We Gaucho Back Part 3: Isla Vista Culture and Food

by Garrett Gerstenberger October 04, 2023 6 min read

Note: this is an excerpt from our UCSB New Student Guide, which you can find to in its entirety here. The first blog post in this series can be found here!

6. Isla Vista Culture
5. Food

6. Isla Vista Culture


Okay - back to Isla Vista. It has a big heart, creative mind, loving atmosphere, energetic body, playful mentality, mature outlook (at times), and always has your back. It is the 1-square mile directly adjacent to UCSB that stretches along the coast.

The 1-square mile town is hyper-condensed with housing. Outside of on and off-campus UCSB housing, it is where 95% of UCSB students live.

All of those alumni that have graduated nostalgically look back at Isla Vista as a heavenly paradise they are so grateful to have experienced: living literally on the edge of the California coast overlooking waves crashing against the bluffs, the fact that all of your best friends are walking distance and right around the corner from you, the ability to hop on your cruiser of longboard and be anywhere, including class, within a matter of minutes, to enjoy all the amazing cuisine in Isla Vista’s business district, the amount of art, culture, music, and other creative resources are astounding, the weather, which seems to be perfect 365 days out of the year, the sunsets that never get old, the late nights with people you love and appreciate, all the laughs you have, adventures you make, the friends you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Isla Vista consists of four blocks. The 65, 66, 67, and 68 block. Our store is located on the 65 block (6565 Trigo Road). The further away from UCSB you are, the higher # the block/address to the houses.

The business district, which is called the Loop - which is home to an amazing and eclectic number of small businesses, mainly food, but some others, like us (sad fact: we’re the last retail store in Isla Vista) is located on the 65 block. There’s a weird mentality - kind of like the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz if you are aware of it’s physical and geo-magnetic oddities - that the 68 block of Isla Vista is reeeaaalllly far out. Let us break it to you, it’s not.

I’ve never understood why the entire population balks at walking to a friend’s house in the 68 block when in fact it is equidistant to the 65 block if you were standing in the 66 block. Oh well, let it be. People don’t learn. The advantage is if you want to live in a little more of a quiet area, the 68 block is for you. 

We will break down in more detail parts and resources of Isla Vista, but in short, Isla Vista has it’s own beautiful beaches, surf breaks, parks, access to West Campus and Coal Oil Point, amazing food, and most of all, the most unique community you’ll ever find in college.

Trust us, we’ve been here for over ten years and almost 99% of the people that come back in our store to bask in “the old days” say how it was Isla Vista (not UCSB) was what shaped them to be who they are today.

Folks, school is important, but the social aspect of your lives here is what it is all about. You evolve to understand who you are better than ever. You are independent, understand your feelings, find your passions, learn new skills, make great support systems, be social, and enjoy life. That’s why we’re here; always grateful of our surroundings and absolutely stoked about the present. 

During your first quarter (Remember, UCSB is on the Quarter System), you’ll have to attend Drug and Alcohol workshops put on by the school. These are usually only 1-2 events but cover everything from biking while intoxicated to what to do in the case that you see someone overdosing on drugs. These are most definitely some of the positives to come out of the party culture UCSB is notorious for, but we do want to emphasize there’s a lot more to IV then just debauchery.

We do actually have some pretty delicious food, and there are a slew of events such as concerts, a tanning club, an excursion club to take you on hikes and camping trips, and several outreach programs such as religious centers and the parks and rec department which are super welcoming. IV is very much meant to be explored and we recommend just taking some time before classes start to meander from place to place. 


7. Food

Additionally, we also would like to point out that there are several grocery spots in IV and Goleta for all those who are inclined to cook. Albertsons, Costco, and Target are all located on either side of Storke Rd and Hollister Ave in Goleta.

Additionally, IV DeliIV Market, and IV Co-op (support local!) are located within IV and they definitely have the items you need if you need them right away. Be aware, though, that sometimes these places will be a bit more picked over than other stores given the sheer volume of bodies in IV. 

IVO's Top Restaurants (in no order):

Bagel Cafe - The Super Emma on an herb cheese bagel. Try it. 

Freebirds - Despite ten years of experiencing the disappointing cost of the burrito always increasing, the good ol veggie burrito packed with guac may be the best we've ever had. Also, big shoutout to the quesadilla, because they load those up like nothing you’ve seen before. Definitely recommend a plate and fork with this. 

Naan Stop - Rock solid Indian food. Spicy Coconut Chicken Curry and Saag Paneer. (Try Apna Indian Kitchen in downtown Santa Barbara too)

Hummus Republic - If you are looking for something on the fresher side, Hummus Republic's warm kale and couscous bowls hit the spot, especially when you can add Chicken shwarma, tzatziki, or falafels in there.

The Habit - We're not one to generally support large chains, but the cost for quantity on a fast, juicy burger and fries is pretty solid. 

Zocalo's - A fairly new restaurant that is a great spot for some simple, authentic street tacos and Mexican breakfast items like Chilaquiles.

IV Deli Mart - They have some wicked burgers and sandwiches and they’re open late. Enough said. 

Caje - Great coffee, delicious breakfast bowls.

Garrett Gerstenberger
Garrett Gerstenberger

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