At Dogtown, diners nosh on one of seven signature hot dogs beneath towering palm trees and azure sky. Chili, cheese, and diced onions decorate the signature Gaucho dog, and the California Dreamin' frank cuddles with mango habanero, guacamole, and bacon. The classic combo of sauerkraut, onions, and mustard adorns the Coney Island hot dog, and a Louisiana hot link sausage forms the basis of the energizing Hangover Helper. Like PhD certificates, dogs come with a side of chips and a soft drink, the better to top off bellies to fullness. Guests can devour their dogs on the outdoor patio or settle onto a stool within the confines of the eatery's mustard-yellow walls.
Chino's Rock & Tacos pairs authentic Mexican eats with a socially conscious cooking philosophy, and serves them both in a party-minded rock 'n’ roll atmosphere. Two double-item combo plates can include crispy tacos and chimichangas that scale mountains of spanish rice with pinto beans led by chicken or beef sherpas. Mouthwatering fish tacos filled with grilled mahi-mahi, ahi tuna, or shrimp are fashioned with sustainable seafood practices, and the enchilada packs your choice of chicken, beef, or cheese into a pillowy tortilla. Popular bottled beers such as Corona wash down free chips and salsa, or supply the high notes during glass-bottle family-band showcases.
From the street, Valley Grind's appearance hearkens back to the Wild West, its double doors and long, covered porch reminiscent of an old general store. Inside, paneled pine walls surround large wooden tables and an overstuffed leather sofa, and the sound of an espresso machine whirrs as baristas plunge the steam wand into a pitcher of milk. Foamy cappuccinos and flavored lattes only begin the menu, however. The team also blends fresh fruit into smoothies and layers bagels with cream cheese, veggies, and meats. In Valley Grind’s adjoining shop, patrons can pick up cute gifts such as candies, cards, hand towels, and other towels that only work on forearms.
Buddha Bowls owner Daniel and resident artist Amanda want to challenge the status quo and enlighten Isla Vista. They do so through the warmth they create inside their eatery and by serving wholesome bread bowls brimming with fresh ingredients. Their whole-wheat and sourdough basins can be stuffed with nourishing fillers including pesto, hummus, barbecue chicken, and even vanilla yogurt.
The Willows restaurant anchors Chumash Casino Resort with its fine-dining menu of fresh seafood and steaks. Inside, chefs paint modernist starter plates of pasta renteria brush-stroked in bold tangles of fettuccini and shadings of pine nuts, mango, and goat cheese ($14). Tackle appetites instead of dinner dates at the half-yard line of fries ($9), dunking them into creamy pools of lobster bisque ($11). Those who opt to chaperone The Willows' cioppino mixer are privy to a mouth-dance of clams, scallops, and crab legs, all congaing through a saffron-tomato broth and a veil of spicy aioli ($42). Diners can spark meaty romances with grill-iron greats, including the steak frites, a 14-ounce New York Strip steak cooked to preference, smeared with garlic butter, and flanked by crispy fries and a pocket-sized French dictionary ($49).
Small surprises abound inside Takenoya, where ice milk tea might contain sweet bites of mango jelly and one of the sushi rolls might arrive wrapped in soybean paper or cucumber rather than traditional seaweed. Those interested in eschewing surprises can build their own bento box, which compartmentalizes their chosen meals of chicken teriyaki, nigiri, or other specialties into neat squares alongside soup, salad, and rice. Savory noodles swirl amid shrimp tempura in the nabeyaki udon, one of several noodle dishes. The menu also includes traditional plates such as pork katsu, japanese curries, and korean short ribs.
The elaborate sushi listings showcase more than 25 signature rolls. The spicy tempura-lobster roll nestles its namesake ingredient against cucumber, avocado, sprouts, and smelt egg, whereas the summer fresh roll cocoons tuna, salmon, and yellowtail inside a cucumber shell. Four types of box sushi are prepared with a pressing box, which molds each bite into a tiny cube.