Eye on Isla Vista

I’ll be honest, right now all I can think about is how hungry I
am. Here’s the deal, I am currently fasting in observance of the
Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the year for most
Jews and a day on which most Jews fast to atone for the sins they committed
during the year. I live in Isla Vista; I have a lot of sinning to atone
for. So, I’m not eating until tomorrow night. Some might argue that
I shouldn’t be writing this column either, but I’ve never been one
to completely abstain from doing things for religious reasons—hence
all the sinning I have to atone for. Anyway, the point is that
right now, food is pretty much all I can think about, other than
atoning, of course.

So, this week I’m going to share my feelings about the culinary
fare available year-round—unless you have to spend a whole day
fasting for religious reasons—right here in sunny Isla Vista. Sure,
everyone knows about Freebirds and
Woodstock’s and, aside from the fact that
nobody should be able to charge $9 for even the most mega of
nachos, I have no problems with either of those restaurants. But ,
I do think that if you spend four years living in and around I.V.
and manage to only eat at Freebirds and Woodstock’s, you’re
cheating yourself out of some of the best in dining, art, music,
and culture this tiny town has to offer.

Isla Vista may be small, but it’s got a lot going on when it
comes to culinary experiences. From Vietnamese noodles to soup and
salads and, of course, the surplus of Mexican restaurants, I.V. is
a haven for food that’s fast, cheap, and delicious. In fact, with
so many options for students to choose from, restaurants around
here often have to do a little something extra to lure customers in
the door and keep them coming back for more. For that reason, many
of the restaurants in I.V. have started combining food with art,
films, and music in an effort to become more than just a place to
grab a burger in between classes.

For art aficionados and people who just like to have something
pretty to look up at while they chow down, Silvergreens
and Java Jones on Pardall Road have unique and
interesting art on their walls. Both places often showcase work by
an eclectic group of up-and-coming local artists, and at
Silvergreens all the tabletops are painted by local artists, which
guarantees that your eyes get as much of a treat as your mouth
does. And I don’t want to do any shameless plugs here, so I will
preface the following statement by saying that I happen to work at
I.V. Drip on Embarcadero del Norte, so I might be
a little biased. But I do think that if you’re checking out the
convergence of food and art in the area, the prints of famous
paintings and the Dali-inspired clock on the wall at The Drip are
worth seeing. Plus, I don’t want to brag or anything, but I do have
to say that a well-made cookiewich is a work of
art in and of itself.

If movies are more your thing, then check out
Sushiya—a relatively new sushi place on
Embarcadero del Mar that boasts a huge screen and an incredibly
eclectic film collection. Aside from Sushiya’s killer Baked
Scallop California Roll
, Sushiya is worth checking out
because its film collection runs the gamut from musicals to
animated flicks and there’s no telling what will be on the big
screen when you walk in the door. A fun way for film buffs to get a
free meal is to make a bet with friends that you can guess what the
movie is before they do—but trust me, you only want to do this if
you’re fairly confident you can figure it out first, otherwise you
could get stuck with a hefty bill and unspecified costs to your
feelings of film geek superiority.

Music lovers also have plenty of options when it comes to
satisfying their palates and their passions. I.V. is a magnet for
musicians of all types and, on the weekends especially, there is
almost always a place where you can get a good free show to
accompany your meal. Giovanni’s and Cali
Roll
on Pardall Road both play hosts to a variety of live,
local bands as well as shows by some surprisingly big-name bands.
Gio’s, as the pizzeria and part-time music hall is affectionately
referred to, also offers open mike nights on Thursdays as well. For
up-to-the-minute show listings for both venues, check out http://www.myspace.com/islavistamusic and keep your
eyes open for the flyers that are guaranteed to distract you on the
bike path before any big local show. If your inner diva is craving
a side of some stage time to go with your meal, check out the
karaoke at Saigon Express on
Pardall Road or Dublin’s Sports Grill on
Embarcadero del Norte. Both places offer alcohol in addition to
their food menus, so getting up the courage to belt out “I Will
Survive” in front of your friends will be a piece of cake, and
having to listen to your drunk friends singing their hearts out
won’t be half as painful.

Ultimately, when it comes to finding good food with an extra
helping of local culture, I.V. is the best place to be. With
everything within walking distance, you can experience a range of
art, films, and music without spending any extra money on your
entertainment—and that means you’ll have plenty of extra cash in
your pocket when the 3 a.m. drunk munchies make it imperative that
you purchase $9 nachos immediately.

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