I.V. Band: Mindfunk

Stella Mullin

Founded in Winter Quarter 2022 to bring a little funk and soul into Isla Vista, Mindfunk aims to “create space for community healing,” as described in the band’s Instagram bio.

Although the band is new, most members met through the UCSB jazz program and have been playing together for a while. When they finally upgraded from university performances to apartment art shows, the band was formed, and the guitarist, fifth-year mechanical engineering major Chris Villarino, became the host of all shows.

And then the topic of a band name. Sticking to the theme of playing funk music, ‘funk’ was a nonnegotiable part of the brainstorming session. ‘Mind’ was added to reflect what the audience may experience during their set. And so “Mindfunk” was born.

First-year doctoral student in the department of ecology, evolution and marine biology Sriram Ramamurthy (trombone), fifth-year mechanical engineering major Villarino (guitar), fourth-year statistics major and music minor Bill Tran (drums), fourth-year environmental studies major Ryan Lewis (vocals), third-year environmental studies major Emily Conway (bass), third-year chemistry major Moremi Kaplan (saxophone), third-year environmental studies major and music minor Liam Coggon (saxophone), second-year philosophy major Jack Corliss (keyboard), and second-year computer science major Evan Asakawa (trumpet), have played classic Isla Vista band parties together, but also front yard half pipes and downtown breweries.

“Playing with Mindfunk was the first time I ever performed in I.V., and from our very first gig together I knew that I.V. crowds were one-of-a-kind. The energy that concerts in I.V. have is unexplainable, and I am just super glad to be a part of a scene this special” Tran said.

Adding to the staple guitar-bass-drums-vocals band setup, Mindfunk lets its jazz roots shine through with trumpets, trombones and saxophones, which undoubtedly creates an unmistakable sound and broadens the range of songs to craft a set from. Tran’s favorites include “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by D’Angelo and “Fopp” by Ohio Players.

Follow @mindfunkiv on Instagram for show highlights and announcements.