On first impression, Isla Vista is a pure college town; Storke Tower looms over it and students are the majority of the population, at least from August to June. The restaurants reflect the collegiate nature of the community. Most of the food is aimed at young people who are in a hurry or under the influence. Eclectic I.V., which opened in November 2006 and is owned and operated by UCSB Alumni and food industry veterans C.T. Brandt and Derek Diestler, offers a unique twist on the normal I.V. fare of pizzas, burritos, and sandwiches.
I discovered Eclectic I.V. last school year, my freshman year. As a freshman, my dining experience consisted of standing in lines and piling food on a tray. The menu was just as monotonous. For breakfast: eggs, cereal, waffles, and oatmeal. For lunch: burgers, fries, and deli sandwiches. For dinner: pasta with vegetables or meat, some meat and vegetables, and ice cream. The only real decision I faced was whether I wanted to walk past the DLG to Ortega for the occasional burrito bar or ice cream sunday station. I never got used to eating in the dinning commons. At home, my parents always had a hearty meal waiting for me. Nothing too exotic, just some good food made from scratch. The first time I walked into Eclectic I.V., I felt almost like I was home.
Compared with the monotony of dorm food, the variety of choices almost overwhelmed me. Did I want a sandwich? If so, would I get the pulled pork sandwich (the pork is smoked in a smokehouse behind the restaurant) or the grilled veggie with artichoke tapinade? And did I want coleslaw, sweet or russet fries, or mac & cheese? Or would I try char-grilled chicken satay, with Thai peanut sauce? Oh, what about a side of garlic mashers? For dessert: the Peach Cobbler or the 420 Blonde Brownie? I donâ€™t remember what I ordered my first time at Eclectic; all I know is that the DLG was even more dismal the next day.
My dining dilemma continued after I moved into an apartment in I.V. Now I face an empty stomach, an empty fridge, and an empty wallet. I have freedom to make whatever I want, but my cooking skills (or lack thereof) often limit me to pasta, rice, and frozen meat. Once again, Eclectic I.V. comes to the rescue. For about the same price as a Freebirds burrito, I get an entree and a sideâ€”usually enough food for two. Aside from the food, the atmosphere and the service provides an unique dining experience. First, the tables are large enough for four people to spread out. If you want some fresh air, picnic tables are provided. And donâ€™t worry about listening for your name or number. Eclectic is one of the few restaurants in I.V. where your food is brought to your table. Not only does this service help the lazy or stoned, you are able to relax and enjoy the dining experienceâ€”in addition to the food.
I sat down with C.T. for a few minutes to get his perspective on his restaurant and its role in I.V. During our conversation, he emphasized that he wanted Eclectic I.V. to be a nice place to eat good food. While he commended the other restaurants in I.V., he wants Eclectic to offer students a variety of alternatives beyond the usual college fare. The menu has burritos and sandwiches, but it also has granola pancakes and wheat spaghetti with vegan veggie marinara. The alternative that Eclectic offers is not only the food (which is almost entirely made from scratch), but the emphasis on a meal, rather than an item. To add to the experience, Eclectic now offers alcohol and live music every night of the week. For information on shows and times, you can visit toastandjam.org.