As a proud resident of Isla Vista for the last two years, I’m happy to say that I have consumed meals from a substantial number of restaurants in the area. What’s a student to do when confined to the bounds of the city, and only has the choice to either consume Carrillo’s famed stir-fry with vegetables for the tenth time that week, or to refresh their palate with a classic IV delicacy? 

For those post-midterm moments when your local dining hall’s menu just won’t satiate your standards for a victory meal or snack, here are some of the most delectable Isla Vista restaurants (in no particular order). 

Super Cuca’s 

My first time trying Cuca’s was mid-way through my second year. Aside from the initial astoundment I experienced when first biting into a Cuca’s burrito, my second thought was one of bewilderment: How have I not eaten here before? Cuca’s is relatively close to my former homeland of San Rafael Residence Hall, and yet I hadn’t felt the need to check it out until winter quarter. With their cost-efficient, large portion sizes — which are perfect for leftovers — Cuca’s became an immediate favorite. My go-to items are the Cuca’s breakfast burrito (available all-day) and the vegetarian nachos!  


When I think of Kaiju, I recall eating lunch with one of my friends after a torturous final last December. Somehow, their curry udon managed to cure me of the post-final blues. Rather than wondering if B was the right answer for question #33, I was instead focusing on each warm and flavorful bite, all while updating my friend on some life events that were transpiring. Kaiju also holds the top spot in my ranking for best boba in IV, and what better to wash down a hearty bowl of udon with than a mango green tea (with lychee jelly, of course)? 


If I were vocally narrating this list, now is the point where I’d most likely break out into unintelligible screams, or perhaps compose a song to express my unwavering love for CAJÉ. Dare I say … they have the best coffee and bagels in Isla Vista. On an occasional Sunday morning, I’ll execute the brunch masterplan with a friend: “The Works” bagel sandwich on jalapeño cheddar, a hot mocha (with oat milk) in a ceramic coffee mug and some intellectually stimulating conversation. CAJÉ intimately understands the coveted coffee-bagel experience, and I support them in this endeavor. 


At this point in the list, we may be getting a bit controversial. Woodstock’s is definitely my favorite pizza joint in IV, but half of my reasoning is sentimental, so feel free to take this one with a grain of salt. I normally grab a slice to go when I get back late from meetings or study sessions in the library. It’s quick, delicious and as someone who prefers her pizza with extra crust, the foldover crust is ideal. Pro-tip: I ask for marinara sauce and ranch — dip the crust in marinara sauce and the pizza in ranch. Woodstock’s holds the title of my “Freshman Year Comfort Food” — even in the pitfalls of my first year of college, I’d grab a slice, rewatch Gilmore Girls and tune out reality. 

Dank Bowls

Picture this: it’s a crisp November evening. The air is fresh, and you’re wearing your favorite autumn sweater. There are no meetings today and no midterm in the foreseeable future — not even a treacherous paper or homework assignment looming over your head. You know exactly what needs to be done. Time to concoct the elite order for a cold day like this one: the “Buff Daddy” Mac and Cheese, Tomato Basil Soup and some bread on the side. As you indulge in this feast in the comfort of your own home, you imagine you’re Adam Driver in “Girls.” Good soup, indeed. 


I think I’ve indoctrinated most of my friends and acquaintances into the art of eating a Spudnuts donut. Never in my 19 years and 11.5 months of life has anything melted in my mouth the way a Spudnuts donut has — this may be due to their magical formula that includes potatoes. I applaud them for creating the ultimate donut, which I venture to say may even be on par with the renowned Stan’s Donuts, in my hometown of Santa Clara. My favorite item is the maple bar, and if you catch me ordering two of them — no, you didn’t.

There are many more scrumptious foods in Isla Vista, but since I had to keep my list brief, here are some honorable mentions: Zócalo, Freebirds, Lao Wang (specifically their tofu buns) and Hummus Republic. 

Thank you very much for reading, and welcome to Isla Vista! I can only hope you enjoy these restaurants as much as I do, and here’s to many victory meals as you embark on your first year of university!