Despite its name, the University of Santa Barbara is not exactly in the heart of the idyllic coastal city itself. Rather it’s located just a few exits away on a beachy, lagoon-adjacent strip of seaside in the Goleta area, with Isla Vista as the primary student off-campus residential area and hub of dining (and drinking) activity. Taken together with the strip malls and small corner restaurants nearby and the UCSB dining scene begins to come into full focus as a place for visitors, students, and faculty alike. From cocktail dens to the area’s undisputed burrito champion, here’s where to eat near UCSB, the University of Santa Barbara.Read More
Where to Eat Around the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Late night eats, family-friendly dinners, and more around Isla Vista and Goleta
Caya isn’t just cool for Goleta, it’s cool period. With seasonal all-day menus that lean into fruit and veg, expect something snackable and shareable for all — plus cocktails, which is always a good thing.
Breads and pastries vary from traditional to gluten-free at this casual Scandinavia-inspired Goleta shop, with another location in Santa Barbara proper. Stop in for something sweet or savory with the family.
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There are plenty of places to drink around the UCSB campus, and often for cheap. The Imperial operates slightly differently, marrying a decidedly non-college-bar aesthetic with well-made cocktails that still don’t break the bank. There’s a reason the tiki-ish place has been going strong for more than a decade.
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Pickles & Swiss
Sandwich lovers flock to Pickle & Swiss for straightforward panini, melts, wraps, salads, and beyond. There are multiple locations, including one in Santa Barbara proper, but the Goleta location is the place to be.
For white tablecloth, family-friendly dining, try the pasta-focused Ca’ Dario in Goleta. This is the place to take a grad out to celebrate, for sure. Find other locations in Santa Barbara and Montecito, too.
Freebirds is the place to be on a weekend evening in Isla Vista. Lines form, people hang out, and the kitchen pushes out monster burritos filled with proteins and ingredients of choice. Simply put, this is a quintessential UCSB dining experience.
Rockfire is the kind of place that every college town needs. With its menu of burgers, wings, drinks, and more — plus karaoke and open mic nights — there really is never a bad time to stop in.
Woodstock's Pizza Isla Vista
This classic pizza spot is an Isla Vista staple, keeping late night (well, midnight) eaters and comfort food fans satiated with pizzas, loaded tater tots, and more.
Vons (no, not the grocery store) is an Isla Vista destination for Korean-style fried chicken, served in boxes, as combo meals, or even in sandwiches with slaw on top. Celebrity chef Chris Oh oversees the menu here, meaning the food is certainly legit.
IV Bagel Cafe
Isla Vista’s Bagel Cafe is the breakfast destination of choice for many students (meaning there’s often a crowd). From loaded morning creations to all-day bagel sandwiches, Bagel Cafe does it all.